Monday, March 25, 2013

THE dress

A while ago, I found this question posted on one sewing forum or another: “what is your ultimate sewing goal?” I haven’t spent a lot of time here posting about why I sew or what exactly I get out of it, but this question has been in the back of my mind all along, working itself out. I think it’s now time to tackle these big questions. I could give you the popular answers - satisfaction of handwork, antidote to a mass produced world, feminism, positive body image, etc. Those are all good reasons and true for me too. But if I have to really to boil it down, I think I sew for the same reasons I bake, more or less: I bake because I love chocolate cake. I sew because I love dresses. True, I try other things – a strawberry tart here, a really cute pair of tiny shorts there, but the very best thing to bake is chocolate cake. The very best thing to sew is a DRESS. I’m starting to think that I when I deprived myself of a real wedding, I left a great big gaping hole in that place where the dress of a lifetime should happen.
Lately, as I learn to adjust to an aging body that has borne and nursed three children, I have regretted our wedding. Specifically, I am a little sad that our quickie elopement, though romantic, didn’t include one of those pictures of me wearing THE dress, looking forever young and impossibly skinny. How many occasions are there in life to have hair and makeup professionally done and a dress custom made? How many times will you have the motivation to get that skinny? My skinny body is long gone and I really wish there was some a record of it. A beautifully photographed, white, silk enrobed record.
When last spring’s school fundraiser loomed, I got motivated to really drop the last of the baby weight for good and get slim – not skinny like when I was 18 or anything, just healthy. And then to wear a dress that makes me look as skinny as I could, that gives the illusion of a teeny waist. Trouble is, dresses like that don’t fit me off the rack any more. Like most of us, I’m a little thicker at the waist than before and everything is a lot less perky than it once was. The sway of my lower back is now even more pronounced and affects the way even loose tops fit me. My bust line has more volume than it ever did before, so much so that the ready to wear standard B cup no longer fits me either.
Good thing I sew, I guess. But I don’t want to hob nob at a swish cocktail party in anything that looks like a Home Ec project. That’s what my sewing goal is, I guess. I want something well made and well fitted. I wasn’t sure I was quite ready for the challenge. But shopping is just as stressful really, with much less control. After a few attempts to find a dress retail, I took the plunge.

This is Vogue 8409, in an Italian cotton voile underlined with batiste and lined in Bemberg rayon. Read my pattern review here. While working on this, I enrolled in Susan Khalje’s couture dress class on Craftsy. I can’t recommend this class highly enough. I learned ever so much! I was sewing to a deadline with this dress, so I couldn’t employ every couture method, but I now have many more skills at my disposal. What I learned about the philosophy behind couture methods was nothing short of a revelation.
I worked carefully on this, spent a lot of time puzzling out how to make a full bust adjustment on a wrap front, made several good muslins and didn’t take any shortcuts. I hand stitched a lot of this, including the zipper. It was good motivation to shed pounds! I was even able to take the dress in at the last minute. The night of the event last April, I felt pretty confident about it. Only one or two friends at the event knew that I made this, but I received a few compliments, including one from a very stylish Paris- shopping woman. It felt wonderful! I'm not sure this one is my dress of a lifetime, but I feel one step closer to it. And I know this is really where my heart is and has always been: beautiful dresses.
For these great pictures, I’m grateful to my favorite team at George Aubrey Photography.


  1. Lovely dress! You don't want to be a skinny 18 year old anymore, I love that you said you wanted to be healthy, that to me is the right attitude. Having said all of that, you look great in your dress and it is very flattering. Lovely fabric also!

  2. Thank you, Linda! You're right, I don't want to be 18 at all any more. Health in general is a big goal for me this year, but it's challenging with so many others to take care of. Maybe I need another dress like this for motivation!

  3. Hi there! I've nominated you for a Liebster Blog Award! What is it? In a nutshell, it is basically a blogger's way of saying "You're one of my favorites! Great job."
    I received a nomination and answered 11 questions given to me. Please don't feel pressure to participate, but if you would like to, see the bottom of the post here to find the questions I asked you! Thanks and take care! Kristin

  4. My goodness, this dress is a knock-out. Simply stunning fabric matched with a beautiful job. You should be { PROUD }.

  5. I can really relate to your feelings about your wedding. I wish I had taken the time to be a little more creative when I had the chance. Oh well, the marriage is the important thing and that's done well!
    Your dress is a real beauty. Love the fit and the fabric.

  6. Its beautiful as are you.

    Embrace your body,I understand all the feelings you are having,I do,really,but this dress looks amazing and that adorable Washi looks awesome on you.

    I had the big wedding and my Mum and sister designed my dress-I had little say.

    I am far healthier now at a 'curvy 14' then I ever as an 8.

  7. Sunny, thank you so much! I'm really flattered.

    Nicole, how kind! I really appreciate it. I don't really miss 18 year old skinny. That would be pretty gross! And it's nice to have curves, really.