Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The dress of doom redeems itself

Now you may be thinking that it was a pretty short month - that I seemingly whipped this up in a fortnight. Actually, to borrow an expression from KBenco, this was "my dress of doom," and it has been sitting on a coat hanger mocking me for months.

I really liked the idea of a fitted sheath dress and when I saw the one in Ottobre magazine (5/11 #15)  I thought it might be quite good for me. I made a muslin in what I thought was crappy fabric but it turned out to be better quality and suddenly I was under pressure to make it work. The fabric was an unfortunate mix of wool and polyester that wouldn't press except under a lot of steam and then the polyester in it warped under the heat. I tried all kinds of tricks to hide the steam damage, including covering the worst of it with an exposed zipper.  When my husband commented that it looked like something you would wear to a funeral I realised I had created something that I would never wear.

And so there it hung on the coat hanger for several months while I thought about what to do with it. One day it just came to me. I sat down unpicked the whole thing, traced a new pattern from it, and threw it in the bin. No remorse or guilt. I had just learned what I needed to learn from it and now it was time to set it free from its wire prison.

And I'm in good company - to quote Karl Lagerfeld, "the most important piece of equipment in my design room is my rubbish bin, because that's where 95% of my stuff goes."

Using the new pattern, I made this dress over the last 2 weeks using some vintage cotton.  Once again I didn't have enough fabric so used a half sleeve, which I think is more flattering anyway. I made a few small alterations - used the v neck from view #17, and gathered the darts to the waist rather than fitting them.

The "v" is actually a nice modest affair, as you would expect from Ottobre, here made more modest by a woolen singlet underneath.

Ottobre 5/11 #15 "the old school teacher dress" 
To get the close fit though the bust I had to use 3 darts. In the interests of fit I am showing a close up although no doubt there's some tradesperson from Target having a good time right now.

the 3 dart FBA

I think I'll try this dress again, in wool as designed, and in a more subdued palate. However, it will have to go to the bottom of the cue, since I have recently won myself some patterns I am very excited about. I won, not one, but two giveaways this week (how lucky is that) from Karin and Suzy .

And while we are on the subject of winning, I am very humbled to have been nominated for 3 blog awards. Humbled because I don't get time to sew much, what I make can only appeal to the tastes of very few people, and this blog is not always a dress of roses. Thank you for nominating me, Elle C, Valerie  and Steph.


  1. This dress looks great. The style really suits you. Wearing it with boots definitely moves it into the cool teacher dress category. I love the bold print. I'm still laughing about the tradesman comment!

  2. Looks great on you! I have a teeny bust and have been perplexed as to how to take the 3-pleat-per-bosom Colette Rooibos pattern and make it work for me. Just the opposite of you and your 3 darts. :)

  3. This one is a winner! It looks great and is flattering on you. I like this version a lot with the dramatic print. I think it's pretty.
    ps. I popped the patterns in the post yesterday.

    1. Thanks Karin - I keep meaning to write a comment about your beautiful dress but every time I go to your blog I keep getting sidetracked by MY new patterns!

  4. I like you Karl Lagerfield quote...so pleased that you could make use of the dress of doom to create something that you want to wear. Looks great!

  5. Great Dress!! Good sleeve length too.

    Although I am a little disappointed that I missed that particular episode of Target. It has all my husband's plumbing buddies thankful that it was a carpet cleaner helping themselves to the lingerie etc. rather than a plumber.

    1. I think Target jokes are going to enter the Kiwi collective for a long time now. I pity the poor guy actually, national humiliation can't be an easy thing to live down.

  6. I love this dress Mary. Thank you for the close up of the three dart shaping. I would like to learn how to do that. I have Fit for real people (the book version) and have been teaching myself lots about full bust adjustment from that and online reading with some success. But I'm not sure how I would take a one dart pattern and create the three darts.

    1. Sandra in this case it was super easy - the middle dart was already on the pattern and the side dart is your usual palmer/pletsch FBA dart. The third dart I draped in at the muslin stage because I could see the front still needed more shaping for this kind of dress.

  7. Great print and the dress (second time around) turned out great!

  8. Persisting really worked out for you - the fit looks perfect and I adore the dress on you. This could be a real workhorse pattern in different fabrics.

  9. Your dress is most un-doom-like. It looks terrific with the boots, no old school marm about it. The 3 dart fit is an excellent adjustment that I will be stealing any day now, once my own dress of doom stops hanging about on my dress form. The bin is looking most attractive after reading your post! Unfortuately my poorly suppressed inner tightwad is clashing with the sand washed silk charmeuse. Maybe another week or three will fix the problem ;)

    1. It was surprisingly easy to bin a poly wool blend. I think even the Kaiser would struggle with silk charmeuse. Let it speak some more, it might have some good selvage advice.

  10. You have had a run of luck recently winning pattern, maybe you should buy a lottery ticket in the hope it extends to other contests. Great looking dress, you always acheive the best fit.

    1. Good tip about the lottery ticket - my first thought was, "I think I married it."

  11. Hark at you with your three-dart FBA, and you call my feijoa loaf smug!
    I just had to go back and watch the horrible details of the target incident via on-demand. Ick!
    Loving that hot pink colour, it suits you.

    1. Hmm you are a brave woman to watch the episode.

      I hope to have some more smug items for you soon. I have some pillows I wish to make, to complete my up-cycled pillow cluster. I can see the caption already.

  12. I hope you love your new dress - it looks very nice ( bur more like a young school marm than an old one ) . Obviously the Target incident is an insider Kiwi thing we Aussies won`t get. Anyway your dress makes me glad I am what is called a ` sunken treasure ` - hah! Making one dart is bad enough but three !

  13. Your dress looks beautiful on you! yay for the rubbish bin. Mine is well used, too.
    And your blog is more than worthy of awards. I always enjoy your posts.

  14. Great dress! The fit is perfect, and I love the complimentary mix of purples and pinks in the print. Definitely a winner!

  15. Well, it seems your work must be an improvement on Lagerfeld's since you're definitely making it smirk on more than 5%!

    With this dress, you have a great shell to work with in the future, even to compare with other patterns. I don't have anything that would require three darts, but it's a great idea and seemed to work perfectly.

  16. Love the triple darts! I think this is now the dress of happiness.

  17. I like your new dress, it is very pretty on you! And the 3 dart FBA is ingenious. Oh and I might have to borrow the Lagerfeld quote from you...

  18. I agree with Caroline that this is great strategy. FBAs always give me a HUGE! dart. The fabric for this dress is amazing. 10 out of 10.

  19. Dear Mary Nanna,
    Your Dress looks very nice and comfortable. And the triple darts technique is brilliant.
    I did the pattern in the same time to test the fitting (http://vonmema.blogspot.de/)and there is another fabric on my desk to do it once again for a wedding guest dress in June. Unfortunately I already did the cutting, otherwise I had used your method.
    Have a nice weekend Mema

  20. The more I see your darts the more I love them!

  21. You look AMAZING in this! I am so impressed at your style, your skill and of course, your 3 dart-worthy bust-line (so so jealous). I definitely want to see this dress paraded around at the next Lucky Penny meet-up!

  22. I probably shouldn't say anything, as it might be taken the wrong way, and you have a style that you like, but as a man, I feel you only own one bra. (OK stop laughing at me). I think the bust line can move around, and make a dress look different. My wife is small but I think her 20 bras (seems like) all deliver a different look.

    Have fun, Stefan!

  23. Oh, I love your 3 dart FBA! I need a significant FBA on garments and have just recently started divvying up the huge amount into smaller darts. Your 3 darts have achieved wonderful shaping.

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