Happy birthday to meeeeee! I hinted about it last week, but I decided to celebrate the occasion this year by sewing up something special to wear, using a fabric that I’ve lusted over for months even before I broke down and ordered it. My feeling is that if you adore the fabric or pattern (or both!) then the resulting garment is pretty much guaranteed to be a hit.
For this dress I used the Derek Lam-inspired knit sheath from the January 2014 Manequim magazine combined with the most amazing galaxy print ponte jersey which is even nicer in real life, I swear! It’s a digital print on a smooth, white ponte jersey base, and it’s both stable and stretchy, making it the bestest fabric ever (and I have just over a metre leftover! woo!).
It’s been a while since I sewed a Manequim pattern and I’ve dropped in size over the past few months of marathon training to a 42 (Burda 40), so I decided to sew up a muslin of this first to test the fit. The resulting turquoise ponte muslin was very close fitting, and I wasn’t entirely certain at first whether it was too tight, or utterly perfect. So I lounged around in it for a day, decided it was comfortable enough, then cracked on with the final version without any pattern changes.
The final version is definitely tighter than the muslin, though, and I’m fairly certain it’s down to adding the lining layer, even though it’s stretchy! You can definitely see some horizontal pulls in the dress showing it’s a tad too tight, and it’s a struggle to get that waist seam on and off over my boobs, but one it’s on, it’s not uncomfortable, thankfully!
The pattern is really simple – a front bodice with both vertical and horizontal bust darts, back bodice with long vertical darts, raglan cap sleeves, and a skirt pattern with vertical waist darts (the same skirt pattern is used for both front and back). The pattern calls for a long invisible zipper, but as I could easily get the muslin dress on and off without it, I was going to leave it off the finished version, too…
…until I discovered the most perfect purple, metal teeth zipper in my stash! So then I decided I had to use it and make it an exposed zipper feature instead. It was a bit shorter than I’d have liked, but it reached exactly to the waist seam, which worked out nicely visually (though for ease of getting in and out of it, a longer zipper would’ve been much better!).
I used this tutorial – I think the finish looks a bit nicer than the ones where you just topstitch the raw zipper tape on top of the seam.
One thing I really liked about this pattern was the attention to detail in an otherwise quite simple style, so I knew it was going to be important to ensure that all the darts matched up nicely over the waist seam, and I’m pleased to show I accomplished this well!
The only place I think I could’ve really improved, skill-wise here would be to have cut all the pieces single-layer to improve the print placement a bit. I was conscious of it when cutting the fronts, and the back pieces I could see, but I hadn’t realised the bottom layer on the backs were shifted just a tad so you get a weird mirror-effect. I noticed it after I cut the pieces, but my thriftiness totally won out and I decided I’d rather have the leftover yardage for a top or something than use it up cutting out my back pieces again!
I’m nearly always convinced that print repeats are something only other sewists recognise anyway!
Because this dress pattern came with no facings or lining pieces (other than a dotted line on the skirt hem suggesting the lining be a few inches shorter), I had a bunch of choices, but decided a full lining would both finish the bodice edges nicely and give the skirt a bit of slipperiness that would be important for movement in such a close-fitting style.
I went through my lining stash and found a bunch of odd pieces of mauve nylon tricot leftover from when I lined my bridesmaids’ silk jersey maxi dresses that I totally forgot I had. Not only could I fit all my pieces in nicely (I had to seam the CF of the skirt, but that’s it), but the purple looks like it was made for the galaxy print!
Having fallen into the Unflippable Trap with my Brasilia dress recently, I paid very careful attention to my order of construction this time, which was:
Order of Construction
- Sew all darts in the shell and lining
- Attach the Sleeves to the Front & Back
- Repeat for the lining
- Attach the shell & lining at neckline and armhole/sleeve edges
- Flip the Back through the shoulders so it’s right-side-out
- Edgestitch around the neckline and armhole/sleeve edges
- Sew bodice side seams of shell & lining in one go
- Baste bodice layers at waist
- Sew skirt side seams as one with the lining (I machine basted the layers together first, too)
- Baste skirt layers together at waist
- Attach bodice and skirt at waist
- Insert CB zipper & sew remaining CB seam
- Hem the shell (I left the lining hem raw to reduce show-through
If you noticed carefully, you’ll see I treated the tricot as a lining in the bodice, and as an underlining in the skirt, then opted for an exposed, overlocked waist seam to join them together. I did this because I really wanted everything anchored at the waist, and I didn’t want the skirt lining riding up as I walked, and embedding them in the side and CB skirt seams keeps everything together.
When devising the order of construction, I assumed that understitching would keep the layers neat at the neckline and underarms, but in reality the mismatched fabric weights meant the lining was really sliding through anyway. In the end I edgestitched all the opening edges, both to keep the lining inside and to give the edges a bit of crispness that really works with the style.
So happy 35th birthday to me! I wore this out to birthday drinks last night to loads of compliments, too!
I’m not quite sure how I’ll pose next year since I’ve run out of fingers!
If you recall, I always make myself something nice and special for my birthday each year…
34th – A satin Matthew Williamson designer dress, made with his pattern from BurdaStyle magazine and a rich, plum duchesse satin.
33rd – A leather iPad case, protecting a new gift against the rigours of a transatlantic work trip the following day.
32nd – Manequim silk blouse:
31st – LMB draped birthday dress in teal silk jersey:
30th – Green silk birthday dress using a Burda magazine pattern a emerald green silk satin:
29th – A bolero and jeans, on which I put the outline of the Thames on the back pockets, and lined the bolero with some vintage apron fabric from my Granny:
28th – I was homeless and living out of a suitcase in my boyfriend’s parents’ house, watching the Shipping Forecast every single day, hoping for good weather to sail our boat across the North Sea. My sewing machine was in storage, so I couldn’t make a new outfit, and frankly, ALL I wanted was for our boat to arrive. And it did, on the evening of my birthday.
27th – New Look 6429 in a fun sparkly knit from Walthamstow Market (and then about three days later decided to lose all that excess weight for good!).
26th – (probably the first year I was really into sewing) my favourite vest pattern with a red vinyl square neckband:
Does anyone else share the same birthday sewing tradition?