And finally, after two years of waiting in the wings, and following a match-made fabric and pattern eureka moment, my French Gypsy Dress is finished and worn already.
The pattern is by Sew La Di Da Vintage, and I knew I would love it but I could never quite decide on the fabric. The samples shown on the site and exhibited at the shows I’ve visited are so gorgeous I could never hope to get close. I love the packaging and the styling of all the patterns.
I found the fabric online at Minerva Crafts, which is unusual for me. I much prefer shopping in real life! I have to touch and feel and think about it and walk from shop to shop and talk about it with the assistants before I make a call. But when I found this beaut on a random scroll, I didn’t give a second thought to what it would feel like or indeed what it was for – I just loved the colours and the black background of course. It’s a stretch cotton sateen. Quite sturdy, moderate stretch and a great lack of creasibility!
Thing is, I didn’t connect to two to begin with. And when sometime after I considered pairing them I thought it would be too weighty for the gathered upper bodice and sleeves. Though I knew the skirt would totally benefit from a bit of weight and the silhouette would be awesome.
Then I got busy and all sewing plans were out the window until I got a free weekend. Woohoo! A whole undisturbed Saturday and after a pep talk with my mum it was full steam ahead. She basically said, “What are you so scared of? If it all goes pear shaped you can just get some more fabric.” Which is true of course, if not a little bit wasteful. And I could have tested on something else first but I had a window of opportunity and I wanted a new dress right there and then!
And I couldn’t be more pleased. It fits in all the right places, is flattering and comfortable too.
Construction-wise its really quite simple. The most complicated thing is taking time to make those bodice and sleeve gathers even. I know now after heaps of lazy and rushed gathering attempts in the past, that the key is to sew 2 rows of gathering stitches, either side of the intended seamline and there’s every chance your gathers will keep evenly distributed and pucker free.
I made the binding for the neck and sleeve edges from some leftover black duchesse satin. I was prepared to rip it off if it didn’t work because I wasn’t entirely sure if it was the right kind of fabric for the job. But it was. Just perfectly right, actually!
There is a length of elastic inside the bias casing that starts and ends on the back sleeve seams. This is such a great idea because it allows for the dress to be worn on or off the shoulders and keeps the back bodice pieces completely flat. Incidentally there are no darts in the back pieces of this dress. Instead, the instructions call for a brilliant fitting stage whereby the back seam is pinned to fit and marked with chalk or an erasable pen (you will need a partner for this). Then the seam is machine tacked and pressed open so the creased edges give the perfect guide for zip insertion. It’s such a cool stage of instruction and one that I am definitely going to consider using on future makes. Is this a typical vintage construction method, I wonder?
I’m so happy with the outcome. It brightened a very drizzly day and feels so great to wear. And better still, it’s another strike off my #makenine2018 – wahooo!
I might try poomfing the skirt more with a layered petticoat and styling it up with flowers in my hair. Definitely a contender for what to wear when the Frida Kahlo exhibition hits the V&A this year.
Well it’s back to work tomorrow. But I’ll be returning with a head full of plans. That’s the trouble with a bit of time off!