Thursday, 11 June 2015

Commission work: on the fly maxi dress

I've named this the "On the Fly" dress because I kind of just designed it based on a photo and did most of the work "on the fly".  

My client wanted to order a dress online, but by the time she had saved enough money it was sold out in her size.  So she asked me how easy it would be for me to copy.  
Sorry about the small size, I could only grab the thumbnails to post.  But check out the link if you want to see closeups.
To me, this looks a lot like a triangle top swimsuit with a maxi skirt attached to it.  The empire waistband is shirred (mistakenly described as smocked on the product description) to allow the dress to fit a large range of sizes, and the straps cross in the back and then go through loops and tie in the middle.  Again, this is to accommodate a large group of sizes.  Pretty clever actually, making a dress that is both fitted and versatile at the same time.   So, it seems like a straight forward sort of garment to sew without too much measuring and fiddling.

My client is large busted.  I'm actually glad the dress was sold out online because she would have had so much trouble containing herself in the cups on the RTW dress.  I had her try on the foam triangle cups I have on-hand for my own boobs, and they were just a bit too small.  This means I had to order the largest cups that Bra makers supply offers for her.  If she had bought the RTW it would have meant a creative solution to gain some coverage without destroying the look of the gown.  Starting from scratch is so much easier.

We went together to buy the fabrics, choosing a champagne polyester satin for the underdress, a black poly satin for the waistband and straps, and a black nylon lace overlay.  She went with polyester to keep the cost lower, make it easier to care for, and she planned on only wearing it to special events, so silk was just not necessary. We did spend some time petting the bolts of silk though.

Working out the construction of this dress was a lot of fun for me.  I wanted it to be as supportive as possible, while still retaining the flowy, sundress comfort. So I chose to construct the top and bottom separately, and then sew them together at the front, and use internal belt loops to attach them at the back. Construction break down went like this:

  1. Wrap 2" wide elastic around client to find the sweet spot of elastic length to firmness.  Cut on marks, no overlap.
  2. Sew bra back to elastic
  3. Cover foam triangle cups with light fabric, line with silk / cotton remnant (because I can).
  4. Make bias spaghetti straps using instructions in Threads magazine' party dress special December 2014.
  5. Cry about fiddliness of straps.  Suck it up and keep going.
  6. Sew straps to back of bra cups before sewing covers on.  This ensures strength. 
  7. Sew bra cups to center of elastic with a 1 cm gap between CF to add sexiness.
  8. Cover with lace overlay, making inside edge a scallop cut
  9. Cut out light fabric so it is the same width as lace over lay. Have two of each.
  10. Cut out waistband to match length of skirt pieces.
  11. Sew waistband to top edge of skirt, sandwiching lace inside.
  12. Shirr the waistband
  13. Turn top edge over, Add back loops for straps, sew down to make the top a clean finish.
  14. Add inside belt loops to the back (4) to hold the elastic and waistband together
  15. Hand stitch the top of the dress to the bottom of the cups.
Ta-da!  Easy as pie!

Alright, slightly more involved.  I had to make a pattern piece first for the cup covers.  This involved a square of scrap fabric (old bed sheet to be precise) and a pen.  I laid the foam cup on the table, tacked the fabric to the top of the cup, and made a dart in the bottom of the fabric until it gave enough volume to fit over the cup.  Pinned, marked, and removed, then the dart was drawn in and seam allowances were added.  Everything was easy as pie after that. 

Except the straps.  They would have been easier if not for the seams in the bias tape.  Every time I tried to cross a seam I got hung up inside the tube.  Maddening.  I usually do the whole turn edges in to meet in the center, then fold in half and top stitch thing, but I wanted this to look nicer, so I did it the invisible way.  Not fun.  I ended up making new ones 1/8" wider so I could use the bobby pin method of tube turning.

Stay tuned next week for the modeled shots!

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