Sometimes the simplest LBD's take the most work...
and this was definitely one of them..
None of it was complicated, it just involved hours and hours and hours of catch stitching, lace piecing and finishing.
A couple of years ago I pulled this image from a magazine, loving how the feminine silhouette had been hardened by the dark lace..and have had it pinned to my sewing room wall ever since.
Then last month, I stopped off at Mood to find some silk charmeuse for my Embroidered skirt and spotted this guipure in the lace department, and knew it would work perfectly.
and bought all five yards left immediately.
I had hoped to find a floral guipure that matched, but unfortunately there was nothing vaguely close as the circled guipure has an almost metallic wet look finish, and its pretty unusual.
So, instead, I bought a couple of yards of the smaller drapier matching circled fabric which had definitely been produced in the same mill, hoping to use both in some way if necessary.
and then I was a bit stumped.
As the lace was so thick, stiff and unbelievably heavy, I knew it was not going to work with just any dress pattern... and I really really wanted that dress...
So, I started looking for a pattern that had lots of style lines as I could not dart, pleat or gather this fabric, eventually settling on Simplicity 2648.
Its been a long time since I used a Simplicity and I was so impressed with this one, it's a multi shape pattern that has curvy and slim shaping and cup size options as well as minimal ease and great drafting.
I was not keen on a straight skirt though, or a sheath dress and so thought Marfy 3171 with its five panels would work far better with the lace for a skirt.
Once I had muslins's of both patterns (Simplicity view A for the top and the bottom half of 3171 - again!) I played around for a while with the layout.
My biggest issue was the width of the lace fabric, at only 42" wide it was super narrow....so I knew there was no way I could use the skirt as drafted....and ended up cutting 6"off each side of each panel, reducing each of them by 12" total and shortening each of them 4" at the hem.
and then I packed my muslin's up and headed to Baltimore.
Again, as with my embroidered organza skirt, there was no grain line as such because the fabric was so heavily embroidered and stiff and the repeat pattern so minimal, I was able to lay it out on the rug gallery floor and cut as I wanted...which for me was to make sure I had the bulk of the scallop on the hemline.
As with my last skirt, I used a silk charmeuse cut on grain directly behind the lace and then backed both with a cut on grain black organza.
It was a good plan to use the pattern twice, as it did mean in principal that I could keep trading one off for the other with each stage...when one hung for bias, I went to the next stage of the other...
Again, over three days this one grew inches and inches...about five in places for the silk and at least an inch on the lace (the weight alone would probably make this happen)
I lined the bodice with both the silk charmeuse and the organza so that both looked and hung the same..
The fit on this pattern was excellent right from the envelope, having cup and waist sizes makes it so much easier to get the fit correct from the start.
I removed all the ease from the pattern before I cut, as a lace of this thickness and weight needs to be worn like a second skin..... and sewed all the panels together.
(Interestingly I've found in some of my more tighter fitting cotton guipure dresses that they will warm up with body heat after a few minutes and fit incredibly comfortably in much the same way as a corset, so while initially it feels restrictive, its settles quickly into a very nice spanx alternative!)
and then this is where it all got a little squiffy... I wanted sleeves even though I had chosen a higher neckline..
and spent a whole day making two 3/4 length sleeves from scraps of left over lace.
To have such a stiff fabric fit with a nice curve, I used Susan's three elbow dart bias sleeve pattern and fitted the lace very carefully to this...
and then put the dress on and slipped the sleeves over my arms....and I swear nearly died laughing.
I don't have pictures as it was just too awful, but trust me when I say that I would have been a perfect addition to any funeral scene in the Godfather...
Sleeves made the dress very heavy and dark, much closer to goth and costume..
and so, I sat and removed all the lining in the hope that they would work with a more open look but it was still way too much and sadly they got scrapped.
Which did make finishing the seams a little more difficult, but Susan suggested an organza finish to remove bulk and keep the neckline and armseye neat....
I cut some simple strips of organza, pinning them to the right side of the bodice and thread basting..
Using one strip for the front and one for the back of both the neckline and armseyes, having one over lap the other....before machine sewing them down.
and cutting the seams down to maybe 3mm.
From there it was a simple case of flipping the organza to the wrong side, cutting it down to about 1" and catch stitching it all down to the underlining.
and adding a very light silk crepe de chine lining.
I had planned to take this dress to Paris with me next week but now am honestly not sure that I want that much weight in my suitcase...its really so heavy!
and of course, the nicest thing is that I still have a couple of yards of the very drapey smaller circles left, and I think I feel another midi skirt coming on!
Michael Cunningham - Nightfall. I loved this and carried it with me for days so I could read a page or two when I had a minute....
Tim O Brien - In the lake of the woods. Dark, disturbing beautifully written mystery... highly recommend.
and I know there was lots of interest when I mentioned it in the Spring so before I forget, Susan has just released all of next year's class's on her website and apparently the draping is already almost full.....
I'll be there for the two April draping and the September couture :-)
I'm hoping to finish something else by next week thats been hanging around, but not sure yet what it will be!
Wishing everyone a lovely week...