Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Silver Gala Dress: A More Thoughtful Post

There are a few days between me and this dress, so now I can look at it all in a more rational way.


I volunteer at the National Museum of Dance, which is having its 25th anniversary this year.  A few days ago, it held its Silver Gala - attended by the likes of Marylou Whitney and Ann-Margret (who was being inducted into the Hall of Fame) - and one of my supervisors asked me to sew her a dress for it.  She isn't very into dressing up or shopping for fancy clothes, so it seemed like a great idea to have one made instead.  And it needed to be silver.

I was given a few fit issues that my supervisor wanted the dress to take into account, so I set about looking for patterns.  I picked a few that seemed to work from Simplicity and Butterick - A-line skirt, high waistline, longish skirt - and then, as an afterthought, a pattern from Vogue with a sort of marquise-shaped panel on the left side, with the rest of the fabric pleated up into it.  Of course, that was the most interesting-looking one, and that's the one she chose.

It took me too long to get on with picking out fabric.  I sent to Mood Fabric for a few swatches, but none of them felt right or fit the planned budget of $60.  Really, that was the first point when I should have explained something, namely how much nice fabric costs.  (Lesson learned.)  Fortunately, I managed to find a nice rayon/acetate blend of silver satin from Fashion Fabrics Club for the outer fabric - I could have gone a little less shiny, but the picture of the pattern looked so Art Deco that I thought I should go full-out.  Since the rayon wasn't very costly, I was able to get a very nice dark grey silk charmeuse to use for the lining: I think it's more important to have the lining be a nice feeling fabric and let the outer fabric be whatever looks good.

I made a mock-up out of a pretty green gingham, and it went fairly well, although I did find it a bit tricky to follow the pleating lines on the pattern pieces.  This led me to be over-confident about making up the dress, I'm afraid - at first I'd thought that the pattern might be too difficult.  The thing is, making an unlined, quick version of a dress in $2/yd cotton is very different from making it properly in slippery, shiny rayon and adding an even more slippery silk lining.  When the fabric finally came (lesson learned: order fabric earlier), I soon realized that no, this was in fact a terribly difficult pattern and I shouldn't have given it as a choice because I couldn't make it up.  (LESSON LEARNED.)  Especially as the intended wearer asked that I lengthen it from below-the-knee to ankle-length.

In the end, I took it all over to Mom's.  She's been sewing for decades longer than me and is also a much more careful person.  She ended up doing all of the machine sewing, and I did the handwork - sewing the straps (originally self-bias-tape, but we used a plastic silver trim from Walmart), putting in the hook and eye, slipstitching the bias tape on the inside under the arm.  It turned out that I'd haphazardly lengthened it in the wrong place: this double gore was supposed to start at the hip and flare out, and I'd put it at the knee, which added a horrible curve from the hip to the knee.  We ended up making it the original length, and Mom put the gore back where it was meant to be.  The rayon wasn't co-operating for the rolled hem, so she faced it with grey bias tape instead, and we didn't hem the lining at all.

Fortunately, my supervisor brought the dress back the next day so we could finish the lining.  Mom also got a look at my twill tape while I was working on my petticoat yesterday, and thinks it would be better to redo the hem with that, as the bias tape made it stand out too much.  It's just a little big for her, but I'll get a picture of her in it.

The supervisor is going to a Halloween party which she also needs a costume for.  I'm going to ask her if she has any ideas, and if she doesn't I'm suggesting a Holly Golightly outfit or something from the '20s, which I think would suit her and wouldn't be too difficult, although nothing would be difficult compared to what we just did.  Hopefully some other people from the museum will be going and will also want costumes!

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