Thursday, March 7, 2013

Stitching up Lilly Rose

Today I bring you a guest post from Sabrina Fergusion who has stitched up the Lilly Rose day dress from my Miss Page Vintage 1940s Collection and sent me the following on her creative process.

In 2012 I went to Lorna's launch of her Miss Page collection in Katoomba NSW and bought a Lilly Rose pattern. I loved the look of the dress but wasn't confident for months about attempting to sew it. I only started dressmaking in 2011 - before that my experience was fixing hems and buttons. I'm self-taught with help from my Mum and sewing friends. Until recently I'd only sewn knitted garments from KwikSew patterns and used my overlocker a LOT. But I had some gorgeous vintage-look fabric stashed away and over my Christmas break in 2012/13 decided the time had come. My Lilly Rose was going to happen!

I read the instructions carefully first to see that I was up to the task and decided I was. Printing the pattern out was easy; my printer automatically printed at 100%. You do need quite a big bit of floor area to stick it all together though so be warned, you may have to move chairs and tables! My cats helped me stick it together but it still turned out OK ;-).

I made a toile in calico first, and tweaked and adjusted it so it fitted perfectly. The pattern is true to modern sizing so I didn't need much tweaking. I'm 157cm so definitely needed to shorten both the bodice and skirt however, which was a breeze. The one thing I didn't make with my toile was the collar, and I should have. I set the collar a bit too far in on the neckline of the bodice on the actual fabric I used, so the point doesn't come as far down as it should. I did contemplate remaking the bodice and collar, as I had enough fabric (being a beginner I bought more than I needed in case I made a huge mistake!!!). In the end I decided to run with what I had as I was very impatient to finish the dress and wear it. Patience is certainly not my middle name. 

I used pinking shears to finish the seam edges etc, as it was the quickest way (see that bit about patience again). However I truly enjoyed leaving the overlocker covered up and just using the sewing machine or my hands to make this dress. As well as pinking the edges I did a zigzag stitch to finish them, just to be sure, as I could see the cotton wanted to fray. I wanted to make this dress in a traditional way and researched that a zigzag stitch attachment foot was available for machines in the 1940s. 

With the shoulder pads I did cheat and used a pair I'd had on a dress almost 30 years ago. I considered making my own using some of the dress fabric but realised they would take much longer to dry when washed. Also - impatient!

I decided to use a zipper in the side seam, and this was my first go at putting a zipper in a garment. I had to do it twice as the first attempt didn't turn out as I'd hoped, ie it was a dog's breakfast. It's not an invisible zipper. I did break with the traditional feel of the dress though and use a nylon one in a complementary colour. My experience with metal zippers from my childhood is that they tend to jam a bit and get stiff quite easily.

It probably took me about 9-10 hours over several days to make my dress. I pinned, then I ironed, then I tacked, then I sewed. Then ironed again. I blind-stitched the hem by hand late in the afternoon, with the sound of birds in the trees outside the window and a cat on the table in front of me. All I needed was "In the Mood" playing in the background :-). 

I love my Lilly Rose dress and have worn it twice in the two weeks since I've made it. I've received compliments from people, even strangers in the supermarket. My Mum is gobsmacked; a superb dressmaker in her day and pleased that I have finally got an interest in sewing, she was delighted at the care I'd taken and the way it turned out, the style and the fit.  It's a design that goes well with today's wedge-heeled sandals (aha, wedge heels were in in the late 40s/early 50s too), and with modern accessories it looks timeless and lovely. With vintage accessories it looks fab!  It's funny - when I wear vintage or vintage-inspired clothing I feel quite different to my everyday self; I think more about how people behaved in the era of the clothes I'm wearing. When I'm wearing this dress I want tea in a pretty cup and saucer. And a home-made scone.

I don't have vintage underwear but I find a sports bra, with the seam across the front, gives a bit of a vintage shape. With the bust darts it definitely looked better with a sports bra than a 't-shirt' bra or balconette bra. Couple that with serious shapewear instead of 'step ins' to enhance your waist (if you're like me and you need to) and add a suspender belt and stockings as necessary :-).

I would definitely make another Lilly Rose dress, perhaps in a rayon, if I find the right fabric.

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