I’ll keep this one quite brief because I didn’t take many pictures as I went along….a blog needs pictures really to make it more interesting I think, don’t you?
I’ve known Liz for a good number of years and when her eldest son announced he was getting married this summer she asked me if I might be able to make her outfit. She had some fabric which was sentimental to her-given to her by an aunt many years ago and which had originated in the Far East. It was a length of printed chiffon-about 4.5 metres-with a square ‘scarf ‘printed on one end of it and then borders running along each selvedge, one slightly deeper than the other.
This is where the fun started! I gave Liz a few sketches of designs and styles that would appeal to her and she settled on a Princess-seamed bodice with V neck and dropped V waist. Liz is a former Opera singer so has a very good sense of what sales work for her and look good. The skirt would feature the fabric box-pleated with the deeper border running along the hem. The bodice would also have centre front and centre back seams so the some of the border could be used facing into the middle-this meant the zip could be in the side seam. With me so far?
I made a toile of the bodice for the fit, essential with something like this, and also Liz had been losing weight and was still losing. Then we stood in front of a full-length mirror and draped and played with the fabric over and around Liz to see what effects we liked. We decided we’d use part of the ‘scarf’ square for the sleeves-which needed to be flattering and not too short, and everything which wasn’t used on the bodice would go into the skirt, to make it nice and floaty.
I left Liz to source the lining, with my advice on what and where from, so she could choose the colour she most liked underneath. She eventually settled on a slipper satin from Borovicks in Berwick St, Soho, London. They were super helpful over the phone-and remembered Liz from her visit the day before-and popped it in the post very speedily.
I concentrated initially on the bodice, this is the centre front seam of the bodice-I stunned myself with the accuracy of the V!! You get some idea of the pattern coming together horizontally in the centre. I had some bits of tweaking to do as Liz was still shrinking (luckily this is a style that is very forgiving of this, not all designs are when weight-loss is part of the deal)
Next was the skirt. This is when it got very complex. I couldn’t cut anything until we were absolutely certain about the length so it had to be heavily tacked into position (with all the excess inside the bodice-not flattering) so we could look at it in the mirror. Only when we were happy would I cut the fabric along it’s length and pin and tack everything into position ready for attaching to the bodice.
You can see from the photo that I took a ‘belt and braces’ approach to the pleats, the slight diagonal line is the actual bodice line where it would be sewn in-I couldn’t just sew the straight top edge to the bottom of the bodice, No sirree! that would result in a dippy hem at the front and back! Oh, and the skirt lining had to be level inside at the hem too…aargh
Anyway, I plodded along with all this and Liz patiently returned for fittings every few weeks. One other thing Liz requested was a few sparkles around the neckline and these had to be done whilst I could get inside the bodice without the skirt attached. Beading isn’t my favourite pastime (it’s easy to get in a knot) but I don’t mind doing a bit.
It was a mixture of sizes of glass beads and clear sequins and eventually extended across the shoulder area too.
So, the skirt got attached, I took in the waist one last time (still shrinking!) and the zip could at last go in. It fitted like a glove-phew.
There was one last piece of fabric left, the narrow horizontal strip not needed that I cut off from the skirt. We decided that this would make a little stole so that Liz could feel completely confident about being able to cover her arms if she wished.
Poor Doris doesn’t fill out the dress very well and I’m not sure if the number of hours spent on the dress are reflected in this photo but there it is.
And so to the wedding…
The day was beautifully sunny and Liz twinkled and sparkled in the sunshine…
I didn’t really get any terrific pictures but you get a sense of how the dress turned out.
The flowers by my lovely friend Clare Smith were stunning too, look at those colours!! I got to help her hand the flowers to the Bride and bridesmaids as they arrived at the church too. Bonus!
It was such a happy day, which is the lovely part of my job-knowing you’ve enabled someone to look and feel terrific is a fabulous thing to be able to do….and to remind people that I can do a lot more than just alterations! So there…
Borovicks are a long-established fabric shop in Soho, I used to go there as a student and they have a wide range of silks/fancy fabrics and linings, the staff are very knowledgable and helpful. http://www.borovicksfabrics.com