Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sew Weekly: On Trend

Not a Member of the Wedding Dress: they are the we of me?

If trends are about the latest and greatest, what does it mean that I'm busting out my trendy piece two months late? To be fair, I actually finished sewing this dress when that particular challenge was on, but never took pictures or wore it until this past weekend. My husband and I had a packed weekend in LA for two weddings in the same day, along with lots of hanging out with friends, so this dress got to make its rounds. Thankfully, nobody thought it was too Becky Home-Ecky. I always get a little apprehensive when I wear me-mades around people who know I sew; are they asking if I made xyz because it looks home-made, or because they just want to know if I really am capable of making something so fabulous?

It is kind of fun to have that mullet hem flowing behind me in the wind.

Sheer back for a bit of a surprise! Sort of helps to offset the granny-ish length of the back of the dress.

When not being lifted by the breeze (which was lovely on such a hot, sticky day),
the back hem hangs down to right below the bulge of my burly gastrocnemius.

Side view! You can really see the dramatic slope of the hem here.
I think I was pretty successful with this dress, not only because one of my husband's friend's wives, whose sartorial opinion I value, thought my dress was amazing. I'm pretty sure she wasn't just being artificially effusive. But the RTW-look was definitely enhanced by all its trendy elements -- the sheer/lace yoke, the sweetheart cut of the bodice, the pastel mint with florals, the mullet hem, and the thin, drape-y rayon that is so similar to the flimsy pieces one finds at Forever 21 and H&M. Similar to those trendy pieces, there's also pretty much no shaping on this dress. It's essentially an A-line muumuu that relies on my tiny apple dumpling shop and my favorite gold belt to pass the Mena Zipper Test while still looking not totally shapeless.

I felt slightly bad sewing this up because the "pattern" is so simple. To counter my feelings of Regressing Seamstressing, I focused on making my seams as nice as possible...unfortunately, I couldn't figure out what to do with the curved front yoke that wouldn't add unnecessary bulk to the seam. I ended up grading the seam and then topstitching the non-fraying netting seam allowance to enclose the fray-happy rayon inside. Sometimes I really, really, really wish I had a serger. Will some serger-owner please tell me that a serger wouldn't have miraculously solved this problem for me?

See that raw edge on the net there on the left? It bothers me. Even though I know it will be just fine in the wash, it still irks me.

Summary:
Fabric: 1.5 yards of this lovely pink and mint floral rayon from SAS, my favorite place place for rayons, and about a quarter yard of white dotted netting from Michael Levine Loft.
Notions: Just a bit of white double-fold bias tape to finish the armholes and neck, and seam binding for the back seam.
Pattern: Self-drafted...if you can even call it drafting, the design is so simple.
Badly drawn in Paint. Seriously, this was it. Four pattern pieces, no darts or closures of any kind.

Techniques: A baby hem around the bottom of the skirt, and French seams at the sides
Hours: This was so long ago, I don't really remember...five? Including the planning, cutting, and very careful hemming. Seriously, this is the probably the nicest hem I've ever done.
Will you make this again? Unlikely...how many rayon mullet dresses does one really need?
Total cost: less than $5, especially since the bias tape and seam binding were already in my stash and the amount used was negligible.
Final thoughts: I'm not convinced that a mullet hem is the most flattering frame for my legs, but I love pretty much everything else about the dress -- the colors, the sheer yoke, and how light and airy it is. It was 90-something in Pasadena and I felt a tinge of schadenfreude looking at the groomsmen in their multiple layers of shirt/vest/tie/jacket, while I got to swan about in next to nothing (this thin/hole-y rayon/netting combo hardly counts as wearing clothing; I felt like I was wearing a slip, except that I was also wearing a half slip underneath). I am not a fan of how easily rayon wrinkles, though; I had to sit very carefully during the ceremony so that I could get non-wrinkly pictures afterward.

Unfortunately, we had to take these pictures in the shade of this large tree with the cheapy digital camera, since the sun was too blindingly hot everywhere else and the DSLR was too big to lug with us, so the quality of these pictures isn't the greatest. Which means that it didn't really matter that I sat so carefully, since you wouldn't be able to see the wrinkles anyway.

It's funny how when I'm making a dress for a specific public event, like a wedding, I have a very different mindset than when I'm just sewing for my own pleasure. Obviously, it's still enjoyable to sew attending-a-wedding dresses, or else I wouldn't do it, but when that's the goal, I try to make dresses that err more on the RTW-looking side. Which means choosing fabrics (and patterns) that look like something one might possibly buy. They're usually still unique, but more...subdued...than my usual fabric choices. When I'm sewing purely for fun, I make dresses from crazy prints. Granted, it would be wrong to wear red or advertise superheroes at somebody else's wedding, but still. I think what I'm trying to say is, when I'm dressing for myself (and not dressing to keep from embarrassing my husband), I don't mind looking like I'm wearing a home-made dress. If someone realizes that there's no way I could have bought a Clone Wars dress, and deduces that I made it myself, that's fine. Now, if someone guesses a dress is home-made because it is ill-fitting, frumpy, made from lining fabric/stiff quilting cotton/some other poor fabric choice, the hem is terrible, or there are threads coming out of all the seams, that's another story.

When you sew your own clothes, do you aim to have them look as RTW as possible? Or do you let your own style show through, even when it might brand your garment as me-made?

29 comments:

  1. I love the sheer top and back. It modernizes the vintage looking floral. I don't usually like "mullet" hems as you called it =) , but I think the shape looks great for this dress. Bravo!

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    1. Thanks! I thought I needed some more daring elements for such a sweet print, so I'm glad it worked!

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  2. that dress look so cute on you... I make things I love and my taste is between modern and elegant so its never bang on trend but classical pieces that have a bit personality !

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    1. I think pieces with personality are the best!

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  3. Becky-Home-Ecky! That's an awesome descriptor, but definitely NOT what I'd use to describe your dress. I know what you mean about the apprehension when people ask if you made what you are wearing. Never know how to take that. Your dress looks great,though- perfect for a wedding.

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    1. The first time I heard that term, I laughed and cringed, because it could probably be used to describe a lot of my early projects.

      It seems like people always end up asking when I'm not wearing me-made, and I don't know how to take that!

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  4. lol - "mullet hem"! I had never thought of it like that but that's a perfect description and probably why I've never been fond of the style. I like your fabric combo even if it isn't your usual quirky-fun style. It's good to have a variety of looks just to keep things interesting. =)

    Hate to break it to you, but yeah, a serger would fix that edge you hate.

    I think you can safely assume that people ask if you made something because it looks good and fits you well. =) Some people who know I sew ask me if I made whatever I'm wearing no matter what (and it's usually when I'm in store-bought clothes, hehe). I'm more afraid to hear the question "did you make that" when I'm around costumers (because they are the ones who would be able to tell!) but I actually fooled a whole room of my coworker costumers at a party about a week ago! I was shocked that none of them asked me if I was wearing something I made - it was a total retro 60's dress that I made years ago from one of my old bedsheets that I loved too much to throw away when they wore thin. All people kept saying was that they loved my dress. (A couple of them thought it was actually vintage.) If what you wear fits well, people don't usually think home-sewn.

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    1. Darn, I was afraid that a serger would be the answer to my problems!

      I, too, have never been fond of the mullet hem style, but I wanted to give it another chance. I think it's such a compliment when one makes a vintage pattern in a vintage fabric and it gets mistaken as real vintage!

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  5. Did you make the pattern yourself? It looks great on you, perfect for a wedding. I think lately I have been choosing fabrics that look more RTW because I feel I will get more wear out of the garment if it doesn't scream home made. On the other hand, I don't mind so much when people can guess that I made something.

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    1. I did make the pattern myself! If one can call it that, that is. It's really the simplest pattern ever. I've been going through an imitate RTW kick myself, and it is nice sometimes to blend in with all the other RTWs out there while secretly knowing that you made it yourself.

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  6. I think this dress is fantastic! I didn't even realize it is an a-line shift until you pointed it out - the belt is perfect!

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    1. Thank you! I am in love with belts that camouflage simple designs :) Makes me look more accomplished than I actually am!

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  7. So pretty, I love the sheer yoke and the fabric - Looks so nice and cool to wear on a summer day

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    1. Thanks! It was definitely cool, which was perfect in the valley!

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  8. Your front yoke edge finishing is much more beautiful than a serger's work! Or maybe I just say that because my brand new serger gives me grief with eternally loose looper threads, no matter how much I try to fix the tension!

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    1. I keep hearing those horror stories about serger tension, so I'll just try to keep that in mind when I wish for one!

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  9. It looks great and yes, very RTW. Interesting how style elements and fabric choice can dictate that, hey?

    I really like your topstitched, net-bound seam, actually, better than what my serger would produce. But my serger is old and crankly and doesn't like light-weight fabrics.

    There's no shame in a simple pattern when a design calls for it. It's when a design *needs* a complex, structured, sophisticated drafting and the pattern provides a simple, beginner-friendly shape that it drives me nuts. Good for you on the careful attention to the hem! :)

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    1. I'm pretty sure you're the queen of producing RTW-looking jeans that fit superbly! So if you say my net-bound seam is good enough, I'll take it. Recently I was at the bookstore and came across a book that purported to give patterns for making famous movie dresses, and it was definitely like what you described.

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  10. I don't mind a bit when the garment looks me-made, but that's partly the town I live in now--for me, this town has a complete lack of that high-school-like, "what if they laugh at me?" vibe. When I lived in the Bay Area, I was much less comfortable with what I wore.

    I _do_ care whether the garment looks good--I worry about overdoing the quirky and looking foolish. I've also made a rule that I have to wear a garment outside the house within twenty-four hours of finishing it, to get past the stage fright while I still have some, "Woo hoo! It's done!" energy.

    But your dress is gorgeous; I'm not seeing anything home-ec about it.

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    1. Interesting, I could definitely see how a town or city's culture could influence how me-made one wants to go. I think SF is a good place for it, but the East Bay feels totally different to me.

      I think my husband wishes I would think more about overdoing the quirky, but I figure I'm the one wearing it :) And I totally agree with you about the 24-hour energy!

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  11. Perfect summer wedding-attending dress! I too am not in love with the mullet hem, but it is undeniably having a moment, and yours is one of the most subtle and tasteful I've seen. Love the sheer top - well done with the pattern drafting!
    I don't really think about whether something will look RTW when I'm sewing it, but whenever I wear a me-made item I obsessively examine everyone around me and compare the style of my garment to their (presumably) RTW clothes to see if I fit in. I also always wonder what store they're assuming I bought my garment in (presuming they don't assume I made it, which I always hope they don't!)

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    1. Thank you! I was trying to be less, ahem, trashy with my mullet hem (although I think not pairing it with those ridiculous combat-esque peep toe ankle booties has a lot to do with that!), so I'm glad it came across. I, too, am guilty of always staring at other people's RTW clothing. I don't think I've ever been able to tell that someone else is wearing me-made.

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  12. Ahh Cindy you've done it again. Beautiful dress!!!!!

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  13. i try to make my clothes death proof.

    okay, they were definitely asking for the LATTER reason. this is magnificent! and what the hell is a burly gastrocnemius?

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    1. As in, the clothes will never die, or you will be resistant to death while wearing them? ;)

      It's my bulging calf muscle...I read somewhere that you should never end a hem at the widest part of your leg, so I aimed for right below it.

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  14. I love the dress. It's sweet and simple, and looks beautiful on you. And I heartily approve of simple designs - I think it's an important step in sewing to stop trying to make the most complicated thing possible, and just make easy things that are beautifully made, and easy to wear.

    I'm going to disagree with Brooke, and say the serger wouldn't fix that edge - it would just make it bulky and ruin the line from the outside. Sometimes the simplest solution is the right one. I just finished a blouse with pinking shears, because anything else would have messed with the line of the blouse.

    I actually avoid making clothes that look RTW. Instead, I buy RTW clothes that look like I might have made them. Most RTW clothes are shoddily made of cheap materials: there is no virtue in imitating them! Even overlocking is a cheap edge finish which often isn't the best solution for a garment - just for the factory making it. Most of your garments are so much more beautifully made, and reflect you, so much more than any boughten garment. I do agree with the desire to tone things down for events that aren't about you though.

    P.S. I love that you mentioned not wearing red to someone else's wedding. In this day and age, with all the old fashioned standards of etiquette going by the wayside, for better or worse, it baffles people that I won't wear black OR red OR white to a wedding! Old fashioned girl + Southern family + Hawaiian upbringing = lots of intersecting rules!

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  15. I don't normally like sheer tops with dresses, but this looked beautiful! Such a stunning dress, I love the material. XxxX http://thesecondhandrose.blogspot.co.uk

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  16. Have you ever looked into the Brother 1043D serger? I'm in high school and saving up for one right now. I've heard lots of good things about it and at $200 its the most affordable one I've found. This dress is very nice and despite your annoyance at the one unfinished edge, it looks very well made! Great job.

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Thank you for taking the time to tell me your thoughts! I appreciate reading them and I try to reply to most, if not all, comments, especially when they are questions. I ask that you keep your comments polite, and if you're a spammer, don't bother because your comment will just be deleted! Also, if you're commenting on a post that's more than two weeks old, it will be moderated.