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When Hugh Hefner met Frida! #therefashioners2018

I recently published my official entry for the Refashioners competition 2018. My inspiration was an outfit worn by Frida Khalo. I used two saris and a poncho for the outfit. Naturally because I was using saris there was a lot of fabric left over. In fact I don’t think I had realised just how much fabric there is in a sari!

It so happened that I had just bought Vogue 9326 not because I had a plan to make it in any great hurry. I just really liked the idea of a shawl collar on a wrap dress, especially one with kimono sleeves. I had a notion I would make it up next time I needed a dressy kind of dress. With the majority of the sari left that I had used for my the competition top it seemed a perfect opportunity to make it.

I like the pattern design as it is, though generally personally prefer skirts that are less full. My starting point was to draft a simple straight skirt that fitted the bodice. I decided to follow the deep pleats that feature on the front and back bodice down into the skirt. I made a toile which needed a few adjustments. It is always around the bust area that becomes tricky on non-stretch wrap dresses when you have a fuller bust. The appropriate size felt loose at the front and a little unsafe! I would not have felt comfortable wearing it. I opted for reducing the front wrap seam at the shoulder edge which seemed to work very well on the toile.

It is always best to make a toile in something similar in weight and quality to the fabric you plan to use (I know I know this). However with a bolt of calico to hand I chose to make my toile in calico! It wasn’t my best move. Cutting the dress out was really time consuming I had to cut each panel individually so that I could keep the pattern aligned and straight. The fabric moved all over the place. I made the bodice first. Despite the slippery nature of the fabric sewing it wasn’t to bad.

I made the skirt up including a lining and tacked the skirt to the bodice. This was when I discovered there was still too much slack in the front wrap – by quite a bit! I had to partially remove the collar to evenly reduce the front wrap depth at shoulder and waist. I toyed with the idea of a series of small darts hidden under the collar to suppress the excess. My worry was this might make the angle of the collar jut out. Oh if only I had spent more time making the toile in a similar fabric!

I had to reduce the whole of the bodice depth because of the print, the squared shapes would otherwise have been disappearing at an angle into the skirt. There was a lot of trying on during evenings and weekends. My husband who usually doesn’t pay much attention to the whole trying on thing couldn’t help notice because it was ongoing and took some time. He asked me why I was making a Hugh Hefner dressing gown! This did kind of shatter my illusion of a slightly exotic sumptuous low key evening dress, but it also made me laugh.

Despite my husbands remarks I love the dress. It feels beautiful and soft to wear. I like a bit of dressing gown styling for evening wear! If my hubby suggests taking me out somewhere nice I probably won’t mention this will be what I will be wearing ….he might change his mind!!:-)

Even though I had to practically take the collar off for the refit this is the part I like best about the dress. It sits really well with a satisfying smoothness. I think part of the success of a shawl collar like this is choosing the right interfacing. As a rule of thumb I always choose an interfacing lighter in weight than the fabric I am applying it to. When it is very light like this fabric it can be quite tricky to decide if even the lightest interfacing will be light enough.

As I’ve already mentioned it took absolutely ages to cut this out, I was being so careful to stop the fabric from sliding all over the place and keep the pattern lined up. I needed to be 100% accurate with everything to achieve perfection here. Unfortunately I think mainly due to the alterations I had to make post toile the centre front alignment went out a little bit. I could have reduced the tuck in the skirt and moved the skirt panel along so the pattern matched perfectly. I opted against this because I thought the impact of the overall skirt shape was probably more important than this slight pattern mis-alignment at the waist. A shallow pleat would have probably poked forward rather than sitting flat. It was a gamble. What would you have done?

For the back I used the end of the sari which had this beautiful deep border. Again I needed to be very careful with placement for symmetry and creating this stripe down the back.

I used the edge of the sari for the edge of the skirt. Doing this didn’t give me any good options for finishing the lower edge where the lining finishes. I carefully and discreetly hand-stitched this part. I think I just about got away with it.

This is the remaining leftovers from the green sari that I used for this dress and the top for my main entry. The bundle on the left is very thin scraggly strips. Out of all the materials I used I have the most left of this. Surprisingly a large amount of the edging as I used this for so much of both garments. I don’t plan to make anything else with it ahead of the comp deadline. I do plan to use it for purse linings or maybe Christmas decorations.

I’m generally happy with the outcome of this make.  This is my ultimate favourite colour and such a great print and fabric that the minor flaws won’t put me off wearing it. Now I am imagining what it would be like if Hugh Hefner meet Frida Khalo!

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

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