Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Coffee date dress...finally!

I've been intending to make the Coffee Date dress by Pattern Runway for years.  Then, I finally broke down and bought the pattern, and it has taken me months to figure out what fabric to make it from.  Once I determined I'd use some less-expensive fabric to give the pattern a go, it took me ages to start.  And then once I started sewing, all the numerous fitting issues stalled me for a while.  So in short, this dress is way too long in the making!
So let's talk about this pattern.  I love the idea of this dress (fitted waist!  pockets!  kick pleat!), but I struggled with the fit a little and the end product isn't really flattering on me.   For the fit, I tried to reduce the volume of the pleats on top by essentially not grading out at the bottom of the bodice like I normally would, and instead using some of the pleat volume to "stretch" the bodice to fit the waistband (does that make sense to anyone but me? :) I think it could use even more reduction of pleating for my shape (both at the top and shirt parts).  I shortened the bodice while adjusting the paper pattern, again while sewing, and finally took in the shoulder seams by 1/2" to get the waistline to fall at the right spot and avoid a really wacky blousing effect.
I didn't care for the longish short sleeves, so they were shortened as well as removing some of the gathers at the cap.

I wore the dress to work yesterday and it's a solid, professional-type garment (I wore a cream colored cardigan with a defined waist most of the day), but I felt like it was unflattering.  The pleats below the waist are a little voluminous and don't hit quite right.  The photo above looks pretty good only because my hands in the pockets are pulling them down a little! I don't know...maybe my belly fluff is the really culprit :)
The back is fitted nicely, at least!    The back kick pleat is very cool and functional!  And I do love the pockets (especially since putting your hands in them pulls the pleating down in a slightly more flattering way :)
The fabric was a new one for me: peach skin.  I bought heaps of this pretty cheap fabric thinking it was stretchy and it most definitely is not (my fault completely!).  Benefits: wrinkle resistant, fairly easy to work with, and cheap.  I also totally love the print (and there are loads of others!).  I can imagine it being hot in the summer, it is polyester after all, but it also feels light and airy, so we'll see when it gets steamy.
I may try this pattern again, but with a ponte knit.  I have some lovely Boden dresses with a pretty similar style, but in a weighty knit. I'd love to recreate those and wear them constantly.  Anyhow, I'll wear this one again, so I guess that counts as a success!

Fun fact: I bought my awesome orange necklace from a jewelry vendor at the farmer's market in Homer, Alaska.  $6!

2015 Resewlution, April garment #1 (I need to do more sewing!)

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Pop art-inspired Shuttlecock Dress

I've been taking fashion design classes at a local community college...a class a semester, whatever I can fit into my teaching schedule, nothing too strenuous.  Anyhow, while sitting in my fashion illustration class a month ago, there was an announcement for a fashion design competition.  Well, the college athlete in me can't resist a competition, so I entered!

There were multiple categories in the design challenge and I randomly selected "Pop Art" as my inspiration.  After some research for ideas, I came upon this series of sculptures, "Shuttlecock" by artist Claes Oldenburg:
(The birdie, not the building.)
The process of designing the garment in my head took a while.  At multiple points, I was reminded quite clearly that I am actually NOT a fashion designer!  I knew it had to be made out of scuba knit (purchased from Mood here and here)----the feathers would be so much easier to manage and give a nice, stiff yet flexible look--and I knew boning would have to be involved.  How to put it all together? Yeah, that was the hard part.

The bodice is drafted from a contouring sloper bodice (to my measurements!) and is sewn with front and back darts, with a strip of velcro on the side.  The feathers involved some trial and error--in the end, each one is a double layer of scuba knit, with a strip of covered boning sewn down the length.  The top layer of the feather was randomly slashed to give a more "feather-like" appearance.  Each is attached to the bodice with a stay of 1" wide elastic.
A circle of boning at the waist is hand stitched to each feather, with a tiny snap at the side as an opening. After trying on the dress, it was clear the feathers needed to be tacked down for modesty, so the bottom layer of each feather is tacked to its neighbor.
Here is my fashion illustration of my garment--I haven't finished the course yet (still a month to go), but I've learned enough to be pretty happy with my rendition! 
Here's my Shuttlecock dress with some of the other entrants.  There were some really inventive garments (take a look at that one of the left (below), made from spoons and garbage bags, winner in the "recycled plastic" category):
The white "paper" dress on the left (below), was winner in the "yarn as inspiration" category.  The dressmaker encouraged everyone to sign or draw something on the garment.
White dress on the left (below), winner in the "transform a t-shirt" category, is all lacy on the back.
And mine, winner (out of 2 entrants :) in the "pop art" category!  Thanks to the members of the Fashion Club for organizing the whole thing--it was truly a fun and challenging experience!  
Someone needs to have a costume party, and soon!  Until then, my dress will be on display in the student center at West Valley College, if you happen to be near Saratoga!