Project WD: Marfy S963 Bodice

The final and most complex part in my 3-post series on constructing my wedding dress!

I used Marfy S963 for the bodice of my dress, which I thought was very elegant – a bateau neckline at the front, deep V-neck at the back and a capped seam that curved down around my shoulder somewhat. The front design is pretty special – with princess seams across the bust which join with two darts to create shaping at the waist. As I was only interested in the top half of this pattern, I also added in a waist seam once I’d muslined it.

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I think this dress would translate incredibly well into a sheath dress suitable for work also, once you remove the rear flounce and raise that deep V in the back to account for hiding your bra. But then when skimming through some dress inspiration pictures saved on my computer (pre Pinterest!) I saw this – look how well it would work for a dressy dress too!

Kate Emilio

Kate Ermilio

As for the muslin – after all the pain of sewing and fitting my bustier, this was a dream in comparison. I distinctly remember wiggling into my first version of this, hardly able to wipe the grin off my face because it was so DAMN GOOD.

The bodice barely needed any adjustments other than a dart-be-gone at the back to remove some very minor gaping, extending the front princess seam a little closer towards my arm (standard adjustment for the broad shouldered) and moving the waistline down the same 3.2cm (1 1/4 inch) as I did to the bustier pattern.

The muslin was easy and came together in a flash.

The real thing? Not so much!

Forcing the very structural taffeta into the booby curve of a princess seam was a nightmare, probably complicated even further by the stiff organza on top of it…

At the muslin stage I marked out the location of my bustier underneath, so I could determine where to join the souffle to the opaque part. I then thread traced the souffle and the taffeta pieces and joined them all together. Once at this point, I could play with the placement of the organza overlay – doing my best to match the more obvious parts, like the princess seams:

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I sewed up the back and side pieces first – which is when I realised that any kind of normal thread against the souffle would stand out like a burnt pixel on an LCD screen – kind of ruining the sheer effect!

A trip to Spotlight later and I had some ‘invisible’ thread – basically a very fine fishing line. This thread was about a third of the thickness of your regular gutermann poly thread, and incredibly difficult to work with… because you can’t bloody well see it. Also, it curls up worse than cotton thread after being under tension, and very easily snarls itself up – working with small lengths of this ‘thread’ when hand sewing was a must. I went cross-eyed every time I had to thread a needle with it, and quickly realised that sewing it would have to be relegated to daylight hours only.

I sewed the souffle seams together with the invisible thread on the machine (it handles fine as long as you go slowly, otherwise you’re dealing with too much plastic on plastic friction and it gets stuck on the machine’s spool holder, ruining your tension). I then cut back the seam allowances to 1cm and used the (hand sewn) rolled hem technique to seal everything up.

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It looked quite pretty I thought!

You can see in the photos above that the organza overlay was initially separate to the souffle – once I’d got the bodice sewn together, I focused on joining these two layers. I cut away the sheer part of the organza from around the floral shapes – there was of course a small amount of fraying but I liked the way this softened the cut lines.

Initially I thought I’d use a pick stitch, but the invisible thread doesn’t work so well in angles. What did work was a (pretty haphazard) loose running stitch – there’s actually a lot of thread sitting on top of the organza overlay – but you can even feel in when you run your fingers over it, let alone see it.

The Belt
The original inspiration dress (an indeed many of the dresses from that particular collection) had a metal belt with a matching leather buckle at the back of the dress – the metal part tying in beautifully with the gold of the fabric.

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From the 2012 Fall Couture Elie Saab Collection, via Style.com

belt idea 2

From the 2012 Fall Couture Elie Saab Collection, via Style.com

As a tribute to this, I used a silk and metal blend dupion to create a contrasting line at the waist. This was such a fabulous and unusual fabric! And one that needs to be stored rolled up, else the metal parts of the fibres remember the fold line and refuse to be ironed out… Entirely irridescent and perfectly metallic in appearance:

metallic gold fabric Tessuti

‘Gold Fanta’ photo via the Tessuti Shop

I used a 1.5cm wide strip of horsehair canvas and covered it in the dupion, using a fell stitch on the wrong side to enclose the canvas. I chose the size based purely on the size of the buttons at the back so it would all tie in nicely. I sewed this directly to the bodice along the waist seam line, leaving the top un-sewn to encourage the illusion of it being separate.

The perfectly matching gold 'belt'. And one little spot where my organza placement didn't quite cover the piece. The result of piecing with scrap! This later got an applique and lace over the top to hide it!

The perfectly matching gold ‘belt’. And one little spot where my organza placement didn’t quite cover the piece. The result of piecing with scrap! This later got an applique and lace over the top to hide it!

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There was one little spot on my dress where I just didn’t have scraps big enough to cover the entire piece… I was originally going to then applique stitch a cut piece of fabric over it, but in the end decided not to (it looked wrong).

I did end up sewing a horse shoe shaped piece of lace over the top of it :)

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From that little imperfection I was bizarrely reminded of my visits to several notable Mosques – Hagia Sofia in Istanbul and pretty much every Mosque in Iran – and the incredible relief artwork and mosaic tiles. The artists have been said to intentionally make mistakes in their intricate geometric patterns – an interesting article about that here. As an imperfect being, I rather like the parallel. And even though there are small errors – the overall effect is still strikingly beautiful. Indulge me with the particular holiday snap that inspired this?

The ceiling of the music room, at AliQapu Palace, Imam Square in Esfahan, Iran.

The ceiling of the music room, at AliQapu Palace, Imam Square in Esfahan, Iran.

The Closures
The Marfy pattern shows the use of rouleau loops and buttons at the back – I absolutely wanted to keep this feature. After reading about some wedding dress zip horror stories from your comments to this post, buttons seemed like a doubly safe option! I saw on this J’Aton dress (um… oh how I love those boys’ creations – inspiration alert!) how they extended out the fabric on the button side of the closure to act as a sort of facing, and decided to copy the concept:

J’Aton gown from Pinterest

As I’d already cutout my fabric and sewn the pieces together at the time of seeing the above picture, my facing wasn’t quite as wide as I’d perhaps prefer it to be.

Of course, it also recommends to do this in Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture book, as otherwise when placed under tension the two fabric edges would be likely to gape. I’m sure I had read over this paragraph (it’s on page 40) multiple times before seeing the picture above and having it click into place though… definitely a visual learner!

Once all my fabrics were cut out, I sent in my covered button order to Kate at Buttonmania – she’s never failed to impress me with the quality of her work and this time was no exception. I had a series of 13mm round-top buttons covered with just the taffeta, the taffeta and organza overlay, and the gold metal dupion. I didn’t end up going with just the plain taffeta in the end – too jarring a combination against the organza! Seems completely obvious when you see the buttons on the fabric though…

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From Susan Khalje’s online shop I bought a strip of rouleau loops – no way was I going to make this myself if a ready made option was already available! The cord was white though – and I was planning to attempt dying it. That wasn’t something I ended up getting around to though, which I’m a bit sad about. You can’t see a huge amount of white, but it’s still there to be seen if you’re looking. I was running out of steam… and time!

I used tailor’s tacks to mark the location of each button, before hand sewing them on. It was quite an exciting moment to see each button be added to the placket :)

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Pinning the rouleau loops in place

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Tailors tacks marking button shank location

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The final button at the waist was in the gold dupion to match the fabric belt.

The Lace
This is where I REALLY started getting excited! I couldn’t wait to get home every night from work so I could sew more on :) I did have a moment of wondering if the lace was even really necessary because it was so lovely just on its own… but nah.

Well. The lace – which I’m told was made specifically to match the organza – was a super gorgeous embellished chantilly with a giant border repeat on one side, and a tiny repeat at the other selvedge. In between was paisley shaped teardrops of the same. I decided fairly early on to use the tiny selvedge repeat down the V-neck at the back – it would be light enough to be supported by the souffle and in turn provide some stability along the bias edge. This was the first lace I applied, using the invisible thread (ugh, nightmare).

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The rest of the lace was cut and appliquéd across the bodice and down onto the skirt. The shapes I cut were dependant on the lace design to some extent – in the photo below are two repeats with the bottom one turned upside down so they ‘connected’ with the same beads at the centre. The lace on the skirt is a different part of the repeat, with a few smaller shapes that I could easily cut out (without having beads going flying off in every direction) to try and make the placement look a little more organic.

I had a yard of this lace… and I didn’t even use a quarter of it, if you discount the fact that I used virtually the entire small selvedge along the back line. When using lace as applique – it becomes an incredibly economic fabric to sew from. You need a lot less than you think you do!

Once I’d secured the edges to the fabric and finished hand sewing it down, the netting was cut off.

I started on the bodice and worked my way down the skirt.

I started on the bodice and worked my way down the skirt. I sewed this on over the course of a week, again due to working with the ‘invisible’ thread it was only able to be done during daylight hours.

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I’d purposely cut the front skirt panel to have a big floral motif closer to the hem and a bit of empty space at the waist, which I thought at the time would do well for lace placement. The original inspiration gown had lace ‘tumbling’ down one side of the gown front, so I imitated that.

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How natural light makes a difference to the colours! This is probably the most true colour representation of the fabrics and lace in this post.

Learnings from the bodice…
Quite a few. Namely, the taffeta was very challenging to work with. Just because you test a garment by making a muslin, doesn’t mean it will turn out that way – because fabric hand can change everything.

Whilst I absolutely loved the end result of my dress, there was one element that didn’t work out on the day that did break my heart a little (I’ve accepted it now though):

Wedding Dresss 2

And that’s the pooching of the bodice under my bust. I have two theories – the first being that I had the position of the very-snug waist stay not quite in the right position – this was up against the bustier so wouldn’t have been able to move once done up and incorrectly positioned. The other theory is that it’s the taffeta = 1, my sewing skills = 0. Perhaps it’s a combination of both.

It’s all been parked for things to take into consideration should I ever work with silk taffeta again.

And that, my pretties – is it. Well, mostly. I also made two other dresses… coming up next!

Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

Project WD: Marfy S655 Skirt

I spent considerable time in Muslin-city before I felt confident to pull out the fabric bolt hiding under the couch!

I was using Marfy S655 as a base, but I wanted more volume, especially at the waist. I had two private lessons with Vikki Leigh Martin to get it right – first we played with a bias cut piece of calico, gathered and pleated and pinned to me to figure out an approximate ratio of volume that looked visually appealing – ending up with 1:3.

We then slashed each of the three skirt panels down the centre and along the grain line, adding in additional strips of calico to widen. We pinned and pleated on a mannequin, then we stood back to admire:

Adjusted skirt S655 muslin #1, Dec 2013

Adjusted skirt S655 muslin #1, Dec 2013

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After I marked all the fold points and other necessary bits, I used this iteration as the pattern pieces for Muslin Mk II. This time I used an inexpensive poly taffeta underlined in organza to try and replicate how it would translate into the real thing. Unfortunately for my tactile senses, I’d already bought the silk taffeta I’d eventually be using so working with the poly taffeta was a relatively horrid experience!

I didn’t get a picture of the second version of this, but it didn’t look right on the mannequin, nor on me when I pinned it to my bodice and tried it on. The volume that looked great in cotton muslin didn’t appeal to me in the taffeta. And the train you see in the calico above got completely lost in translation – it pulled an distorted and collected in a heap large enough that it could probably have had it’s own post code.

In my second lesson with Vikki (in late January) we worked on reducing the volume. It’s odd how reassuring it was having someone with experience and who wasn’t emotionally invested get involved. Here’s where we ended up:

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After this photo, I gave myself a bit more ease at the bodice side seam. Lining those bra cups instead of having them as a soft cup takes up a bit more space!

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gotta love the bizarre facial expressions that pop up when you’re talking as a photo is being taken!

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I felt great at the time I was wearing this, but later upon reviewing the photos, I was still a little worried about the ‘harsh’ look of the pleats at the front. Muslin photos always look crap, don’t they? I reasoned I could always play around with the real (uncut) fabric to get this right… and that perhaps the colour and pattern of the final fabric would camouflage this to an extent.

We used pleats on top of each other at the back (Vikki’s suggestion – I would never have thought of this) to get the volume without it being too visually busy, and a small amount of gathering at the side to soften the ‘flow’ from front to back, and we pulled the length of the train in – even with our new fabric arrangement, the length of the back looked wrong and when I walked – pulled the skirt and all it’s additional fabric in on itself. Off with its head!

Cutting:
I thought I would be super nervous cutting into the real thing, but with the whole muslin process behind me, I was more zen that I thought I’d be. Don’t get me wrong – the heart rate was still definitely up there!

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Before cutting though, I had to align my pattern pieces. I had exactly 3.5 meters of organza – I’d paid for 3.5 yards, but I found Alice to be extremely considerate (verging on overly generous) in her cutting. Obviously I’d been keeping in mind the amount of fabric I had during muslin stage, and I just managed to squeeze it all in with a very small seam allowance at the hem of each my skirt panels. Thankfully due to the super wide fabric (60 inches), I’d still have enough left over for my bodice and the covered buttons. Not much, though!

cutting layout

I played with the positioning as much as I could, and got my favourite part of the repeat (which was 1.2m wide) down the front skirt panel. I simply had no room to play with for matching at the side seams, and looking at the finished skirt – you’d never guess I tried my utmost to get the best match possible at the centre back seam.

I had known that when I was at muslin stage though, so I ensured the side seams were along a pleat ‘trough’ at the sides.

Construction – Preparation:
I used many of the couture methods I learnt whilst under Susan Khalje’s tutelage in Baltimore last year, from her bridal couture book and from watching the Couture Dress class on Craftsy. With my tracing wheel and carbon paper I marked the seam line locations on my silk organza underlining, before aligning on the silk taffeta and then thread tracing the two together. Only then did I align on my main fabric before cutting and thread tracing again.

Whilst the organza overlay was 60” wide – the silk organza I used for underlining and silk taffeta were not. I had to cut the two back skirt panels in two parts each, before sewing together to give me three skirt panels. I placed the located of these two seams at one of the inside folds when I was working with my poly taffeta muslin – but the hand of the silk taffeta and organza was a lot stiffer and didn’t fold in to the same degree, so they are visible if you know what you’re looking for. Ah well.

The three seams where then pinned together and sewn, then the seam allowances trimmed and catch-stitched.

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At this point, I hung the skirt up on my dress form and got to work on the bodice.

Construction – pleats, gathers and folds
Once my bodice was at a point where I could attach the skirt, I got to work forming the pleats. I hand sewed the pleats at the back to keep the softness of the folds:

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Then I attempted to coerce the rest of the skirt into the predetermined pleats. Quite simply, it just didn’t want to comply with my commands. I ended up scrapping all my carefully thread-tracing pleat markings and gathered the fabric instead. The organza/taffeta/organza fabric sandwich was considerably stiffer and more bouyant than I had anticipated – and the pleats just looked too structured and clinical. But the gathers? Divine! Like Susan Khalje says in her book though – silk taffeta is so tightly woven and thick that you need to use your widest machine stitch possible, and even then it will probably be too small.

Using a machine gathering stitch (with the strongest thread I had – poly cotton) left marks on the organza overlay fabric, and I was worried that if I did the two requisite rows of machine basting stitch for gathering that the holes would be visible once the thread was removed. As Bridal Couture predicted – the taffeta is so tightly woven that even on my machine’s longest stitch (5.0mm) I struggled to pull it through. I hand basted two rows instead with silk thread, and incorporated a single pleat fold on each side. With a bit of finger nail scratching and some judicious use of iron steam, I managed to coax the silk organza threads back to their positions pre-basting stitch.

Then, I sewed it to the bodice. Another high heart rate moment!!!!

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Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

Construction – A Waist Stay
An essential part of the dress. The skirt has both considerable weight and a drag effect – supporting that shouldn’t be a part of the bodice’s job description. The waist stay ensures that the skirt’s weight is secured to the waist and doesn’t pull down on the bodice.

I bought some of the cotton/rayon petersham ribbon from Susan Khalje’s online shop which I sewed into the skirt’s seam allowance just shy of the seam holding the skirt and bodice together. Using my waist measurement whilst wearing the bustier, I sewed some or the leftover hook and eye tape from the bustier to the ends at exactly that measurement.

This served a dual purpose of also hiding the seams from the skirt, which I decided to fold under instead of tucking up into the bodice – there was quite a bit of volume there and I thought it would be great to have that supporting the ‘bouffy-ness’ of the skirt, rather than adding bulk to the waist.

***photo to come once I pick it up from the dry cleaners!****

Construction – Closures
There’s no escaping that I made a complete hack job of the zip on this skirt. No couture methods here!! I used an invisible zip which I painted the zipper-pull with nail polish so it would match.

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Yes. I instagram now. It’s fun.

That's my first hand picked zip!

That’s my first hand picked zip!

I machine stitched the zip to the seam allowances of the skirt, then used a pick stitch in ‘invisible ‘thread to hold the fabric in place to hide the zip. I figured I could get away with it because it was short, hidden by the pleats to some extent and also because there was no tension or pull on the fabric at this point.

Why such a dogs breakfast of zip sewing? Well, The fabric was too thick and bulky to successfully sew in an invisible zip the way an invisible zip is intended to be sewn in – but I couldn’t find a regular zip that had an attractive zipper pull. There was so much going on at that centre-back junction between skirt and bodice that the zipper pull of a regular zipper would potentially show through due to it’s bulk. At least – that’s what my instinct told me.

I’ve all but given up on the Birch zipper crap we sewists get force fed here in Aus – especially after seeing firsthand the quality of other zips when I was in New York. I’ve been buying YKK zips from this Etsy seller, and I see also that M Recht sell them (I’ve yet to buy from them but will be doing so at some point soon) in their online shop. What’s even crazier is that Birch zips are rather a bit more expensive than their YKK cousins. Sewing enthusiasts of Australia – we’re being duped!

I would usually hand sew a cover in lining material onto the zipper end, but as the skirt layers were so structural, I instead sewed a strip of taffeta onto the seam allowance, encasing the zipper end in a sweet little pouch:

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Construction – Hemming
Ah, hemming. Usually my most loathed sewing activity, but on this type of garment – just a little exciting! I decided fairly early on that I wanted to have a taffeta facing for the hem, mainly because it just gave such a wonderful shape to the poly taffeta I made up a practise skirt in. Thanks to my private lessons with Vikki Leigh Martin and the mannequin I loaned from Mr poppykettle’s brother’s partner’s mum (you figure that out) the hem location was worked out during muslin phase, so it was pretty easy.

Again, it was again bizarre that I had on the off-chance bought exactly the right amount of taffeta – after cutting out hem facings for each of the three skirts I had virtually nothing left of it. I sewed them together, pinned to the dress, sewed in place, pressed and clipped ,then catch stitched to the underlining. Easy as pie.

In the middle somewhere I toyed with a little horsehair braid – to see whether it would add or detract. Once pinned in place I decided against it – the facing already achieved what I wanted – with the horse hair braid it was too much. Taffeta is really rather a stiff, structural fabric!

The skirt hem before facing was applied:

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And after with facing applied (it’s a late night iPhone photo):

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The width of the facing was half arbitrary, half determined by the remaining taffeta I had – I wanted it deep enough so my footwear wouldn’t catch on the catch-stitching! There was a LOT of diamantes and things for those stitches to be caught on:

Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

Photo by Todd Hunter McGaw

To Bustle or Not to Bustle?

In the days leading up to me actually starting to sew the skirt, I clicked onto one of my favourite ‘for a laugh’ sewing blogs – Fit for a Queen – who sews and alters wedding dresses and blogs about the experience (and the crazy clients!). It’s wonderful picking up little gems here and there across the interwebs – but it was here I was confronted with the issue of bustling. Hmm.

Even with my short-arse train, it seemed like the right thing to do. Problem is, my skirt fabric being quite stiff was not exactly compliant to the concept of being gracefully draped back over itself. In fact – it wasn’t amenable to the idea at all. Every attempt and combination of bustle points looked both ugly and ridiculous. To be fair – the silk organza overlay behaved more like a gazar, and taffeta isn’t exactly known for its drape.

So that did it – no bustle for me!

Lining:
Yep… no lining here. I felt that it would be a little weird to have a drapey fabric hanging underneath such a structured skirt.

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At the end of sewing the skirt, I was finally able to look at this part of the dress objectively. It’s actually a rather simple skirt, made to appear more complicated than it actually is from the number of fabrics involved and the dramatic impact of that organza. Basically, it’s just a rather simple-ish gathered skirt, made large by some stunning fabrics. But that’s just how I like it.

Project WD: The Inspiration, The Design and Fabric – Glorious Fabric!

Patterns and Fabrics

Skirt – Marfy S655
- silk organza (Mendel Goldberg)
– silk taffeta (D’Italia)
– silk organza (Sew Squirrel)

Bodice – Marfy S963
– soufflé tulle (B&J Fabrics)
– silk organza (Mendel Goldberg)
– beaded & sequinned lace (Mendel Goldberg)
– silk taffeta (D’Italia)
– silk organza (Sew Squirrel)
– silk/metal dupion (Tessuti)

Bustier – Marfy 2630
– sea island cotton (B&J Fabrics)
– shapewell canvas (Clegs)

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photos by our phabulous photographers, Todd Hunter McGaw…

It's a white goods graveyard!

… In a white goods graveyard.

My sewing strength lies in my technical ability more so than in the creative realm – so for me to sew my wedding dress was always going to be a case of finding a source of inspiration and drawing from that. Also known as – copying!

I went to New York last year with two very specific ideas in my head – a #1 dress concept and a #2 for backup, both of which came from extensive trying on of dresses in bridal shops beforehand. I was unable to find the very specific fabric for the first in the right hue for me (which was sequins on a silk chiffon backing fabric!) and as the fabric for #2 was a simple but utterly gorgeous duchess silk satin (obtainable at home) – I mentally shrugged and figured I’d be going home empty handed.

After a weekend of fabric shopping in NYC, I was meeting Susan Khalje and the French Jacketeer’s at Mendel & Goldberg on the Monday morning to buy boucle and charmuese to make our French Jackets. I got there two hours before their scheduled arrival so I could browse in peace – and immediately upon my initial walk around I was so very strongly drawn to a particular bolt…

A sheer blush peachy coloured organza with large iridescent gold flowers created by gold thread being woven throughout. Upon gazing at it admirably, Alice – the store’s proprietor – pulled out the matching lace…

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Admiring the fabrics over the top of some gorgeous boucles in Mendel Goldberg

I was already in love, the final KO came when she showed me the runway picture of the fabrics in action…

Elie Saab Fall 2012 Couture Collection, look 14 from Style.com

Elie Saab Fall 2012 Couture Collection, look 14 from Style.com

I was almost pushed over the edge into making a purchase right there and then. But being a little overwhelmed at suddenly having a new dress possibility being thrown my way, I decided to sleep on it, and if I was still enamoured with the idea later on, I figured I could always order the fabric over the phone and have it delivered whilst I was still in Baltimore.

Fast forward a week and I was on the phone making my order. Even though it was a pretty big departure from the two options I originally had in mind, I absolutely adore full skirted dresses, and the bodice shape was one I knew I could make work for me. Oh, and letting the fabrics take centre stage instead of design lines meant it would be a hell of a lot simpler to pull this together pattern wise than either of my two initial options. The next day it arrived:

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Over the duration of the French Jacket and Couture Sewing classes, I conferred with Susan over the best way to go about recreating this. She said silk taffeta would be best for underlining (at the time I didn’t truly understand why). From staring at the Elie Saab original dress inspiration picture I would guess that the skirt was either a) many layers of the silk organza on top of each other giving the illusion of opaque-ness, or b) underlined in an exactly matching fabric of similar/identical hand.

The organza fabric is opaque where the gold fibres are woven through, semi-opaque where the flowers are and very sheer everywhere else. Looking at the fabric rolled up on a bolt (which I kept wrapped up and hidden under the couch until it was time to sew with it) the colours were intensified into this gorgeous, peachy blush orangey-pink.

I certainly wasn’t willing to buy enough fabric to replicate suspicion a), and sourcing such a perfectly matching fabric for suspicion b) would be mission impossible.

Sourcing co-ordinating fabrics for the skirt
When I got back home I started silk taffeta recon. Several times I was recommended by well-meaning fabric store assistants to use silk dupion instead as ‘that’s what all the brides are doing these days’. Not this one, thanks!

I did source some beige-y cream taffeta from D’Italia, which complemented the organza overlay fabric pretty well. I’ve gotta say – it’s pretty delicious stuff!

Now, this isn’t something I can show in a photo, but if you put silk dupion and silk taffeta side by side, the difference is stark. Silk dupion (gorgeous stuff) is ‘slubby’ with a reflective surface showing off the weave, a soft drape and if you scrunch it up – it sits quite flat, and kinda flops back in on itself (remembering of course that this is relative). Silk taffeta on the other hand has a smooth surface texture, less sheen, is very tightly woven and is lighter in weight but if you scrunch it up – has a wonderful light buoyancy to it that the dupion just doesn’t have. Seeing this first hand I finally understood why Susan recommended it! It would provide opacity to the organza overlay without weighing it down.

One other random tidbit I learnt whilst in Baltimore – the sound silk taffeta (specifically) makes when being rubbed together is called ‘scrupe’. ha!

Fabrics for the skirt – sorted.

I’ll admit, initially I was a little concerned about how underlining in taffeta would change the overall look – easily the most terrifying unknown of sewing a dress like this is not knowing how the combined elements would look on me when finally together. And not really having much (umm… any!) experience in sewing such a garment felt like I was trying to find my way in the dark. From browsing through the collection that the inspiration dress came from, I found this:

Elie Saab Fall Couture 2012 Collection

Elie Saab Fall Couture 2012 Collection

elie saab dress 2

It’s a similar-ish fabric in a another colour way, but which appears to be constructed differently to the original inspiration dress, resulting in a slightly more structured skirt. It was amazing how these two visuals went a long way towards calming my mind!

Sourcing fabrics for the bodice
For the bodice, I went on a picture searching frenzy to get some closeups – and I noticed that the fabric for the bodice was actually quite different to the organza skirt – some kind of embroidered loveliness – and that there was two different types of beaded/sequinned lace on the bodice.

elie saab close up fall 2012 couture look 14

elie saab belt

But that was fine, my dress was always going to be just ‘inspired’ by this one – not an exact copy of it. I am certainly no Elie Saab.

During Camp Couture Susan showed me a fabric called ‘swiss illusion’ (Marina makes reference to it here) which is basically sheer against the skin – as it’s less a fabric and more a mesh – but was deceptively stable in its weave with a small amount of stretch. It was fascinating to look at because it had a hexagonal weave.

Once back home I emailed B&J to see if they had it or something similar, which they thought they did. A million thank you’s to Leisa (my fabric fairy godmother) who went in to veto what they thought I wanted! She dropped their original suggestions and got them to send me a different mesh, which was called ‘souffle’. That worked wonderfully – it has a very small amount of stretch along the grain, a good bit of stretch in the crossgrain – and excellent recovery in both directions. AND it was virtually undetectable on my skin.

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Looking now with fresh eyes at Marina’s picture of her swiss illusion – it appears identical to my souffle. From what I recall of Susan’s swatch of swiss illusion though, it’s different. I specifically recall that having a very distinct hexagonal structure… but we all know the mind can alter your memory as it see’s fit! You can see how the selvedge curls up nicely in the photo above – that gave me a few ideas on finishing the edges of my bodice.

But no matter. With that fabric in hand, I figured I could use the taffeta to provide the opaque factor, and with some artfully placed applique scraps from the organza overlay fabric and my lace, it would transition from opaque to sheer in an acceptable manner.

The lace is a super gorgeous embellished Chantilly with a giant border repeat on one side and a tiny repeat on the opposite side with paisley-like shaped features in between.

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Sourcing a belt:
One thing I left to the last minute was the belt. Lisa from Tessuti came to the rescue with a silk and metal blended dupion fabric with exactly the kind of metallic lustre I was after. Thank you Lisa!! You saved the day on that one :) It was a very unusual fabric and super fun to work with.

metallic gold fabric Tessuti

And finally… patterns!
After being so incredibly impressed with drafting of the skirt (and whole pattern in general) of Leisa’s Marfy Ballgown which I had the pleasure of watching come together at Camp Couture last year, I ordered Marfy S655 – from their bridal collection. This skirt was about the right proportions for what I wanted, and conveniently the amount of fabric required matched what I had bought:

S655 Wedding Dress (skirt) pattern

And I wasn’t disappointed – the skirt was gorgeously drafted. You’ll be forgiven if you have an ‘eh?’ moment – I did alter the skirt quite considerably in the end! More on that later.

When I received that pattern in the mail, I was over the moon to discover they’d included a copy of their bridal pattern catalogue and offered to swap the pattern I’d ordered with another from the catalogue should one take my fancy. Thank you Marfy! I loved the skirt lines of S655 so I wasn’t willing to swap, but I was drawn to the design lines of S936 (not online) for the bodice, which I promptly bought:

Marfy 936

The gorgeous lines of which does get a little lost in the fabric and lace. But I know it’s there, and the neckline, back line and slightly capped and curved shoulder were exactly what I was after. It’s a stunning pattern, and I can see myself making this up as a shift dress for work – removing the train/flounce and raising the back neckline.

There is also one final pattern which you haven’t seen yet – I sewed a bustier complete with bra cups and spiral steel boning as the support foundation undergarment. For this I used Marfy 2630, a stunning pattern that Leisa traced for me. I feel a little odd admitting this, but it’s actually the part of this dress that I’m the most proud of.

Marfy bustier F2630

Which segues rather nicely into my next three posts – which will cover the construction process of each of the three elements – the bustier, the skirt and the bodice.

Until soon!

Project WD: And so it begins.

This is heads up to say there’ll be a fairly extended radio silence here as I bunker down to sew The Dress.

With everyone’s advice saying I should give myself more time than I think I need, I thought I’d start right now rather than next year!

I’ve hunted and gathered and now have everything I need to do this… including the book Bridal Couture (whilst the gowns may appear outdated, the basic techniques used certainly aren’t. This really is the reference book of all reference books.), the feature fabric – safely stowed (and regularly pulled out for admiration purposes) and of course the patterns… plural as I’m using the skirt from one pattern and the bodice from another. Both which will probably be altered along the way, but Toile #1 is currently traced, cutout and ready to be fitted.

Actually I ordered two patterns from Marfy – one of which was specifically a bridal pattern – as I was planning to franken-pattern the two together. When those arrived I got a fabulous surprise as they included a copy of their bridal pattern catalogue as a gift and a letter congratulating us on getting engaged – saying I could swap the pattern I’d ordered if I preferred any of the others in the catalogue. Thanks Marfy – you sure know how to make a girl swoon!

I adore the skirt proportions of the bridal pattern I got so I wasn’t going to give that up, but I was very, very tempted by the bodices of 3 of the dresses in there…. one of which I ended up ordering.

So, I thought I’d leave you all with some of my favourites from the catalogue, as well as some that just intrigue me. I love how they have a bit of everything when it comes to style, and even though many of the dresses aren’t me… I can still appreciate their fabulosity and the fact that for someone somewhere out there – it would be perfect. It would be such a boring place if we all liked exactly the same things!

S936

S854

hello EIGHTIES!!! heehee!

S811 S820 S842 S843 S858 S859 S873 S881 S906 S908 S910 S912 S913 S921 S922 S923 S926 S948 S971 S975

Gorgeous, yes?

So whilst it’s going to be super quiet around here for the next 5 or so months (barring the next SewcieTea, which I’ll hope to start organising early in the new year), I’ll still be stalking you all and commenting of your creations of course! :)

See you guys sometime next year!

xo

Turn of Cloth and a WIP

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Its been a little quiet on the sewing front here recently… but that’s soon to change. I’ve been working away at turning the disaster that was McCalls 4993 into something I’d actually like to wear, and in the process had the chance to try a few new sewing things!

I’ve read about the impact of turn of cloth many times, but I’ve only come across a pattern that actually accounts for it once (Vogue 8333, which has a separate upper and lower collar piece). When I sewed up my first Marfy pattern – F2465 – I was sort of expecting to see the facing pattern pieces be slightly smaller than the outside pattern pieces, having read much about their superior drafting.

F2465 Marfy Top 22
Seam line on the fold of Marfy 2645

This was not the case, and whilst I suppose it could be considered a personal preference on whether or not the seam lines sit along the fold, or are sneakily hidden underneath, I’d prefer them to be hidden from view.

So with my current Work-In-Progress, I’ve ‘drafted’ (sheesh, that makes it sound like something really difficult!) a facing pattern piece for the dress strap, which is slightly smaller than the actual strap pattern piece – by 4mm. That 4mm then got added back onto the strap piece that will be on show, so it will still end up being roughly the same size. I say roughly because my fabric is thin and drapey – the thicker your fabric, the more allowance for turn of cloth is required.

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The ‘under strap’ pattern piece sitting on top of the ‘over strap’

It makes it a wee bit more challenging to iron before turning out (yep, I’m still a pressinatrix), but by such a marginal amount I can’t even believe I’ve just written a whole sentence about it.

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If you’d like more info on determining how much to allow for different types of fabric, then there’s a really good Threads article on this topic here. Otherwise, I’ll leave you to go about your business :)