The Dresses

Each dress brought its own challenges to the table.

Elly’s dress was the dress of a thousand curves.

To ensure accuracy, I hand basted each curve before zipping it through the machine. Only the straight side seams of the skirt were not hand basted first. Although it took extra time up front, it was worth it because it kept the slippery taffeta fabric from shifting and potentially ruining the gentle curve of each seam. Once sewn, the curves had to be clipped, notched, pressed open, pressed up and then topstitched. It was a lot of work, especially when you realize that this dress is completely reversible so everything had to be done twice. The one shortcut I did take on this dress was to not finish the seams. I am normally a stickler for finishing seams, but I saw no point in doing it on this dress. Nobody is going to see them. The tulle in between the skirts even hides the hem.

My dress was the dress of a few thousand hand stitches.

The purple taffeta fabric was hand basted to the cotton underlining. The bodice lining was hand stitched to the outer shell. The waist stay was hand stitched to the bodice. The hem was hand stitched down. At one point, I had blood on my fingertips from all the needle punctures.

Hands down these were the most complicated dresses I have made to date. Together they took over 4 months to make.

Elly’s dress was completely underlined. It made the taffeta easy to work with and it made it strong enough to withstand the hand sequin work and the oodles of embroidered topstitching. On the other hand, only the bodice of my dress was underlined; the circle skirt was left free.

My dress was a compilation of 2 patterns. The bodice was from Gertie’s Bombshell dress class on Craftys. The circle skirt was from The Party Dress book. Amazingly, the patterns matched perfectly.

Elly’s pattern came from Sewing Clothes that Kids Love book. It’s the Manhattan pattern.

Slight fitting adjustments were made to both patterns. Otherwise, I followed the directions as directed.

To make beautiful dresses, you need beautiful fabric.  I didn’t skimp. The purple fabric was a bridal irridescent taffeta from Denver Fabrics. The overlay on my dress was a sequined tulle purchased on our trip to Mexico last year. The appliques on Elly’s dress were fussy cut out of the tulle and then hand stitched down. As mentioned above, I also used cotton underlining. The dresses were completely lined. Cotton was used in the bodice for its breathability whereas polyester lining fabric was used for the skirt for its silkiness.

The effort was worth it. I loved the results! I loved all the compliments on how pretty Elly looked in her “princess” dress. Is that wrong?


But now that the dresses are done, I plan to take a well deserved break. I just want to sit, drink a glass of port and play a board game with Dan in the evening rather than rush to squeeze in another hour of sewing.

Dress Progress

Although the taffeta fabric is gorgeous, it is persnickety to work with. It is constantly slipping about. Coupled with the underlining, it feels like I’m working with bullet-proof material.

The other issue is that the pattern I’m using for Elly’s dress has no straight edges. Every edge is a curve. So, like inserting a sleeve, I have to ease in each and every piece of fabric. It takes time.

Despite hand-basting all the seams before I sew them on the sewing machine, I’ve made some minor errors. Rather than rip them all back, I plan to hide them as best as possible and just hope nobody notices. Or if someone does notice, she minds her manners and says not a word.

For the first time since buying this fancy sewing machine, I’m using the decorative stitches. When topstitching, I am using a flower motif for the stitch and a gold thread so it pops on the dress.

I love the results.

Almost no progress has been made on my dress. Elly’s dress is more important in my book, since she is the flower girl. So, I’m trying to finish her dress first. I’d say I’m about a 1/4 of the way done on her dress. It’s coming together nicely despite all my complaints above. The end justifies the means.

Elly’s 2nd Muslin

Ever am I glad that I chose to make a 2nd muslin for Elly’s (untraditional) flower girl dress. Though the belly darts still allowed for a perfect fit around the waist, Elly had grown so much (since March!) that the bodice was ridiculously short on her. The 1.5 inches I had taken out of the straps had to be let back in.

With the wedding 3 months away, I am terrified that Elly will shoot up again and the dress will once again be too short for her.

I don’t want to wait till the last minute to sew Elly’s dress. My nerves will snap under the pressure. I know me. I’m likely to make some stupid error and weep in despair.

I also don’t want to use buttons for future growth such as you would see on overalls. It would take away from the elegance of the dress.

At this point, I plan to leave a generous seam allowance and just check the fit a week before the day of the wedding. A week should be enough time to make a quick alteration. Another option would be to make the next size up, the size for 7-8 year olds. It just seems absurdly large for my daughter who will only be 2.5 years old. Elly is a big girl, it’s true, but she’s not that big!

Is there a better option? I’m open to suggestions!