I know I've told you several times about the (fantastic) beginning pattern-making class that I've been taking online from Whipstitch. I've also told you that I've learned that making patterns requires a lot of trial, error, and do-over, and that several of my attempts have turned out to be, well, learning experiences on the way to (yet unrealized) victories. This summery, strapless minidress dress, however, was my last pattern-making project, and it turned out wearable--even cute, I think! I'm particularly excited about it, not only because I finished it just in time for the beach, but because making a real dress, with darts and gathers and zippers and all the rest, was my "reach" goal for the class, and to my great surprise, it has actually materialized! Hooray!
The dress is comprised of two parts, a bodice and a skirt. To make them, I used four pieces of Oliver + S Exhibit Stripe fabric (plus the blue sash, which is cut from cotton lawn), and three pieces of white Kona cotton (for the lining). The bodice has two vertical darts (I've learned that vertical is far better for me than the more common horizontal darts because I'm, ahem, rather small up top). The neckline is perfectly straight all the way around, and closes (together with the upper part of the skirt) with an invisible zipper (which, incidentally, I melted with the iron--more on that later). The bottom half is a basic, gathered skirt, constructed from one 45" width of fabric wrapped all the way around.
Although, like any person who completes a project, I'm keenly aware of every little mistake, I really do love it. It's summery, comfortable, and casual in a dressy kind of way--which is exactly the genre of clothing that every Southern woman needs in the summer for warm and sticky outdoor gatherings. I'm excited to try different permutations--to add pockets, to tweak the skirt, to make a v-necked version, and one with pleats (it's daring, I know, but why not try?). The thing is that once you learn the basics of making patterns, the possibilities are truly endless. I mean, don't get me wrong, learning and growing in this regard is going to take me a lot of work and practice, but it seems possible now. And isn't that incredibly exciting?
In the absence of a tutorial (providing one for you in this instance would be way too close to re-creating a portion of Deborah's valuable class--and I want you to TAKE IT YOURSELF!), here are a few important lessons learned from designing and constructing a strapless minidress:
1. Making this dress was not very hard. It requires skills in sewing basic darts (here is all you need to know), gathering, basic hand-sewing (for the facing), and (more on the difficult side) inserting an invisible zipper. Inserting an invisible zipper is, more accurately, a big, fat bad word. I've done it twice now, and I'm beginning to think that if I want to ever do one right, I'm going to have to buy a small load of invisible zippers and practice (read: mess up) over and over and over. As you can see, calling the zipper on my dress "invisible" is kind of a joke. I mentioned that I overdid it with the iron when I prepared the zipper, and melted/shrunk a section of the coils. Because I'm stubborn, I used it anyway, and it came out lopsided (you can see that in the pictures--see how the right side is higher than the left?). Lesson #1: throw out the melted zipper and go get another one (and while you're at it, get a 16" one--mine is too short).
2. Designing this dress was actually not difficult, either. For one thing, I only had to make a pattern for the bodice, using bust and waist measurements. It did, as all our pattern-making projects, involve some some editing and re-editing, but because I drew the bodice on fabric-like, swedish tracing paper (thanks to Deborah's instruction), I was able to try it on and change it several times before using real fabric. Still, the waist on the dress is a little big--so I'll take that into consideration next time around.
3. And finally, the big lesson--both from this project and this class. I've learned that when taking a vision from my head, communicating it to paper, and bringing it into reality in fabric, I have to be really flexible. The blue sash, for example, was a solution to a slightly-too-big-waist. And I'm always going to have to iron the skirt with a vengeance before wearing it because I included way too much fabric in the hem and so it bunches (yeah, you can see that, too--I guess I could tear it out a start over, but I'm not quite sure it's worth it). In other words, there will always be things that go wrong, and they are at worst great learning experiences and at best, triggers for new ideas. Ironically, growing in my ability to design and make patterns actually requires falling on my face over and over--only to come up a little stronger and a little closer to what I'm after than I did after the previous fall. Like a sine curve on a gradual incline. And isn't that healthy? And very UN-perfectionsitic? [Cue the breath of fresh air.]
So, I'm excited. And, thanks to Whipstitch and beginning pattern-making (online!!), I feel empowered to try all sorts of new things that I never dreamed I'd consider. And that, friends, is a fun place to be.
So I hope you'll hear more. In the meantime, happy Thursday! And thank you, Deborah!