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!