Oh yes Cinderella, you shall go to the ball even though you haven’t made your dress and you’ve got to get to Devon in a week’s time…. It wasn’t that I made a last minute decision to choose dress & even buy fabric – supplies were procured in reasonably good time (4-6 weeks ahead). I just did not have the sewing time in September and October until – er- the weekend before! But I had long envisioned the graceful style, comfort & ease of making me my first floor length ball dress in a jersey using the Named Delphi dress. This is how it turned out.
First of all please allow me a smidge of smug because it turned out absolutely brilliantly. Not only was I pleased with how it looked (unique & a bit classy), fitted (spot on & very comfy) & performed on the night, it is the ultimate to pack & wash- unlike most balldresses. I could have screwed it up & chucked it into my weekend bag (I loosely folded it, didn’t screw it into a ball, but it would have survived) & not a suitbag & dry cleaner in sight.
So let’s rewind. It started with the pattern. I’d been returning to the Delphi off & on, not being a maxi dress wearer, but being strangely drawn to the floaty bodice & Grecian lines. I also wanted to make my balldress for my October charity ball as the group of girls that I went with all decided that we would wear long dresses & I didn’t have one. I was prepared to make something with glitter & sequins but even though I was shopping for fabric a good month or so beforehand, I didn’t really leave myself a huge amount of time to do my research. So I ended up visiting my local fabric shop in Midsomer Norton, Rose Crafts for any of you interested (a fab shop with a really surprising selection of good value fabrics). I was almost pulling out a roll of electric blue lycra when I spotted the purple/grey crinkle jersey (a Makower fabric and not cheap cheap, about £11 per metre). ‘Now that’s Grecian’ I thought and just as I pulled the slim roll out of the shelf, I spied the matching (Makower) jersey lace in a purple/grey and fate stepped in. This was it. I had my dress. I also bought some stretch jersey lining as I planned to make an internal bra to avoid buying a strapless one and to line the skirt as the fabric could be a little sheer . I should note that I bought far too much of the plain crinkle grey as I needed to cut the skirt across the width (so that the crinkles fall vertically) but bought the yardage advised on the pattern which aims to cut skirts down the length. I could have saved myself some dosh there, but it seems I have enough left over to make a day to day skirt ….soon.
Gosh! A ball dress with an elastic Waist!
Onto making notes. I made a toile using some ordinary jersey to judge waist position & length of skirt. (My toile is now a nightdress!) I thought the length may have been designed for Amazonians & I didn’t want to waste posh fabric as I planned to make an overlocked rolled hem) however I didn’t really need to shorten the skirt – I cut off the equivalent of the hem on my ball dress & on my toile just made a normal kind of hem. My toile did throw up bodice adjustments needed- There was far too much width at upper front & upper back which resulted in gaping – I therefore had to adjust the pattern by taking out a good wedge from the CF bodice front & back. In my toile, it hangs a bit like a cowl. Another good reason for making the toile was to test run the construction and work out how it all pieced together, enabling me to make some design decisions for the actual posh dress. I had thought I would use fold over elastic (FOE) for the straps, but having used FOE for my toile I decided that the weight of the posh dress with lining might place too much weight on the narrow FOE straps – so I made straps using strips of posh fabric instead (not on the bias though due to the direction of the fabric crinkles, but down the length). I also needed to work out how I was going to make an integrated bra! How the layers would sit & sewing order. I also needed to understand what the finished length of the bodice top layer needed to be so that I could cut my scalloped lace edge at the right edge. As it turns out, this layer is curved and cannot use the scalloped selvedge edge at the hem- I will show you what I did later.
I was really pleased with my toile despite it being too big at my upper bodice. The style is very flattering – & made in a jersey that hangs deliciously I was really excited to make it up in posh fabric- for real. The waist is elastic and allows some growth & shrinkage over time (ball dresses are investment pieces afterall). The elastic waist is also simply made with the seam joining the bodice and skirt being used as the tunnel for the elastic. It was a very straightforward and quick make – I used my overlocker for most of it.
I bet you want a bit of info on making the integral bra? This would be useful for whatever reason you were making a Delphi dress – as a summer dress or ball dress. I looked in my patterns to find a sports bra that I have already made to get an idea for how narrow it needs to be to squash my ‘girls’ adequately to avoid bounce, & how long (from top to bottom) the bra needs to be. (The photos show the lining/ bra in navy fabric for info).
I made a pattern using the existing Delphi bodice upper edge to get the shape of the upper bodice, used the length of the sports bra (with extras for seam allowances), and started off by drawing a line joining the width at the bottom edge of the sports bra with the width at the upper edge of the Delphi bodice. I made the sports bra in a double piece of jersey lining & basically kept trying it on until I was happy with the fit. It’s really important though to make sure it doesn’t vary too much away from the bodice edge that it will be joined to otherwise there is a greater risk of pulling as the size differences wrestle with each other (I have found this in the past, anyway).
I did not have black elastic for the bra! This is the bra being pulled out of the top of the bodice
Once I was happy with the fit, I sewed some 1cm elastic to the bottom edge of the bra so that it was hidden & to the inside of the bra & to fit my underbust. I then basted the bra to the upper edge of the bodice – right side of bra to wrong side of lining. The dress is then constructed by placing the bodice top layer right side together with the wrong side of the bra (I think! Play around with it to see how it would look once sewn if you are unsure!).
I also mentioned the scalloped edge of the bodice layer- in my case I used lace. The bodice layer has a curved edge so it cannot benefit from the readily available scallops at the side on the selvedge edge. But it didn’t stop me trying! I cut a new pattern piece for the front & back layer as one unfolded piece so I could be careful about positioning.
One piece bodice patterns
I therefore cut the layer without cutting on the fold & then manually added some scallops, cut from the fabric’s selvedge, to the hem of the bodice, with a small zigzag, like sewing scalloped lace to undies.
I also said that I lined the skirt – I just cut two versions of the skirt – one in jersey lining- & basted them together at the top of the skirt, wrong sides together, before attaching skirt to bodice. I roll hemmed both lining (A little shorter than the posh skirt) and roll hemmed the posh skirt with my overlocker.
And a great time was had by all.
I did not feel trussed up like a chicken in boning &/or magic pants. I had plenty of room for a three course dinner & sashayed on the dance floor until it was time for carriages. Once home I chucked it into my washing machine (cool wash) & before I knew it, it was packed away, hibernating until the next posh floor length do.
Oh yes, more another time, but I made myself some accessories to suit- this clasp bag
& some earrings out of Fimo roses. I shall report back a bit more on that some time soon.
Ahh, happy memories. Hope you are all having a great week. Cheerio for now….