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…
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!
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. 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!