Friday, February 14, 2014

Miss Emery Finds Her Wiggle: Gertie's Wiggle Dress

Happy Valentine's Day, dear ones! This holiday has always been one of my favorites, no matter my relationship status. How much quibble can you have with a day that's centered around flowers, appreciation for your fellow man, and dessert? It's the triumvirate of happy things!  I've ever been a fan. 

This year, of course, there are romantic things to celebrate. It's not only The Perry/Danielson Perry's first Valentine's as a married couple, but our first one living in the same city. Wonders never cease! Since we both have a healthy aversion to crowded spaces, Sam is making us dinner tonight (His world-famous steak, roasted balsamic Brussels sprouts, and fingerling potatoes, followed by my less-famous marble pound cake), then we're off to a showing of Dead Man's Cellphone, by the Baylor Theater Department.  It will be a lovely night! 

Naturally, I needed a lovely dress to wear. Or, let's be honest, an excuse to order this Oscar de la Renta silk faille from Mood. 

Y'all, I have never been so in love with a fabric. This faille is the perfect Mary fabric: bold color, giant flowers, retro feel, and so lush against the skin. I want to make All Of The Things out of it. Sure, an entire floral silk wardrobe may not sound practical, but it would be downright gorgeous. Which is more important? 

Practicality, I know. But: sigh and swoon. A girl does need a little pomp and circumstance in her closet, right? A silk wiggle dress is a basic, darling!  Everyone needs an emergency cocktail dress. This one is mine. 

While I labeled this the wiggle dress from Gertie's New Book For Better Sewing, that's not strictly true. Though her pattern is the inspiration, this dress is actually a mash-up of Christine Haynes' Emery Dress bodice and Gertie's pencil skirt. After making a muslin of the Emery dress a few weeks back, I fell in love with the bodice fit. It was the easiest FBA I've ever performed and fits like a dream. So, instead of adding a side bust dart and rotating it out, as Gertie's would require for a true FBA, I just chose Miss Emery instead! There will be a true Emery Dress in the near future, of course. You know I can't pass up a swooshy, full-skirted silhouette for long. 

So, the Emery-Gertie dress was born! 

Gertie's sizing is a bit weird for me--my bust and waist fitting a 14, but my hips needing the 16, despite cited measurements. I suppose I prefer a bit more skim over that region, than the oh-so-glamorous designer herself. For this dress, I cut a 14 at the waist, then very quickly blended over to a 16 for the hips, then back down to the 14 toward the knees, so it would be properly pegged. Since I was matching up two separate patterns, I also turned Gertie's skirt darts into pleats. Instead of moving darts, I just took a small pleat to match the placement of Emery's bodice darts. Then, I top-stitched them down two inches and called it a day! Too easy. 

To preserve the integrity of this wonderful fabric, I used a few couture techniques on this dress. Silk faille, though beautiful and perfect in all ways, frays faster than my nerves on an ancient, creaking Ferris Wheel. (I hate them so!) In order to mitigate that, I serged all the seams of the bodice, as they were sewn, and used French seams on the skirt itself. Then, I lined the bodice in black china silk. So fancy!

Additionally, I inserted a vintage metal zipper by hand. I love hand-picking in zippers, because not only is it a beautiful finish, but it allows me more control during insertion. They always turn out splendidly! I may never go back to machine zips, y'all. 

The final construction details were simple: slip-stitching the lining to the zipper and waistband, hemming the skirt by hand, and nipping in the upper hip seam just a bit. Voila! A wiggle dress Joan Holloway would call her own! 

This was such a simple make, friends. It turned out beautifully, but it's really a case of pairing super luxe fabric with an easy pattern. There is nothing more straight-forward to construct than a wiggle dress, as long as the pattern fits you well. I can't recommend either pattern or fabric enough, for that reason. Faille and a sheath dress are a sartorial dream team! 

The only thing I truly obsessed over with this one was pattern placement. With flowers this ostentatious fabulous, I knew they needed to match perfectly over the major seams: center back, the front waist, and the back waist. Otherwise, the eye could get lost in a sea of giant, mismatched petals. The horror! Luckily, all of my perfectionism paid off and they blend perfectly. Is there any prouder moment for a sewist than perfectly matched seams? I think not. 

The Details...

Things I Loved:
  • The fabric! This one is all about the fabric for me. My love for it abounds. 
  • The fit! Not to pat myself on the back, but I nailed it on this one. The Emery bodice was a dream to fit, of course, so that helped. 

Things I Changed:
  • Hand-picked zipper
  • Shortened the skirt by three inches.
  • Frankenpattern! Used an Emery Dress bodice and Gertie pencil skirt. 
  • Blended from a Size 14 at the waist to a Size 16 at the hips.

Things I Would Change, If Making Again: 
  • Not a thing!

Tips & Tricks:

Notions & Fabric:

Incidentally, these pictures are such a mismatch, I know! We had one sunny day this weekend, in between two well-publicized polar storms, so I dragged Sam to our neighborhood park to photograph this dress. Of course, I was also running a 101° fever at the time and could barely talk without grimacing. Most of the original photos reflected that, but they were on time for my MSN post, at least. Yesterday, hopped up on antibiotics, steroids, and the return of sunshine, I trotted out into the backyard for some happier shots. If any dress deserves two photo shoots, it's this one, don't you think?

Finally, thank you so much for all your kind words and congratulations yesterday! You made my first project for MSN all the better, because of your support. It meant the absolute world to me. You're the very best!

Happy Valentine's Day, one and all!

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