How much peacock is too much peacock?
This is the question I asked the hubby when I pushed all the volume to the back on this little lace number. His response was "What?" He was playing a video game at the time and was definitely not expecting me to waltz into the room wearing a lace cocktail dress in the middle of December (yes, I made and wore this a while ago).
So let's back up. In January NYSewcialHour was going to be having a holiday party, and of course I knew I wanted to make something for this very special occasion. It had to be big and shiny and most importantly of all, something I would never have an occasion to wear anywhere else. Sewing has opened up the possibility to have things I would never just buy for a one nighter. However it's a rarely used skill set, because quite frankly I don't want to make a whole closet full of clothes that will compete for that one night a year either. So anyway not wanting to let this opportunity slip by, I put this dress together, and it seams (get it??) to fit the bill, don't you think?
Believe it or not, I actually had all the materials for this dress already in my stash. Over the summer I had purchased the lace, which actually had two finished edges but I painstakingly cut them off and re-stashed 'em. Originally I thought I was going to finish the hem with them, but when it came time, I just thought it looked too formal. The lining I had purchased at the same time as the lace, because where are you going to wear a see through dress without a lining? Both of them came from Jackson Fabric NY, Inc in Jackson Heights, a staple I almost always give a look through when shopping in my neighborhood. The invisible zip and the boning (yes, there is boning in there) I had from a large purchase from Wawak a couple years ago. The petersham ribbon for the waiststay I had purchased when I made my court wedding dress in 2015 but didn't end up using, and the hooks on the waist stay, button and cotton I used for the button loop were all just around.
Originally I had wanted the skirt to be big and sculptural and I wanted a sleeveless bodice with a high jewel neck at the front and one button closure with a slit at the back to go with it. In hindsight, there are a few patterns that I already knew fit me fairly well that I should have used to achieve this, but I found a free Salme pattern and the bodice looked practically perfect so I decided to give it a shot. I cut out my lining first, adjusting it to be a strapless under layer and I thought it fit quite well, so I moved on to my lace. Ugh.... that was such a mistake, because when I cut out my lace it became super apparent that the bodice was not perfect (for my body shape) after all. It was extremely long from the bust up. I'd say I probably had to cut it down about 2" reshaping the neck and armscyes.
That was only made slightly more annoying by the fact that I had purchased the end of the bolt of that lace fabric and fallen in love with the very tail end where the embroidered lace stopped about 2" from the end, leaving un-embroidered mesh that I thought would look so nice at the top of the bodice. In fact it had reminded me of a dress I tried on at BHLDN when I was shopping for my non-court wedding dress. So, needless to say I lost all that when I had to reshape. Not wanting to give up on my vision I had to rip back some of the embroidery by hand. Truth be told I still want to rip back a little more leaving the middle set of leaves but taking off the leaves the right and the left of them so it will make a downward sloping arc. We'll see if I ever get around to that though. All in all I was just happy that I was able to get the bodice to fit.
However, for all the work I did on the bodice of this dress, I wanted the real star of the show to be the skirt. I wanted it to be EPIC. I was picturing a giant circle skirt with a hi/low hem that turned back on itself with big swooshing swaths of fabric at the hem. Like I said, I was picturing something epic. After a little internet research I decided that the best way to achieve my vision would to be create a circle skirt with twice the length of my waist so I could add pleats which would hopefully result in extremely exaggerated swoops by the time they arrived at the hem. I figured between that and potentially adding some horse hair braid, I would be able to achieve that effect. Also, let me just take a minute to say, I know a lot of people don't like high low hems, but if you've been following along my blog for any amount of time you'll know that I am not one of those people. #noshame.
In the end the skirt also ended up proving more difficult than I had originally anticipated. After I arranged all the pleats uniformly around my waist and pinned the horsehair braid to the hem, the hem just stuck out straight creating one giaaaaaant circle and the pleats just added volume to my waist. Hmmm. It was definitely not the effect I was going for. I still haven't really cracked this case. I don't know if I should have gotten thinner horse hair so the fabric had a better chance to fold back on itself, or if I just needed fundamentally different shaped pattern pieces. I just don't know. Either way, I wasn't feeling like I had achieved my vision and I also wasn't feeling like the skirt portion of my dress was something I was going to want to wear. So it was back to the drawing board... or in this case the dress form.
My skirt pieces were already cut, and I didn't have any enough extra fabric left to recut, so I just had to work with what I had. So I pinned that sucker to my dress form and fussed around with it until I was happy. Eventually I ended up pushing all the extra volume to the back with 2 giant pleats and 2 smaller pleats on either side of where my invisible zip would be. I loved how it gave that 'old-timey' bustle look. When I sewed in it and put it on though the front was way too long so I had to cut it down which FYI, was super stressful. I futs'd around for a couple days while I built up the courage to make those cuts and then just laid the dress down on my cutting table folded in half at the center front and went for it. In the end I think the curve is not quite as smooth as I would have liked it and I think I went about an inch too short but, Oh well, not everything can be perfect in life.
OK, this post is getting so long and I'm sure you're getting about as tired of reading this as I am about writing it, but I just have a couple more things I want to mention on structure. Just from handling it through the sewing process I could tell that the skirt was going to be really heavy for the bare mesh at my shoulders to support and I didn't want the dress to rip apart under the stress of it's own weight while I was wearing it (hello embarrassing) so I knew I was going to have to add some sort of internal skeleton and that's just what I did. I sewed in two channels for boning, one in each side seam and then added a waist stay, which all seemed to do the trick.
Ok, last last thing I promise, lol. Soooo hemming that lace... I don't know what I was supposed to do because I didn't want anything to take away from the delicate edge created by the lace and I didn't want to see the design to come through from the back side so I just didn't hem it, which I don't think is a big deal, but I don't know how that back slit it going to hold up over time. Anyone out there reading this have any ideas for what I should have done? Maybe I could have finished it with a bias (binding) facing in organza or something? I dunno. Either way I don't have another reason to wear this dress in my near future so I have plenty of time to think about it. Oh, OK last last laaaaast thing is I crocheted the little button loop on the back of the dress using cotton crochet thread. I love little details like that.
OK, that's it! DONE! Thanks for reading!!