The Frankfurt Dress

Not Frankfurt, Kings Cross!

Yay! The dress that I’ve been making for the past five months is finally finished and handed over to a new and happy owner. Back in May I offered to make a dress for my lovely friend and colleague, Rachel. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to come good on my promise, but I did manage to squeeze over ten other sewing projects into the intervening months whilst this crawled along so, you know…

Despite earlier claims that making for others was for losers, I decided I needed the new challenge of fitting a dress to a body other than mine. This coincided with Rachel’s need for a work outfit, and so The Frankfurt Dress entered our joint imaginations. Here’s a run down of our journey together…

The Brief

Rachel needed a dress to wear to Frankfurt Book Fair in her capacity as a rights assistant. This is an annual trade fair for the publishing industry. Think London Fashion Week, or the Labour Party Annual Conference, or The Food and Drink Expo – I suspect all are equally lacking in glamour despite surface appearances.

The Outfit Challenges

Rights professionals are kept unbelievably busy at book fairs. Like, meetings every half an hour. Like, forget about lunch. Like, a bathroom visit is a rare commodity. Like, you’ll be on your feet all day. Like, you’ll be required to entertain clients into the evening. Like, you won’t eat dinner before midnight. Like, you’ll collapse into bed at 2am only to get up and do it all again the next day. And the day after that. And…

Glad I’m an editor? Moi?

All of this means an outfit needs to perform superbly.

Why Our Pattern and Fabric Choices Were Excellent

The V8727 is a clean, simple silhouette. Challenging for a dressmaker, but perfect for application of key accessories that mean a dress can be worn more than once during a week. Rachel chose her fashion fabric excellently with this pistachio linen-look from Stone Fabrics. Not only is it machine washable but it barely creases. Perfect! Who needs to grapple with an iron in a hotel room and who wants to go to the dry cleaners on an exhausted return home? This is capsule wardrobe at its absolute best.

The Dressmaking Process

Clearly, Rachel has a figure to die for but I wanted a fitting challenge and I found it. Rachel’s measurements straddled two sizes, so there was quite a lot of adjustment to the paper pattern. A first toile was essential and a second toile advisable. Rachel was extremely patient as I made her wriggle into unflattering calico dresses during her lunch hours. She didn’t even complain when I stuck pins into her flesh! (She comes from an admirable dressmaking heritage and had a mother who stuck pins into her, so she knew what the gig involved.)

I suspect the fitting issues arose because Rachel has what is called an ‘athletic’ figure than a ‘curvacious’ one. But the more I sew, the more I realise how ridiculous and meaningless these body type labels are. ‘What body type are you?’ ‘Um, my body type.’

The Couture Techniques Involved

I added a handpicked lapped zipper and a lace trim on the hem. I absolutely love the lace trim and insisted Rachel show it colleagues when we did her parade around the office!

The Unexpected Challenges

I managed to scorch the fully inserted lining, which meant I had to rip a panel out. Whilst removing it, I managed to tear through my fashion fabric with the seam ripper. Which meant I had to replace both panels and redo my handpicked zipper. I could have done without that. Lesson learnt? Always add an extra half a metre to your fabric order. It could make the difference between a big test on your patience and a screaming hissy fit that sees you thrown into a padded cell.

The Technique I Didn’t Use

The last, last step in this make was adding a French tack to attach the lining hem to the main dress. I sat down to do this at 9pm one evening after a full day at work, a gym visit and cooking dinner. I threw down my needle and thread, looked up at my boyfriend and his sister on the sofa and said, ‘You know what? I can’t be bothered.’ Sometimes in a make it’s time to know when to stop making!

The Results

I am absolutely delighted with this dress and so is Rachel. One interesting conclusion I came to with this make and my two toiles is that a practice run in calico can never fully replicate the final item, because of the differences in weight, drape and behaviour of fashion fabric. I know some of you would tell me to use a toile fabric similair to the final fashion fabric, but there’s the rub. Similair… One simply never knows how a final make will turn out until one, well, begins it.

But that’s okay.Β Life would be boring if everything was predictable. Rachel is most definitely not boring in this dress. Go get ’em, girl!

See you in Frankfurt!

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36 Responses to The Frankfurt Dress

  1. Kerry says:

    Nice job on the dress! Fabric is lovely in colour and texture and love the sound of it not creasing. Sounds like you enjoyed the making process too, without the potential stress of making something for someone else and worrying about their expectations.

  2. Mary Ball says:

    I love the colour too! All very impressive

  3. Nikki says:

    Love the colour and shape. I don’t think I’d be very good at making things for other people, so I’m impressed with your patience and dedication! Thanks for the link to Stone Fabrics too – another one to add to my ever-growing list!

  4. annatestadoro says:

    What a great dress, it looks so professional. Professionally made, and for a professional. I love it!

  5. Lucy says:

    Aha, I was placing my money on V2787! Good job – it looks wonderful.

  6. Lucy says:

    I am slightly regretting clicking on the link to Stone Fabrics, however. Omnomnomfabric…..

  7. Elizabeth says:

    The dress is amazing! Very professional looking and beautiful to boot. The fit is great. you did an amazing job my friend. Your friend is so lucky. And I adore that lace detail. Well done!

  8. Marie says:

    What an awesome job you’ve done, the dress fits Rachel perfectly! Both she and the dress and beautiful and you should be very proud of this achievement!

  9. Nicely done! That’s a great dress for so many reasons. I think it would look so different with a light turtleneck under it or a scarf around the neck. Totally adaptable for multiple wearings.

  10. Debi says:

    FABULOUS job on the dress! I absolutely love the hem, the colour, the fit–it’s all grand!!! So, I, um, still haven’t made the dress for my sister that I talked about way back in July….la la la….:-)

  11. Maryanne says:

    Lovely style, absolutely perfect for every kind of occasion! Well done you. Hey where is the photo taken? Amazing place. Our lot will be at the FBF too, but I won’t be. Not my bag, man! πŸ™‚
    Oh yeah and also, with toiles, I always see them as a way of making sure the cut is going to be in the ballpark i.e. the shoulders not falling off too wide or the arm scye too deep. That’s pretty much it. The real fitting happens in the fabric. In fact I tack my toiles together – sometimes by hand but also by machine, I don’t even sew them. If you look at it that way, generally you can avoid second toile πŸ™‚

  12. Michelle says:

    Karen, this dress is just Amazing! AMAZING! even! The colour and the fit are perfect, and it looks like it will be a versatile and very well loved dress. You’re a good friend making something for someone else. I gave up that kind of palaver yonks ago. πŸ™‚

  13. Michelle says:

    Also – hooray for hand picked zippers! I just did my first on the weekend and I am in love with them. Every dress and skirt in my future is getting one.

  14. alex says:

    Gorgeous! Can’t wait to see it in person in Frankfurt next week!

  15. Amy says:

    Wonderful! I got started sewing because someone sewed for me, so I think sewing for others is a good use of our time and skills. I’m glad you had such success here. She looks great in that dress!

  16. Shelly says:

    What a great dress, great fit and looking very proffesional!! Well done. I’m sure it will be worn with pride.

  17. Vicki Kate says:

    Oh Wow! Well done you, she looks amazing and more importantly comfortable and confident in the dress. The lace trim is gorgeous!

  18. Scruffybadger says:

    Karen it’s fab and made me look twice as similar to rooibos inthe bodice I thought. I think sewing such a large scale project as this with all the fittings might have made you feel like a proper seamstress? I can imagine You must feel super satisfied with it.

  19. Suzie says:

    Beautifully made. Rachel is a lucky girl!

  20. Roobeedoo says:

    Wow! I wouldn’t dare volunteer to make something so fitted for someone else! I once made a friend’s “going away” outfit but it was the 1990’s and everything was “square” – phew! Love the lace hem trim : )

  21. Camilla says:

    A gorgeous dress, what a great make. The fabric and colour are scrummy and the fit is really amazing. Your friend looks stunning in it. I bet you’re now being inundated with dress orders.

  22. Thank you all for your kind comments!

  23. Alessa says:

    What a wonderful dress and such a gorgeous lace hem!

  24. Law says:

    Classic, stylish, versatile, great fit, fab colour. Perfect dress I reckon.

  25. Rachel says:

    perfect dress indeed πŸ™‚

  26. Clazzerati says:

    wow, this is great. So chic and classy! Love the colour too xx

  27. Joolz says:

    Maybe it’s just the photos, but the fit of the front bodice just looks bad to me. Your friend obviously has a great figure, but the lines of this dress drop her boobs by at least an inch and this makes them look saggy. This may the fault of the photos, not the dress, but the photo makes me want to grab the shoulder strap at the front and pull it up by at least an inch because I’m sure it would look better.

    The fit at the back is fabulous, but the saggy boob thing at the front spoils it for me.

    Julie (who may be in a bad mood and a bit snippy about things online because she’s just dropped a large glass of red wine onto her beige bedroom carpet)

    • Hi Joolz – what a sod about the red wine, that is one of the worst, isn’t it? Well spotted – the fitting around the bust is the one area I wasn’t totally happy with, hence my comments about toiles. This area fit perfectly in two calico versions, then the weight and drape of the fashion fabric made things fit differently. My solution would be a well padded bra!

  28. I think that it looks lovely overall, even with any fit issues that there may be, and I’m just so impressed with the time and care you put into it. I am off to Frankfurt too and I will see if I spot the dress at the Fair! I’m a little jealous too, as I was trying to whip up a Colette Peony to wear at Frankfurt and just have had to come to terms with the fact that I won’t be able to finish it before leaving, unless I rush and make something sloppy.

  29. Zoe says:

    She looks amazing! That is such a versatile dress, well done Karen the fit is perfect xxx

  30. Adrienne says:

    Karen, it looks FANTASTIC! Just effortlessly chic. It looks rich. With just the right amount of ease in it. Someone is lucky to have you as a colleague! Now everyone in the office will want their own dress — even the men!

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