A New Gown for a New Year

Earlier this month my husband & I drove up to Toronto to go to Toronto Malanka. Toronto Malanka is a ball to celebrate Ukrainian New Years Eve, (or new years eve by the old calendar). The dress code is black tie & so I had to find a gown to wear.

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With all the craziness in the lead up to Christmas I didn’t have time to make a new gown from scratch, instead I decided modify something I’d made previously. I don’t have many evening gowns but I do have a heap of cocktail dresses that I’ve made over the years & a lot of left over fabric (one of the benefits of buying fabric just because you love it & without any real plans for it).

I took a dress that I loved, which had a separate skirt & bodice, unpicked the skirt & used the leftover fabric to make a new floor length skirt. Don’t worry I didn’t waste the original skirt – I sewed it onto a waistband so I could wear it again.

The new skirt was remarkably simple to make. I started with a base underskirt which was a short hair canvas pencil skirt with a silk organza overlay. For the silk brocade overlay I had a single piece of fabric that was 1.5mx1.5m. To make the skirt I folded the fabric in half, sewed the selvedges together & and one of the cut ends together leaving a small opening for a waistline on the bias (the folded triangle in the picture below is the location of the waistline.

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Once this was done I attached the waistline of the brocade skirt to the underskirt to stabilize the waistband. Then all I had to do was add some clasps to close the skirt & hand stitch the folds in place. All in all it took me a few hours over the weekend & another couple of hours hand stitching after work.

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I don’t have much more to say, other than I love this dress.

Side Projects

When working on a labour intensive dress, I often end up completing quite a few smaller side projects at the same time.

This is just because sometimes I want to sew something that can be finished quickly & isn’t too much of a challenge. Some times it works out quite well, for a relatively small amount of effort I finish something & that gives me enough motivation & energy to get back to the larger long term project. Other times it’s a disaster & I get totally distracted & end up with not just one long term nightmare, but two.

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This dress started off it’s life as a simple side project that I could finish quickly & then get back onto my main project. It was going to be a simple dress with a long flared skirt. I wanted something that I could ‘relax with a martini’ in. Something I could dress up with heels & go out to cocktails in or dress down. I’d bought the printed chiffon fabric ages ago from Gorgeous Fabrics & recently bought some silk crepe underlining at The Fabric Store while out shopping with some other Melbourne sewing bloggers. I started sewing. The bodice came together quite nicely – I just used a basic block bodice pattern with a new neckline. But then it came time to make the skirt & it soon turned into one disaster (mistake) after another that resulted in one band aid after another until I somehow managed to end up with a somewhat wearable dress.

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The first problem (and really the source of all my woe) was that I was too lazy to actually draft a skirt pattern. In fact it wasn’t just that I was too lazy to draft the pattern, I actually like the drafting bit. But I didn’t have any thin paper pieces big enough so I would have had to tape them together & that just seemed like way too much fuss & bother so I just decided to cut out the pieces of fabric for the skirt without a pattern. I just used a ruler to roughly measure out what I wanted. But when I went to mark out the cut lines with my chalk pen I found that it didn’t work properly on the chiffon, because it kept moving around & I couldn’t be bothered going to the store to buy fabric stabiliser because last time I was there they didn’t have any & the staff were non-existent & when you did find someone they didn’t even know what I was talking about. Anyway these are all my lame excuses for why I then proceeded to just cut out skirt pattern pieces freehand.

I think you now know how this story is going to end…

It wasn’t long before I discovered that the skirt panels weren’t wide enough at the waist. And not just by a little – it was a lot. Then I discovered that I didn’t have enough fabric to cut out an extra panel to ‘plug’ the gap I had around my waist. Thankfully I’d given the skirt panels a fairly generous length (my shoes that I wanted to wear with the dress hadn’t arrived in the mail yet so I wasn’t too sure of length when I cut the fabric). In the end I managed to move the waist lower down in the panels, reduce the seam allowances between skirt panels & change the the lower hem to a teeny tiny hem. Even then it was a bit of a tight fit so I still had to try & squeeze an extra panel out of the scraps of fabric I had left. Eventually I found a way to make it work.

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So in summary, the source of all my problems with this dress was that I was too lazy to tape a couple of pieces of paper together & then draw out a basic skirt pattern. Seriously.

For all my moping I should say that I’m actually quite happy with this dress. My one big complaint is the location of the seam lines at the waistline at the front of the skirt, they’re just too close together & I wish I could have widened that panel a little at the top. Other than that, it really worked out quite well.