This is not the dress I wore to a friend’s wedding in December. Nor is it the dress I planned to wear, or not quite.
The wedding in question was held in a cave in the middle of Kosciusko National Park and the dress code was “vintage finery”. I was initially inspired by a purple chiffon with blush roses found when the local Lincraft branch was moving and having half price off everything. I picked up five metres, thinking of something floaty with a very full skirt. That gave nursing access. That I could sew with a newborn around. (Tell her she’s dreaming!)
These musings led me to the Sewaholic Yaletown dress, the pattern for which I had in my stash after winning it in a Monthly Stitch competition, um, the June before last. I was inspired by its vaguely 1940s sensibility (at least, it has what I think of as a 40s vibe but I could be completely off point). Plus many of the blog posts I’d read from others who had made it mentioned how gapey the front is, which I figured was actually what I wanted if I was going to insist on making a woven rather than a stretch dress. Sensibly, for once, I decided to toile the pattern before cutting into my (admittedly very cheap) chiffon.
This is a cotton (probably) voile from Spotlight that was in fact not as cheap as my chiffon and only slightly less sheer. It’s a pretty loose weave and hasn’t held up all that well — pilling after one wear in the area where my bag bangs on my side, and a few threads have pulled in the wash. Mostly I liked it because it was cheerful and drapey. But I then went and underlined it in a plain blue voile, thus taking away all its draping qualities. Oh well.
Yes, you read that right: I underlined this. For the first time on anything. And sewed French seams. On a toile. I hand-basted the two layers of each pattern piece together, which was a bit of a pain at the time but definitely worth it in the end. You can see the difference at the sleeves, which I left unlined. Because of the way the pattern is designed with the gathered, elastic waist I couldn’t work out how to check this fit without basically sewing the whole thing together. So I cut a straight size 16, sewed up the bodice and skirt, threaded through the elastic and tried it on a couple of weeks before the wedding. And decided I hated it.
We shall meander briefly: A few years ago when we went to USA, I was excited about clothes shopping stateside (I had not learned about fabric districts then). The first time I managed to hit the shops in San Francisco I very quickly discovered *the* shape of that summer was not one that suited me at all. What was that shape? Dresses with loose, blousey bodices and elastic waists. I imagine it has not escaped your attention, dear reader, that fitted bodices are my jam. I like to emphasise my waist rather than swamp it in material. I’ve known this for years. I knew it when I was somewhat underwhelmed by the Southport dress I made (the pattern itself is lovely, it’s just not for me). So why I thought this would be any different with the Yaletown is beyond me.
Thus I cast aside the unfinished dress and panicked. You know when you’ve left buying a present until the very last minute and you’re absolutely out of ideas and you wander the shops in desperation? That was me, but with patterns. I decided to use the aforementioned purple, rose-covered chiffon to make a full, probably gathered skirt, figuring the vibe of the fabric would be vintage-ish enough, and sew a top that opened in the front to go with it. Here I am at the wedding:
See all the roses? My eventual solution was to make the bodice of the Butterick 5521, a woven dress, out of scuba knit with a zip in the centre front seam and an added peplum (hidden under the skirt here). Let’s just say there were fitting issues and I wasn’t terribly happy with the result. And I didn’t have time to make a skirt so I did that panic shopping thing and miraculously found something that matched colours perfectly. And the whole vintage vibe I was going for disappeared. But the wedding was great fun.
Fast forward a few months and I picked up the unfinished Yaletown to see if it could be salvaged (and declutter my sewing table). All that was left to do was the sleeves and hem! I put it on again and went and stood back in front of the mirror and decided it wasn’t all that bad after all. I must have just been having an off day back in December. Since it was so almost finished, it took hardly any time and voila, a whole new summery frock.
So, the verdict: I’ve worn this quite a number of times. Yes, the neckline gapes (like, a lot — I was sure to pat it into place for these photos) but it is functional for breastfeeding. I am always a fan of pockets, so that’s a positive, and I really like the fluttery sleeves. I’m still not completely sold on this silhouette, though suspect shortening the bodice would help somewhat (must make a new bodice sloper). I also think sizing down and sewing it in a knit could work too. But I do think it’s worth giving another shot some time in the future.