This is the story behind my “Sew Dolly Clackett dress”. The mind bending journey. Join me if you dare ….
I love me a pretty frock. I love being delighted with Roisin’s latest inspiration as she sews herself a beautiful frock mountain. It has been said more than once before that people who sew are lured by the attraction of a pretty frock, which often as not (except if you are Roisin) gets brought out for a few occasions in the summer if you are lucky, & if you are like me, you might create occasions just so that you can wear your dresses!? . When fabric shopping there are a few practical sewsters who check out the solid coloured fabrics, but it’s the prints that get us going, right? And the truth is that most of us sewsters love what you can do with a perfectly patterned fabric – and it usually means it’s got to be a dress.
Only once we have accumulated a number of pretty dresses do we recognise the other truth – the icing versus cake debate- & decide that if we do want to develop a hand-made wardrobe, and unless we can build frock wearing more into daily life, then the time comes when separates & knits become the epiphany of your sewing experience – and then comes the “capsule wardrobe” quest! I recognise my journey here & I suspect that it might ring true for some others out there.
So I have been sewing a handmade wardrobe – I only tend to wear RTW sportswear – & even that is being overtaken with my Fehr Trade makes. I have a practical balance of tops, knits, blouses, trousers, skirts & some knit dresses that are easy to care for, require minimum ironing (because I only seem to use my iron for construction!). They just about all fall within my chosen colour palette: reds, turquoise, purples, greys & a bit of black. OK, I have tried to give most of them a *badger twist* with some interesting detailing that makes them unique – ric rac my first port of call, of course. But, still, how very organised & *practical*.
I’ve just about got there now though. And my inner diva has come back from her sojourn in the tropics. It’s time for pattern! Its time for frivolity! It’s time for some awesome frocks that beg random passers by to pour compliments at one’s feet – or at least look on enviously.
People – The frock – is- back.
I have all sorts of excuses for breathing life back into my frock-wearing existence- as well as the Vintage Pattern Challenge we have until tomorrow (!) to contribute to the global sewing phenomenon that is Sew Dolly Clackett, organised by Sarah at Rhinestones & Telephones so that Roisin’s sewing friends pay tribute to her forthcoming marriage to her mister. This has to be the most perfect collaboration ever. Such an immense idea.
There are already a fair few “SewDollyClackett” dresses in evidence, check out Flickr here.
Now Roisin has a signature style – very much in the vintage camp – often full skirted dresses with sleeveless or short sleeved bodices, sometimes a wiggle dress & even an occasional Anna dress at maxi length. She has a fondness for retro inspired prints, gingham, & bold unpredictable prints also. I must say that I had a few choices of suitable fabric in my stash & was leaning towards either a knee length Anna dress or Simplicity 2444. But which fabric? I gave myself a few walks to work in the morning just trying to work it through.
(The colours in this photo are pretty true to life btw- unusually!)
In the end the lightbulb illuminated my vision – I had bought some tulip fabric last year as a result of a link Roisin used for an online shop I hadn’t seen before – Fabric Inspirations. And how. (What a great shop – reasonable postage & a great selection of fabric). I was modest & made it out with just this tulip fabric, although could so easily have bought more. But do you know what? I never fully appreciated how absolutely fabulous this fabric was – clearly I thought it was pretty awesome to be lured into buying it – & out of all of the fabrics on sale, this was the one that I chose. BUT it wasn’t until I had made it up & was wearing it that I was totally smitten. This fabric is just beautiful – it’s soft to sew with (not a starchy craft type cotton) but that pattern is queen of red florals. Official.
But, let’s get back to the shaggy dog story about this frock! Folks, you wouldn’t believe what a relief it was to have finally made my decision & how difficult it had been! How ridiculous is that?! So the cutting out & sewing was straight forward by comparison.
I had already made Simplicity 2444 (here & here )& so had just about got the fit right on the bodice/ neckline – both front & back. If anything this time I was a bit over exuberant in taking out my customary centre wedges & could almost feel as if my boobs have been bound into *boy shape* torso, but mind over matter & it’s just *snug* (& maybe suitable for running?!?!).
The invisible zip was a veritable pain in the bum too. It seems as if invisible zips either work first time or it takes at least three unpickings later to get the alignment at waist seam correct. And I basted & it still slips. Mega frustrating that the zip can often take longer than constructing the bodice and setting in both sleeves. It’s still a very obvious to me 2mm out!
I have to say that for the skirt I just used rectangles & pleated them, not having enough fabric to use the shaped skirt pieces of Simplicity 2444. That meant I had to set my own pleats & by making the skirt out of a rectangle there is more volume at the waist than the pattern pieces. (OK, I did have enough fabric to use the pattern pieces then, didn’t I? ). I sat pleating my dress whilst watching the London marathon on the TV. It was brilliant coverage anyway & I was there thinking how cool it would be do be there & in it, knowing of a few people who were doing just that. Even that was pretty emotional, but then all the stories of participants who were sharing the personal reasons they were running got to me & there were a couple of instances where I had to stop pinning & measuring because the eyes were just a tad waterlogged. Oh my. What amazing things people do.
Look at the infant wisteria! It’s in its first year & is producing blooms – my parents are so enjoying it!
Other influences for this dress clearly come through MadMen which I am watching from the start. I don’t get the fancy channels so have never been able to watch more than the first two series, so treated myself to the box set of the first six and have been known to be all aswoon in the evenings – whether it is the dresses – or that oh-so-handsome Mr Draper. And random smile – I am loving the food styling – all the meals that are brought look exactly like the photos in style (& colour) as my first hand-me down cookery book from the 60s – Marguerite Patten’s. Also, how weird that when I was sewing it there were times I felt I should have a fag in my hand (& I’ve never been a smoker!).
Now, I like to try to add a little bit of a scruffy badger touch when I’m taking part in something like this. I looked for a cute redhead bobbed wig, but couldn’t find anything that was in the right kind of styling. I got my very willing Dad to take my photos with his super camera (thanks BG!). And they are deliberately shot outside the front door. (Not quite Georgian steps & railings). So all I could think to do was this ….
Which leads me onto the name of this dress. Because in reverence to Dolly Clackett, it has to have a name. I thought I had got it then, & was about to call it my “All aswoon” dress but that’s lame. This dress is covered in scarlet tulips. Apparently, red tulips symbolise belief and declaration of love. How appropriate to make such a dress to celebrate the wedding of two Morse-loving peas in a pod – therefore comes the name, “The Happy Ever After Dress”. Roisin & Nic, Wishing you all the very best for your exciting & fun life together xx This dress is for you. BUT the good news is that I am so enamored with it there is a good chance that it will be my goto dress this summer & may even be my “Mother of a new graduate” dress. It will certainly have lots of happy associations for me as well.