Yep, I did it. I crossed the beams. I created a garment that references two of my main stylistic obsessions: 'nautical' and diner waitress uniforms. Can't you believe it?! I barely can! Basically, it's a faux-shirt dress with three functioning front buttons but also a concealed side zip so you can get in and out of it. The skirt is made from two gathered rectangles. The sleeves are my favourite kimono/dolman/grown-on variety. The collar has contrast anchor print fabric on the revere. So now you're acquainted, let me tell you the whole shebang.
I think the most important thing you should know about this project is that is was a total arse-on. I blogged about the pattern on which it was based (pictured below) back in October 2010 but didn't start doing anything with it until about June/July this year. I finished this dress just a few weeks ago. EXACTLY. Five months on one dress. Not five solid months, obviously (there have been many other projects that got done inbetween), but even my epic Winter coat project took less than two months, all told. I just hit a brick wall that only the accumulation of time could provide the motivation to get back in the saddle and finish it off. 'So, what happened?' I hear you ask....
The keen-eyed amongst you will have noticed that my dress has a full skirt, yet the pattern pictured above has not. I was all for the pencil skirt variety as illustrated, and thought it might be fun to play with the contrast nautical colours and make the skirt part from some blue drill that I'd had in my stash for years. However, the skirt for the pattern didn't use darts to create the shaping, instead it was gathered into the waist. I couldn't see how that would be particularly flattering as it would kind of be adding bulk, and anyway would be totally inappropriate to do in this thick-ish drill. So, I used the basic pencil skirt that I used when frankensteining together the pattern for my Summer Holiday dress. The original dress pattern also had a kind of fly front, which I tried to incorporate back into my new version, and only just had enough fabric to squeeze the pieces out. I got fairly far with the construction then decided to try it on. TOTAL. FAIL. I cannot find words to describe how terrible it was looking.
By putting the offending half-made garment on the dress stand, you can see that the whole balance of the waist is off. The front it much higher and slants down towards the back. So obviously the normal straight waistline of the pencil skirt I'd added to the bodice was being pulled up at the front and was just all kinds of wrong. I was so disappointed having put so much love and (wo)man-hours into the project by this point, I just bundled it up and shoved it away until I felt strong enough to attempt a resurrection.
Up until that point, the whole thing had been time consuming but was going pretty well. This pattern taught me how to do underarm gussets, in the same way (and at more or less the same time) as Karen tackled her own for her fabulous retro floral dress, the only differences being that I used some interfacing to secure the area on mine, and then I added some top-stitching. And uncharacteristically, I was actually into adopting this new fiddly method and expanding my sewing repertiore. The revere collar malarky was also a bit tricky to get nice and neat, but I took my time and was really pleased with the outcome. I hemmed the sleeves by applying satin red bias binding that I hand-stitched in place to get a super-clean edge finish. And then the aforementioned skirt drama struck and it took the wind out of my project-sails (no pun intended but welcomed!).
Eventually, after a fair few successful projects, I came back to this UFO. I unpicked the blue skirt and tried the bodice on with no skirt attached. I got my boss to mark on it an even and straight waistline, which I then recut as the new bottom edge of the bodice. Unfortunately that meant the waistline is a tad too high, even for me and I have a naturally very high waistline but that couldn't be helped. I then unpicked the side seam on the left side so a zip could be inserted. I snaffled some more of the red fabric (from an enormous roll at work) and made the full skirt, inserted the zip and hand-stitched the skirt hem: job done.
So, final analysis: overall I'm happy with it. The waistline is a tiny bit too hight, but that can be disguised fairly well by adding a belt. Adding the belt also helps to overcome the fact that it is too wide in the waist area. When I was cutting out the bodice pieces out, I added a bit extra to the side seams at the waist because my waist measurement was bigger than the measurement written on the envelope. The eventual largeness in the final garment's waist may be due to the fact that I've lost a few pounds after a horrendous stomach bug I had a few weeks ago (silver linings and all that...) or the newly-raised waistline sitting somewhere slightly different than intended, or because the fabric has a bit of stretch in it; I'm really not sure. But I'm sure as hell not going to do any more unpicking of this dress so cinching in the waist with a belt is what is going to happen. One more quibble is that the fabric is a bit itchy (which I should have known because it's the same fabric I used for the skirt of my Frida Kahlo dress) so I'll make sure to wear it with a vest and tights. My trial run on Saturday went ok, but when I teamed this dress with my Captain jacket, I looked very Japanese school girl! Ah well, you win some...