Make an entrance.
I want my last blog post of 2017 to be about the most recent (and most glorious) thing I made this year because it functions as an exuberant punctuation mark on the preceding two years.
I purchased the pattern back in 2015 from BurdaStyle.com and it was love at first sight. I loved the open neckline and bare shoulders. I love my shoulders, collarbone, and upper back. The silhouette is long and body-skimming, with a few simple embellishments that have a big impact. The model is strategically photographed in a museum, because the dress evokes a Greek Goddess. (And ever since my report on the Parthenon in 7th grade I’ve harbored a wish to be a Greek Goddess.)
In 2015 I had a deep and desperate need to feel beautiful and “more” than I was. I set out to make this dress for the annual Child’s Play Charity Dinner and Auction, hoping that it would be a bandage for my emotional wounds. But the stress from work and life that was making me feel “less” ultimately pulled the emergency brake on this dress.
For two years the fabric and adjusted pattern pieces hung in my closet. Many other sewing projects took priority and after a while I had started to psych myself out about the dress, making it seem more challenging than it was. Every time I opened the closet in my sewing room it would gently remind me of my unfinished business and I never fully abandoned the idea of making it.
I spent those two years looking inward, learning to open up to my close friends, being curious, and building a stronger emotional foundation for myself from the inside out. I feel different. I see myself and the space I take up differently.
Finally it was time to stop “waiting for the right moment” to work on the dress. Another Child’s Play Charity Auction was approaching and I wanted to acknowledge and celebrate this newly-realized-Meris.
I wanted to make an entrance. I wanted to show the burgeoning confidence I now feel. I wanted to feel like Diana looks in the photo below. If I were somehow revealed to be a princess of Themyscira, this BurdaStyle dress clearly would be the gown I would wear while planning to smite my enemies.
Making the Gown
I purchased my fabrics from Pacific Fabrics. The lining and main dress are made from a pale mauve/dusty pink crepe-backed satin. I love the warmth of the color. Not as bold as gold, but not as cold as silver. The poly-chiffon is a warm purple or plum, with more red than blue.
5 yards of chiffon and 5.25 yards of crepe-back satin weighs a lot! It was not uncomfortable to wear, but the pattern calls for silk tulle, which is too expensive. Is silk tulle is a bit more lightweight?
Because this dress was a 2-year WIP, I didn’t take as many photos of its construction. So if you have a question about something, just leave a comment below and I’ll follow up.
The instructions from Burda guide you through the dress from the outside in. Which does make sense — it gets you through the large steps (side seams, back seam, zipper) pretty quickly so you have a workable dress. Then the last half of the instructions get more meticulous – installing the boning, attaching the lining, hemming, etc. Oddly, they don’t talk about trying on the dress until you’re ready to attach the lining. After reading through the instructions, I decided to start with the lining. This let me work out any fit issues with the dress on the layer that people would not see. I transferred those fit alterations to the outer pieces and I was able to move through the construction of this dress never worrying about whether it fit me.
I took 4 inches off the total length of the dress and added took in the side seams a bit around the bust. I did not add any hem allowance (pattern prints WITHOUT seam allowances). I chose to use my rolled hem foot rather than press and fold up the hem.
Unlike Simplicity or McCalls, BurdaStyle’s online patterns do not give you any images for constructing your garment. Given my experience with unusual costume shapes, I felt confident that I could figure it out (and I did), but I wanted just a few more visual confirmations that I was interpreting things like “neck edge” correctly.
The instructions left enough ambiguity that even though logic told me to place the boning 1/8″ BELOW the seam line, I momentarily thought they meant 1/8″ below the raw edge. I also was not sure whether the boning (and its casing) should be centered over the dart and side seam lines, OR placed to the side of the seam lines within the pressed down seam allowance. After about a day of trying to figure this out, I messaged a friend, and just made a decision because I needed to keep moving forward. I chose to place it to the side of the seamlines within the seam allowance and it seems to structurally sound.
Is this when I mention that I assembled the majority of this dress in 6 hours, the night before the event? Well, I did. What you see in the photos above is what I had completed by the end of Dec 12 (mostly cutting). Beginning with this next photo, everything was done the at the 11th hour.
You can see in the original photo by Burda that the straps do a cool asymmetrical thing with the band across the neckline. Unfortunately, chiffon doesn’t gather as tightly as silk tulle and it didn’t have the look I wanted. So rather than fret at 1am, I scrapped the straps, knowing that the dress fit snuggly enough with just boning in the bodice.
I kept the subtle swoop of the gathered chiffon band across the bust because I wanted some kind of asymmetry and without that, the band started to sag. I hand-stitched the swoop in place.
When it was finished, I dressed the mannequin to take this photo. Then I hugged the dress (and dress form) for a solid minute. It was done.
I didn’t have time to understitch the lining, and there was some movement of the boning after wearing it for 5 hours. Otherwise, there were no wardrobe malfunctions.
How I wore it to the ball
It can seem a small thing to wear a dress you made for yourself, especially when you sew a lot. But here’s the thing: I made this dress extra-specially for myself —in every detail. The colors, the style, the fit…they are all chosen because I like how they look on me. It fits like no other formal dress I’ve ever worn because I customized it to my body and my personality. I didn’t change myself to fit into the dress. When something didn’t work (*cough* the straps I loved so much *cough*), I altered my plan but still maintained control of the situation.
I keep staring at photos of myself. Partially out of pride and partially out of disbelief.
From Ever After to Wonder Woman, the film projector in my mind has been replaying scenes of women walking into rooms and commanding the attention of everyone there. As a self-described wallflower and occasional dormouse, I’ve spent years minimizing myself and my value in the shadow of others. To look at it another way, I’ve been giving up my space to others.
Related to this, I didn’t allow myself to feel pride. Especially not pride in myself or my accomplishments. I would look outward for affirmation and confirmation of my worth. I sought to please others. After two years of reflection and hard work, I’ve gotten to a place where I feel more grounded, rooted within myself rather than tethered to others, and more open in posture and outlook.
I started out making a dress to make me feel more worthy, and I finished the dress because I believed I was deserving of something fabulous.
May you enter 2018 like a confident goddess. Cheers!