Last week, my fiance’s company hosted a party at the Berns Hotel in the beautiful grand salon. The event called for “smart casual” attire, which is open to wide interpretation. A few Google image searches of the dress code yielded a look that is more office casual than party chic, but I have so few opportunities to dress up in Sweden (even office attire here is more ‘casual Friday’ than business professional), so I decided to finish my Burda Off the Shoulder Dress. I am opting to call it The Battlefield Dress, because completing this dress was a like a battlefield with all the fit and construction issues I encountered.
With just a few hours to go before the party, I put Breakfast at Tiffany’s on in the background and got to work. I have had this dress hanging on my mannequin and sitting on my sewing table since November. Trying to figure out which way the collar piece sandwiched into the shell and lining fabric was tricky, and the instructions may as well have been written in German. I was daunted by them, so I called in reinforcements. With a little help from my friend Helen of Button and Snap, I was able to figure out what the heck was supposed to happen with the collar piece, and she also gave me a little moral support when she confirmed that those Burda instructions were indeed confusing. Thanks Helen, you gave me the push I needed to dive in and get over my fear of the collar. 🙂
When I finally completed my first kick pleat and lapped zipper, I was so proud and the result was great, except for the fact that the bust was now too big and the collar was drooping too far off of the left shoulder. I ripped out the back part of the collar and sewed it back on so that it sat a little further down, but this was no help. It became apparent to me that I was going to have to really get into the guts of the dress, so I ripped open the lining tried a little pinning to adjust the fit. I soon became so intimidated with the task that I just left it sitting there as a UFO, until now. No longer will this dress taunt me!
When I finally revisited it yesterday, I thought I was going to have to adjust the whole bust area, and struggled for about an hour to try and get my head around how to do it, until I realized I was running out of time and just decided to move the front of the left collar piece downwards to make the sleeve tighter. This probably would have worked well a few months ago when I first made the dress, but blessed/cursed weight loss has caused my bust to decrease a little more since then, so it was still loose. At this point, I only had an hour to get ready, so I pinned the collar pieces where they needed to go, and did a quick hand-sewing job on the inside. The fully lined dress isn’t as pretty as it could be now in that area, but this quick fix along with a nicely padded pushup bra, did the trick.
This dress, thanks to the full satin lining, feels amazing to wear! I can’t help but feel good and elegant in it. After watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s in the background, I was happy I had a dressy outfit to wear to the party. Don’t you just love how formal clothing was during that era? I kept Holly Golightly’s poise in mind all night, but I resisted the urge to call everyone “daaarling!” as she does in the film. I must admit I felt like Marylin Monroe in this dress, and my sweetheart kept saying how beautiful I looked and how he was so glad I was there. So I guess I won the battle in the end, and it was worth it. Until next time, daaaaarling!
Pattern: Burda 07/2011
Fabric and materials used: Around 3 meters navy stretch satin (good quality) for shell, 2 meters bargain bin blue stretch satin for lining, regular zipper, iron-on vilene tape to stabilize the zipper, and iron-on vilene stabilizer (which was useless because it would not stay–next time I will just stay-stitch). I could really tell the difference between the two fabrics in terms of quality. This was my first time working with any sort of slippery or stretchy fabric and I must admit I really loved it. It was not as scary as I read it would be, though I took ages to cut it out.
Changes I made/things to try next time: On the burda measurements chart, It said I was a size 48 bordering on 50 at the time I cut this out (holy hips!). I cut a 48 in the hips and a 46 in the bust. I really could have sized down even further, especially in the bust area. However, I found the armholes way too tight and ended up modifying these to account for my bulging biceps. 😉 I cut them down this twice, measuring carefully to make sure both sides were even. Maybe I went a little too far though, since the left collar piece/armhole ended up being too big.
New Skills/Lessons learned: This is the first time I properly excecuted a lapped zipper, and for extra gold stars, I made the lining nice and tidy too. This was also my first vent. I am sold on the lapped zipper. I reinforced it with vilene iron-on waist stay tape, which made it nice and sturdy. Although it looks wrinkly in the photo, I assure you I have a more ample backside than my mannequin, and it fits smoothly on me.
This was the first time I worked with nicer quality fabric. In the past I always used cheaper cottons, which was fine while I was improving my skills. Now that I have improved, I must say, I can finally see the value in spending a little more on fabric. I feel like this is the first time I have produced a piece that is more handmade than homemade, and this has given me the confidence to start looking more at actual dressmaking fabrics rather than strictly cotton prints.
Would you make this again?: Possibly. I loved the end result, and it is not as confusing now that I have made it once, but I would have to take more time to fix all the fit issues. Maybe I’d make it for a friend though, as every voluptuous girl deserves a dress like this!