A dress for the holidays

Take a look at the dress I made last week, which I wore for Thanksgiving with my friend’s family and wore again on Sunday for a lazy day around town:

I have been trying to use up my stash of fabrics to make new garments instead of buying more clothes and/or fabrics for other projects I’ll never get to. I’m cash poor these days, what can I say. Plus, I need to exercise discipline and restraint.

But I digress.

After a quick sketch and playing around with ideas, I decided to scrap everything and just wing it. I knew I wanted a simple shift dress with sleeves, but that was it. I grabbed my altered Simplicity 1776, cut out the sleeve pattern, and drafted my first Peter Pan collar (mostly winged it there).

I made this dress from a 2 1/4 yd. piece of 100% wool from some fancy wool mill in Italy that I got for stupid cheap at Paron Fabrics in New York. Around $8/yd stupid cheap. Much love to Paron, where I (almost) exclusively buy all my fabrics because I’m cheap and I love good fabric and Mood is too busy most of the time.

The body dress used up a little less than a yard. I had to do the sleeves and collar in a contrasting fabric because I bought Paron’s last bit of that gorgeous red wool and I was hell-bent on squeezing a pair of Minnie clones from the remaining 1 1/4 yards.

I went back to Paron with my half-finished dress in tow and consulted the saleswoman, and she agreed that black-on-black lace sleeves would be a pretty detail. The underlining is black 100% cotton twill from another fancy mill in Italy ($6/yd) and a simple black lace ($15/yd).

The zipper, the fabulous zipper was pricier than the rest of the dress, if you can believe it. It’s a 36″ long separating zipper from Pacific Trimmings, which was recommended by the folks at Paron and the store is so well organized, the staff so helpful and the inventory so extense, that I really have no reason to shop elsewhere. I was about to pay $18 hurty dollars for the same thing with a satin tape when the salesperson just showed me the same thing in regular cotton twill tape for $12. So even though I think $12 for a zipper is CRAZYTOWNZ, whatever. It is what it is. I am in love with exposed zippers and the separating-ness of this one makes getting dressed so easy and wouldn’t you say it toughens up the fancy lace and makes it more casual?

The Peter Pan collar was my first collar EVER and it was a bit of a fiasco, especially since it was self-drafted. Apparently I was supposed to superimpose the back and front a bit at the shoulder to avoid what inevitably happened, which was that the collar wouldn’t lay perfectly flat. I slipstitched the collar to the dress to force it to stay flat and pressed/steamed the hell out of it. In the words of Cher Horowitz, it’s a full on Monet. Looks great from afar but up front, it’s a mess. You live, you learn, you re-draft your Peter Pan collar for the next iteration.

The sleeves, however, came out so well! I am scared to death of setting sleeves in but sleeveless dresses just make no sense in this weather. I followed the instructions from the Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (i.e. my Bible and the sole reason I can sew) and it was a breeze. I am not scared of sleeves anymore!

As I made this dress, I was hoping that it would turn out like something Kate Spade would design, which I sort-of-but-not-really accomplished. The roomy cut, the Peter Pan collar and the contrasting fabrics are very Kate Spade. The lace however? I haven’t seen her do anything like that.

I am still finding out what my aesthetic as a seamstress is, which is why I try to get inspired by others’ designs. Designing and sewing original garments require that I think about specific places/times to wear something, the weather for which it’s suited, what is most flattering, what I am skilled to make, etc. ad nauseam you get it. I’m not used to thinking so much about things like these because buying retail does it for me! So I’m not super sure that this dress will become a staple– I don’t think it’s entirely my style and I’m not used to wearing lace.

But for the time being, it’s perfect and I’m excited to wear it to holiday parties.

Coat: J. Crew

Bag: J. Crew

Tights: H&M

Shoes: L.L. Bean

Sunglasses: Ray Ban Wayfarers

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4 thoughts on “A dress for the holidays

  1. This is WAY cute! Very chic. If it makes you feel any better, I couldn’t tell that the collar and sleeves were lace until the closeup photo, so you could totally get away with wearing this casually.

  2. I think the dress is way cute and so Kate Spade. I love the zipper, and I’d much rather spend more on a zipper that won’t break than a cheap one, which might have embarrassing repercussions. Your clothes are getting so cute :); I also love your Minnie pants!

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