It’s finished well in time for New Year’s Eve – smokin’!
Actually, I’ve made a total of 4 bodices and 2 skirts trying to get the right size, which was my biggest headache with this project and all my own fault. So firstly I want to acknowledge some people who pointed me the right direction and made me try harder and improve…..
Marysia – I never even thought about the sizing of the pattern when printing it out. This could have been the problem all along – maybe the computer ‘shrunk’ or ‘fitted’ the pattern to A4 instead of printing ‘actual’ size. That would explain a lot. After tiling and taping all the pieces together I graded the pattern rather than printing it all out again. Note to V&A: put a 10cm square on your downloadable patterns so we can check accuracy of printing.
Elle C – I liked your comment the best: that a 12 in 1980 is not a 12 in 2013. I do believe there is something in that ’cause one day a man told me that one night Marks & Spencer’s re-labeled all their women’s clothes, swapping the size 16 to size 14, a 14 to a 12 and so on.
Mrs Mole – always right as usual! Measure the paper pattern, measure yourself; if the pattern is smaller than you – then it ain’t gonna fit! It’s that simple!
Tanya and Marysi – advice and links on backless bras – many thanks
Sheree – that I’m not the only one who rushes into a sewing project and lives to regret it.
Scarlett, Rhonda, Jean and many others – for encouraging me to try again and do better.
Thanks to you all. And now to the gory details…..
I had to abandon centimetres as a measuring unit and move back to inches – the grading was that dramatic! I cut the skirt pieces in two right down the middle and added a 3″ strip to both front and back. This kept the lines of the side pleats intact while providing the extra girth I obviously needed. This means I added 6″! It also gave me the traditional 5/8″ (1.5cm) seam allowance instead of the 1cm provided with the pattern.
For the bodices I made brand new ones. I traced around the originals to get the basic shape and draped this on Doris, marking out new side seams and adding 3″ to the bodice length. I marked up some extra darts too thinking a bigger bodice would require extra fitting. I scooped out the front neckline by an additional 2″ because I like a slightly lower front and don’t suit a boat line neck. As for the glorious single French dart on the bodice front I included the dart in my cutting out and then pinned it out to fit me getting the ends of the darts to hit exactly (or nearly) on the breasts.
All facings then had to be recut to fit the new bodice neckline and wider skirt.
Sleeves were re-drafted to fit into the ‘new’ armholes of the bodice and widened down the arms. This was really a hit or miss affair – I have no skills in drafting sleeves. I did read a lot about sleeves and how they work though.
I rethought the fabric. Something with a bit more stretch was needed. While the red crepe is a lovely fabric it wasn’t right for this dress. So I bought a whole new batch of red jersey and put the crepe away for another dress sometime in the future. This new fabric is fairly robust, a ponte knit and a slightly deeper red. It’s not your obvious party frock fabric but it’s what you need for this dress.
The dress itself is fairly straightforward: sew bodice darts, sew shoulders, sew sides, attach facings, under-stitch and hand sew down: sew sleeves and insert: tack side pleats, sew skirt seams, make pleats, join the skirt and bodice, hem.
I did however veer off the basic construction:
1. Added a side zip (right side as the pleats are on the left). Bit tricky in a jersey and yes, I should have stabilised before sewing in….
2. Lined the main dress (not sleeves) and hand sewed the lining to seams and shoulders.
Added a waist stay for extra security and to keep the dress in place during wearing. This is just a casing of the dress fabric attached inside at the zip seams, a length of 1″ elastic threaded though and secured and a couple of hooks and eyes to fasten.
The lining gave me a substrate to hand sew the facings to so that the stitches wouldn’t be seen on the right side. It does also add an extra layer now that I am no longer the lithe 20 year old I was in the ’80s.
All the hems – skirt, sleeves, neckline are finished with facings rather than just turning the fabric back – nice couture touch I thought.
I searched the attic for my costume jewellery but couldn’t find it anywhere – mind you there’s a tonne (or two) of stuff in our attic and finding anything is nigh impossible - so I made do with what I had to hand…
A gold chain worn backwards at the neck and the same gold chain worn frontways at the waist. A large gold cuff, red court shoes and a stick-on bra!
Opinions about accessories required please! Less is more? Or pile it on?