Hello! I hope you’ve had a good week. I’ve sure had a lovely one, full of evenings out for cocktails with my wonderful fiance and a very social weekend with friends. On Friday night I had a friend over for wine and cheese. On Saturday I went with friends to the Stockholm gospel music festival, which was really uplifting! It’s a shame it had to rain though, because it meant we were too cold to stay for some of the later acts. I also did some sewing last week, and finished a project to wear to lunch with the girls, so here it is!
Presenting the Ladies Who Lunch Dress, named for its debut at lunch with two wonderful friends and fellow ladies of leisure. This dress is vintage Simplicity 1577, and like my first year in Stockholm, it should have been easy but I ended up making things complicated for myself. Watch out, the Stockholm Seamstress is about to get real with you here (and if you aren’t interested in my story, just scroll down to the next photo!).
When I first moved to Stockholm, I had just finished my degree in Canada, started my first post-college office job in a place that related to my desired career, and things were seemingly moving forward. But then love took over, we moved to Sweden, and I found myself in career and adulthood limbo. I didn’t speak the language, was waiting several months on my work permit to finish processing through my fiance’s company, and had nothing to do but go for fikas and lunches with other expat ladies, at my fiance’s expense. I had become a Lady Who Lunches, and I hated to think of myself that way.
You see, when I moved abroad with my partner as an accompanying spouse, I left my career, friends, and my identity behind. I had always seen myself as a hardworking person who could take care of herself and pave her own way financially. My identity was tied into my ability to support myself, and to suddenly have to let go and place all the responsibility in my fiance’s hands not only felt wrong, but it felt like a betrayal of myself. I grappled with these feelings for many months, meeting plenty of lovely women who probably could have helped me to get through it, but a lot of us were going through the same struggle.
But it’s not always easy reaching out, especially when it feels like you’re alone in your struggles. I found that the majority of fellow expat women I met here had children, and this provided them with an outlet, an automatic social circle, and an understanding of their place in the world. They had somewhere to be, a purpose in life, and the way I saw it, they could rely on their identities as mothers and bond over that. I on the other hand, was in a strange place, barely 24, not yet married, my career underdeveloped, and childless. I met a few other young women in my position, and nearly all of shared the same goal, which was to find a job as quickly as possible. This was alienating in itself because job searches are very consuming, and many of us found jobs, which no longer left time for bonding over leisurely lunches and coffees.
I eventually found a teaching job as a maternity cover for a year, which distracted me from these feelings, until my contract ended at the end of the school year. Once that was over and I had once again become a lady of leisure, I was able to reach out to some of the young women I’d met when I first moved here. I began to embrace a new identity as a housewife, and appreciate the low-stress lifestyle I now lead which gives me plenty of time for sewing and to socialize with friends as a lady who lunches. If I had embraced and accepted my new lifestyle from the beginning, maybe I would have had an easier time adjusting to Swedish life.
And if I had just followed the instructions and measured better, maybe this dress would have been easier and quicker to make! I started making this dress a few weeks ago when the weather in Stockholm became unusually and uncomfortably hot. We had the same temperatures as California for a couple weeks! Being indoors behind my sewing machine seemed like the best place to be, so I pulled out a lovely soft floral cotton I’d bought last summer and got to work choosing a pattern.
A couple weeks ago, I rounded up and cataloged all of my digital patterns via Pinterest, and that got me thinking about how many patterns I own and which ones I actually use. A few years ago I bought a plus sized vintage pattern lot on ebay, put them in plastic protectors, and never touched them again. Well, I went through my patterns and found vintage Simplicity 1577, which almost exactly matched my current measurements. Lucky day. I didn’t bother with a muslin, just cut it out and got to work. I like to live dangerously that way.
Let me tell you, this pattern was a pleasure to work with, and very simple. I mean, let’s get real here, in 90 degree heat, I would much rather spend extra time putting nice finishing details on an easy pattern than spend all my time struggling to put together a more complicated pattern, so this pattern was just right. All it took was two main pattern pieces for the bodice, and the facings. But oh, facings! I was lured by the promise of quick cutting and a shortcut to finishing the neckline. NEVER AGAIN. I matched the notches, pressed, and understitched, but they still wouldn’t stay put! I ended ripping them out, sucking it up, and making a full lining for the bodice–much better!
It seems like all vintage patterns use facings, but I can’t stand them. I have never met a facing that hasn’t betrayed me! It’s too bad I forgot this when sewing the bodice, because I was really enjoying making this dress and working with the pretty floral fabric up to that point.
After I resolved my neckline issues, I was just looking for an easy end to my frustration, so I skipped cutting out the gored skirt pieces and used a gathered dirndl skirt instead. Lätt som en plätt! –easy as a pancake! I also left out the collar pieces, dresses with collars aren’t my thing. I am afraid of looking like an overgrown little girl, but I envy those who can actually pull them off because they can be pretty cute.
After all the time I spent creating a nice lining and finishing with hem tape, I tried the dress on and was disappointed (and yet not disappointed) that my diet and exercise efforts were successful, which meant it no longer fit. So it just sat there on my sewing table, all pretty and floral and sad, waiting a couple weeks til I finally sucked it up, put my mannequin to use and adjusted the darts. It only took about 15 minutes to do, but sometimes you just run out of steam on a project after so many frustrations. Once that was done, I was pleased to find the fit issues were mostly fixed, so I added a zip and hemmed it before it was time to meet my lovely ladies for lunch. Hurrah!
And that’s all I have to say about that. Until next week, hej då!