My latest sewing project was one of the simplest ones I’ve ever done, but with the combination of fabric and details, still looks like something off a Gucci runway. I’m not being overconfident- I actually received tons of compliments on it and I think the Granny-chic print and ruffle trim looks like it could have been Gucci Fall 2015.
Anyway, let’s go into the inspiration and process of making this look. I bought the silk blend fabric from Mood while I was in NYC for fashion week. I tend to love prints that are not that abstract, meaning stripes, dots, plaids, stars, obvious florals. Anything else and my mind can design for it. So knowing that I am constantly finding new ways to reinvent old patterns, I loved that this was an abstract plaid, and that the lines weren’t fully carried through, which gives it a more modern feel than a traditional stuffy tartan or gingham.
I bought 3 yards of this fabric with no design intention in mind, a no-no for me. Do this too often, and you end up with heaps of fabrics with no purpose collecting dust in your garage, which trust me I need no more of. But, I loved the fabric and it was Marc Jacobs, so I figured I could easily find something to do with it.
Unfortunately, it was not that easy! I decided I needed a dress that I could wear to business meetings, client meetings and speaking events, since most of the things I make are for vacations. But I didn’t want it to be boring! While I polled my instagram audience on what I should do, one very sage follower said, “Plaids are just boring, deal with it.” and I realized she was right. Why try to fight the linear quality of it with curved seams and ruffles, when you are going to have to deal with matching up the pattern pieces and give yourself more of a headache than you need? Plus, this dress was intended to be professional. I don’t need to overdo it.
So, I decided to flat pattern myself a simple pencil skirt dress with princess seams, a raised neckline and thin, elongated short sleeves to lengthen my entire body. I wanted to play with the direction of the plaid pattern, keeping the center portions on the grain, and the side panels on the bias. Frankly, I was ashamed at myself for making a pencil skirt dress with princess seams, so I had to find some way to make it interesting!
And that I did. From a patternmaking standpoint, I actually upped the ante with this design after my first muslin, while cutting out on final fabric. I was trying to match up my front side and back side pieces so that when sewn the pattern would match up perfectly, which is crazy hard and wasteful (!) when cutting a plaid on the bias. So, I realized that because I had a straight side seam from the hip down, I could blend both those pieces into one, sewing a dart like seam up the side, to contour my waist and hips. In layman’s terms, I made one piece out of 2 pieces. This may seam (pertinent typo) obvious, but actually it’s a much more high-end way of patternmaking to reduce seams. Because larger pieces take up more fabric and are more difficult to place on fabric (causing wastage), you often do not see more inexpensively made items using this strategy.
From this point on, the sewing of the dress was pretty straightforward. I selected an inexpensive sheer red poly chiffon to double up and gather for the ruffle detail at the neck and sleeves, and create facings out of the self fabric for the sleeves and neckline. Originally I thought I would need a slip under this dress, which frankly makes a lot more sense than making a lining for it, but it wasn’t as sheer as I expected so I didn’t need it to take these photos.
I am in looooove with this dress which basically underscores every fact that my friends and family have told me for years, Keep It Simple Stupid. Sometimes it’s fun to create a wild piece, but other times keeping the silhouette quiet speaks louder.