Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Miss Vivi Makes A Cameo: Simplicity 2444

Good evening, friends! Despite what the last week of nonblogging would have you believe, I have been keeping up with The Great Sewing Resolutions. Unfortunately, my computer has not. Antoinette, the lovely pink Dell that's been my constant companion these past three years, passed away last week, after complications from hard drive failure. It was tragic. Not in the least, because I hadn't yet uploaded pictures of my first Sew Weekly project. Now a computer owner once more, I can finally unveil them! If, you know, a week too late for the deadline.

The theme for last week was Accessorize, which encouraged participants to draw garment inspiration from a favorite accessory. There was little deliberation on my part about what to choose. I have a small, but much beloved, collection of Victorian and Edwardian cameos. (I know. Who would've thought I would love something so girly and classic? Shocking.) Sarcasm aside, they really are dear to me. Most of them have been given to me by my mother and father, for various birthdays and holidays in the past. My two favorites, a large pendant/brooch and a simply set ring, were found during an idyllic Christmas spent in Bath and left for me under our improvised hat-stand-turned-Christmas-tree.

They are all wonderful. So delicate, so feminine, they're little wearable links to eras gone by. Since these are things I value in my personal style and sewing projects, inspiration was easy. I decided to try my hand at lace, underlining a light ivory floral lace with coral poplin to echo the carvings of my cameos. For a pattern, I chose Simplicity 2444, a delightful dress from the Project Runway line with the vintage fit-and-flare silhouette I love so much.

Ta-da! My antique cameo dress.
(Excuse the pictures. Our weather in Austin has been a bit blustery, so I had to finagle poorly lit inside shots.)


The hardest part about sewing this dress was, hands down, underlining the lace. Oh my heavens. Y'all, I thought I was going to go mad doing this. You know how everyone talks about how soothing hand sewing is? Not this girl. The only redeeming value in hand sewing, as far as I'm concerned, is that I can watch North & South while doing it. Even so, I got through all four episodes while hand-basting the poplin to the lace. That's four hours of hand sewing! Combine that with a rather tricky FBA (diagonal waist darts are, quite frankly, bitches) and this dress took way longer than it was meant to.

It was worth it, however. Which is good, because had it not been, I may have torched the whole thing as revenge for all that tedium. The dress looks fabulous. Despite my using polyester lace from JoAnn's (no way was I wasting good stuff for my first time!), it's a divine little dress. The diagonal bodice waist darts are so flattering, yet still keep the design interesting, and the full, pleated skirt just begs to be twirled. Even better? It looks great with a cameo...

A match made in heaven!

Now, onto the nit-picky little details. I did a 2.5" FBA, which was trouble. I followed the slash & spread directions for a traditional FBA, then moved the two darts over to my new bust point and added width to them. When I do it again, I may actually add a third dart on each side to the design, just to make the other two more manageable and take out another inch in the waist. For the inside, I overlocked all my seams, then finished the neckline and armholes with ivory bias tape, instead of the prescribed facings. When I make this pattern again (which I will - I'm dying for a pink plaid version like Jessica's from What I Wore), there will be a few more fitting adjustments. Despite using my high bust measurement for the bodice, there is still a bit of gaping at the neckline and in back, which seems to be common for this pattern. Next time, I will go down one more bodice size and take out that extra little bit at the waist. This should be a true fit-and-flare style, which would require less ease than in this iteration.


Additionally, the prescribed hem was a bit longer than I wanted, so I put the dress on Hedy and used her pin-marker. It made taking up the circular hem infinitely easier. Hooray dress forms! In the end, I did a baby hem and took out about five inches in length. Not terribly vintage-inspired, but I was worried that all that lace plus a long hem would leave me looking like a high school prom attendee. As it is, with the coral-covered belt I made and the shorter hem, I feel decidedly Valentine's-ready. Now all I need is a fabulous date to wear my dress on!

Full front view, as modeled by the lovely Hedy.
And, yes, I do need to organize my bookshelves. Never fear, fellow bibliophiles, it's on the agenda
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The back, similarly modeled by Hedy, and sans zipper. I'm on a Mena-inspired zipper boycott at the moment. Also, I'm lazy and this dress is completely easy-on with just a tiny bit of wriggling.

Things I Love:
  • The silhouette! Who doesn't love a full-pleated skirt? It's divine! One just wants to walk around skipping and swishing, so it can be properly admired.
  • The design! Oh, diagonal pleats, you fickle, but lovely beasts. Despite how complicated they made the FBA, those pleats really do make this dress. They're so darned visually interesting.
  • The fabric! Okay, not the cheap lace, but I do love the combination of coral and ivory. I was inspired for this, not only by the cameos, but also by this vintage lace & silk dress that I pinned a few weeks ago. My homage is cheaper, but in the same spirit.
Things I Changed:
  • Chopped five inches of the hem, rebelliously.
  • Omitted facings for a bias-tape finish, righteously.
  • Left out the zipper, recklessly.
Things I Would Change, If I Made It Again:
  • Adjust the fit. If I made more muslins, perhaps I would never need to finagle with fit in later project iterations, but I like to sew by the seat of my pants. Call me impetuous, if you must. This one is almost perfect, but just needs a few tweaks in the upper bodice and waist areas.
Tricky Steps & Suggestions:
  • If you're going to underline lace by hand, which does prevent unsightly bubbling while sewing, rent two good movies. You're going to need them. (Note: if watching the Colin Firth version of Pride & Prejudice, one movie will do. Six hours of Mr. Darcy should see you through.)
  • The FBA. Don't let it scare you! Like I mentioned above, I did the typical slash & spread method, then just moved the darts over to the new bust point. It's bit laborious, but the end result is perfect.
Fabric & Notions:
  • Coral cotton poplin from Gorgeous Fabrics - $8.99/yard
  • Polyester floral lace from Joann Fabrics - $5.99/yard
  • Ivory bias tape - self-made

26 comments:

  1. After seeing your first picture, I was thinking that you chose such a pretty print. My jaw dropped when you said it was underlined lace! That is a LOT of underlined lace :) Worth it though - a very pretty dress! Lovely jewellery too - you're a lucky lady to own such pretty pieces.

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    1. Thanks so much, Poppy! I wish it had been a print - it really was so, so much lace. I think it would've been easier with a straight skirt pattern, but a full skirt just uses so much fabric. I'm just glad it turned out well. ;)

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  2. I love the mimicking of the lace/underlay and the cameo. Cameos are some of my favorite style of jewelry, and when I saw what you did, I had such an "aha" moment. It turned out beautifully!!

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    1. Thank you, Jill! I'm so happy that someone shares my love for cameos. I couldn't resist paying homage to them a little bit and, seriously, this dress shows them off splendidly. Despite the effort, I definitely recommend trying this out yourself, if you get the whim.

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  3. Adorable! That's the kind of dress I'd wear everyday!
    Such a pity you didn't make the deadline.

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    1. Thanks, Anna! Yeah, this computer issue really messed with my Sew Weekly momentum. Between having to miss the deadline this week and last week, I'm feeling like a dud contributor. Hopefully, it's smooth sailing from here on.

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  4. Oh that is beautiful! And to imagine you underlined it all by hand, wow! I can only imagine. I can definitely see how this was cameo inspired, so beautiful and delicate. Love it!

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    1. Thank you so, so much, Montana! I should be honest - I tried underlining it by machine first, so desperate to cut corners was I. It just wasn't possible, with the lace. There were so many bubbles! Hand underlining was my last resort, being the lazy sewist I am.

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  5. This is a beautiful dress and you look stunning in it! I'm glad all that hard work / hand sewing paid of for you and thanks so much for all the hints and tips!

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    1. Thanks so much, Marie! I do hope the tips end up being helpful. With all the finicky little things involved in this dress, I would love for this post to make it simpler for another sewist.

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  6. Oh this is so cute! I would love to make a lace dress, but just the thought of hand stitching the underlining puts me off! Yours is so pretty though.

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    1. Thanks, Law! Honestly, if I'd known how much work it was going to be, I'm not sure I would've done it myself. From now on, I might stick to lace skirts, instead of whole dresses. ;)

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  7. I am completely in love with this dress! It is so much like the ones I am pinning on Pinterest as inspiration for our next Christmas photo. (I plan ahead for our family "theme" each year) I love it even MORE because of the inspiration. I have a couple of cameos from Italy that my grandpa go there while in WWII. They are unset, but I think a pendant would be perfect and I have new inspiration for our Christmas shoot! Thanks a ton for sharing.

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    1. Thanks a million, Sara! We are Pinterest twins - I've been pinning lace dresses a mile a minute for the last few months. They're just so beautiful and classic, don't you think?

      Oh, and color me jealous that you have such lovely heirlooms from your grandfather! The story behind a piece of jewelry makes it that much more special. If you ever decide to set them, I'd love to see how they end up!

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  8. Your dress is lovely :)

    I just picked up this pattern and I plan to do a version of it that I also pinned recently: http://pinterest.com/pin/198228821068224665/

    Great work!

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    1. Thanks, Neemie! I absolutely love that version of 2444, as well. She makes the most adorable clothes, don't you think? I rather selfishly wish her blog were sewing focused, instead of style focused, so we could see more of her creations!

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  9. Hi Mary!

    I just found your blog over the weekend and I'm crazy about this lace dress! Great job!

    also - I'm super glad to know that there's another North & South fan! I can't watch it while I sew though, because I'll completely lose focus :)

    Can't wait to see your next creation!

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    1. Hi Kathryn!

      I am beyond thrilled that you stumbled onto the blog. It's always wonderful to meet another sewing N&S fan! Thank you so, so much for commenting...and liking the dress, of course. ;)

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  10. It's very beautiful, I love how the lace and underlining combination echoes the Cameo! Also, kudos to your hand basting! I've never even hemmed a skirt by hand. I'm so lazy! ;)

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    1. Thanks, Alessa! I'm so, so happy that the cameo inspiration really came through. Also, I'm with you like 99% of the time - if I can avoid hand-sewing, I will. When I was taught to sew, my mom stressed how important it was to hem a skirt by hand. I think I've done it that way exactly...three times. ;)

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  11. Your dress is simply delightful! I adore that pattern, and I love the lace you used! Truly a fantastic piece for your wardrobe :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Meg! You know, I *just* bought this lace at JoAnns, and they had bolts upon bolts of it. I bet your store as just as many, if you're feeling the need to buy some lace. It was lovely to work with! :D

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  12. The dress is lovely on you!

    I'm in the process of a FBA on this dress and I'm so lost. I removed the horizontal dart and made it a vertical. I was hoping the extra space created by new 3rd dart can just be used as space for my waist (as I need 4 extra inches on top of the high bust size as I have a larger waist). Now I just need to redraw the two darts but I'm not sure if the where they sit in relation to my apex, does the first one site to the left, right or over my apex. it seems to be higher than my apex also. Temped to make a muslin of all 3 to see which I like best.

    Fitting is so hard, this of course is my second FBA as well so still a newbie . any suggestion would be wonderful!

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  13. This is such a beautiful dress!

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