Tuesday 16 September 2014

I've got love for you if you were born in the 80s

My friends got married recently (hurrah) and I got to be head bridesmaid (double hurrah). This left me with the task of organising a hen weekend. After much chatting with the other hens we decided on an 80s theme. I started searching for an outfit worthy of an 80s prom and came across some issues.

1) Vintage clothing sizes are all over the place and some sellers adjust to current sizes where as some don't.
2) The price for vintage clothes is crazy when you are looking for fancy dress.
3) My friend is shorter than "average" and has boobs - something a lot of the dress do not account for!

This lead to me scratching my head as to how I could adjust a dress without showing it to her.

At this point I decided to make a dress, this would allow me to make it to fit and select the fabric I wanted and it would be truly unique. I found a fantastic McCall's "Brooke" pattern that had been released in 1983. I loved the idea of an authentic pattern.  This still left me with two problems:

1) I have never made a dress before.
2) She lives 225 miles away.

I decided that I had plenty of transferable skills from bags and toys and after a brief pep talk from my Mum I convinced myself that I could indeed make a dress.

As for the distance I decided that the solution was simply to make a mannequin of her shape. I found a fantastic tutorial on line and followed it step by step. It was very effective and after a bin bag and 3 rolls of duck tape the measurements matched my "live model". I found it sturdier than I expected and used the insides of pillows to stuff it. My only point on this is that it is best done if you know the person well as you do have to spend a lot of time touching them.

The first task was to decide on fabric. I loved the idea of a black velvet bodice as so many of the dresses that I had looked at used it and it seemed very 80's. I had thought about flocked taffeta but I was worried that the fabric would be so heavy it would pull the bodice out of shape. I needed something that was bright and light and screamed 80's so I settled on some fantastic printed chiffon with a rainbow paintbrush effect. To quote my husband "It looked like the 80s had been sick on it". It was perfect. I decided to do a bias binding strip on the layers which half came from the skipping skirt and also meant that I did not have to roll hem such light fabric.

This then came down to the actual making. The pattern itself came in 3 massive sheets and was rather daunting. I knew I had chosen tricky and indeed slippy fabric, plus I had some reservations about inserting the zip and the idea of boning petrified me. I also knew I was going to have to adjust the pattern to fit. With all this in mind and yet more advice from my Mum I decided to make the bodice out of an old sheet to get the size right. Initially I thought that I could just add or subtract a number of cms from each section evenly to get the fit. I soon realised that this was going to send it all out of shape - the front piece sat lovely but the back did not. After some alterations and tacking, and more alterations. I got to a place where I was happy. I used all the adjustments to alter the pattern and cut out the pieces of the real fabric. Oh and the lining fabric. I had never done any lining before but 'hey ho'!

With all of the pieces cut I got on to the bodice which, after making out of a  bed sheet first, came together nicely. The straps went in OK but were quite an odd shape. Inserting the boning was a bit of a pain as it has a mind of its own. It was difficult to leave the right amount of fabric to make the boning cases but it worked fine in the end. I then had the dreaded zip. With yet more advice off Mum (yes I was on the phone A LOT) I went for an invisible zip. I found a you tube tutorial and it was great. I would recommend invisible zips really highly. I liked the ease of putting it in and it gave a really good finish. I put the skirt together with no real issues except the fabric sliding and making the hem a little tricky. The tiered frills took vast amounts of fabric which slipped all over the place and was evil to cut. With some wresting I got them edged with biased binding by tucking the fabric into the fold of the binding. I put the gather stitch in by hand and spent what seemed like hours trying to pin it into place and get the gather correct. It was really difficult due to the movement of the fabric and the amount of it. At the point where it was about even I put it through the sewing machine. The first time I had not used enough pins which resulted in so much movement that it had to be unpicked. Unpicking chiffon is a thankless task as it almost ripped on more than one occasion. I made sure I got it right after that. All that was left to do was add a massive bow and a press stud. The bow was really simple to make but took an amazing amount of fabric.

I was pleased with the result, it was fun and bold and most certainly 80's. Had it been a dress I was making to wear time and time again I would have liked the waist better fitting but the bride to be had lost weight and I was nervous of making it it too tight. As far as a fancy dress piece goes it ticked all the boxes. It was also a fantastic learning curve and improved my confidence. She pulled it off well and may one day forgive me for making her wear it!

80's themed dress modelled by the "Hen"

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