This Six Napoleon dress was supposed to be completed and photographed yesterday. But it wasn’t. I am only a few hours away from finishing so I will give you an update on my progress.
This was a difficult pattern cutting challenge. I have explained how I created the pattern for the bodice, and the skirt. However although the dress was difficult to interpret, and there are several versions of this dress out there now due to Marianna’s Six Nap challenge, I am really pleased with my pattern cutting skills which have developed over the last few months. I feel confident enough to tackle much more complex projects. I have certainly got better at really looking at a design and working out how to do it. However I am still pretty impatient/rather lazy. While my bodice pattern is reliable, tested and produced as required by by tutor, with the skirt I rather winged it.
In terms of the paper used for the many iterations this is quite a large amount – a carrier bag (skirt) and a large brown envelope (bodice) contain the final pattern pieces.
I choose, eventually, to make up the dress in white fabric in order that I could paint some colours on it.
I already had some nice white cotton left over from SWAP 2015. It is a fairly robust fabric and I used it to make up the bodice, and lined it with a faded beige lining (because this was what I had). For the layered skirt I wanted a translucent fabric. I had two choices – soft lightweight cotton muslin, or cheap silk organza. Given we had been warned that 8 metres would be needed I was scared to use anything expensive. In the end I combined a range of fabrics. When I worked on the colour scheme I found the muslin unsatisfactory. I also tried to paint the organza – which was even less effective. Finally I decided to paint a layer of silk crepe and use that for underskirt and let it show through the organza.
Outer layer short, full, pleated skirt – white silk organza
Middle layer flared and pleated skirt – white silk organza
Under (simple flared) skirt – white silk crepe
Underlining (attached to underskirt) – white muslin
Lining – white synthetic fabric
There are only three skirt patterns (only!) but five layers, each requiring its own construction and finish.
Customising the fabric
You may remember I decided to paint the fabric to get away from too much white-wedding stuff. I was inspired by a 1946 Schiaparelli silk dress. My efforts are rather poor but I think I have something of the feel of the dress. I used a brown felt tip pen that is designed for fabric and my fabric paints. I had wanted to collaborate on this with my son Gus but first he was in Sweden and then he was still asleep, so I did my own version. To a large extent the colour on the skirt is covered up by the many layered organza overskirts. I would like to do this technique again, perhaps on a silk dress or blouse.
Making the bodice was very straightforward – stitch up the panels, line, understitch etc, put in a zip at CB. Unfortunately it was just a little bit too big overall (my dress stand is a little wider than I am), so I had to take in some of the princess seams.
The skirt however was another matter. I got a tiny inkling into what sewing a wedding dress might be like. Lots of slippery fabric, long lengths of everything, huge amount of pins, keeping the design and details in mind even though it was hard to know front from back etc. I used French seams on the overskirts, and lined the underskirt which was also underlined.
The worst thing, by far, were the hems.
I faced the organza layers as they were semi-circular and required deep hems. I did this by cutting 5″ wide bias strips, attaching them at the hem, trimming, turning in and stitching at about 4.5″. I wasn’t very accurate, life is just too short.
Eventually I made up the outer short skirt, then the longer skirt, tacking both to the bodice. Surprisingly I found the pleats worked well and landed at the right place. That was very reassuring. However when I tried it on I wasn’t happy. Somehow with the low waist (at the hipline) the skirt didn’t look balanced at ankle length. it was way too long overall and especially at the godet area. I spent a week thinking and thinking about how to alter it. I considered raising the skirt at the hip line which wasn’t ideal as it had been cut to the exact depth and width of the asymmetric hip line. I knew what I had to do, which was rehem the long middle layer. Arrrgh. At this point Marianna kindly agreed to put back the finishing time until the end of the month. I measured the skirt up from the floor in order to create the right length, re-hemmed it with the bias strips and finally included the painted silk underskirt.
Here it is on the stand before the alterations.
Over the next few days I need to
- Hem the painted underskirt and attach at the hip line
- Take in the bodice slightly at the back and side waist
- Make up the lining and insert it
I may have made a carnival dress! I can’t wait to finish it now and get on with something simpler. Like a bit of knitting!