progress on the mad dress

Tuesday, 17 August 2010
I'm calling the dress I'm working on to enter the Tessuti Awards my "mad" dress - mad because I have so much else going on at the moment and a relatively short time to finish it and photograph it; mad because I'm putting a lot of effort into a dress I'm making for someone else; and mad because it reminds of something that might be worn in Mad Men, which is oh so trendy right now. But never fear, I have finished a fitting muslin that will only need a few tweaks to it to get it to fit properly and so I should be able to sew it up this weekend. And the good news is that my friend who will be modelling it for me has very similar measurements to me (give or take a few centimetres), so I'll be able to easily make another one for myself when this one is done so I'm certainly not missing out either. Bonus!

So here's the plan (excuse my rudimentary sketching skills):

I plan to make the dress from some black wool crepe purchased quite a while ago from Tessuti, chosen because of it's lovely drape and ease for sewing and pressing. The detachable draping scarf and the sleeves will be made from some black silk organza I purchased today from Tessuti's city store, in order to meet the competition rules and to give the dress an interesting detail. The pattern is based on this vintage pattern:

but since I couldn't get a good fit on the bodice last time I tried to make this, I used the bodice from Burda 8/09 dress 128 instead which I've made before and wear all the time because I love it so much. I know it fits well and it's very easy to sew as well, having just two side darts:

I think set in sleeves get a better fit than a kimono style sleeve, and I get to avoid sewing the fussy gusset arrangement that the original pattern requires. For the pleats on the front, I traced them from the original pattern piece onto the Burda bodice pattern piece, and using a slash and spread method I added the extra width required. A bit dodgy, but it worked! I also used the back pattern piece of this dress, and just adjusted the front skirt pattern piece of the original pattern to fit the waistline, length and width of this dress. Too easy really, I thought I would be struggling since I'm no pattern drafter but miraculously it all worked.

For the sleeves, I've decided to make fluttery cap sleeves from New Look 6348 (the yellow version), a pattern I bought a while ago but haven't used yet:

Hopefully the sleeves will turn out ok made from organza, because they look pretty good in the muslin fabric. I have some polyester organza in the stash that I picked up from an opshop that I will use for practice before I cut into the silk organza I bought today.

And while I was at Tessuti's today, I accidentally bought some of this colourful and gorgeous Japanese cotton, that I will make into something shortly after finishing this dress (I swear! no stashing this):

The alterations to my friend's expensive dress are all done, and she wore it to the wedding she was attending with no seams falling apart so thankfully all that stress is behind me. It turned out to be quite simple in the end, because it had cap sleeves so I could take it in from the side seams without having to unpick the sleeves, although I did have to unpick the French seams to re-sew them and trim them close. Sorry I didn't get a photo of it, but it's basically exactly like Burda 3/09 dress 107, with a little gathering between the bust line:
Very simple isn't it? The fabric was very lovely silk lace and the design timeless, but I'm still not sure it was worth $700, especially as it was made in China. But I guess in the end any item is worth whatever someone is willing to pay....

Fingers crossed I'll be back posting a completed dress in the next week. I'm hoping that by posting all the details here I'll force myself to complete it and not just be all talk, no action. Now, don't anyone dare copy me!


  1. Your sketching skills are AMAZING--I'm a stick figure kind of girl myself. Love the dress & can't wait to see how it comes out!

  2. Wow, your resourcefulness is inspiring. I like how you are using pieces from other patterns to get the job done.

  3. Good luck! I'm rooting for you to finish this and to win!

  4. Your dress looks like it is going to be gorgeous - love your use of silk organza for the sleeves/draped piece. Will you double the sleeves with a hem fold, or hem them?

  5. The design sketch is absolutely yummy!

  6. Most impressive on your dress design! Can't wait to see it all put together. It sounds lovely.

  7. I really like the way you are doing this. I can't wait to see the finish dress.

  8. Love that draping detail on the dress - it's stunning. Looking forward to seeing the finished piece. Good luck!