It’s here…the post where I go into a bit of a chat about the posh frock I ended up making for a fancy awards night. I had mentioned this in my sewing plans, and had my eye set on the wondrous olive crepe backed satin from the Fabric Godmother. But I was hesitating, prevaricating & unable to make a decision until it was almost too late & once I was firm that I would make the Capital Chic Martini dress I had some checking to do on the fabric.
Would satin be too drapey? Should I make it in lace? I ended up asking Sally (the designer of Capital Chic, also known as @charityshopchic, blogging at charityshopchic) who gave me some great advice. To make the Martini the fabric needs to have enough structure because that bodice that gives the dress its two-piece character? It needs to stand proud. Recommended fabrics are heavier woven fabrics that don’t drape, including brocade, thick jacquard, raw silk, home dec fabrics and similar. Sally recommended underlining the bodice if I did make it in satin, and maybe even thinking about interfacing the bottom hem.
But I had left it too late to order. And then I lost a potential sewing day with some extra paid work so…..I reverted to my stash. Brocade pinged a few memories.
I had some awesome turquoise brocade in my stash, given to me by my Mum a few years ago. It is *one of those fabrics that we all have*. Translated? Waiting to be made into something worthy of it. Still wrapped in its gifting tissue paper. When I told my Mum that I would be using it she was thrilled – ‘I’m so pleased’, she said, ‘You know it really wasn’t very expensive, from Dunelm Mills, or somewhere like that’. Well, for all that it came from Dunelm, which makes me smile & think I need to go there more often! Yes, for all that it came from Dunelm, I still was glad to be making something so special out of such a wondrous fabric. Dragons! Dragons & more dragons! Shiny favourite turquoise colour! Look at its reverse! You would not guess the fabric is turquoise from this perspective would you?
And I have well over a metre left – I will try to make a jacket out of it to wear with jeans …
OK, the Martini was being born. I also had to use lining from my stash & eeep …. did not have enough turquoise lining for both the skirt & the bodice! Double eeep! I had enough red…. but folks if ever you come to make this Martini, view A, the one piece rather than the two piece, remember that the bodice lining in parts is on display (see photo below) . Red would not do. So I made the bodice lined with turquoise and the skirt lined with the red. ( Another Mammy from Gone with the Wind scarlett petticoat moment). There is a grosgrain zip guard which I wish I could say I had designed to be red in order to tie the both together, but alas, stash was decisive, it was all I had!
I made a size 10 on top and 12 below , making the toile for this out of calico. I identified that the darts needed to be lowered just a tad. I also noted that this is a snug fit, and to allow more room at my hips – I can always adjust them to be smaller.
You construct this by sewing the bodice first and it’s such a joy to sew with the lining – all the raw edges are enclosed & the lining is sewn completely by machine. Now this brocade is not unlike any other brocade in its super fray properties, which I fought with pinking shears. I wish I’d cut the pattern out with pinking shears instead of pinking once the seams were sewn as this fabric frayed for England.
So, bodice sewn, (up to a point, with the centre back remaining un sewn) you get to the skirt. Lots of opportunities to try the skirt on for fit to adjust, which I did. But I did reserve the final fit for when the skirt was attached to the bodice , as this is one figure hugger ladies & you want it to fit your curves where your curves actually fall! And it has a very high waist too. Now sewing the skirt with lining is all done by machine too – even the lined vent. This I think is the part I struggled the most with. I had to leave it half finished as I could not get my head around it. When I came back to it the next day I only 80% think I did it the way I should have according to the instructions! But it seems to have worked…
Now before you join the skirt to the bodice you need to make sure that the centre back seam above the vent is in alignment as you don’t want any saggy back seam – mine does a little bit but I get away with it when I am wearing it ….but make sure you do this bit more carefully than me.
So the clever thing about the Martini dress, view A, where it is all one piece but also a two piece is that not only does it spare friends, family & innocent onlookers glimpses of a pale wintry midriff but that to achieve this, the lined skirt is attached to the bodice lining, but the outer bodice sits free. So once the skirt is attached to the bodice lining, you are nearly there. Just the invisible zip to do (if you often forget to interface before inserting zips, it is actually explicit in the sewing directions & makes such a difference). There is a lovely zip guard, already mentioned above in grosgrain. And then finishing the bodice hem & centre backs. I did add interfacing to the hem edge of the bodice before hemming it as I thought it wouldn’t do any harm….
But I tried it on once I had inserted the zip – three hours before needing to leave for my posh do. Have you detected a last minute panic? Well, let me tell you I could not even do the zip up higher than my mid back. Really loud eeeep!. Now in my haste I had caught a small amount of the lining in the zip seam, so that came out & I reinserted the zip with a smaller seam allowance. I also took extra out at the sideseams. But I had planned to wear new attractive underwear, with some ahem padding. Did I try the toile on with this underwear? Of course not, it is ‘special’. Learn by my mistake. To tell you the truth at one point I thought I was going to have to go bra-less as it was so tight that I had all the ‘binding’ of a sports bra! Thankfully once I had made my extra tweaks, I could not only do the zip up, but could wear it with comfort, with a bra & possibly even could have managed a sneeze or two.
So as I said before, one of my final adjustments was the side seams in the skirt as I needed to be able to sit down without tearing…I had to roadtest it standing/ sitting before I eeked out just a little better fit as the final adjustment.
It’s funny, the shape of this dress is super flattering (particularly once out of ‘sports bra mode). The high waist, the bodice floating under the bust & those super fitted crazy side seams. When my Mum saw the pics she thought I had been poured into it! Hahaha. I think there is also something faithful to an oriental silhouette here, don’t you? Not the cheong sam but as figure hugging definitely. I did not wear it on the coach journey to London, but changed in the toilets at the event & wore it all night & on the bus on the way home. It survived. There are no rips, I ate a lovely three course meal, danced, sat for two plus hours on a coach & if anything there is just the slight pulling at centre back skirt- due I think to the nature of the brocade.
But I so enjoyed wearing it – with my black velvet bolero, black suede heels. It was lovely being a flash of turquoise amongst the black DJs & LBDs.
Now I have purchased the olive satin & it could look spectacular as a Martini – with the satin side contrasting with the crepe side for one of the skirt/ bodice. However I think it needs to be a summer posh frock with my summer skintone… exciting prospects of choosing another dress (I fancy a cowl neck) – & then engineering an occasion to wear it!