Mad Men Dress Challenge #2: Putting the pieces together

mmc27After a few days’ hiatus, I jumped right back into my Mad Men dress by putting together the bodice. One thing I learned at this point was the importance of using transfer paper to get the markings just right. I spent far too much time fiddling with the new redrawn pattern pieces, trying to match them to the fabric and making sure the markings were in place.

I also discovered my sewing machine hates all purpose thread. Really, really hates it. Just sewing in the darts was a giant stress-fest because my machine would attempt to chew up my fabric and spew out balled up thread. Yuck. Next time, I won’t be cheap on thread!

Once my bodice was put together, I added in the collar:

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Then the neck facings were put together and sewn in:

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This part wasn’t so bad, even though it was my first time working with facings. I had a few more arguments with my sewing machine, who also had some kind of ethical issue with sewing through a single layer of my beautiful crepe fabric.

When I got to the armhole facings, it dawned on me that I needed to redraw them completely having changed the armscythe a few times. Oops.

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Once redrawn, it was a breeze to add in the armhole facings to my bodice:

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My one comment regarding the facings on this dress is this: despite having tacked them down at the shoulder and whenever possible at the darts, I still felt that they didn’t lie flat or stay inside the dress enough, especially when I danced. I found myself having to tuck in the right armhole facing back into my dress a few times during my Mad Men Costume Party. If I remake this dress in another fabric, I may just line the entire bodice and forgo facings altogether. Of course, it means I’ll have to learn how to line a bodice…

In the end, this is what the bodice looked like when mostly completed (sorry for the cell phone pics…):

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Overall, I’m very satisfied with the fit in the bodice, both in the front and back. I did have to adjust the side seams while putting together the bodice because I felt I needed a bit more ease at the waist. Also, I felt the waist was a bit too high, so if there is a next time, I’ll have to lengthen the waist by an extra half an inch.

Adding the skirt wasn’t too difficult though I discovered my cuts for those pieces were all crooked, even though I pinned like mad, my slippery crepe fabric had made cutting a challenge. Another learning experience: use a rotary cutter and a large self-healing mat. The one I own isn’t nearly large enough to cut a skirt piece. *sigh* another purchase ahead! Once I straightened my cuts, gathered the skirt pieces and lined them up with the bodice, the skirt went in without a hitch.

Once I tried on the dress, I realized how heavy the skirt fabric was, despite having used something relatively light and flowing. Before putting in the buttons (which I chose to “fake” by adding in snaps and sewing decorative buttons over top), I wanted to add a waist stay to help stabilize the waist seam and prevent stretching. Sewaholic’s excellent tutorial on sewing a waist stay guided my steps here.

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Once this part was done, it was much easier to sew in the hook and eye to close the skirt opening, as suggested by the pattern instructions. I also added an extra hook and eye to the left side of the bodice and the waist stay, thereby making sure that bodice piece lay straight and flat. Adding in the decorate buttons and the snaps underneath just required a bit of hand sewing. Another lesson learned: the button area on the bodice never lay flat enough for my taste. Perhaps the solution would be to omit the buttons altogether, sew the bodice front shut and add a hidden zipper to the side of the bodice…

Then came the requisite 24 hours of hanging, to let the fabric stretch out.  The next day, with the help of my generous mother, I went about hemming the dress. This is where I learned that short of buying a dress form, I REALLY should have gotten my hands on a chalk hemming tool like this one:

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It would have made the whole hemming process a lot less stressful (aside from the fits of frustration I experienced when my machine tried to eat my fabric again, at 7:30 p.m. on the night of the fateful Mad Men Costume Party!).

At the last minute, I chose to add a fabric covered belt in a cute contrasting cotton fabric I had in my stash, making good use of Coletterie’s fabric covered belt tutorial. I didn’t find a kit allowing me to cover the buckle with fabric, but all in all, it came out looking great. Also, I didn’t have the hole punch tool and eyelets (it was Saturday night, on Easter week-end…), so I just punched a hole through the belting material and covering fabric, covered everything in Fray Stop, and promising myself to “fix it later”.

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Mad Men Dress Challenge #2: yeah baby!

Having missed the first one entirely seeing as I wasn’t *yet* retro sewing obsessed, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon for this year’s Mad Men Dress Challenge, hosted by magnificently talented Julia Bobbin.

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After perusing perused last year’s amazing creations, I decided to get my inspiration from Jane Sterling’s pale blue dress.

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I loved the tie at the neck as well as the fact that the dress didn’t look super tight, like some of Joan’s outfits. Also, keep in mind that I was preparing this dress for an Argentine Tango Mad Men costume party, hosted by one of my favourite milongas Tango Social Club. For the uninitiated, a milonga is both a very upbeat style of tango as well as an evening of dance. I’ve been involved with Argentine Tango for nearly 9 years now, to the point where most of my free time revolves around learning, practicing or dancing tango. So, if I was going to make a retro-inspired Mad Men dress, I had to take into account the large backsteps and embellishments we generally do when we dance tango.

Like another blogger who was inspired by this dress last year, I chose to use the Simplicity Paris Fashion pattern, which I thankfully found on eBay for a steal! I did however choose to use the sleeveless model, because…one sweats A LOT when dancing tango:

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As for the colour, I wanted something that was a bit more suited to me darker skin tone, so I chose a royal blue crepe which I found on sale at my local big box fabric store:

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So, all this excitement lead me to believe that it would be an easy-peasy project, especially after having made done the Walkway dress sew along at Edelweiss Patterns. Little did I know I’d be fiddling with the bodice for DAYS trying to successfully complete a narrow back adjustment and a small bust adjustment (insert scary movie music here). But that adventure, I’ll save for my next post!