Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunset maxi-dress

I have been seeing stacks of floaty-to-the-max, hippy-dippy maxi-dresses in totally gloriously over-the-top colours and patterns in catalogues and magazines as a staple for yet another summer.  So decided I just had to make myself one.   It was a bit of a business, but I am super happy with how it turned out!  It flows and ripples beautifully around my ankles, and I feel delightfully bohemian in it.  Just hand me my poolside cocktail, will you?  I'm so ready for summer now!
I have to say in the end this is inspired by or based upon, but certainly not true to Vogue 1355, an old, possibly 90's??  pattern that I bought on ebay... a pattern with a midi dress of lovely simplicity pictured on the cover.  My dress turned out kinda like how I thought that one looked but not really how it is...
I chose a beautifully coloured and patterned polyester chiffon with a lovely design that is almost post-apocalyptic in its colours and images; fiery swirls of ivory, gold and orange, and with wispy furls of black smoke and black downy feathers floating randomly across.  Surprisingly a cheapie from Spotlight. 
This is a delightfully simple pattern, on first glance.  Nothing to it.  Just three pattern pieces, a front, a back and a shoulder strap piece.  No closure; the pieces are to be cut on the bias so the dress simply slips over your head.  Couldn't be simpler, hmm?  Well, the truth is; this dress is that deceptive brand of simplicity.  But maybe that was mostly due to the difficulty factor inherent in working with chiffon.  The instructions with this pattern are fabulous, like gold, for working with bias cut delicates.
Hilarious random fact for the day; did you know the word "chiffon" comes from an old French word for "rag"?  Lol!


Dress; based on Vogue 1355, printed polyester chiffon, with a lining of white cotton voile
Making the dress; skip this saga if you want.
For a start, the pattern pieces come with a 3.8cm seam allowance, to allow for bias "drops" after hanging... I hadn't seen this before but I shrugged and went with it.  Later on this turned out to be a wonderful thing...  More on this later... but first things first.
 Have you ever cut out polyester chiffon on the bias?  Yah, it's a %$^#, right?  Moves and slides about with but the slightest breath of wind... truthfully even breathing on the fabric as you are cutting out and it will ripple slightly off the true bias so so so easily.  I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to cutting out so this stage was leeeengthy.  And in hindsight I probably spent way too much unnecessary time getting this bit perfect since my final dress is unrelated to those seamlines anyway.  But I eventually got it cut out... now on to those seams.  Firstly, one has to pin it along the seam lines and hang it up for a while to allow the fabric to drop through the bias.  To be absolutely sure I left mine hanging for a week.  Then basted and tried it on.  Wait wait, I'm getting ahead of myself!  First I cut miles and miles of tissue paper strips and basted over these, then to rip the paper strips away; the ideal method for sewing delicates on the bias... then tried it on.  Straight away saw that the shape of the dress wasn't particularly flattering.  The pattern as it is has the skirt very slightly tulip-shaped, which just serves to emphasise the figure flaws of a narrow torso-ed but slightly hippy person such as myself imo.... So, no.  Thanked the heavens for that 3.8cm seam allowance, which allowed me to alter the bodice to be smaller, and to taper the skirt out lots lots more, from a narrower waist in a straight line to the ankles, ending in the teensy weensiest seam allowance at the ankles... a far more flattering silhouette.  Re-did the seams; hung for a few more days.  Ditto for the lining.  Oh, yeah, I made a bias-cut lining dress too, identical to the dress in every way except of white cotton voile.  There is no lining stipulated in the pattern but I deemed it necessary.  Hey, that polyester chiffon is completely see-through, people!!  This was also pinned, hung, basted, tried on, re-sewn, hung for a second time; also.  Finally, when I decided all was perfect, I sewed the seams in French seams (again, with the strips of tissue paper twice, for the double lot of sewing that is the French seam), attached the shoulder straps, and joined the dress and lining dress together at the top.  Hung up for just a bit longer, just to gather mental strength for the next scary bit... the hem.  By this time, the dress just had to work out perfect or I would have been inconsolable... my overlocker is temperamental and sometimes spiteful when it comes to rolled hemming.  On this occasion I was grateful that it behaved itself.  Hemmed with a rolled hem in black on my overlocker, and a narrow double folded hem on my sewing machine for the lining.  Tried it on and was immensely relieved to see it hung at just the perfect length, and what's more has a perfectly even hem.  Yay!!  Breathed easily for the first time.
And can now appreciate why the pattern was rated Average, in spite of just three very basic pattern pieces.  Pared back simplicity can be quite tough to get just right!

42 comments:

  1. Carolyn I am utterly smitten by this dress. Beautifully made and so stylish. I'd love to get my hands on this fabric.

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  2. Well the result is gorgeous - worth all the pain!! Of course I say that but I wasn't the one who suffered ;)

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  3. It looks fabulous. definitely worth all the toil and effort. Great photos too.

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  4. gosh - you look like you just came out of a vogue magazine. stunning .

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  5. An amazing dress and an equally amazing backdrop. Not only do you have fantastic sewing skills, you have a great idea for photography too!
    Congratulations!

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  6. Your dress is so beautiful! I know the pain of working with chiffon on bias so I understand your stress. All that paid off with a flattering, stunning dress.

    So nice to see the sun even if it only in pictures.

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  7. It's gorgeous - those colours look wonderful on you. So much work for such a simple looking dress but worth it.

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  8. ooooh, you wear this extremely well!

    ... and thank you to let us discover your beautiful country ;) - This picture is amazing!

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  9. This is really gorgeous on you . It suits your frame perfectly and the colours are perfect for the beautiful stone of Western Australia (and for you I might add). Very etherial!!

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  10. Stunning. You've proved that it really is worth all the trouble to have a bias piece hang properly. You look amazing in this one.

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  11. Oh my, I totally adore this beautiful dress! The fabric is fabulous and the floaty 'hippy dippy' look is gorgeous (especially seen against that amazing backdrop). I am in awe of all the painstaking hard work you put into making this dress - superbly done!

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  12. The dress is stunning! It's fits you so well and is bold and dramatic without being overwhelming. All your hard work paid off. The setting for photo is spot on too.

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  13. Fantastic! I know cutting thin slippery fabrics on the bias is all but fun. I actually put books on top of fabric and pattern pieces, covering it up totally like a puzzle just to make the whole thing stay in place and then cut super slow and careful with my smallest scissors... lol. Anyway, good job on making it look so beautiful, and I love the fabric!

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  14. Great dress, perfect for hot summer days (with the cotton lining of course)! You were just asking for trouble with bias cut chiffon ;)

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  15. That's a great dress! And you are loads braver than I am - even just reading your description of all the work involved makes me resolve to never try something like this. :) But your dress is fabulous, and so, hopefully, worth all the work.

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  16. Love it and the background in your picture is great for the display.

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  17. absolutely love it, the color is great on you. and another fantastic photo. Bias, eek, not one of my favorites to sew but you conquered it.

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  18. It looks both amazing and terrifying. Chiffon is one of those fabrics that sends me screaming at the best of times, and I have yet to try to sew anything on the bias.

    Congratulations, you pulled off a wonder! :D

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  19. It's like taking a mini vacation to ponder this dress in this setting. It almost makes me despise the season I am heading into, except that fall is my favorite season. Wonderfulness!

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  20. absolutely gorgeous— I'm glad you made it work for you, your notes are always so helpful.

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  21. I know what you say when you talk about pain when cut chiffon ... but the result is wonderful, so ethereal .... print and remember the fire, indeed. Love this beautiful dress!

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  22. Lovely dress! And your setting for the photograph is absolutely perfect-- you seriously look like you just came out of a fashion magazine ad or a catalog!

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  23. How beautiful and elegant is that dress? I love it. It took a lot of love and dedication to make, but the result is definitely worth the wait.

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  24. I feel your pain...after completing a bias floating wedding dress for a friend I swore never again! Great dress though. There must have been quite an art to matching up the print.

    Love the setting, I really need to brush up on my photography skills.

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  25. Carolyn, This is fabulous and your setting(as usual) couldn't be better. I will confess to a hint of jealousy over your varied terrain. This fabric is sublime.....and I am wondering what the appropriate cocktail might be? Perhaps a white wine sangria with summer fruit swirling about.

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  26. oh, this is stunning, and the background is perfect for showing off this dress.

    I enjoyed the construction saga -- I would like to sew with poly chiffon as it is realatively cheap and delightfully floaty, though I will choose something not on the bias for a first go-round I guess. And lining with cotton voile is a good idea for comfort too I guess? Oh, yes ... this would make one long for summer. :)

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  27. This dress looks stunning on you! The colour is really working with your hair. Fabulous photo by the way. Sounds like a saga but worth it in the end.

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  28. Wow Carolyn this is stunning and even more stunning is your photos! Chiffon has to be one of the most difficult fabrics to sew doesn't it? I've been sewing with silk chiffon and I picked up a tip from a fellow Aussie (Lena) which works an absolute treat. No tissue strips required. ;)

    Gelatin recipe - http://sewing.patternreview.com/cgi-bin/sewingclasses/board.pl?t=63269&pn=2#1244605

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  29. Well all that hanging and fitting was worth it. You look fabulous!!! And those colours - perfect. Well done.

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  30. What a glorious dress, well done - skill AND patience! And it suits you and your landscape perfectly.

    PS I initially saw this post on my phone and could only see the leftmost part of the photo ie a lovely rock but no dress. I don't know if this is a common issue, but just thought you might like to be aware of it.

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  31. ABsolutely stunning dress! I made a silk chiffon on the bias for my daughter last year - nearly drove me spare, although I had my dressmaker aunt help me cut it out ( when I was voer in Sydney) . It almost turned into a top rather than a dress becuase my overlocker did play up! Luckily there was enough fabric to form a frill on the bottom hem. That may sound a bit naff, but it actually looked better than without the hem...thank goodness! I'm not sure if I would do chiffon on the bias ever again..... Mind you there are some good instructions for bias sewing, and spaghetti straps in Roberta Carr's "Couture" . cheers

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  32. Absolutely fabulous. This should be in Vogue. The dress is picture perfect for you and the setting stunning - congratulations Mum

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  33. Stunning dress Carolyn, beautiful model and setting, congratulations. I look forward to seeing the real dress (and you of course.
    love dad

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  34. Absolutely stunning! I have made one skirt of polyester chiffon (years ago) and have not recovered from the experience...

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  35. Wow.
    You look amazing in this dress. Making the poly chiffon summer wearable by adding a cotton lining is pure sewing genius.

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  36. Thank you so much for those lovely comments ladies!
    Sew-4-fun, I will check out that link if I ever make another one of these, although the tissue paper strips wasn't that hard :)
    Gabrielle; I don't know much about this stuff, but my husband reckoned it was something to do with your phone settings. My photos are big, and maybe they weren't being resized to your screen?
    LINDAK; overlockers can be such a bane, can't they? But I'm glad you thought of a creative solution to the problem, and the fact that it suited your daughter's dress better than without was a bonus!

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  37. Oh my goodness, what a laborious process this was...but so worth it. You look stunning in this dress. The location for your photo shoot could not be more perfect. Beautiful job!

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  38. This dress is sooo beautiful.

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  39. My copy of this pattern is dated 1994. I've never worked up the guts to actually make it, but seeing your beautiful version makes me want it again. The lining is a great idea.

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  40. I used this pattern for my wedding dress in 1994. It was a beach wedding and this pattern was the first I saw of the "slip dress" era. Very nice to see yours. (and to read your account of making it -- made me smile -- you lined yours! I made another DK pattern, a simple long, open jacket of guipure lace to wear over it) Love the colors on you. It's a lovely pattern still. Thanks for the memories!

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  41. I logged in today specially to find this post and to thank you yet once again for all the great advice you share with us readers. I was sewing a rather fine linen today and noticed that it needed to be stabilized somehow. I thought for a few seconds holding onto the fabric and your recommendation came to mind: tissue paper! I rushed to find some around the house, tested it and sure enough it worked beautifully. Many, many thanks for being such a role model and inspiration to me and so many readers around the globe!

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