Now that I got some basic sewing techniques under my belt (that is, after I made a shift dress, skirt and top), I decided that it was time to get into a more challenging project. I have some Liberty of London fabrics from the summer sale that I had originally planned to make into vintage style dresses.
I love shirt dresses; got six of them and Adiben recently gifted me with a new one from her recent trip to the Philippines. If I had to choose a favourite era, it would be the 50s and the 60s. I love the long and slender shapes, the tiny waist and full skirts, the hats and gloves, etc. — more conservative and certainly more classic in style and design. But I must say that the bright colours, the ‘Mary Quant London look’ of the 60s isn’t my favourite.
When I visited the V&A Museum ‘History of Fashion Gallery’ on my first trip to London, I learned that London, not Paris, became the center of the fashion world for the first time in the early 19th Century, and that the influence of the British in worldwide fashion didn’t begin nor did it stop with The Beatles. Apparently, with the worldwide fame of The Beatles, British influence swept into all parts of life, especially clothing and music.
Now, on to the sewing project!
I made a pattern on my own for the first time — a shirt dress that I’d like but I wasn’t too sure if I did it right. So I went to my mentor once again, and because Tita Mely already taught me how to use a pattern as a guide to cut the fabrics, this time, she showed me how to do it straight into the fabrics using only the body measurement.
She’s been sewing for over 30 years and it was amazing to watch her do all of that. Two meters is enough for the 3/4 sleeves shirt dress.
After a couple of hours tutorial, I came home with a fabric that’s been cut according to my specifications and complete with the interfacing, markings, etc.
And because I forgot to tell Tita Mely that I wanted two secret pocket on my dress, I had to do it on my own. I just measured the palm of my hands and added 2-3 inches allowance then attached it to the fabric.
Connecting the arm hole and sleeves together was the most challenging task I have so far encountered in sewing. I had to redo it 3x! As you can see in the photo above, it’s not a pretty sight with needle marks on the delicate fabric. Liberty of London Tana Cotton Lawn fabric is the finest cotton available in the market with a silk like texture so, it’s fragile and requires careful sewing. Thankfully, I didn’t damage the fabric and was able to perfectly attach the sleeves after the third attempt.
Tita Mely had given me some instructions on how to do the shirring of the skirt and how to attach it to the top, which I gleefully did without a hitch. For the sleeves, I forgot to ask her about the ruffles I wanted to add and decided to do it on my own without her advice. Because there wasn’t enough fabric to double it up, I wasn’t very happy about it.
The last work was sewing the buttons and button holes. Since I never made a button hole in my life I had to refer to the Sewing Machine Manual on how to do it. It’s straight forward but takes time to master. I practiced it 3x on a piece of cloth before I finally did it on the dress. I found some buttons at a Haberdashery in Notting Hill that perfectly matched with the fabric albeit rather costly.
It took me two hours for five days to finish sewing the dress. And it turned out beautiful, if I may say so myself. This is exactly why I sew — start with a fabric that I love, and I enjoy the creative process of making the pattern, picturing what I want to make, sewing it, and then turn it into reality.
It is a summer dress; it’s already autumn here but I decided to wear it to church for the first time last week. Jared took some photos of myself — not very good but these are the only photos I got with the new dress on. By the way, I had a petticoat worn over a slip (plus a black and white photo) to complete the 50s look. Although I love dresses and skirts, and only wear jeans/trousers in the autumn and winter months, trousers are definitely on my ‘project list’ over the next few months.