Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I Made A Thing: 20's Party Dress

Last week I got a text from my friend Autumn: "Can you make me a dress?"

I was thrilled and terrified. Thrilled because I have secretly always wanted a friend to ask me to make something for them. Terrified because I had never done it before. At least not from scratch. 

Click "Read More" to find out how I did it. I even included a tutorial!

Autumn had been invited to a Roaring 20's party and needed an appropriate 20's-style dress. She had looked at existing costumes but realized she wanted something more simple and wearable, so she could possibly wear it again to a different event. She sent me some pics of what she liked and I sketched out a basic idea:

Slightly drop-waisted with a hi-lo hemline on the skirt, trim at the top and waist, and wide straps so she could comfortably undergarment herself. I had planned for her actual waistline to be nipped in a little with darts but fortunately didn't have to do that because of her measurements. 

We started with a fun trip to Joann's to pick the appropriate fabric. After making our selection we wandered around and let ourselves become overstimulated by all the amazing prints that are out this season. I am going to have to go back when I have some money to spare so I can stock up!

Mistake #1 was made at this time. I did not measure Autumn before we went to the fabric store. This was a mistake because while I ended up with enough fabric for the dress, I did not have enough trim to go all the way around the top and drop waist. So the drop waist part only had trim on the front and not the back. But if you measure beforehand you should be able to buy enough trim to go all the way around!

We got back to her place and her super-talented husband Curtis Potter set up a camera to record the process. He does these awesome fast-motion creativity videos and my dress making process will soon be immortalized in this fashion!! I'll post a link to the video as soon as it's ready. :)

I didn't take any step-by-step pictures myself during the process, but I did draw out what I did. 

First I took her measurements and cut the top of the fabric like so:

Mistake #2 occurred at this point. While my dear friend's hip measurement was a bit larger than the underarm measurement, I cut the fabric straight down from the underarms, which did not give her enough room in the hip. I ended up having to sew a weird triangle gusset into the back seam under the zipper which made a not-very-attractive fabric bulge right at the hip. Fortunately I don't think anybody noticed since the rest of her dress (and her phenomenal styling job!) looked pretty damn good, if I do say so myself. 

Then I cut the trim to match the top and bottom of the bodice piece, pinned in place, and sewed down. 

Once that was done, it was time for the zipper. Fortunately I've done a few zippers before and I had a pretty good idea of how to do this part. I lined up the 12" zipper from the top of the bodice, folded over the raw edges, and pinned one folded edge to one side of the zipper. Pro tip! Use LOTS of pins for this, especially if the fabric has any stretch in it at all. Using lots and lots of pins can help make sure the fabric stays nice and even along the zipper. 

Using a zipper foot, I carefully and slowly sewed it down. Then I repeated from the other side. I ended up with this:

To finish the back seam, I zipped up the zipper, and folded it in half right sides together so that the unsewn edges were lined up next to each other, then sewed a regular seam to the bottom of the trim. (Okay I actually didn't because this is when I realized I needed to put a gusset in there, but if you use the measurements above to cut the top piece you won't need to do that and you should just be able to sew a straight seam.)

Then we tried it on to make sure it could be pulled on over her hips. It fit pretty well so I moved on to the skirt. 

My fabric was 45" across so I took the yard or so I had left and folded it in half, then cut across like so:

Then I cut the hi-lo hemline like this:

I sewed the two raw edges, right sides together, then ran a long running stitch around the top. I gathered the fabric evenly along the thread until the circumference matched the bottom of the bodice piece. Then I pinned in place, right sides together (making sure the seam in the skirt lined up with the seam in the bodice), and sewed in place. 

Then we tried it on again and it fit beautifully! Now, my friend is more "pear" than "hourglass" (although you can't tell looking at her!), so darts were not needed. However, if you're making this and it's a little baggy around your natural waist, feel free to add a couple of simple waistline darts to give it a bit more form. Be sure to turn the dress inside out and put it on again - fully zipped - so that the darts are sewn towards the inside of the dress. I've made this mistake before. :)

Basically you're going to pinch a narrow bit of fabric 3-4" long in the exact same place on either side of your navel. Pin the darts in place. Move around to make sure they're no too tight or loose. 

Then remove the dress, lay the bodice on the machine so that the folded bit of fabric you just pinned is flat on the feed dogs, and sew a small straight stitch from the top to the bottom of the dart. Be sure to back stitch at the beginning and end. 

Repeat for the other dart. Carefully trim away the excess fabric. 

Try the dress on one more time to determine strap placement. 

I marked spots on the top trim in the appropriate strap places about 2" apart (for a 2" strap) then made the same marks on the back. I took my measuring tape and measured over her shoulder from a front to a back mark to get the length right. 

Then I cut two pieces of fabric like so:

Hemmed up both long sides on both pieces, then stitched in the right places on the bodice by running a straight seam in a square to secure the straps in place:

Finally, the last step was to hem the skirt. The relief I felt when I came to this step was palpable. Once it was all done, she tried it on again for the full effect. It looked awesome!

Here is a close up of the trim. I think it looked awesome with the fabric!

The final result? An incredibly hot and realistic 20's style dress that's just simple enough to be worn again!

Here's the full effect of the look:

(Her friend's face was emoji'd out for privacy reasons.)

She looked stunning!!!

She made two of the necklaces she's wearing. (By the way, she works at a jewelry store here in San Antonio and she is an incredibly talented jeweler herself. Here is a link to her store's Etsy shop where you can buy some killer gems, beads, and jeweler's tools!) She did her hair and makeup herself and made the headpiece she's wearing out of scraps from the fabric and a gorgeous peacock feather:

And here she is with her handsome 20s gangster man:

She could even dance in it!

(Photo by Curtis Potter, cropped by me to protect the privacy of others in the photo)

And that's really all I could have hoped for! I had never made a dress from scratch before, and the fact that I was able to do it for a friend makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. 

Have a great week my friends!


1 comment:

  1. Best Dress Ever!!!! I love it so much and I think I just may have to wear it to work and spin in circles for everyone!