Sunday, July 31, 2016

Trending Off the Shoulder

I am enjoying a quiet week at Bald Head Island with bookend weekend visits from family.   It's hot as hades here and even the ocean breeze is no match for the Carolina heat.

There are no cars on the island and only golf carts and bikes to get around. It's just the right pace for me and there's no place I'd rather be!

My usual beach look is wild-haired and makeup free in an old knit dress.  Occasionally my Southern heritage kicks in and I feel compelled to get moderately "dolled up." I selected the Style Arc Cara for my on-trend off the shoulder look.

I cut a size 8, though I wish I had sewed the 6 as the neckline could be a smidge tighter. The blue cotton is from Gail K Fabrics in Atlanta. The white contrast shirting is a B&J scrap from my husband's shirts. The lace is from M&J Trimmings:  3.5 yards of the wider lace for the hem and neckline band and 1 yard of the smaller lace for the sleeve caps.

I originally lengthened the front and back pieces by 16 inches to make a dress.  As soon as I sewed it up I knew I had a potential wadder on my hands.  Wadder status was confirmed when my husband innocently asked if I was going for the "Robin Hood's merry men" look.  I tried belting the dress, but the Robin Hood jokes didn't cease...


To salvage the dress, I cut off 16 inches and made it into the top intended by the pattern.

The front neckline piece (which is attached to the sleeves and top front) is interfaced and elastic is only inserted on the back neckline piece to ensure no wardrobe malfunctions. Before attaching the white neckline to the blue top, I sewed the back neckline to the front neckline at the side seams and pressed open the seam allowances.  I sewed the elastic on each side to the back neckline seam allowance. See the stitching in blue below.


Next, I secured the elastic to the back neckline with a zigzag stitch on the side of the neckline touching my skin, rendering the zigzag invisible from the outside.

From there, I used a typical skirt waistband technique of stitching in the ditch to secure the neckline to the top with a clean finish. 

I enjoyed using lace as an embellishment. Quality RTW lace embellishments usually catapult a RTW garment out of my price range. This makes embellishing me-mades with lace all the more appealing. Yes, it does take extra time and care to sew down the lace, but I think it's worth it!

I sewed the sleeve lace directly on top of the sleeves.

The wider lace is sewn as an insert along the hem of the top.  I used the remaining lace to embellish the front neckline band.

For the first time since our wedding we dined at our reception venue on the island.  The quiet ambience could not have been more different from our boisterous wedding celebration over two years ago, but it was a great evening nonetheless. Perfect for my new beach chic Cara top!

Wish I could stay on "Island Time" forever!   

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tale of Two Laurels

It's amazing how the same pattern can look so different dependent on the fabric!  I first made the Colette Laurel in lace back in 2014 for my rehearsal dinner. Two years later, at the beginning of summer 2016, I completed a second Laurel in cotton lawn.  While the lace version will always be extra special because I wore it during our wedding weekend, the cotton version has already taken its place as my 2016 "wear it to death" summer dress. Here are the details on both makes:

Guipure Lace Version:


The guipure lace is from Gorgeous Fabrics.  It's a couture remnant that I snatched up the week after my engagement in January 2013.  I can remember Ann advertising it as normally selling for hundreds of dollars per yard. I paid $50/yard.   No doubt it's couture, as this week I saw the same fabric appear on Susan Khalje's Instagram feed for a wedding gown. The pink silk charmeuse is from B&J.

Guipure is so pretty in the candlelight!

I sewed the silk charmeuse into a full and separate dress, installing the zipper, hemming it, narrow hem at armholes and neck, finishing the seams with the serger, etc.  With the help of an instructor at the now closed Sewing Studio where I took a few lessons, I used the pattern pieces to loosely cut the guipure with very large seam allowances.  The instructor draped the guipure over the silk charmeuse dress on a dressform. We pinned the lace in place and then cut out the excess loosely around the side seams and neck/arm holes.  From there, I did the laborious work of sewing the guipure to the silk by hand.  I never made a lining for the dress, so the hand stitches are still visible on the underside. I decided to cut the lace blunt at the hem.

This is the only full length photo I have from that wonderful evening!

Although the end result was exactly what I was after, I did not use any couture techniques on my couture lace!  Tsk, tsk, tsk. If I am being honest, I am none the wiser if something is couture vs. RTW unless I look inside the garment.   I have been thinking about the couture vs. RTW debate since viewing the showcase piece at the Met's Manus x Machina exhibition: a 2015 Chanel wedding ensemble made of scuba with screen printed embroidery which Lagerfeld described as "haute couture without the couture."

Who would have thought that beautiful fabric was synthetic or that the intricate beading was accomplished with digital technology?  I think it is possible to still appreciate couture work while also questioning the time-honored view that handwork is superior to machine.

Trendsetting? Michael used his umbrella placecard as a matching fascinator!

I loved wearing this dress to our rehearsal dinner, especially with the fascinator I made to accessorize it. Sure it was a little fancy for our beach club rehearsal dinner, but you only get the "I'm the bride" excuse once!

Everyday Cotton Lawn Version:

I have been wearing this dress to death all summer!  I purchased the cotton lawn from B&J in 2010. It was my first visit to B&J and I remember that the fabric was part of a new collection of cotton lawn produced specifically for the store. At about 1/2 the price of Liberty, it felt like a good deal.

Since its inception, the lawn dress was intended to be the wearable muslin for the lace rehearsal dinner version.  I worked out the fitting kinks in the cotton lawn in early 2014, transferred the pattern changes to pattern paper, but never finished the lawn version before going full steam ahead with the lace. As any bride can attest, when the wedding is over you don't want to touch ANYTHING wedding related for months, if not years...

Summer cactus garden at Rockefeller Center
The unfinished lawn dress languished in my UFO drawer until the night before a whirlwind rafting trip to Oregon this past Memorial Day weekend!  Of course.

Hotel bathroom selfie in Portland. I have been wearing the dress with this long cardigan when in A/C.

Perhaps I just wanted to wear a Colette pattern in Portland (where Colette Pattern company is based), or maybe I'm just mad in the head...Either way, finishing this dress was straightforward and only took a few late night hours. I wanted the neckline to be more of a scoop, so I folded the front in half and eyeballed it with scissors. Since the dress is unlined,  I used pre-purchased double fold bias tape to bind the neck and armholes (first time doing this) and installed an invisible zipper.  The dress is a little short on me and I wish I had 1/2 inch more length.

If I make the Laurel again, I will be sure to lower the bust darts a little, add a kick pleat in the back, and add a little length to the dress.