What I wore to the Dressmaker’s Ball 2019

ooobop wearing V8814 dress

‘Get me to the Ball!
‘There is a Disco at the Palace!
‘The rest have gone and I am jealous!’

Just like Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhyme about Cinderella when she was stropping out about a lack of invite, this is exactly how I was feeling when I learned too late about the first dressmakers ball in 2017.

Needless to say I subscribed to all the hashtags and signed up to get news of the next one and snapped up that ticket as soon as it was live.

The event is organised by team Crafty Sew and So and this year’s was at The City Rooms in Leicester.

The minute I had that ticket secured, my head flooded with all the possibilities for a free range, self drafted no holds barred gown of dreams, all for me. Elizabethan ruffs, balloon organza sleeves. Crinoline skirt. Bustle perhaps? I had a year after all.

designs for ooobop ballgownTruth be told and no surprises here, I decided on the dress with just over 10 days to go. You know how it goes ~ work, family, work and more work. And I’m a little bit sad to say that my all time avant-garde number ended up straight out of a packet.

Vogue pattern V8814

A lovely pattern for sure but the proof was in the making: No toile time. No anything time. Time? Definitely a thing of the past. Enjoy it while you can kiddos. It passes you by on the blink of an eye with every added birthday.

Now let’s discuss this slinky Vogue number V8814. I chose floor length, version C. I was going to a ball after all and visions of slow-mo sweeping skirt-motions danced in my head. I opted for the one with plunging neckline and crossover straps at the back. The bodice is snug to the hips and then all the volley is in the circular skirt.

I am so grateful to those pattern companies who display the finished sizes on the pattern pieces. Lord only knows why quite so much ease has to be added. I’d have swum in the suggested size according to actual stats!

And I am so delighted to have chanced upon a pattern that for all it’s sophistication was a total breeze to put together! The only area that needed fixing was the neckline which gaped a little so I hand-sewed some 5mm wide elastic along the inside of the neckline, stretching slightly to pull it in more to the chest. And the only tricky bit was convincing Pants I didn’t need his help!

Pants the cat helping me sew

I’d bought a singular ticket to the ball just because I worry about making plans with people and then have to cancel due to work commitments. Plus I knew that I would meet people there. The sewing community is such a welcoming and fun place, of that I was certain.

But that didn’t stop me from being self-conscious in front of the photographer. I’m so spoilt by Mr O’s awesome willingness to oblige my blog shots that I forget what it’s like to stand and pose in front of someone you don’t know! Thank you TKL Photography for bearing with me and thank you Tamsin, for posing with me and making me feel a little less awkward!

ooobop with Tamsin from Pimp my Curtains

We decided upon fishbowls of gin to relax us even more!

Tamsin and ooobop drinking gin

It was such an amazing evening. A ballroom brimming with stunning guests all adorned in bespoke, handmade attire, dancing to some really cool covers by a brilliant live jazz band. I spent most of the evening gawping at stunning outfits and discussing them, clinking and raising a glass at every opportunity to the brilliant hosts and the awesome sewing community.

And look who else I found: Marie from A Stitching Odyssey and Amy, blogger at Almond Rock and editor of Love Sewing Magazine.

judges at the dressmakers ball 2019

Not at all trying to fraternise with the judges before the catwalk competition – honest, guv!

So why have I taken so long to blog about this dress?

In short.

The fabric.

I’m ashamed by my panic purchase of glittery fabric.

‘I want a dress! I want a coach!
‘And earrings and a diamond brooch!
‘And silver slippers, two of those!
‘And lovely nylon panty hose!

Perfectly weighty and with great drape for the skirt, I chanced upon it in the Goldhawk Road. It appears to be a red lace bonded over a synthetic satin with glitter glued in the gaps of the lace.  I joked about the fire-hazzard potential should I stand too close to a candle, given the probability of not a single natural fibre involved. But it was met with a straight face. The seller was already was unhappy that my need for five yards meant discarding the first couple of metres on the roll as the lace was clearly bonded in sections. Lucky I noticed the join because he sure as hell wasn’t going to point it out!

But I did not question the glitter. 

Recently, my day job has involved lots of work relating to the harmful effects of plastic on the environment, and though I haven’t come across any reference to glitter in the books as yet, this quote by Alice Horton, a research associate at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, jumped out at me and touched a nerve:

“While there is currently no evidence specifically on glitter being bad for the environment, it is likely that studies on glitter would show similar results to those on other microplastics”.

And now I feel bad. For not thinking it through. For the trail of glitter I literally left behind. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I left a red glittery bum shape on my seat when I stood up after dinner. And I’m sorry for anyone who sat in my place afterwards and took a little piece of me home with them.

To this day I’m finding that damned stuff on my shoes, in the carpet, on the cat… It’s never going to go away. And then it’ll end up in the sea and all the poor fishes will be lunching on it.

And I know I can’t un-do it. But I can not-do it again. No more more glitter for me. I need to think before I buy. I just can’t cope with the guilt! Or do you think I’m over-reacting?

Vintage 1950 Vogue Jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

And here it is, at last, that tasty little Vogue jacket as inspired by that classy little lady, Ms Nicole Needles. It had to be done. I couldn’t resist!

The pattern is V2934, a reproduction of an original 1950 design. Such a clever and very simple pattern that would whip together so quickly if it weren’t for all the hand stitching. Which, strangely enough, I didn’t mind at all.

vogue 2934 jacket

I’m loving the dolman sleeves and the big cuffs which nicely balance out the short cropped cape-like body.

vogue 2934 jacket

I used sew-in canvas for the interfacing. Really great stuff! It molded beautifully around the neck and shoulders and was the perfect weight to maintain the shape whilst still allowing drape at the front.

vogue 2934 jacket

Initially, I had a slight concern that this shape might make me look like a Weeble, given my lack o height, but I do believe it does nothing of the sort! In fact quite the opposite. It is amazingly flattering for a jacket that is more like a cropped cape and I love it!

vogue 2934 jacket

It is also so warm and so snug. The outer fabric is a wool blend, exact content unknown but at £6 per metre I’m not really that concerned!

But the inside fabric, however…

vogue 2934 jacket

It is the most lavish lining I have ever used. 100% red silk satin, baby! Costing more than the main fabric –but boy does it feel lush.

vogue 2934 jacket

Did you know these things were called frogs? Neither did I till very recently. But they do the job so perfectly. Takes a while to do them up but I’m sure I’ll get quicker with practice!

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

OK. That’s quite enough of that serious posing Janene. What this jacket really speaks, (apart from sugar-gliders) is aeroplanes!

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

So never let it be said that black jackets are boring! Or indeed difficult to make. If you don’t mind a spot of hand-sewing the old fashioned way this is such a walk in the park.

vogue 2934 jacket

vogue 2934 jacket

Before I sign off I’d just like to give Little Miss O a mention. While we were busy being crazy she was so patiently sitting and drawing the most beautiful picture that I just have to share with you.

drawing at the Park

Pictures by Daniel James Photographic

The audition dress!

V8280 audition dress

I made this dress last weekend to wear to an audition on Friday. I’m afraid I can not speak of the adventures it had or the reaction it got as I am sworn to a confidentiality agreement so I can only tell of the making of the dress itself!

V8280 Roland Mouret dress

I’m sure, for most of you lovely sewing people out there, you have already guessed it to be the Roland Mouret knock off by Vogue – pattern no V8280 – the Galaxy Dress. But perhaps it wasn’t instantly recognisable without its signature sleeves.

V8280 galaxy dress

On reading lots of reviews about how the sleeves would be best placed on a pitch against the New York Giants, I did run up a quick toile to test out their outrageousness. I wasn’t too scared by them but I wanted this dress to be right and not feel too self-conscious in it! So I went for Vew A. It looks a bit boring on the envelope but I do believe this is probably the classiest dress I’ve made to date.

v8280 sewing pattern

Might have something to do with fabric choice though. I’ve come to realise that the longer I keep up this sewing lark, the more choosy I’m getting about quality of materials. For sure I still love a charity shop find but in truth, nothing beats shopping specifically for the most appropriate fabric. I needed to impress with this dress so it had to be good stuff. I chose wool crepe and silk lining. Oh what luxury! I have really started something now! Just look at the texture in that wool…

wool crepe texture

I love the way that it pressed so beautifully yet didn’t crease too much when it was worn.The wool crepe was £15.99 and the silk lining £6.99 a metre from one of my favourite fabric shops in the Goldhawk Road. Probably my most expensive make, around £42 in total but the blow was softened after I checked the prices of similar wool and silk in Berwick Street, London…. more like £30 – £80 a metre!!!!

If I’d have had the time, I would have made a full toile to check the sizing properly. I overestimated the sizing of the bodice and ended up taking it in by 3 inches under the arms. I will definitely take it down a size next time. And oh yes, there will be a next time!

This is also my first experience working with a modern Vogue pattern. I have heeded the warning of others about their ‘vague’ instructions, but I found this one to be very simple to put together. Bearing in mind I didn’t go for the sleeves!

Once you get the hang of the ‘flanges’… lol – or once you get used to calling them ‘flanges’ – it will all make perfect sense. And they do help to create a very flattering neckline. I chose the sweetheart neckline just because I think its more feminine and reminiscent of  glamourous ’40s ladies.

sweetheart neckline

Working with this fabric was a dream and made inserting a zip and lining up darts and seams, a breeze.

v8280 back view

invisible zipper

There were no instructions to fully line the dress, only to line the bodice. But from past experience I know I will never get away with an unlined skirt. My biggest fashion blunder was to take my coat off in the entrance to a party only to find out my unlined dress had ridden all the way up to my armpits. The worst (or most life-saving moment) of that was that another guest had to tell me. Otherwise I’d have strutted my stuff onto the dance floor like a complete fool, outdoing any Bridget Jones moment! And so I cut the lining, the same as the skirt but with an additional half inch added to the side of each piece. I sewed the back seam from the zipper opening to the top of the vent and the side seams but didn’t make the darts. I pinned the waist of the lining to seam allowance of the skirt section, first pinning at the side seams, then to the back openings, with one pin at the centre front. I then folded pleats at the dart positions and pinned those in place before sewing to the seam allowance all round.

I’m not entirely sure this was the best way forward. There may be more professional ways of doing this but it worked, for me, anyhows!

I bound the hem with bias tape and machine hemmed the lining. Tricky old stuff, silk lining. Seems to carry far more static than poly lining, when ironed. But boy does it feel good! Raising one’s own standards is very amusing!!

bound hem

And all that is left to say is thank you once again to Mr Ooobop! for being amazing in every way. Not only does he dutifully take lovely photos for me, he is the most amazing support for my often waining morale and makes me so happy… gush gush!

He will insist on a leg shot though!

side detail on tights