Saturday 3 March 2018

Frocktails frenzy hit Sydney recently.

A chance to create a dress one might not ordinarily have a reason to create.

And let's face it. I rarely have a reason to dress up and play elegant.

So I really threw myself into it this year. Last year I wore my beloved (only worn a couple of times previously) The Anniversary Dress/Flutter Tunic, because I believe in making clothes that will be worn more than once. But, I felt I really needed a new cocktail frock this year and I new exactly what I wanted.

A bubble dress. Or is it a tulip dress? Or simply a voluminous pleated skirt? No, that's not it. It needed to nip in at the waist, bow out at the hip and nip back in again at the hem.

And I already knew exactly what fabric I would use.

I envisaged this dress as soon as I saw this fabric in a Spotlight store a few years ago. I was on that winking bolt like white on rice and bought the entirety of its yardage. Which isn't as big as I'm making it sound. There was only 2.8m left and to sweeten the deal it was snapped up in a 40% off sale.

Sumptuous. Luxurious. Heavy. Voluminous.

Everything I crave for in evening wear. Which has conspicuously entailed nothing but brocade for me for the past few years at least.

And I knew it would be perfect for a bubble skirt or a dress with oodles of structure. So I did both. A silhouette that is a large departure from my norm of sack and trapeze dresses. And where better place to source that pattern than from my ever loved and ever growing library of Japanese pattern books.

I'd been pondering Pattern No. 12 from Textiles that are Loved Around The World & Dresses by Nakanishi Tsu for some time. It might be why I accidentally bought the book from Amazon Japan when I somehow (still don't know how) activated one-click buying and welcomed about 4 new books at once to my already burgeoning collection of Japanese pattern books. Whoops. It could have been worse, I guess.

The pattern certainly had the general tulip/bubble style skirt I'd been thinking of, but I wanted a very fitted bodice, and this was not that. I knew I could certainly help along that shape of the skirt by using a fabric that would hold stiffly, with no drape, to really accentuate the shape. And I believed that I could at least over fit the bodice to get what I was after.

My measurements put me in size M to ML for bust, L for waist, LL for hips, and L for height. So I started by toiling a size small bodice. Not quite right, it was all too short everywhere - armscye, overall length. But the princess seams passed right over my bust and the fit there was quite good. Second toile was an M with 1cm added to the length. And we had a winner. The fit was quite loose underbust though with almost a straight line from bust apex down to the waist. I simply took in my toile about 1/4" under bust grading to 0 at the waist (I could not bear redoing the pleat arrangement/maths if I messed with the waist seam and it actually felt quite snug there). I also ran in the side seams about 1/4" at the underarm grading to 0 at the waist. And might I add - no freaking SBA in sight. Woot woot! Clearly I am built like the Japanese model these patterns are drafted for. Happy days.

I cut a size M waist for the skirt grading out to the L at the hip and back in to the M hem - I really wanted a distinct bubble shape.

I spent a lot of time laying out the pattern and cutting the fabric, carefully choosing how I wanted those curved princess seams to manage the pattern repeat, because clearly it could not match entirely along those seams.

And I'm majorly happy with the result. Look at that bodice. It's pretty damn perfectly fitting.

Can we not talk about that slightly jogged pattern matching down the back invisible zipper seam? Honestly that thing was perfect through basting the seam and the zipper tapes to the SA, but then in the final passes of actually attaching the zipper, something went awry. I used a new to me technique that was outlined in the pattern book and I stand by it and will use it again. The waist seams match perfectly and there is no bubble at the bottom as very often occurs when inserting an invisible zipper. I'm happy with it, and honestly sometimes life is too short and you just want to go and party.

The pattern only includes bodice facings and calls for a lined skirt. I turned that on its head, deciding to fully line the bodice in an amazing teal silk twill I was gifted from the delightful Sophie some time ago. And I skipped the skirt lining - my fabric back was quite smooth and soft and comfortable against the skin.

I also worked out how to attach the lining by machine stitching along the zipper seam (ugh, hand sewing, who needs it?). So professional looking.

And of course I decided a day out that I needed a new bag to take along as well. Enter the bronze hide that keeps on giving and Kylie and the Machine's Ida Clutch pattern. I've made the clutch once before and realised after completion that I prefer it in its unfolded, open style, so this version has no magnetic closure. I lined it with some leftover linen cotton I used to make an apron for my Mum. And of course, everything is improved by tassels. So... tassel.

But the essence of the story, after this epic War and Peace blog post, is that I felt amazing. This dress is everything I dreamt of. I felt I looked my best, I was entirely comfortable in my skin and I'm not sure I've felt so elegant before. I sometimes think I should dress my age, and if this is it, then I'm on board... with a side of ever-so-slight quirk.

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