Many of you who follow me on social media may have seen this photo that I posted back in the Spring:
It was a mini sneak-peek of a structured garment, in my case, a bustier dress that I designed and patterned based on one of my favorite bras and a size 12 dress form at school.
I found the draping class I took in the Spring to be very challenging. Aside from the class itself being not very structured (the curriculum was only loosely based on a textbook and the making of practice samples was not strictly enforced), I found myself having a hard time unleashing my creative side (in that, I am accustomed to obeying rules and having structure in most areas of my life).
You may remember the first of three projects in which I was to create “anything” out of unconventional (non-fabric) materials. My least favorite project of all time! I think if I had a second go at it, I would be able to get more creative with my choice of materials and silhouette but at the time, I really wanted to learn and I felt letting me do whatever I wanted wouldn’t involve any learning on my part. Learning is not play-time! Haha – I’m such an uptight scientist sometimes.
Anyway, the 2nd project was a draped knits project which you may have seen in my Me-Made-May 2014 collection. It was the pink floral ruched dress that I made for my birthday – I loved this dress (and I hope to post in more detail about it soon).
Our 3rd project was a draped dress made of woven fabric. This was difficult for me to decide on because I dress very casually and I didn’t have an occasion coming up in my schedule for me to make a formal dress for. So I went on pinterest looking for inspiration ideas.
I love bustier dresses. Over the years, Dolce & Gabbana bustier dresses have become an obsession of mine. I dabbled a little in a bustier dress-making during the Little White Dress contest I entered earlier this year, but I didn’t quite feel like I got a hold on understanding the boning and construction part of it. I made it out of extremely stretchy knit fabrics – probably my first mistake.
During my pinterest lurking, I saw this dress in Gwen Stefani’s L.A.M.B. collection, and I was immediately floored! “That’s it!”, I said to myself, “I will make a casual, colorful and fun bustier dress”.
And so, I went to Joann’s and looked for some fun fabrics to work with. I found this double-sided denim which which had a fun ikat print on one side and a cool tropical print on the other:
I found a complementary light-weight fabric (still at Jo-Ann’s) that I could use for the piping detail. I found this:
It is a “silk-feel” polyester that had the same color palette as the denim. Perfect.
In school, I am deemed a Joann’s fabric master. But trust me, I see all the ugly fabric they have, too! I think it’s all the years shopping at Winners and TJMaxx that has honed my gift for finding needles in haystacks.
Anyway, I made up a muslin of the dress before I cut into my fashion fabric of course. I got the best advice ever from my corset teacher saying that I should make the cups pattern pieces by draping on my favorite-fitting bra. After making up the cups pattern and sewing up the cups in muslin, I pinned the cups onto my size 12 dress form at school and began pinning muslin onto the dress form to drape the remaining part of the would-be princess seamed dress. After making up the dress pattern and muslin, I sewed it together and tried it on. I further altered the dress to fit it to my body the way I wanted it, then transferred the changes to my pattern.
I was now ready with a workable pattern which I added design details to such as a pockets. I, also, chose to mix up the front and back of the denim pattern on different pattern pieces of the dress.
I made a facing and an inter-layer (made of coutil) for the bodice boning channels of the bustier and I interfaced the facing cups.
Then, I constructed the dress adding piping detail into all the seams.
The most difficult part was putting together the 3 layers of the bodice – this is something I still need to perfect because the neckline/cup seam was so thick due to the 3 layers and the piping. I hand stitched the 3 layers together through the cup seams. The dress has an invisible zipper closure, hook & eye and the hem is finished with hem lace and hand stitched for an invisible hem finish. I had some of my fellow students tell me that the piping fabric I chose would be “too much”, but I went with my gut (and sometimes I like being “too much”) and stuck with it. I think the piping detail is one of my favorite elements of the dress! And of course, who doesn’t love a pocket? (Notice how the print on the pocket perfectly matches the dress? Sneaky me and my print matching!)
This is the garment I’m most proud of this year as I draped the dress, modified the pattern and constructed it with advanced techniques. With this dress, I really feel like envisioned it and executed it from start to finish. My mind is blown that I designed and draped the pattern myself!
I think that if this wasn’t a school project, it is not something I would have ever made on my own. This makes me realize that maybe I should create more ambitious projects and be more patient with the pieces I make. I love everything about it and when I wear it, it feels like it is both, who I am and who I want to be – Colorful, whimsical, and playful while still being functional and well-built.
I’m planning on using the pattern to make the base layer of a bridesmaids dress I’ll be wearing next Spring. I’m really excited to make it and practice even more “couture” techniques I’ve learned in school.
Doesn’t it feel really great to make something you feel embodies your personality, style and soul? I’m starting to get that feeling more and more with pieces I make and the feeling is exciting and kind of addicting! What was your favorite make this year? What print, colors, styles, silhouettes do you think embody your soul’s personality and style? I’d love to hear about what garments you’ve made that make you feel the most “you”!