This project has been a bit of a labour of love. I was inspired by this All Saints dress that I saw in one of their stores in London. I absolutely loved the shape and detailing, but sort of felt like I didn't want to pay the huge price tag when I could make something similar myself.
Having already made a hitch skirt in the past I had a pretty good idea about how the bottom half of the dress was going to work, but the top half required a bit of thinking and trialling. Sourcing kilt buckles for the straps in the right colour proved a little tricky, as did working out what to make the straps from, but thanks to the awesome folks down at the fairly recently refurbbed Exeter Fabrics, I managed to get everything I needed.
All I had to do was make the dress.....
I started out with a couple of dress patterns I have as part of my stock, adapting them to the look I was after. It was by no means an easy feat and involved a lot of tracing, toiles and adjusting. I ended up, by virtue of patterns never really being as accurate as you'd like, with a perfectly fitting waist but a massive bust line that I could not work out how to make fit properly. From this I have learned that dress patterns with straps are not that simple to make strapless. This was a major major headache for me, but one which has inspired me to learn to pattern draft properly, so that I could make something similar again without all the drama!
I had to put this project away for a while due to the move, but once we had a table where I could spread myself out a bit, I set about finishing it. I also bought a strapless bra which helped - trying to make it fit and look right without one was quite challenging and I'll do anything for an easy life!
The answer to resolving the bodice fit issues was to deconstruct the whole thing and putting it back together on me. If I had a tailors dummy this would have been a much simpler and quicker task, but alas, I am lacking such a thing. It is on the list of things to buy this year...
After a lot of swearing, sore fingers and head scratching the dress fitted. The solution was a simple one - put a dart down the middle of the bust to pull it in more. The straps proved equally challenging, because of the shape of the dress. I didn't want to have to readjust the back as I like the way it curved but that meant the straps wouldn't work the way I had originally envisaged. Four prototypes, some more swearing and I finally found a design that worked for both what I wanted and the dress. The last thing to do was work out the hitches, stitch them and make the final finishing touches (sewing down seams, trimming threads etc), and finally, at long last, the dress is finished.
The dress is exactly what I wanted, and best of all works with my Doc Martens/New Rocks and with fancy shoes for a more formal occasion. I like multi purpose clothing!
I am going to make a similar dress for my best friend, and I think I've learnt enough from this to be able to do it slightly quicker... The project has also led me to make the decision to learn to pattern draft properly, which should mean that future incarnations involve a lot less trial and error!
All that remained was to go to a suitably lovely place to have some photographs taken....
Photos by Swedish Pete. Taken at Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna. Make up by me using MAC and Alverde products.