Whilst working on this dress, I had two epiphanies of sorts. One was clear realization of how much richer certain languages are in comparison to others when it comes to describing something in many different words. In this case I was thinking about colors and how in English there are words to describe colors that do not have any direct translation to my native language. For example, cobalt, crimson, or taupe. In my language these would be translated as bright blue, dark red, and brownish gray. I was thinking about this as this time around my project was clearly cobalt, and I kept on thinking of it in English 🙂
Another epiphany started to haunt me midway into the project when I realized that I do not always make very clever fabric choices. I’ve bought enough of eccentric and hardly adaptable fabrics over the years, and still do not seem to recognize on time that I’m about to make another mistake. Like, how on Earth I’ve ended up with this fabric in my hands? Or what will I do with either of these?
The reason I kept on thinking about this whilst making this particular dress was that I’d apparently chosen two medium weight fabrics and they were turning into a heavy and sturdy dress. For summer. During the heatwave of 30 C+. Yeah, at times my decisions are not overly sound. Regardless, here is my cobalt blue lace dress. I carried the idea to use up this lace for more than a year. And yet it is not my favorite dress. Let’s see how I can get to love it again!
I tend to have a story or two on how I appear at the doorstep of one or another strange project. There is a story this time, too. So I bought this textured cotton blend lace last spring during my last fabric haul at The Fabric Store online. (I have stopped shopping at this store because it is based in New Zealand, and even though I like their fabrics, it is so unsustainable to get pieces of fabric flown over half of the globe!). Frankly, I would never have bought it, if a) it was not on sale, b) it wasn’t for this glorious cobalt color. I had just recently purchased these neon cobalt shoes, and a sudden idea sparked inside my head to match this fabric with the same color shoes and make for an awesome look. The deal was sealed, fabric arrived in few days, and… it sat in my stash for more than a year.
First of all, I did not know what to make out of it. Second, it was clear that the garment would need to get underlined, and so I needed to find another fabric in exactly the same color to underline the lace fabric with. This spring I slowly became determined to make an end to this soap opera, especially that fabric piece was thick and was taking too much space in my fabric stash. 🙂 Eventually I managed to find an underlining fabric in one of my local fabric stores. Little did I think that the fabric I’ve just found was really too heavy for its intended purpose. I only concentrated on color and thought of nothing else then. Well, weight problem started resurfacing when I started constructing the dress.
As for what pattern to use for this dress, I had many thoughts. Obviously! I thought of an A line loose fit dress, then a shirt dress, and even a blazer. But eventually I zeroed in on a fitted dress with an A line skirt, perhaps puff sleeves and a fancy belt. Puffy/fancy details ended up being scrapped eventually as it would have been over the top too much. And I was left with this sleek dress and simple silhouette.
After my recent tweed dress project I had slowly come to the conclusion that I would need to develop my own basic pattern blocks. I have used several commercial dress patterns for simple line dresses multiple times, and none of them worked perfectly for me. I’d have to make many adjustments, and the main area where I’d have a lot of issues would be waist. So instead of continuing with those adjustments each time, I dedicated a bit of time to draw my own bodice and skirt blocks by combining several commercial patterns into one. And of course with this project I was eager to test my new, finally self-drafted pattern!
First I cut pattern pieces out of underlining fabric, as it was so much more stable. Then using these pattern pieces, I cut the lace fabric. At first I only cut bodice and skirt pieces, and pockets as well. Sleeves were left for later as I was unsure what kind of sleeves I’d end up making. The work started by underlining the main fabric, i.e. putting it on the underlining fabric and stitching these two together within seam allowance.
From then on I worked with these sandwiched pieces just as it was one fabric. Darts were made on front and back bodice pieces, they were joined together at shoulders and sides. Then I went on to make a skirt. At first I had planned a gathered skirt, but since the realization has already started to sink in that this would be a very thick dress, I changed my mind and decided to go ahead with pleated skirt. It was perhaps the only starkly sound decision throughout this project! But my initial skirt block was designed to be gathered, so I had to calculate quite a bit in order to make balanced and nice pleats. I like very much how this part turned out!
Next, pockets got installed, skirt side seams finished, and I was ready to attach the skirt to the bodice. When that was done, it was possible to try the garment on for the first time. Everything looked ok at that stage. I continued by installing the zipper. And then suddenly things stopped looking ok, as my dress was clearly too wide for me around the waist. Apparently, by making my own pattern blocks I overcompensated for my previous problems with waist circumference and now had an opposite problem. Luckily, it was enough to reinstall the zipper and take in a bit more at the waist while setting it in again. For next times, I fixed my back bodice block by widening back waist darts. Hopefully, when I use this block next time, it will work perfectly! Would be nice for once! 🙂
When the zipper was finally in, I was able to install neck facing. And then another problem became evident. The neckline at the back was gaping a little bit. Clearly, the very top of the dress at the back was a bit too loose. I could have remediated that by removing the facing, ripping upper portion of zipper installation seams and taking in a bit more by reinstalling the zipper. However, at that stage I was so tired of all these revelations about this dress that I simply couldn’t muster energy to do that. So yeah, there is this one visible defect of the dress, that back neckline is not laying as nicely on the neck as I’d like it to.
Two last stages in this project were to somehow hem the dress and to deal with sleeves. Retrospectively I probably should have left the dress sleeveless. But that was the decision that should have been made earlier in the process. Whereas for the hem, there was this one interesting nuance. Skirt pieces were sewn together underlined. Seeing what I was about to do in stitching those side seams, I had hemmed the underlining pieces using 4 mm rolled hem foot upfront. But I left those longer main fabric pieces unfinished until the very end. So I had few options: a) leave them as they were, unfinished, b) make a narrow hem (rolled or overlocked), c) finish the hem using bias tape made out of the underlining fabric. Unable to decide, I ran a poll on Instagram asking for advice how to finish the hem. The third option with bias tape got the majority of votes, option b was second only by a small margin. Since my TLC for this dress was running low, I ditched the third option, which would have been the most time consuming, and decided on a narrow rolled hem. To make my life easier with it, first I stitched a straight seam 1.5 cm off the raw edge. I used that seam as a guide while ironing the hem, and then turned the raw edge in thus creating a narrow rolled hem. How it worked – in pictures below.
Finally I had to deal with sleeves. My husband was adamant that puff sleeves idea is a very wrong one, and I slowly started realizing that too. So simple short sleeves that would be. I made the same hem for sleeves as for the skirt, and installed them without much difficulty. And with that my cobalt trouble was finally over. I truly hope I’ll learn to love it again!
For this dress I used 1.75 m of textured cotton lace (80 % cotton, 20% nylon) and 1.75 m of medium weight cotton underlining fabric. Lace fabric was purchased from The Fabric Store online, underlining fabric – from my local fabric store. The pattern is self-drafted, my first one! I used the following commercial patterns to make my own pattern blocks: M8032 for the bodice, V9075 for the skirt and M7994 for sleeves. Other notions used were: invisible zipper and coordinating thread. This dress cost me 50 Eur. It was made in July, 2022.
If not for joy, this dress was quite a bit about learning. It was my first underlined garment, I had a chance to practice how underlining works. I did not enjoy working with lace fabric all that much, though. And the biggest regret I have is choosing too thick underlining fabric. If there is any silver lining here, this makes for a relatively warm dress. I was working on it during one of the most severe heat waves, with temperatures going quite a bit above 30 C, and I was literally cursing – why on Earth was I making this warm and thick dress when I should be working on light open back dresses! Not too clever indeed. But today temperatures dropped, it started raining. And for the day like this, when it is not more than 20 C this dress will work really well. Still, I’m calling this a salvage project, as there was this only chance for this lace to be used up, I ploughed through the project with quite a bit of difficulty and now I truly hope that I’ll get to enjoy this dress regardless of few flaws!
This might very well be the last summer dress I’ve made this year to be worn to the office. In my view it is a very decent dress, bright and appealing. Those cobalt heels should get put to good use, by the way they are to be blamed for me getting on this roller coaster in the first place, and I should enjoy my new cobalt outfit! And now – let’s make few proper summer vacation worthy dresses, shall we! ☀️
Let there be peace in the world! 💙💛