Friday, September 28, 2012

The "Winter Is Coming" Maxi Dress

My attempt to make sunny TCOCC look all moody and wintry.
Do the ravens help? If PicMonkey had wolves, I would've added those instead.

I know, I know, this dress doesn't look suitable for winter at all. But those little white and silver flecks and the swirling grays, don't they make you think of snow flurries? Okay, obviously I don't know anything about snow. Actually, I don't know much about Game of Thrones, either, since I've never felt motivated to pick up a notoriously violent, plays-with-your-emotions-by-killing-everyone-you-care-about-in-an-astoundingly-Joss-Whedonesque way, still unfinished fantasy series, but I do know the phrase "winter is coming" is the motto of House Stark. And somehow there are wolves and Daenerys is the queen of dragons. Yup, that pretty much sums up what I know. So, I'm sorry if GoT is your particular geekdom and I've just offended you by arbitrarily tacking an important phrase onto my dress just because the irony tickles my fancy.
I love the fullness at the bottom. I have fond feelings for this mermaid-style because it's the same as my wedding dress.

This dress came about as a result of my husband's request that I make another maxi dress, plus my own stashbusting quest. This poly-spandex/Lycra fabric has been sitting in the stash for over two years, and has been a source of despair every time I looked into my bin of knit fabrics. I bought this for about twice what I normally pay for knits, and it's not even natural fibers! I blame the fact that I was pretty depressed about my previous teaching job and would prescribe myself retail therapy in the form of haunting the thrift store that was on my way home. On the day that I bought this fabric, I'd had a particularly crappy day, and an hour of browsing the women's, housewares, and shoes sections had yielded nothing. To salvage the wasted time, I brought home the likeliest piece of fabric I could dig up. At the time, I thought it was dramatic and beautiful. I still think it's beautiful, in a "I'm pretending to be a snow leopard in a blizzard" sort of way, but it's so dramatic that it pretty much had to be made into a full-length dress. And I only wear maxi dresses in the summer, so sleeveless it is!

Check out the Friday afternoon traffic before Carmageddon II!

Even though I liked my previous maxi dress just fine, I didn't want to just do the same thing. Flipping through my Patterns of Fashion 2, I came across this dress on the very last page:


I liked that it was totally something one could wear today, and in a jersey to boot! I decided to try my own version, but without the ridiculous ruching up the middle. I'm sorry, but I think it looks silly. Yes, I just called a Schiaparelli dress silly. I'll just step away from the keyboard now and wait to be struck by lightning.

Here's how I made the pattern:
(My piece of paper wasn't big enough to fit the whole thing once I started drawing, so the very back of the skirt got cut off.)
Measurement A = 1/2 bust with 10% negative ease. So my bust is 33", subtract 3", divide by two to get 15" across at the top.
Measurement B = distance from the neckline to the narrowest part of your body/natural waist.
Measurement C = 1/2 waist with 5% negative ease.
Measurement D = distance from your waist to the floor in whatever shoes you plan to wear with this, plus hem allowance if necessary. Mine is 40" long and I'm 5'5". I just sort of used a yardstick and pivoted it around to get the skirt lines drawn.
I made my back curve much more pronounced than the front curve due to my swayback. To get more fullness in the back, I brought out the line of the skirt. In order to get the straps right, I actually didn't cut them out to begin with. I cut out the box at the top (dotted line), with a slit down the middle, then sewed up front and back seams. I tried it on at that point and used chalk and pins to mark where exactly I needed to cut the straps to get the look I wanted. The little box on the right shows what my layout looked like on a 60" wide piece of fabric.

After cutting and sewing my dress, I did still have to make tweaks to get the exact fit that I wanted, but the diagram above is a good starting point.


Summary:
Fabric: 2.5 yards of some kind of poly-spandex stretchy knit with excellent recovery, thanks to all the artificial fibers...
Notions: none
Techniques: Lynda Maynard's V-neck knit binding technique
Hours used: 2.5. Have I mentioned enough how much I love working with knits?
Will you make this again? No, I don't think I need too many dramatic maxi dresses. Between this and Mucha, I think my wardrobe is good for now.
Total cost: $8
Final thoughts: This is a pretty impractical dress that I doubt will get much wear, much like my prom dress, but it makes my husband happy, and I've cleaned out a pretty big piece of fabric from the stash. It's fun for swanning about the house, but the whole look doesn't really fit anything I do/go to these days, so I've told Mr. Cation that he needs to take me somewhere where this dress wouldn't be out of place. As it is, we got lots of weird looks going up to the top floor of the parking structure for pictures, and then fetching the mail afterwards!

It's good for twirling though. There's been a lot of twirling in my life these days.


And now that I've finished my husband's request, I can do a 180 and make something totally different!

39 comments:

  1. Oh that's really gorgeous...and I completely agree with you about the gathers on the original. Would have been lost in that fabric anyway.

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    1. Thank you! Yeah, the dots would have just been too much, all gathered up.

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  2. From my reader those ravens looked real. And all I could think was "damn, I wish I could get birds to pose with me". Gosh, it must be getting late for me...
    On subject though, this is stunning! You look like a winter queen.

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    1. All I need is a giant faux fur cape and I can be a winter queen! Haha, glad the ravens look real to some people!

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  3. You never cease to amaze me! It's lovely!

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  4. Nice dress!

    Uh, winter? In Florida, we add a shirt over it, a la Coldwater Creek. Also known as Layering. lol

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    1. Hah! I love that idea of layering for winter! Actually, most of the year that works for SoCal!

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  5. Fantastic choice of dress for that fabric and I totally agree that it looks like snow swirling in a winter sky! Gorgeous!

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    1. Thank you! I did have a pretty serious brainstorming session to figure out what to do with this piece of fabric, so I'm glad it worked!

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  6. ANOTHER maxi I actually like! Thanks for making me look at maxi dresses with a different eye! I guess most dresses that have been labelled "maxi" are more often with hems that are too long (making them look unfinished and sloppy) and a lot of times solid colors (looking like pjs), so the term has always made me imagine something that is more cringe-worthy. (Your heels also help make it look refined - I usually see them worn with flip-flops, which adds to the sloppiness.)

    I'm not a fan of the ruched front of that dress either - yours without is better. =)

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    1. Oooh, I know what you mean about the solid-color maxis with dragging hems! Thanks for affirming the silliness of the front ruching :)

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  7. Crows are actually a very good choice for the series (which I've read). Bravo on another fabulous maxi dress as well. You're hurting the independent pattern designers in helping us learn how to make our own perfectly fitted dresses! (But thanks!)

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    1. Haha I did actually think about that, but I'm pretty sure Jamie Christina's Mission Maxi will do just fine with its much more careful pattern drafting than my quick and dirty, trial by error version! I just like the challenge of trying to figure things out on my own, and I hope other sewists can feel like making their own patterns is totally possible. Anyway, I'm glad my crows weren't totally non sequitur!

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  8. Love this dress and it is very generous of you to post your sketch of how you made the pattern. p.s thank you for the link to your lovely wedding dress.

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    1. Whenever other sewists make their own patterns, I'm always curious as to what the pieces looked like and how they arrived at it, so I wanted to post mine in case others wonder, too! Thank you for your kind words about my wedding dress (which, incidentally, I did not make!).

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  9. Great dress! This looks fab on you-- I can see why your hubs likes it! GoT is too gory for me-- my husband likes to watch it, but I'm too squeamish! :)

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    1. Thank you! We don't get HBO, so I've never even tried watching GoT...

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  10. This dress is gorgeous, and speaking as someone who lives In a place that has snow at least half of the year, it definitely looks like snow to me. Also, GRRM is an amazing writer, but he's slow, and he's hard to stomach sometimes. If we're talking epic fantasy preferences, I'd go for Robert Jordan every time. :)

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    1. Oooh, thanks for confirming my sun-all-year-girl conjectures on what a snowstorm might look like! I hear that GRRM is an acquired taste, and frankly I don't know if I want to acquire that taste at this point in my life. I'm sad to say I haven't read Robert Jordan either, though...

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  11. It's gorgeous! Long skirts are awesome and yours is way better than the original pattern. The ruching did look silly, sort of like scar tissue.
    I was a bit puzzled by the title, since I live in Canada and you would die of hypothermia quite quickly if you wore that dress in winter here. The fabric does look sort of snow stormy, it really goes well with the ravens.

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    1. Hahaha oh man, it does look like scar tissue a little bit. Yeah, it seemed slightly wrong to name a sleeveless maxi dress "Winter Is Coming," but oh well!

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  12. It flows beautifully, and I love the pattern you used and modified! It's a stunning maxi dress - I can definitely see the swirling snow in that glorious fabric.

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    1. Thanks, Meg! It does swirl deliciously around my ankles as I walk, at least until I snag the bottom with my heel!

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  13. I thought those birds were real!! Hahaha.
    Dress looks amazing! Those maxi dresses look really great on you. The fabric hugging you is so flattering ... u have one hot bod lady!

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    1. Yesss another person fooled by the fake birds! ;) Thanks for your kind words, Neeno!

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  14. This is just lovely and all the extra fabric in the skirt makes it just that much more swishy and special !

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    1. Thank you, Justine! I did feel pretty special wearing it, even if just to check the mail!

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  15. What a lovely dress! Love your captions and descriptions too. I think a fitted then flared maxi dress is the only way I could wear one without being swallowed up. :)

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    1. Thanks! Yeah, I've seen too many shapeless maxi dresses that just look like nightgowns, and besides, my husband specifically requested a form-fitting one :)

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  16. This is two posts old already, but I just wanted to say that I'm very impressed and inspired by your pattern drafting!

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  17. Fabulous! When that first picture scrolled up my screen I squinted at it and thought "that can't possibly be real! How the heck did she get that shot". Now we know! And I also immediately noticed the PoF resemblance - I love your version!

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  18. I was looking for this and I didn't even know it, yet. I shall get started straightaway...and I know just the busy piece I am going to use from my fabric hoard!

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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.