Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter finery

 I am a sucker for Easter finery. Growing up, it was always an exciting thing to have a new dress for Easter. A special new dress is a symbol of the new life we celebrate during spring and Easter. After many long months of snow boots and parkas, this year it is especially welcome.

This spring, I have been drawn to traditional, classic, even downright old fashioned little girls' frocks. My oldest son will make his First Communion this year and we have family portraits scheduled, so it is a good year to make my baby girl something really special. 

Replete with pintucks and lace insertion, I hope I have achieved a dress of which Grandmom would approve. My grandmother was an excellent seamstress and I thought a lot about her when I made this. In soft pink cotton batiste with French cotton laces, this is something she might have made for her daughters.

 Though they look sweet, these delicate details are actually quite labor intensive. Since we have several occasions to wear a fancy dress this year, I thought it worth the investment. The deep hem can be let out next year too. When she's outgrown it, I will pack it carefully away for her daughter. 

 My most discerning client was well pleased!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Easter preview

Though there are a few other projects going on in the studio, I managed to steal some time for my own daughter. It's a little old fashioned of me, but I just love it when children have a nice coat. I feel so pulled together and on top of things when I have the kids' clothes ready for special occasions! We looked at quite a few ideas before she saw a coat with ruffled elbow sleeves and declared it "perfect." I spent a little time drafting sleeves like she instructed and we ended up with this. 

The fabric is a linen cotton blend with beautiful drape. The natural rumples in linen keep it from looking too fussy. Inside, it's lined with Bemberg rayon, a silky and breathable fabric that makes an excellent lining.
I included a bit of flat piping between the facing and the lining. This is Liberty of London lawn from her very first Easter dress! There are so many ways to incorporate heirloom touches.

 From the side, you can see the gathered back and sleeve detail. Everything I make is designed to grow with a child. Here, it's built into the style of the coat. The length of a sleeve like this doesn't need to be precise, so when she grows, it will still look right.

Depending on details, the amount of labor in a coat isn't much different than a lined dress. Details need to be absolutely correct in a topper, and the materials might be on the expensive side. Still, you get quite a lot of wear from a coat. She had one in red wool for the winter and I lost count of the compliments I got each time she wore it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

fabric choices for Easter dresses

If you're still deciding about Easter dresses, why not let me do the work for you? Skip the shopping and I'll whip up just exactly what you and your daughter want! I have room for just one more Easter order in my schedule. In stock, I have classic options, on trend colors, and luxurious Liberty of London. There are also enough ribbons, trims and accessories to please any taste. If you like that brother-sister coordinated look (who doesn't, right?) I can also do a tie or vest to match. Check out some fabric options below and get on my schedule by Friday to be ready in time for Easter:

Tiny pink gingham from the Martha Pullen company. Soft and excellent quality.

Yellow and pink yarn dyed cotton plaid from April Cornell. Soft with a nice drape.

Silky cotton voile from Valori Wells with the dazzling blue and gray Pantone is showing this year.

Crisp, gray dotted poplin. Right on trend for this spring, but also classic.

The best for last: Liberty of London Tana Lawn. Feels like silk, but it's cotton! Vibrant colors and timeless prints have made this a classic luxury.

Monday, February 24, 2014

introducing Fiona

Fiona is really a very modern dress.  Instead of a princess skirt, it has a simple A line shape.
The interest lies in the dynamic pleats that move across the bodice and open up dramatically in the skirt. In color, I would use those pleats to showcase a pop of something exciting, like a fun print or an unexpected contrast. 

 Working in white, I wanted them to be equally dramatic. I pieced together lengths of five separate French cotton laces to create strips of fabric for the pleats. Dotted Swiss cotton lawn is a charming foil to the modern lines of this dress.    

The sleeves are unlined and finished with a tiny hem. Simple and delicate.

In keeping with the clean lines in this dress, I show Fiona with a simple satin ribbon as a sash. Of course you may have whatever you wish! A larger bow, a belt or nothing at all. I like to see some interest the back of a Communion Dress because people will see a lot of the back of the dress too.  

 And of course, Fiona can change her colors too. 

photography: Amanda Hall
dress pattern: Clever Charlotte
shoes: Zappos
jewelry: model's own
 the vintage prayer book was my mother's from her First Holy Communion!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

introducing Mary

 Scalloped broderie elevates the simple princess silhouette to a charming and timeless heirloom. The Mary dress features demure sleeves and a slight bateau neckline for a classic style that is completely age appropriate.

 The sleeve hems match the skirt and showcase the embroidery. Unlined sleeves are delicate and graceful.

 This dress is lined and underlined in cotton for structure, opacity and durability. A few layers of tulle give the skirt an extra fluff, but the soft cotton lawn lining makes it smooth and comfortable to wear. No itchy legs will distract her on her special day!

 A soft, white satin bow finishes the dress for Communion Day with a gentle shine. The matching satin headband is available as well. This close up best shows the detail in the fabric.

 A quick and easy change of sash and headband completely transforms this dress to a party ready look.

photography: Amanda Hall
dress pattern: Oliver + S
shoes: Zappos

Monday, February 3, 2014

Little White Dresses - introducing my new website!

I am excited to announce the official launch of Melanie Watson Custom Children's Dressmaking. After a few years taking only select commissions, I am thrilled to be expanding my offerings! I have a brand new website with new photos, details and new sample dresses to give a taste of what I can create for you.

My 2014 First Holy Communion collection is inspired by traditional styles and materials. I wanted to develop an elegant look that suits the solemnity of the occasion yet celebrates the girl herself. Normally, everything I do is one of a kind. I start with a girl – her personality, her likes, her favorite things – and let her inspire my design choices. This time, I had to imagine. I imagined little girls whose dreams are just starting to take shape. They are sweet and fiery, smart and creative, strong and kind. They dance ballet and play soccer and paint. They have reached the age of reason, but still play at dolls and dress up. And I imagined their mothers and fathers watching their little daughters on this important day, wondering how they got so big and wishing they could stay little just a little longer. My goal is to make them both happy with simple, pretty designs that do not overpower the girl or the commitment she makes.

For First Holy Communion dresses, I am inspired by the delicacy of vintage styles, timeless shapes and demure details. Above all, I’m inspired by the sanctity of occasion itself and I strive to create something appropriate. The result is a group of dresses that honor our traditions yet fit the lives we live today. 

I’ve also created a party look so you can see that my dresses are suitable for many occasions. A colorful silk sash in a girl’s favorite color of the moment transforms a demure Communion dress into a fun party frock. She could wear it for Easter or a birthday party or a spring wedding. When a dress is this special, she should wear it more than once.

In the coming weeks, I will present each dress in more detail. If you’re wondering how they look in real life, you’re in luck! I’m hosting a launch party and trunk show next Sunday, February 9th. Contact me at for an invitation or to make a private appointment.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Colette Hawthorn review

Since last year, I've been looking for a shirtdress. I spent a lot of time and energy on Darling Ranges before finally declaring it a wadder. It doesn't suit my figure at all and frankly I think it was poorly drafted. So when Colette declared they had re-imagined the shirt dress in a feminie style for curvy figures, I decided to try it. I'm so happy I did! I love it, really.

First, the shape of this is spectacular. There is just exactly the right amount of shaping for a flattering, feminine silhouette but it remains comfortable to wear. This is the perfect classic shirtdress we all love for that casual-yet-pulled-together look.

I shopped my stash and came up with this chambray effect linen that's been sitting around from a sale at Joann. I never quite found the right pattern for it because the color said fall but the fabric said summer. When I saw Hawthorne, I realized it would make a perfect transition piece for that back to school season when it's still stupidly hot but you're eager to wear fall clothes. Later, it will be lovely with a cardi.

I then ruined my fabric diet by binging on a yard of Liberty. I used it for the facings, under collar and a hem facing. I love an extra special finish, even if it doesn't show. It's for me. Circle skirts tend to flutter and fly as you move, exposing the hem, so I added a hem facing for a touch of something pretty. I love how a facing finishes the placket cleanly. I learned my hem facing technique from Oliver + S patterns like Puppet Show.
Hawthorn was easy to adjust and get right. I have had trouble with Colette patterns in the past, namely Crepe and Jasmine, but Hawthorn came together easy peasy. I didn't adjust the back at all, which is rare for me. Now, the need for adjustments doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the quality of the pattern. It actually bugs me when people brag that they didn't make adjustments. That only means they are lucky (or young) enough to have a "standard" figure. However, I've spent the past few weeks discreetly people watching at the pool and I discovered that a sway back is really very common. So, perhaps Colette really is designing for a more up to date standard than the big four, which should make adjustments easier for more people. Of course, every body has its individual shape. Possibly I just lucked out on this pattern, but I think that this dress will flatter a variety of bodies. Whatever it is, I am absolutely thrilled with the fit and have entered this pattern into my Tried and True category. I will try the sleeves next for a winter dress.
Colette drafts for a C cup and they indicated that even a D cup may not need an adjustment for this pattern. I did a quick tissue fit of the bodice and found that I needed a smidge more room. Button fronts are unattractive when they're bursting open. In some patterns, I may have skipped an FBA as small as 3/8", but here I really think it was worthwhile. I picked my pattern size based on my high bust I graded out one size at the waist, based on the measurement chart. I raised the waistline 1 1/4" because I'm slimmer a little higher than my natural waist. I made a good muslin of this and basted/pin fitted at each stage. The final tweaks included evening out the front waistline, which dipped unattractively in the front, and taking in the side seams a bit. Please note that the collar seems to need a 1/4" seam to line up properly, so check before you stitch.
This dress is not lined, so I took extra care to finish it nicely. I used French seams, flat felled seams and a Hong Kong finish at the waist line. Instead of interfacing, I used cotton batiste for the collar and facings. I do however, add a small strip of fusible on the linen behind the buttonholes because I've found that they need the extra fray prevention.  Remember to place your fist buttonhole at the fullest part of your bust and measure the others out from there. A Fashionable Stitch has a good tutorial of this. Also remember to let a circle skirt hang for a day or two before you hem it so it can stretch. This linen grew 1 1/2" at the sides! Thanks, Mom, for pinning up my hem!
Thanks, Colette, for such a wonderful staple of a pattern. I plan to make many more versions!