When I decided not to buy any new RTW clothing for a calendar year, I almost completely forgot about special occasions, because a) I am not a fancy person with many fancy events to go to b) I wear jeans almost everywhere c) almost everyone I know is broke like me, which means lots of sitting around in people’s kitchens drinking Old Style instead of wearing fancy outfits and standing up drinking wine, or whatever it is that rich people do.
But I totally forgot that I’m 25 now, which means so is my peer group, which means that people are getting married. Like, constantly. Weddings! I totally forgot about weddings! So when my friend Megan told me she was getting married in early February, one of my first thoughts was Oh shit. What am I going to wear?
I’m sure it has escaped exactly no one that Chicago, like much of the country, has been much colder than usual this winter. It’s been so cold here that I find myself getting territorial about the temperature, snarling on Facebook to people in other cities that YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT COLD IS IT WAS A HIGH OF NEGATIVE SEVEN TODAY. So when considering what sort of dress I could make for Megan’s afternoon wedding, on a budget, in the snow, on a tight timeline, I was kind of flummoxed.
Enter McCall’s 3670, a vintage 80’s pattern I bought on etsy in September. Isn’t it gloriously hideous? I bought it with the intention of blatantly ripping off this dress of Heather’s, though I ended up going about it in a completely different way than she did. I love the idea of a drop-waist dress, but on a curvy girl like me I knew it would run the risk of being horribly unflattering if I made it up as drafted. I used a red ponte knit from Girl Charlee so I could easily grade between sizes (the original pattern calls for wovens and has zero shaping in the way of darts, curved seams, etc.). I had a lot of alterations planned, had never modified a pattern as much as I was planning on doing, and was on a deadline. No pressure or anything.
I checked the finished measurements on the back of the envelope, tested the stretch of the knit and decided to make it up in a straight size 10 instead of the 12 I should have, bank on too much built-in-ease, pray to God it would fit in the bust, and make alterations later.
It went together much more smoothly than I had expected. I used a stretch needle and white thread because I didn’t have enough red that matched, and I needed the red thread to stitch down the facings. The insides of this beast look like a horrorshow, but I don’t care because you can’t see it. It was actually sort of helpful in all the unpicking I had to do, but don’t tell my mother because she would be extremely disappointed in me for using unmatching thread 🙂 Because ponte is so stable and doesn’t fray, I kept the original facings from the dress instead of drafting a complex binding for the v-back and they’re the nicest facings I’ve ever done.
I thought about leaving the sleeves off so it would look more like the inspiration dress, but between the redrafting it would have required, my lack of skill to do such redrafting, the time requirement, and the fact that it’s been so cold here lately, I decided to keep the sleeves because they’d be plenty appropriate for an afternoon wedding in the middle of winter.
When I tried on the body of the dress, there were two problems, as I had expected. The body was long enough that it could almost have been its own dress, and there was zero waist definition. I took the bodice in 0.75″ on either side of my waist, measured up and down 4″ from the smallest waist point, and then drew a gentle curve for a new line of stitching. Looking back, I could have taken greater care with this, because there are some wrinkles at the waist, but they’re not bad enough that it bothers me.
I think the key to taking this dress from a frumpy sack to a gorgeous creation like Heather’s is making sure that the seamline at the waist hits at the exact right spot. I ended up taking 2.5″ off thelength of the bodice. I also sliced 4″ of width off the skirt pieces, which are essentially giant reactangles anyway. I had to plenty of gathering without those extra 4″!
When I was finished, my dress looked a little less Heather, a little more Daisy, but by the time I finished the dress I’d just gotten the new haircut you can see in these pictures, and I thought the flapper look was sort of charming. Or maybe I was just tired of working on it and gave up? I finished it the night before the wedding and went straight to bed. I debated on whether to bother hemming it and finally decided no one would notice…and I was right!
I love this dress. I’m pleased that I was able to tackle the modifications I wanted to do without supervision or tutorials. It was also my first time sewing with ponte, and the first real challenge to my RTW fast. I also tried a silhouette I’ve always admired from afar but didn’t think I could pull off. Maybe this dress doesn’t make me look like a leggy baby giraffe supermodel, but there are more important things in life than tricking people into thinking you’re tall and skinny, amirite?