Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A dress for Leslie

Hope Leslie's friend doesn't mind me showing these pics; they are the only shots I have of the original dress in detail. Wherever you are, thanks!
My friend Leslie is getting married. This is generally a good thing. I like to see people happy, especially friends. She wants me to make her wedding dress. I am generally ok with this. She's got one picked out that she likes, modeled after a traditional German dirndl (hope I'm spelling that right). The lines are good, a basic simple design. The bodice is fitted with straps over the shoulders that go up to a high neckline in back. The skirt is a fairly simple A-line, with a long godet inserted into the back seam. The thing that makes it especially charming is all the trim on the bodice, straps and around the back of the neck. It kinda looks like frosting at first glance. When you take a good look at it, it seems to be several lines of pleated or manipulated china silk, or possibly organza, with a few other pieces interspersed.
Good points: the dress is a simple design, only requiring a simply draped skirt and some strategicly placed darts in the bodice.
We don't have to replicate the original in every perfect detail; I want it to be clean and elegant like the original, but I have some leeway.
Challenges: Leslie is in Germany, which makes fittings difficult. I have taken measurements and altered my dress form appropriately. I hope that's enough.
The chosen fabric is a silk dupioni with only a little texture, in a slight winter-white color. It should look lovely on her, but it is proving slightly difficult to obtain in this area. She brought me a swatch from one local store that looked good, but she was told that if she wanted to purchase any of the plain silk fabric, she would have to purchase at least half a yard of an embellished dupioni which retails at about $100/ yard. We both though this a bit silly, since neither of us would have use for it, and I don't want to purchase something that expensive on speculation.
Some of the trims look easy to fabricate, some of them I can't figure out just yet. I have some ideas and some leftover scraps of poly-organza to practice with. Let's hope I get it right.
I have constructed a muslin mock-up of the basic dress. The bodice is fully lined in muslin, the back has piping inserted in the fiddle-back seams, the straps are attached at the front with safety pins, the hem is pinned up, and I even put a zipper in so it will be easy to try on. I'm mostly looking to see if I got the size right, and that the style is basically what she wants. I know there are a few things I want to change: I made the straps a little too wide; I want to reposition the bust darts toward the center so they run in more or less a strait line down to the waist seam, making the darts slightly more separated at their bases; I want to reposition the front skirt darts so they start where the outside bust darts end, but the end of the dart will be in the same place; I want to respace the back darts so they are centered in the back panels; and I want to remove some of the back fullness, probably out of the godet side of the back panels. I had originally draped that seam at an angle, but I cut the mockup on the strait, so it ended up a bit full. I think it would make the back a little cleaner.
The original dress fabric is a bridal dupioni silk. From the picture, I can see it is mostly smooth with just a few little slubs that give it a slight texture. It is almost as smooth as a taffeta, but not quite. This texture is harder to come by in this area. I found some dupioni silk at Joann fabrics, originally priced at almost $25/yard. Fortunately, I had a coupon. I got 5.875 yards, and it is 60" wide, so I'll have plenty. The mockup only took 5 yards of 45" wide muslin, but I'd like some extra just in case. The only drawback is that it is paler white than the swatch Leslie found. The texture is right, though. I bought it anyway, and have kept it in its plastic bag. If I don't mess the fabric up and she doesn't end up liking it, I can take it back.
The trims have been the latest challenge. The bodice has 8 lines of trim, 5 of which are created from pleated or manipulated tubes of fabric. I have figured out the first one, I think. I made a china silk tube, flattened out to one inch wide, and marked its length with one inch intervals. I drew the line of application on the bodice, marking it with .25 inch intervals. I then stiched the tube down to the bodice, inch by inch, forming soft knife pleats at a 4:1 pleat ratio. To stitch the pleats together, sew the center points of 4 adjacent pleats together. Then circle-sew the corners of pleats 4 and 1 together to form the clover shape.
The third trim from the bottom is a 1" wide tube that has been box pleated and tacked down to the bodice, then the centers of the box pleats are tacked together. I saw this done in a Vogue pattern I have, so this was easy to figure out.
We will not be using the traditional apron with this dress, so the waistline trim that hides its attachment will not be necessary.
More updates after I talk with Leslie...