Semi-Sheer Pink Day Dress

Dear Friends,

“How long did it take you to make that?”
I hear this question a lot, but it’s not as simple as that. Remember, some of the details that make it take time (such as having matching piping, linings, lower hem linings, hand stitching, hand button holes, etc), don’t necessarily show easily or obviously to the untrained eye.

Additionally, even if you are doing something basic, can it take a long time? Sure! Can something complicated go fairly quickly? Definitely! It’s a combination of your materials, your tools, the techniques you decide to employ, and the care you take, as well as the skill and amount of practice you have.

This dress I’m about to show you is honestly the fastest I’ve ever made a dress. But: don’t feel like this is a benchmark. I’ll point out some corners I wish I hadn’t cut, some things I wish I done differently, and I’ll tell you right now that I was way too tired the next day. But I looked amazing!

This dress took me about 12 hours, start to finish. I used far less hand sewing than I often do, and didn’t check to make sure my striping lined up or that my pleats were even. From prior posts, you’ll likely remember I had more urgent items I was working on that are part of the support structure and undergarments, so this dress was really low priority and thus came absolute last.

Also, I should have been doing my sewing much earlier, so it didn’t become a cram session. BUT I REALLY WANTED A PRETTY DRESS!!! So my motivation was very high. I skipped some housework and maybe even a meal, getting so caught up in the sewing process 🙂 🙂

The fabric. Semi-sheer striped cotton. I randomly had a whole bolt that my mom had given me. I didn’t measure the yardage ahead of time. I cut 4 panels each about 50″ long, plus cut sleeves and a bodice. And I still have about a yard left – which is really good, given my sleeve issue I’ll mention later. So maybe I used 6 or 7 yards.

When the light isn’t behind it, it’s not super sheer.

With the light behind it.

I already have a basic bodice pattern, that was drafted for me by a friend when she made my wedding dress (which was very Civil War era inspired). But it’s been a few years, and my body has changed shape, and I knew which parts of the pattern didn’t fit right. So as I cut out pieces, I adjusted.

I also intended this to be more of a gathered-front dress, but didn’t swing out the bottom edge of the bodice nearly enough. So I just had a few little pleats, but not what I was aiming for. Beneath the pink, there is a fitted half-high white muslin bodice lining, but I forgot in my haste that I meant to make that the structural closure and let the pink float on top in the front. That gave me some extra fabric and extra tension issues at the front closure.

I was doing as much by machine as I could, and before I started this, I’d made sure my other projects were done – but I’d realized that I could do some things in my hotel room, so I’d actually not attached the buttons to my other items yet, and I finished as much of the dress assembly as I could by machine at home, and did all the button holes by machine, but left ironing, hooks and eyes, buttons, and attaching the waistband to the skirt and then to the bodice (hand stitching) until I was in the hotel room.

The only major issue I didn’t catch at home was that the sleeve pattern I had was actually much smaller than my arms. So in the pictures below you can see how, while wearable, these sleeves really don’t fit well at all. Somehow I found time to make bias piping for the armscyes, but I think I’ll have to take out the sleeves entirely, open up the armscyes more, re-cut the sleeves, and re-sew them completely. Even the cuffs ended up a bit tight, so I can use the fabric that is currently sleeve and turn them into cuffs, and use my extra fabric to make new sleeves!

Once I was at the hotel, I ironed the big loop of fabric that would become the skirt, and started doing double-stacked knife pleats. For me, especially if I’m not lining up stripes or a plaid or worrying if they are perfectly even, pleats are the quickest way to stuff lots of fabric into a small space (or semi-small. My waist isn’t super tiny!!). Then I stitched the waistband on, the bodice to that, and then spent the rest of the night on buttons and hooks and eyes, with the hotel room TV on. And, since I was traveling alone, I couldn’t even do them in the car while someone else drove! That’s why I got to bed a bit late….

Here’s the dress, finally completely assembled, around 1:30am, in the hotel room.

Here you can see that my seam isn’t perfectly ironed (I hope it will show less once I go over it again) and that I’m still not great at the waist closure lying smoothly. You can also see if you look closely that the sleeves are small: a bit short, and a bit tight. This is also causing the puckers and gathering under my arms, and the shoulders getting that weird wrinkle going over the top. I think all those will resolve once I fix the sleeves. GAH! I just noticed my petticoat is showing!!! MUST SHORTEN.

I’d intended the neckline to be more of a V, so I may still adjust that. The puckering at the closure is simply because I have not put all the hooks and eyes on yet, so this is more of an every-other emergency measure. I’m also noticing some rippling along the neckline. I’ll have to ask some seamstress friends whether a rolled hem might help reduce that, or maybe a facing.

I felt like a floaty flower in this dress.

Sitting for my ferrotype. A photographer was at the event, and while he was using me as a practice subject, my friend snapped this picture of me. Photo credit to The Young Sewphisticate.

Yours,

Sarah

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