Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Sew Weekly: Celebrational Osier Dress!

Modeled by Cecily, because *gasp* it's not for me!
This week's Sew Weekly challenge was a fancy dress, and since I'd already made my festive Christmas dress, I needed a different excuse to sew a party New Year's Eve. Now,  I know cool people are supposed to get all dressed up and go out for cocktails at some glamorous bash, but I'm not a cool person. Come on, I troll thrift stores for comic book character sheets. So for NYE, my husband and I are getting together with our old Dungeons and Dragons group in San Diego for some epic gaming, then watching some classic sci-fi movie highlights (Star Wars! Firefly!)...none of which involve little black cocktail dresses.

Thus it is that after a whole year of sewing clothing for myself (with a couple of mending/hemming projects for the husband thrown in to assuage my guilt), I end 2011 with a garment made for someone else. Despite all of the Selfish Seamstress' brainwashing, I am breaking free of S.W.A.G. to make a dress for one of my dearest friends, Shayna, aka my sheet supplier and fellow Anthro-addict. Shayna is one of the most beautiful people I know, both inside and out, and she has been one of my staunchest supporters as I explore dressmaking. So it really wasn't grudgery at all to sew for her; in a funny sewing-karma-supports-my-decision surprise, I didn't even make one stupid mistake while I sewed this up! Usually I attach at least one piece wrong-sides-together or attach a side seam to a shoulder seam or something, but this project DID NOT UTILIZE MY SEAM RIPPER AT ALL. Friends, that is unheard of, and worthy of celebration in and of itself.

Ahem. I'll stop patting myself on the back now. Anyway, earlier this month, Shayna and I went to Anthro to try on their dresses, and she fell in love with the Unconditional Osier Dress (an osier is apparently a type of does an unconditional willow make any sense at all? is it like The Giving Tree?).  However, at $168, it's hardly affordable for someone who works at a nonprofit (because of course Shayna's awesome and giving like that), especially since I little fancy dress isn't really necessary. After examining the dress thoroughly, and noting that it had no darts or princess seams or any other shaping, I declared it would be pretty easy to recreate, albeit in a different fabric. Flocked flowers on mesh is not something I encounter, ever, in a fabric store. After some discussion, Shayna and I decided on green lace as a suitable replacement; since her hair has reddish tones it should complement nicely. And that's how I volunteered myself to make a fancy dress for someone else.

Since the Anthro dress was essentially a simple raglan sleeve tee attached to a skirt, I didn't use a pattern. The shapes I drew were based off of Shayna's measurements -- the first time I've made a fitted dress for someone based solely off of measurements! Here's what my pattern pieces looked like after I drew them up: 
The front and back pieces are the same except for the neckline and whether it's cut on the fold or not. If you want to "draft" your own, it's basically just 1/4 of your bust and waist measurements and the length so want the bodice. The sleeve was really roughly based on where on the neckline I thought it should end, then draw a diagonal line connecting that to the bust.

Raglan sleeve: make sure the seams match the bodice pieces. Since the neckline is lower in front, the sleeve is not symmetrical. When I realized this, I had to cut another piece of paper to make a full sleeve pattern piece, hence the awkward taping and the random "cut on fold" arrow in the middle.

After attaching the sleeves to the bodice pieces, I gathered a rectangle for the skirt (80" around, 23" high, if you're wondering) and attached that. All my seams were trimmed down to 1/4" and zigzag stitched. I love that with the scallop-edge lace, I didn't need to hem the skirt or sleeves! I finished it with bias tape around the neckline, like the original dress, then added a hook and eye at the top.

Amazing to find so many matching forest greens at Joann's!

Scalloped edge on the skirt (and cat coming to investigate).

Of course there would be a little thread tangle right there. Also, don't look too closely at my hook and eye sewing...

Scallop on the sleeve, zigzagged edges.

Back view. Thank goodness the zipper looks okay,
since I'm not sure how to hide it with lace.
Shayna's already got a black slip, so I didn't need to sew one, thankfully. I'm not convinced if a black slip is the best for this green, but then again I don't know what other color would go with it. It looks pretty weird with Cecily's greige-colored "skin" underneath it.

Fabric: Forest green nylon lace with a scalloped edge, $7/yd from Joann's
Notions: Forest green zipper, forest green bias tape, hook and eye
Hours: This was the fastest dress I've ever made, probably because it didn't need to be lined or anything...2.5 hours! I know that doesn't sound speedy, but I work slowly :\ Also because I have to keep kicking Walnut off the fabric.
Will you make this again? I am already planning on getting some more lace, possibly in black? red? plum? to make this for myself.
Total cost: Much more expensive than my usual -- I spent about $30 on this project. Since I was trying to finish this in time for NYE, I couldn't wait for lace to go on sale at Joann's, or for lace to be shipped from, hence the premium price. However, I got three yards of lace when I only ended up using two, but now I have some leftover. Add in non-sale thread, bias tape, and zipper, and I guess the actual cost of materials used is more like $20.
Final thoughts: I've never sewn with lace before, and it's really not as bad as I imagined it would be! This lace is sturdier than it looks, and it hides thread like no other -- if I hadn't basted in red and yellow, I would never have been able to find those threads again. Granted, this isn't real lace and I didn't do any underlining or cutting out and applique-ing to hide seams, but still. I also love how easy this dress is to put together! I'm already envisioning it in other suitably drape-y fabrics with circle skirts, pleated skirts, all kinds of variations! I don't think this "pattern" would work well with stiffer cottons or a more well-endowed person, but I'm thrilled to have made up this very basic raglan sleeve block, if you can even call it that.

Even though Shayna is one of the nicest people I know, I'm still scared to death to show it to her. She hasn't seen the dress or even the lace I used, and of course I'm nervous about the fit. Hopefully it looks okay on her! It's one thing to wear a home-made dress when you're the one who's made it, but it's another thing entirely to give one to someone else to wear. I will update with pictures as soon as I can!

I'm way hotter in my imagination.
Also, at some point soon I'm going to do a summary post for this year -- what I've learned, what I've made, what I'm hoping to make next year. But first, Sariel the Eladrin rogue has a castle to infiltrate and an evil warlord to poison!


  1. BEAUTIFUL dress!!! I just love it! And your NYE sounds like fun....hello Firefly!!! :) Have a great one!

  2. sounds like a mighty fine shindig to me. happy new year!

  3. I came by your blog through Farmhouse Couture and I am hooked! Great job with the dress, I prefer this colour to the original!

  4. I can't get over how in the first pic it looks like there are two chest-level googly eyes on the front of the dress xD

  5. What a gorgeous dress! I have some royal blue polycotton and royal blue/burgundy burnout lace fabric that I've been waiting to find the pattern for. This is it!
    I have a Christmas do to go to and it's hard finding the right dress for a wheelchair, I usually end up in trousers. Thanks to you, I'll use my lovely fabrics and go to the "do" feeling pretty.


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