This month our Simple Sew bloggers are showcasing very fancy frocks to inspire you for the upcoming Dressmaker’s Ball
I’ve not made any elegant dresses for a while, as I thought I had too many. However, this pattern was one that I couldn’t resist and as we were approaching Christmas, it seemed a good time to sew something special.
It’s been a tough few months, as I was undergoing tests and then was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer in December; this dress was made during that time of uncertainty so it took a while to get it right. I have had surgery (mastectomy without reconstruction) and have been very fortunate, as it wasn’t yet invasive and I don’t need further treatment!
Sewing has been really helpful in finding ways to adjust to such a big shock, physically and emotionally. The pleated bodice on this dress should work well as it creates an illusion of space and curves. My next adventures in sewing will reflect a slightly changed shape and body awareness. For now, it’s time to rest, heal and get used to things.
My fabric choice is a poly/silk blend dupion, kindly supplied by Doughty’s, who also matched the lining for me. Thankfully they were generous with the quantities as I hit a few hurdles along the way!
When constructing the bodice, I omitted the facings completely, cut out each bodice piece in both dupion and lining and two of the front band in the dupion for stability. I stitched the pleats and shoulder seams for each pair of pieces, then joined the outer to the lining, trimmed and turned each piece through, pressed and attached the bodice and lining to the waistband at the front, finishing with the side seams of both the bodice and lining. It was a little tricky at times but satisfying when I got it right! Unfortunately I didn’t take many pictures of the process.
I cut the pencil skirt version in size 10, grading out to a 12 at the shoulders as I usually do for Simple Sew dresses. I hadn’t accounted for the very close fit and small amount of ease on the hips and waist. Oops! It just fitted my dress form but when I tried the skirt on it was much too tight. A 12 would probably have still been snug on the hips. After that I set it aside for a few weeks, as I didn’t have the emotional energy to resolve it.
I loved the bodice and was determined not to give up. Eventually I decided to see if I had enough fabric left to sew the half circle skirt, and there was just the right amount of both outer and lining. I then unpicked the waist seams, freeing the skirt and lining, and unpicked the lower part of the invisible zip (not fun!), constructed the new skirt and lining and then put it all back together. I’d lost some weight in the meantime so the bodice fit was better too. Phew! For the hem, I machine stitched about 6mm from the edge, pressed along this line, then turned it again and hand stitched the hem in place. It’s not a quick option but is neat and almost invisible.
Finally, my dress was ready to wear. It was my Dad’s 70th birthday just before Christmas and I wore it for his party, feeling far more glamorous than usual. My sister had chosen a dress in a very similar colour, without us discussing anything about what to wear! We had a really lovely day, surrounded by friends and family.