Do you have any ideas for garments that have been kicking around for a while? I’ve had this tearsheet below from an old magazine (I’m pretty sure it was shop til you drop for any Australian readers) in my little file of inspiring fashion images for many many years. I’m not sure exactly what it was that drew me to it but it’s a picture I look at from time to time and continue to love.
Back in my child free (and more care free days haha) I used to visit the Fabric store pretty regularly every time I was in Melbourne. If I spotted a fabric that I liked I would tend to buy it even without a project in mind. These days I’m a lot more mindful with buying fabric but luckily even back then I was fairly picky with my selections. I’d bought some pink silk organza as it reminded me of this dress and I’d thought that someday I might try to recreate it.
Fast forward several years and all of a sudden I had a wedding coming up and the itch to make something new. Like many others in the sewing community in recent years my sewing has veered towards more everyday and practical garments. For the most part I’m happy with that as I get to wear my me mades so much, but occasionally I miss sewing a fun party dress. Seeing as I actually had an occasion to dress up for I thought I might as well sew a new outfit if I could make it without buying anything.
I carefully went through my fabric and pattern stash and racked my brain to figure out how I could make this work. I had originally intended on trying to make Vogue 1501 after seeing many gorgeous versions (particularly these two) out there but then I remembered this old picture. I decided to make something inspired by it rather than trying to do an exact copy as I did not have enough silk organza. I thought that an Ogden cami lengthened into a dress worn with a cropped Maya top would be just the ticket. I quickly sketched out my idea and was pretty happy with how it looked. Luckily I happened to have a 2m length of silk fabric (I would describe it as a silk seersucker, not sure if that’s correct or not?) in the perfectly complementary shade of pink.
Now luckily I’m fairly comfortable with a bit of pattern hacking as when I first started sewing as a self taught and headstrong child I never used to use patterns. I would try and reverse engineer things so spent a lot of time figuring out the best order of construction for sewing projects. This was a fairly straightforward hack but I have to say that having my dressmaking mannequin back from storage certainly made things a lot easier.
The dress is basically an Ogden cami shortened to finish just under the natural waistline with a gathered skirt made up of two rectangles. I shortened the straps by 1” for my petite frame, and used the full width of the silk for both the front and back of the skirt. When I was decided where to attach the skirt I put the cami on my mannequin and hand basted a line of stitching about one inch below the natural waistline. FYI I found out that my mannequin is about 1.5” shorter waisted than I am. Luckily I discovered this after I had only hand basted the skirt to my cami so unpicking it and moving it down wasn’t too traumatic.
I ran two rows of gathering stitches along the top edge of the skirt (once I had joined the skirt seams together) and evenly gathered them up to fit the circumference of the cami. I gathered the front and back skirt separately as I found it easier to manage.
I wish I could say that the skirt length was carefully considered but it was actually just the longest I could make it with the amount of fabric I had left after cutting out the cami. In the end I was happy with the length it turned out and didn’t shorten it (as I thought I might have to do). Once I had attached the skirt to the cami I zigzagged a loop of 3/8” wide elastic just inside the seam allowance of the waistline, stretching it out as it was sewn on. I’d cut a length of elastic the same length as my waist measurement and overlapped the edges by 1.5”. I did this as I wanted the waist to be fitted but forgiving (no closures required – winning!) I also didn’t want the entire weight of the dress to be putting strain on the fairly thin straps.
The Maya top was basically made as outlined here except I cropped it by about 4” and straightened out the hemline as I wanted to cut out the hem along the selvedge. The original side seams are slightly flared but I made sure to straighten them out for the bottom few inches otherwise the selvedge would have been longer than the part of the top it would have been attached to. As silk organza is so transparent French seams were a necessity. I also tried to make the hem allowance a similar width to the sleeve bands as I felt this made more sense aesthetically.
This was only my second time sewing with silk organza and it was relatively straightforward. Being so transparent actually made cutting it out easier as I lined it up with the lines on my gridded cutting mat to make sure it was on grain. Although it was fairly thin it had a good amount of body to it so didn’t feel too delicate. For some reason it reminded me strongly of fairy wings I guess because of its colour and how floaty it felt?
As I said on Instagram sewing to a deadline unfortunately did suck some of the joy out of making this. It was actually fairly straightforward and had I not had to finish this by a certain date this would have been a really enjoyable sew. I know that this is a fairly trivial thing to complain about but I guess being human we can be quite contrary sometimes. Anyway, I’m really happy with how it turned out and had a blast wearing it at our friends wedding last weekend. All in all I felt a bit like a princess in this dress (my eight year old tomboy self is cringing) and am looking forward to wearing it again.
Because it’s two separate pieces I’m hoping that this ends up being a more versatile make and not just something that can be worn to more formal events. I’ve been brainstorming some ways to dress it down and am thinking I could wear a more casual cropped top over the dress to tone it down a bit. And possibly wear the top portion with some jeans? I also really love the way the dress looks on its own, maybe with some flats and a cardigan it could work for during the day?
Have you guys had much success with pattern hacking? Or any suggestions for dressing this outfit down for more casual wear? I’d love to hear about it! Happy sewing xx