C1020: The Phoenix Lily

Rising from the ashes of one failed dress attempt… is another. And as McCalls 4993 was such a fabric hog, there was plenty of ashes to go around!

The only problem with sewing up a summer dress when the temperature has plummeted and day-light hours are short is getting photos of it in action. Thanks to lousy efforts at getting correct settings on my camera and not checking mid-way though, I have a stack of blurry photos. Maybe I’ve just spent too much time daydreaming and listening to James Vincent Morrow, but I kinda like this dress shown in this way. I won’t be making it a regular feature, but you are just going to have to deal with it this time around.


IMG_5318  IMG_5319

IMG_5322Princess seams lend themselves so wonderfully to getting a flattering silhouette, even with all the added work that comes from cutting out so many extra pieces. I cut the size 10 for my toile, but ended up grading the seams back so much I probably could’ve gone for somewhere between a 6 and an 8. As with all Colette patterns that are fitted, I needed to do a flat butt adjustment… I’m not in possession of a rear end to fill their designs out! Thankfully due to those handy princess seams, I could grade it in where necessary.

Whilst I was trying on and fitting my toile, I started thinking about rigilene. Now, I know rigilene doesn’t have the best reputation as boning in comparison to it’s more accomplished sibling – spiral steel – but for this day-dress the softness of rigilene lends itself beautifully. As the four seams I sewed channels into are not curved, the negatives of rigilene (the combination of exposure to body heat and time means it can end up setting in the shape you were trying to prevent in the first place) don’t come into play as much.

Boning is most effective the closer it is to the outer layer of fabric, so I sewed my channels by sewing down my seam allowance to the inner layer of underlining, which was silk organza.

IMG_5284For such a little dress, there is a ridiculous amount of fabric hiding away in there. Not including pockets and straps, there’s 14 panels – each of which has four layers of fabric! The oatmeal cream and duck-egg blue eyelet cotton is a Marc Jacobs fabric I bought from Kat after she decided she wasn’t too keen on it, which is underlined in a silk crepe matching the blue tones of the eyelet, from The Fabric Store. Then underneath that is a silk organza underlining, which gives the two really rather lightweight fabrics above a bit of structure and support. Then under that is a silk charmeuse lining (also from The Fabric Store) to match the earthier tones of the eyelet.

Now, there’s silk charmeuse and then there’s silk charmeuse – this is unfortunately the latter. I bought it because I was seduced by the minimal price tag… but on bringing it home and placing it up against other charmeuse’s that cost 3 times as much – well, the difference is stark (big differences between the drape, the hand and the degree of opacity of the inexpensive charmeuse). But it’s still beautiful and feels delightful to wear.


IMG_5353In other pattern adjustments, I elongated the straps a bit, and changed their position outwards a little. The blue ‘trim’ at the hem wasn’t exactly a choice – due to the length of the M4993 skirt. It was also a lovely way of enclosing the hem with a sort-of-facing. I chose to leave the waist seam of this dress slightly above my natural waist (by about 3cm)… purists may baulk, but I like the original proportions of this dress as they are.

IMG_5345My beautiful fabric covered belt was always going to be the centre feature, so I decided not to go with the pocket flaps to tone down the busy-ness. However… those pocket openings are not on grain – they’d stretch horridly if I left them to their own devices. The pocket flaps are cut on grain though, so this would have done the stabilising job – instead, I used some silk organza selvedge scraps sewn in the seam:


I really do love this dress… it’s comfortable and a lot more flattering than I thought it would be. Shame it’ll have to wait a few more months, but I was hardly going to let McCalls 4993 get the better of me. Take that, vintage pattern. Now… it’s time to start sewing something a little more seasonally appropriate!!

The Stats:
00:50  Pattern Preparation
06:35  Toile (cutting/sewing/fitting)
04:55  Fabric Preparation (cutting/interfacing)
19:20  Sewing
31:40  hours

Fabric Utilisation = 1.5m (from the addition of lining only)
Stash total remains = 86.3m (Goal = 50m)



  1. It’s so lovely! It is definitely worth the time and effort. Your seams are even pretty!

  2. Wow, nice work on resurrecting your McCalls dress so quickly! If that was me I’m sure it would have been languishing somewhere dark and dusty for, oooh, at least a year before I could be bothered doing anything with it!!

    1. Did it seem quick? It felt like a lifetime… so it was a good thing I liked working with those fabrics! I’m absolutely hankering to get stuck into a new, completely different project now… hehe. Thanks Jenny!

      1. Yes, my phoenixes don’t rise from the ashes that quickly either. If at all. Nice dress Mel. Where was the silk crepe when I was at the Fabric Store two weeks ago?!! It’s about my favourite fabric in the whole world.

  3. It’s so beautiful – you’ve done a great job Melanie. I’m not sure I’d have had the patience to battle through the failed first dress and then deal with so many layers and pieces of fabric. Well worth the effort though.

    1. Thanks Robyn! I’m just stubborn in that regard. I desperately WANTED a dress from that fabric, and I’ll be damned if I wasn’t going to get it. Cheers :)

  4. It’s beautiful, and even more beautiful in real life, i feel lucky to have gotten a sneek peak last night! I would really love to take a look at the construction one day? the boning etc? (when it’s not on you, rather than the peering up your skirt type peeks that were had last night). Again, amazing job.

    1. Photos can never quite capture a garment, can they? Well… mine certainly can’t! I’ll bring it along on saturday so you can take a peek. I’m thinking of taking my words back about rigilene though… I might investigate getting some spiral steel for it. I’ve worn it all today and the rigiline is starting to buckle and set shape :(
      Thank Rach!

  5. Very cute, Mel! Glad you found a way to resurrect the lovely fabrics.

  6. Glad you rescued the dress – the finishes look lovely.
    Curious why you swapped blogging platforms – I’ve toyed with the idea myself?

    1. Hi Suellen – thanks!! Well… WP is more secure, more versatile and just a little more slick. It feels more ‘grown up’. To be fair though, blogger is awesome… but the grass is always greener? I’ve got no hard and fast reasons as to why… we’ll see how this goes!

    1. Blog surfing is the unproductive but super fun way to feel like you’re sewing but not really achieving anything, isn’t it? ha!! Thanks Anna :)

  7. First, let me say that the new blog layout is cool! I still have hard times abandoning my blogger even though I’ve purchased the domain and migrated everything to WordPress *sigh*

    What a knockout dress! I can only imagine how it feels against your body! Oh charmeuse! Perfect job on matching the eyelet – I can hardy see any seams. I wore my Lily so much last year that I’d probably sew one or two more!

    1. Thanks Inna :) I took the band-aid approach – just rip it off! hehe :)
      Yeah… charmeuse is more than a bit lovely as lining :) It’s lovely to wear! The more I wear it, the more I like it. We’ve had an unexpected few days of warmth this weekend so I’ve been living in this dress whilst I can! Your red lily was particularly lovely – I wouldn’t be surprised to see you make that again! And it’s always easier to do the second time around!

  8. Just beautiful, I’m so glad you could rescue that fabric, it is so pretty.
    I love reading about the construction of your garments, you put so much detail into sewing them and I like learning from it!

    1. Me too :) Glad you enjoyed! What can I say… I’m a technical kinda person. I wouldn’t know what to write about, otherwise ;) Thanks Suzy!

  9. woo-hoo! welcome to WP-land!

    love, love, love, love the dress. seriously, every time you make something you outdo yourself! all the effort you put into this dress was well worth it. beautiful job!

    1. Thanks! I had the belt covered in the blue fabric to match at a place called Buttonmania. They do AMAZING work, and it’s really quite inexpensive too. I’m definitely going to get them to do a few more for me!

    1. Thanks Leisa! I actually really enjoy working on the insides… it has a therapeutic effect on me. And it means more time in front of the machine or with some handsewing, rather than negotiating adjusments and what not :) I’m looking forward to seeing what you’re going to be working on next!

  10. Wow, girl, this is gorgeous! I love how it looks on you! So glad you were able to use this fabric after all! And the belt is just gorgeous– well done! I just received this pattern as a gift, and now I’m even MORE excited to make it!

    1. It’s an AWESOME pattern. I was only sort-of excited about it to start with, but it grew on me throughout the entire process and now I’m head over heels. I think it would look wonderful on you!

  11. i love everything about what you did on this dress – the eyelet, the underlining, the contrast, the belt, and the inside finishes. great, great job!

  12. Your dress is absolutely beautiful. Even more so that you’ve shared your journey – Thank you. And the autumn colours are fabulous ;)

    1. Aren’t they just! I love this time of year. It actually makes me want to have a few more finished things to photograph so I can capture it in some way! Bummer I haven’t had quite that much sewing time to achieve it though :( Thankyou!

  13. Very pretty and lovely photos. Love kicking those autumn leaves around. Why did you bother with the boning since you have straps? Because the pattern advised it or you wanted firmer structure, or….?

    1. Hi Vicki, Thanks! It was more of an experiment to see how they fared more than anything else – the pattern doesn’t call for it, I just like the structured look it gives! However, I am going to have to take back my comments excusing rigilene from bad behaviour – we had a warm weekend just gone past so I took the opportunity to wear this dress whilst I could. After the first day, I noticed they’d been bent out of shape! I’m now thinking of getting some spiral steel to put in and compare. I just like the feeling of being ‘held’ like that :)

  14. Lovely, as you know I love this fabric and wished I had been more patient to find an underlining. I couldn’t find the right blue anywhere. The dress looks great and is a good save

    1. Hey Liz! Thanks :) It did take a bit of searching to get that blue… but I’m glad I stuck it out! I tried a cream underneath and it just didn’t have the same effect.

  15. It’s a gorgeous dress, but i can’t believe the amount of fabric it used!

    I am like you and keep sewing summer dresses even though we are heading into autumn. But Sydney temperatures are still lovely and warm so I can get away with it :)

    1. I know… it was almost as much as a fabric hog as the vintage dress it was spawned from! Lucky you… winter has definitely hit us this week, so enjoy it while you still can!!! Thanks Jennifer :)

  16. Not only is everything you make beautiful, but the insides are beautiful as well!!!

    1. Thanks Erin :) Secretly, I think I just like the sewing part of making the insides pretty… it extend the bit I like most about making clothes!

  17. You must have photographed this last week when we had that unusually warm weather, no way would I be caught out dressed like that today. The dress is just stunning and all that couture work you did paid off. Have you done the Craftsy Couture Dress course with Susan Khalje? I am half way through. Can’t wait to see what you do next.

    1. Hi Natalie! Yes I’ve got that course, and I’m half-way through watching it – it’s worth every penny, for sure. So many amazing little construction insights! I even ordered some of those quilting pins for posterity :P
      haha, yeah – I’m lucky I got some shots in that weekend! It’s freeeezing cold now… winter is definitely here. So I washed and ironed it – now it just has to wait for Spring :)

  18. Yay you’re on WP now-I’ll be able to see your comment responses! Did you do the whole migration yourself or get someone else to do it? The dress is lovely as usual, pastels really suit you.

  19. Wow! Really gorgeous! You did a beautiful job turning the dress into something you’ll actually wear. And as always, your attention to detail and beautiful finishing just takes my breath away. Really.
    Also – love the new blog!!

  20. Such a pretty dress! I’m really loving eyelet fabric at the minute… a little bit more stashbusting of my own and I know what gets on the top of the shopping list :)

  21. Wow! Love this dress! It is so pretty and the colors are great! Totally worth the time it took to make it. Btw, new follower of your blog here. Glad I found it. I just started a sewing blog if you’d like to pass by maybe even follow. I just posted a refashion of a dress I found at a thrift store. Maybe you’ll like that post. Anyways, love your dress!

    Instagram: @reynalay

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