Festive summer dress

At times projects get defined by life events and circumstances. This summer we have been kindly asked to become God parents of our little niece, and have been absolutely humbled by this new responsibility. Obviously, first of all it is going to be a beautiful and special ceremony. So I contemplated on what to wear for this occasion. I could have worn one of my previously made dresses, of course. But there was this chic embroidered ivory fabric laying in my stash, so I figured – for what occasion I would wear something made out of it, if not for this one!

It is so hot this summer, and it is hot All The Time. My sewing room is not air conditioned, so I do not seem to spend much time sewing this summer, as it is simply too hot and uncomfortable. And it’s a pity, because summer will soon roll to the second half, I have so many beautiful summer projects still planned, and yet find it difficult to sew due to all this heat.

But I just had to harness energy to make this dress, and decided to be as efficient as possible. Hopefully no seam ripping, hopefully good fit at the first try. I had to rely on a bit of success. And things turned out really well! I did not rip any seams, but I had to rip quite a bit of embroidery, more on that a little bit later. So all in all it was a successful project, and the dress came together rather quickly. I just hope now that it is not too fancy for the occasion!

Fabric

This fabric is beautiful silk and linen blend, quite sheer and has some sheen to it – I had to think quite a bit which parts of the dress I will absolutely have to line. Moreover, it is rather stiff and would not drape. To complicate things even more, it is embroidered in silk thread, and those dots are very thick. I bought this fabric back in spring and could not decide for a long while on the pattern that would work the best for it.

Pattern

And then this special need for a festive dress came along, and after extensive browse through of many different resources, I settled on this deceptively simple pattern by Grasser. Standard Grasser measurements are not quite meant for me – I am ok with Grasser size 42 (European 36) for the bust and hips, but my waist circumference is larger by some 6 cm than size 42. For this dress which features fitted skirt, I was super aware of the need to carefully amend the waist size.

Pattern blocks of this pattern are quite straightforward, there are only 8 of them – almost identical sets of 4 for the front and for the back. No facings, nothing small, just 8 main pattern pieces. It was in a way a relief in my case because when I started touching fabric and prepared to cut pattern pieces, I realized that these raised embroidered dots will create a big problem in stitching pattern pieces together. This was proved true when I tried to sew on a scrap piece of fabric – sewing machine foot would get stuck on the dot and would not move ahead at all. This test made it clear that I would not want to stitch over those dots, this accordingly meant that I will either need to avoid them while cutting my pattern pieces, or else, where this could not be done, dots sitting on the stitching lines will need to get ripped. Well, I ripped many of them!

Stitching

But this was probably the only challenging part of this project. Otherwise it went quite smoothly. I started by making a skirt lining out of white light weight batiste. It worked both as muslin and as lining. First, darts got made and then I tacked side seams to determine if the fit was right. Well, it was not quite. I had to conclude that the skirt was a tiny bit too narrow, so instead of designated 1 cm seam allowances I ended up reducing them to 0.7 cm and thus made the skirt a tiny bit wider.

Next I started working on the bodice, which presented very interesting construction exercise. The upper bodice is just a cape of sorts, front and back are not in any way connected at the sides. Underneath it a proper bodice works as both the way to close sides, and as lining. This inner bodice has all the appropriate darts and is tailored. A bit of time was required to nicely slip stitch wide hems of the upper bodice, whereas to finish the inner bodice armholes I used a narrow bias strip of the lining batiste (there is a photo below that shows the inside finish of the bodice).

When all of the hemming was done and both bodice layers got attached at the neck seam, the time to gather the upper bodice waist line came. I did that, attached both layers to each other at the waist and proceeded to sew the skirt and attach it to the bodice. Then skirt lining got finished and attached to the dress at the waist seam.

The last two segments of work were to attach the flounce to the skirt and install an invisible zipper. I hemmed the flounce first – that’s where I had to rip many of those dots to make sure none of them were left where the narrow hem would go. I used 4 mm rolled hem foot to hem the flounce and then proceded with stitching it on to the skirt.

The zipper was supposed to go into the left side seam. I had a tiny problem in installing it because only the skirt was lined, so I was unable to sandwich the zipper in between main fabric and the lining. Instead, I had to sew the zipper to the inner bodice and then proceed with both layers of the skirt – the main fabric and the lining. Had the main fabric not been so sheer and hence no lining would have been needed, it would have been a simple situation. While now I have the zipper sewn onto the lining and exposed. But well, since seam allowances are very narrow in this case, from the inside the zipper looks fine – it conceals all the overlocked fabric edges.

This dress turned out really nicely. I enjoyed working with this pattern. After adding few centimeters to accommodate wider waist than designated in the pattern, I found other proportions working out just fine. Since the skirt is fitted, it is important for it to not be too tight and allow for a bit of ease while sitting down. This has apparently been thought through while designing the pattern.

To make this dress I used 2 meters of ivory silk and linen blend embroidered in silk. For the lining I used some 70 cm of white cotton batiste. The pattern used is Grasser #766, I cut it in Grasser size 42 (European 36) and had to adjust waist measurement to accommodate for my wider waist. Other notions were an invisible zipper and coordinating thread. This dress cost me 65 Eur. It was made in July, 2021.

When I tried the dress on for the first time after the last stitches were done, I was looking at myself in the mirror and was thinking, whether or not it was too chic for the occasion I have made it for. I was still unsure on the day of christianing, but my sister in law encouraged me to go ahead with it, so I did. And so, here we are, both of us in ‘me made’ dresses! My little niece was wearing the dress I made for her even before she was born, The special dress for the special girl 💖

Let’s all stay healthy!

~Giedre~

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