My Dressmakers’ Ball Dress

I’ve made a YouTube channel! My first video is talking through some of the details of the dress I made for The Dressmakers’ Ball. I won’t always also do a blog post about things I’m going to make videos about, but in this case I took loads of photos so I wanted to share some of them here!

I made a copy of a dress worn by Ginnifer Goodwin to the Met Gala a few years ago. I’d always loved the dress and thought this was the perfect excuse to make it!

You can see the red stitching I used to attached the beautiful sequinned fabric I bought from RayStitch (after realising there was no way I was going to have time to sew all the sequins on by hand) to the silk organza I bought from Stoff and  Stil.

The black stitching you can see is the stitching lines I did to mark the edges of where to sew on the sequins – when I was going to do it by hand. If anyone has any ideas what I can do with the sequins, by the way, please let me know! I guess some embroidery or something!

The gold stitching is the new stitching for construction – in this case darts. I cut open the darts on the front bodice and pressed them open to reduce bulk.

I had the leather (or more accurately faux leather) already in my stash as I bought it a while ago from Girl Charlee to make a leather jacket.

To sew the leather into the seams, I tried a couple of methods but what I ended up going with was cutting the strips 1 1/4″ (the finished width) plus 2 x 5/8″ seam allowances, which is 2.5″. I then stitched one side of the leather to one side of the seam, 5/8″ away from the edge, along the 5/8″ seam allowance of the leather – along the chalk line below.

I then did the same on the other side – but the 2 pattern pieces are not yet sewn together, they are only attached with the strip of leather.

Then I sewed the actual seam of the 2 pattern pieces, which brought the 2 edges of the leather together, but not overlapping, reducing the potential bulk at the seam. The photo, below, is how it looked before it had been pressed. Once pressed the leather sat pretty flush with the sequins, which is what I wanted!

It was starting to come together here – it just needed the leather on the shoulders and the sleeves adding. Oh, and a zip!

I reinforced the shoulders to make sure they didn’t stretch out.

And then added the sleeves and the leather around the neckline and shoulders.

My carpet looks like I murdered a sequinned Muppet! And I’m still finding sequins now, a month later!

I added a waist stay to the dress – my first time doing this. It holds the weight of the skirt, which is pretty heavy, and takes some of the strain off the zip as it’s such a fitted dress. I learned how to do it from one of my books, Couture Sewing Techniques. I would highly recommend this book – especially if you’re making something more involved.

The ball was such good fun! They had the Leicester University big band playing the music, and they were great. They played a mixture of traditional big band stuff and some newer things. I find it the best kind of music to dance to!

I managed to take basically no photos all night – which I think is the sign that you’re having a good time! I did take this loo selfie, though! I had on ALL THE EYESHADOW – I had to watch a YouTube video for how to apply it!

And lovely Helen from Stitch My Style took this photo of me – during the 5 minutes I remembered I should take at least one proper photo of my dress at the actual ball!

Did I mention I love my dress?!

It is fully lined in this rayon challis from Minerva crafts. I hemmed the lining and sequins together at the hem and on the sleeves as the sequins were quite scratchy and the rayon was a lot more drapey and I feared tripping over the lining inside my dress, so I hemmed them together.

One of my favourite things about my outfit was one of the things I didn’t make – I wore trainers! I can’t be arsed with heels any more. I have never found them comfortable and I thought (excuse my French) ‘fuck it’ I want to be comfortable and be able to dance without having to take my shoes off, or feeling like my feel were going to fall off after 10 minutes!

It has an almost invisible side zip and some poppers on the underarm seam of the corresponding sleeve to allow me to get in and out of it.

I drafted the pattern myself, using a Burda Academy course I mentioned I had signed up for here. I think I possibly over-fitted the dress a little as it ended up with basically no ease around the waist, but I do think it’s one of the best fitting things I’ve made (which I guess it should be as it’s made from my measurements). Especially across the back – I’m very narrow across the back so I usually have lots of extra fabric and pooling because I’m too lazy to do any adjustments!

I sewed some of the sequinned fabric I had left onto this little clutch bag to make a matching purse to take to the ball. It just about fits my phone, some cash and my hotel room card!

 

As well as the matching trainers and purse, I wore my gold party socks – I almost thought it was too matchy-matchy but then I realised I don’t care!

I really hope they run the ball again next year, or in 2 years as it was such good fun. And who doesn’t love an excuse to go all out with an outfit!? Do you think you’ll go next time?

 

 

Book: Couture Sewing Techniques

Every couple of weeks I pop into my local Oxfam bookshop to have a look at the sewing/craft section. There often isn’t much, but the other week I stumbled across this gem:

It’s a book written by Claire B Shaeffer who is an expert in sewing and construction techniques. She has a website and has designed sewing patterns for Vogue. This book has since been updated and revised, but this version is still really good! I’ve only had a flick through so far but I will read it in more detail!

I love the above photo showing personalised dress forms at the house of Christian Dior – that really is couture!

The first part of the book is a history of couture sewing and there are some amazing examples! Like the below dress, which I’m sure must have been the inspiration for the amazing one made by Cynthai Settje of Red Threaded. As of writing, the dress is her profile picture on instagram, and there are some amazing photos of it in progress and also finished!

And I couldn’t not post the photo of the classic Christian Dior outfit! If I had unlimited time and resources, I would definitely recreate this outfit, hat and all!

After the history chapter comes one on hand sewing techniques. I definitely need this! As I mentioned in my Dressmaker’s Ball dress post, I did a lot of hand sewing and did quite enjoy it, but I don’t think I’m very skilled at it. Also there are loads of different stitches for different places on garments so I’m thinking I’ll do a sampler or something to practice.

And who knew there were so many different needles! I guess it makes sense – there are different needles for different things on sewing machines, so I can’t believe I’d never thought that there would also be different needles for different hand sewing tasks!

And of course, there are as many threads as there are needles, for all the different things you could want to sew.

There’s a great section on all the different kinds of seam you could need. I like the look of this false french seam, though I can’t imagine sewing seams by hand would be strong enough!

One of the things I like about this book is how thorough it is – I would probably never think of all the things it covers, like interfacing. There would definitely be some helpful tips in here for properly tailoring a jacket or coat. It also mentions the non-fusible kind of interfacing, so I’d like to have a go with that when I do some proper tailoring.

The dress below holds its shape purely with interfacing!

The next chunk of the book looks at edge finishes like hems, facings and bindings.

I love, love, love this sketch by Christian Dior. I wish I could draw like that and show what a garment will look like with relatively few lines!

There’s a great section on buttons and button holes, including bound button holes, which I still haven’t done! I love the buttons below from a Schiaparelli jacket.

After all the sections on general techniques, Schaeffer shows you how to apply these (and other) techniques to actual garments.

I love this Dior skirt and jacket combo! Another one to copy one day…..

The below photo of a Balenciaga dress is from the dresses chapter. It shows the structure underneath a loose, billowy front to make sure it stayed where it should. I really want to see the Balenciaga exhibition at the V & A to see all the amazing things going on underneath the clothes!

Below is another Balenciaga dress, with structure to keep the shoulders in shape. Definitely getting some tips for next year’s Dressmaker’s Ball dress, assuming they run it again next year!

There’s a chapter on sleeves and there are loads of details about tailored and non-tailored sleeves. I like these diagrams that are scattered throughout the book,which show you how different elements are drafted and constructed.

Another useful diagram from this book shows all the details that go into a tailored jacket. I do really want to have a go at making something properly tailored either for me or for The Boyfriend – I did promise to make him a coat!

This is the section I’m possibly the most excited about! Definitely tips for my next evening outfit. If the Dressmaker’s Ball happens again next year, I definitely want to make something more ambitious, both in terms of construction and fabric choice, so hopefully this chapter will come in handy then!

I’ve not yet sewn anything with boning, so I definitely want to give that a go at some point. It actually would have helped to have more structure inside the dress I made for this year’s ball! Then I wouldn’t have needed the tape…..

The below photo shows embroidery done by machine! I have no idea how you would even do that! I think there must be some applique in there too.

And I hadn’t even considered beading before I came across this section!

At the end of the book there is a really great glossary of terms, which is super helpful. I can definitely feel myself turning into more of a sewing nerd after flicking through this book. I already think about it for most of my waking hours, and now I’m all enthusiastic to learn new skills and techniques and to make some more involved projects, rather than just churning out loads and loads of fairly basic garments, though there are some gaps in my wardrobe still so I will still be doing some of that!

What’s your favourite couture-type technique? Are there any techniques you’re dying to learn?

 

 

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A sneaky peak of my Dressmakers’ Ball dress

I thought I would share a few snaps of my Dressmakers’ Ball dress – because I want to keep the grand unveiling until the night. And also because I haven’t finished it yet!

I haven’t hemmed it yet:

I’m using the leftover fabric from when I made my By Hand London Alix Dress, because I ended up with quite a lot left after ordering almost twice as much as I needed so I’d have enough to underline the whole dress. I still love the colour, but I don’t like how it frays and creases like a bitch – I did iron it before taking these photos, but you wouldn’t know!

Because of the fraying – and to give it a ball gown-y feel – I’ve used french seams. You may be able to make out 2 lines of stitching, though. I trimmed the seam allowances down to what I thought was teeny tiny, but then I sewed the second part of the french seam and the fabric edge was sticking out on the right side. I trimmed it down as much as possible, but you could still see the edge on the right side, so I sewed another line of stitching with a slightly bigger seam allowance. This slightly ruins the couture effect I was going for, but I didn’t really want to unpick the original line of stitching because this fabric does not like being unpicked!

My dress has sleeves! (And darts, which you can just about make out)

And although the bodice is lined, I decided to do french seams through both the shell and lining layers because of the fraying problem, and I feared any hand stitching would show on the right side of the fabric – it’s pretty thin and bruises easily, so even picking up one thread might have left a mark.

Also pockets because pockets. And pockets with french seams (except for the first seam where you attach the pocket to the skirt pieces, because I forgot/wasn’t sure that was possible.

Part of the skirt is pleated….

And there will be a split on the front, if I can ever bring myself to cut the fabric! I found a Burda tutorial that said you can make a split by sewing fabric on the top in 2 lines really close together, then you cut between the 2 lines of stitching and turn the fabric to the inside, which neatens what would have been an exposed edge. It said to interface the piece you sew on the top, but I haven’t because I didn’t want to mess with the drape and didn’t have any interfacing light enough. This weekend I’ll have to suck it up and cut the split. Or unpick it completely, but that might leave a mark!

Are you going to the Dressmakers’ Ball? If so, do you have as much to finish on your dress as me!? What colour are you wearing? Are you making something new or wearing something you’ve already made? I was tempted to wear my navy lace dress I made to go to a wedding in last year – if only it was like the Oscars and there was an after party, then I could wear both!

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