Blooming Champagne Shift Dress

I am hooked on making simple, easy dresses right now. I would like to think that this is because I actually really want to wear simple, easy dresses and not because I’m lazy, but in reality, it’s probably a combo meal.

This shift dress was a cinch to make, and it feels surprisingly lovely and sophisticated, if I do say so myself.

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That lovely-and-sophisticated impression is owed in large part to the fabric, I think—my mom picked up 1.5 yards secondhand at a quilt fair for $4. Given the limited yardage and the scale of the print, I had to be pretty strategic about flower placement. I really didn’t want to have an Adam and Eve moment.

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The pattern is from Simple Modern Sewing by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha, a great resource for creating your own wardrobe basics. The step-by-step instructions are easy to follow, and I also appreciate that the accompanying diagrams are big-picture oriented.

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Detail of the lapped shoulder—a new design element for me. I’m a fan.

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Yeah, I don’t know. A dress can only do so much for one’s loveliness and sophistication.

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The Yes-I’d-Like-to-Sample-All-the-Flavors Dress

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When I first saw this fabric on the clearance table at JoAnn, it weirdly reminded me of Henry van de Velde’s Tropon ad from 1898. Only instead of using Cadbury-esque swirls to sell a processed egg product, these pretty pastels could be pushing saltwater taffy. Or macarons. Or gelato. I might have been very hungry while I was shopping. Regardless, I ended up buying the limited yardage that was left.

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It’s definitely a wacky—or shall we say unique?—abstract cotton print. And I struggled a bit with what to do with it. After sitting in my stash for a couple of years (yes, years), a project started to take shape in my head. I wanted it to be an easy, breezy throw-on dress for summer—sort of oversized and shapeless to (hopefully) balance the saccharine print. Hurrah for this summer’s Return of The Caftan!

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(This is more of a drop-waist dress than a true caftan I guess—but it’s still flowy and effortless.)

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Anyway, with a half-formed direction in mind, I pored through my terrifyingly vast collection of patterns—but I couldn’t find quite what I was looking for. So I decided to wing it.

A gentle reminder to my future self: you always say you will wing it. The process that inevitably follows can be described as “winging it” inasmuch as a 5oz European swallow tied to a 1lb coconut “wings it.” Or, if you’re more of a visual person, it’s akin to this.

Cut first, ask questions later, amiright? Nervous laughter. Just kidding, guys! (Kind of.)

As you are probably imagining, I took several wrong turns, with lots of seam-picking and re-stitching. There was some dallying with facings, which were eventually discarded in favor of bias tape binding. But I found this tutorial on faking plackets invaluable—perhaps you will too.

Eventually I got there—I was actually pleasantly surprised by the final result. Hence the abundance of photos of this one.

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One change I would make, however: I’d address the back neckline differently, probably using a more shallow curve. From this angle, it looks a little like I’m wearing the dress backwards. Meh.

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I can throw it on to run errands, but I can also dress it up and hit the town. And by town, I mean the local fro-yo place, obvi. See you there!

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Valentine’s Day Dress

Valentine’s Day was practically made for me. Well, me and Saint Valentine. I mean, it’s a holiday involving paper doilies, heart-shaped cookies that turn your teeth pink, teeny tiny envelopes, and the worst (best) poetry and puns imaginable. Get out.

But alas, as I get older, Valentine’s Day seems to fall into the same category as Halloween and New Year’s Eve. Adulthood and his buddy, Expectations, typically crash the party, draining the Awesomeness dry but leaving behind a big puddle of Disappointment for me to mop up in the morning.

Not so this year. I am taking control of Valentine’s Day and indulging in my most decadent fantasy.

Yes, that’s right: Being Warm.

I am ignoring the brutal winds and mountains of dirty ice crust. Instead of snow as dry as sand, why not imagine actual sun-baked sand? What is bliss if not the commingling of sunscreen and sweat?

Ergo, this week I made the sweetest summer dress in the sweetest floral print.

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McCall’s Pattern M6739—I chose Option A, with the ruffled hem on the side panels. The more flounces the better, obviously.

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What? Oh, I’m sorry—I must have dozed off.

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I’m back now.

While the final result is great for the Valentine’s Day of my mind and heart, in real life I think that this dress in a modern, geometric print—perhaps even two contrasting geometric prints—would be perfection. OR I could see making it up in a special occasion fabric, and it would be very Lady Rose MacClare.

Anyway, the moral of the story is Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope you do something special for yourself to celebrate.

Thrift Store Couture: Cupcake Dress

I’m not really a Shoe Girl.

I typed that sentence, and a voice in my head—a voice which sounds disconcertingly like my mother’s—snorted derisively. Ok, yes, the pile of shoes that I’ve amassed in my closet is pretty damning evidence to the contrary. But I dream in dresses and coats—shoes tend to be an afterthought.

Part of my indifference toward footwear definitely stems from growing up Tall. Self-conscious about my height, I was always one of those awkward girls slouching in corners, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. I didn’t have the gumption—or, to be honest,  the coordination—to wear high heels. And it IS high heels that Shoe Girls love.

And while I’ve obviously outgrown that aversion to attention (nothing screams “Look at me! Look at me!” quite like writing a blog in which one posts photos of oneself) a vague reluctance to don heels lingers. (As, unfortunately, does the terrible posture.)

Anyway. This is a very roundabout way of explaining that this project began in a very roundabout way for me.

It started with this pair of pumps.

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Dolce Vita Dollie Pumps

I bought these shoes to wear to a wedding and immediately had a fairly substantial idea of what I wanted to wear them with—something girly and vintagey and sweet, with a full fluffy skirt and a fitted bodice.

Something like so:
Inspiration
a. 1950s Dress, DearGolden Shop at etsy.com
b. Brown and Ivory Tulle Skirt, TutusChicBoutique at etsy.com
c. Presenters Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly wait backstage at the RKO Pantages Theatre during the 1956 Academy Awards, Allan Grant—Time & Life Pictures
d. Custom 50s-inspired Cocktail Dress, Elegance50s Shop at etsy.com 

Of course I didn’t actually own anything like that, so I decided to make something.

Because I hate myself.

I’m labeling this as a “Thrift Store Couture” post, but that’s kind of misleading—I did start with a garment from Salvation Army, but I basically cut it up and completely started over.

The Before: a 100% silk dress from Saks. With shoulder pads. Probably from the 80s.!Before2_double

The after: a definite improvement, no?
Front

To create the bodice, I used this Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity Pattern (1873):

The rest I just winged, creating a gathered tulle circle skirt with a pink silk overlay. The waistband is black velvet—a total splurge, guys. That strip of fabric was, like, $12.

Truthfully, the flimsy silk was probably a poor choice for a dress this structured/tailored. I lined the bodice with a stiffer fabric, which helped—but it still wasn’t ideal.

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(My mom’s voice also says: “Get your hair out of your face.”)

(Upon further reflection, that actually might be my Grandma Joyce’s voice. Or that of Mrs. Downing, ballet teacher.)

(Probably all of the above.)

Niiiice up the nose shot:
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Back

Confession: I couldn’t actually decide whether I preferred the skirt simply as tulle, or with the pink silk overlay on top.

SO I sewed the pink skirt and sash together, but did not attach it to the rest of the dress. It’s its own separate, removable piece—it just ties around the waist.

Now I can wear the dress both with and without the overlay. Total design cop-out. Because sometimes decisions are hard.

Without the pink overlay:
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Two-piece Dress

Two-piece-Dress(Thanks to my lovely sister—above—who is a much better and more enthusiastic model than I am.)

I knew at the beginning of the summer that I wanted to make a two-piece dress. Preferably of the non-midrift-bearing variety.

Inspirationa) Legend & Song Dutch Wax Separates at Anthropologie
b) Thakoon RTW Spring 2015
c) Disco Floral Matching Separates at Pixie Market

I had a pretty good idea of the silhouette I wanted to create: a looser top, and a gathered skirt with a high waistband. I went through my vintage patterns and found this juniors dress from the 60s (Simplicity 3541). The vest-thing (shown over a dress on the pattern envelope) worked perfectly as my top.

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And… I just winged (past-tense of wing?) the skirt. It’s very basic: two rectangles of fabric (one for the waistband and one for the skirt itself) and a zipper in the back. This is a good tutorial for making this type of skirt without a pre-existing pattern.

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The material itself is a cotton print that I picked up at a thrift store. The back of the top wraps around to the front and snaps in place. The snaps are hidden by two vintage buttons that I purchased at an antique store.

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The best part? Because this dress is technically separates, it’s easy to mix and match them with other pieces:

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Yellow Wrap Dress

Welp, it’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything new. Not to worry, I’ve been working all year on various projects—I’ve just been muy terrible at recording them.

Here is a wrap dress I finished a couple of months ago. This project is notable mostly because it was the first time I didn’t have to rip anything apart and start over. Yaaaayyyy progress!!

Pattern: McCall’s 9612, 1969

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Oh hello, mixing prints in one garment. So on trend. I definitely totally did that on purpose.

Yellow Wrap Dress Front and Back

In reality, because I was using material that I’d picked up from a thrift store, I didn’t have quite enough to make the whole dress out of one print. I knew I didn’t want to compromise the length, so I improvised and used two different fabrics to create the bodice. It was actually fairly easy—I just added a seam straight across the front and back pattern pieces, above the bustline.

From the back, you can see how the two fabrics come together, as well as the dramatic width of the sash. It’s not as wonky in real life as it kind of looks in the photo.

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Thanks to my lovely sis for photographing me and accurately capturing the awkward.

Pink Toile Dress

I think I originally chose this pattern because of the sleeve, which, instead of having to be set, is actually combined with the bodice into a single pattern piece. It seemed like little work to create a kind of complicated-looking dress. I also liked the skirt: it’s hard to tell from the photos, but there is a large yoke, flat panels in the front and back, and then gathered sections on the sides.

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Pattern: Butterick 6946, I’m guessing from the 50s.

Obviously I was going for something shorter than the actual pattern. But I think I probably cut it TOO short. AGAIN. One of these days I will make something that I can actually wear to work.

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Fabric: pink toile

Pink Toile Dress

The trickiest part was the collar. It was not completely clear to me how exactly the piece was supposed to fit with the back of the dress – I used my best judgement – and then ironed it like crazy. Also unusual: the zipper starts about halfway down the back of the dress instead of at the neckline.

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With a belt.

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How I will probably wear it.

Less is More

Julia Bobbin's Mad Men Challenge
After seeing Julia Bobbin’s Mad Men challenge, I decided to create a look inspired by Megan Draper’s bold, graphic day dresses.

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Geometric and colorful.

This bright print seemed perfect.

Fabric: geometric, striped cotton

Fabric: geometric, striped cotton

I picked out a pattern from 1970. I know, I know. MadMen is only up to the late 1960s. But this illustration is enough in line with Megan’s style not to seem anachronistic.

I think.

McCall's 2386, 1970

Pattern: McCall’s 2386, 1970

Anyway, I started to make Option A, the dress on the far right with the high collar and sleeves.

It did not go well.

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Even with only one sleeve half way done, I could tell that this dress was going to be crazy ugly.

Hells no.

I removed the sleeves and collar and decided to simplify. I used the facing pattern pieces to make up a Peter Pan collar. It didn’t turn out half bad.
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Mad Men dress

I originally thought I would belt the dress, as in the pattern illustration. Then I accidentally hemmed it kind of short (as I have a tendency to do), and now I think the proportion works better just as a trapeze dress.

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Peter Pan Collar

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Perfect for summer shopping. Assuming summer eventually makes an appearance.

Dance Party Dress

So… disclaimer: this dress is… a bit much. And not something that I would usually wear.

I recently purchased Famous Frocks—a book of patterns for recreating the iconic looks of the movie and music industries’ leading ladies. Inspiration dresses range from Bette Davis’s low-backed gown to Madonna’s corset and tutu.

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The Diana Ross dress

I decided to begin with a simple one—and by far the easiest was the Diana Ross-inspired number. Plus, the sequined fabric I happened to have lying around (yes, really) just BEGGED to be made into it.

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Beautiful cranberry sequined fabric

And how did it repay me? By ruining a pair of scissors. RUINED I say. Serves me right for talking to the fabric. Ahem. Anyway, I ended up with a crazy dramatic dress:

Diana Ross inspired dress

Final result.

The reviews for this book on Amazon tend towards lukewarm. But from the perspective of someone who really has no idea what she is doing and mostly just wings it (see scissors and sequins), I actually really liked this book (at least for this project). I found the directions to be clear and easy-to-follow, and particularly appreciated the glossary in the back.

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Another angle. Yep. Still looks a Disney Princess at a disco.

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Hmm page boy at Medieval Times?

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Built in sleeve storage! No purse necessary. Nor lunchbox.

Seriously though… someone find me an 80s dance party. Fast.

Thrift Store Couture: Green Silk Dress

When I spotted this green silk dress at a thrift store for $7.99, I couldn’t pass it up, even though it was a few sizes too big. The style was also a little bridesmaidy, and only really flattering on ladies with a bustline (not me). So rather than simply take it in, I decided to try to rework it a bit.

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I couldn’t help but be a little inspired by Keira Knightley’s iconic green dress in Atonement. I decided to go for a vintage 20s/30s feel with a drop waist.

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