A few years ago, I had a dress. It was exceptional. My mom and I had spent the day shopping together, and we capped it all off with a stop at our favorite store, Dillard’s. This is where we found The Dress. It was straight out of the 1950s: it was fitted in the bodice with an enormous, tea length full skirt and side seam pockets and a belt. It came in pink and blue; I bought blue and my mom bought pink. We were so delighted with ourselves trying it on and twirling around in the fitting room, talking about how quickly we could come up with an excuse to wear it. (Pretty sure that’s when I started saying “I don’t care! I’ll wear it to the grocery store it’s so good!”) This was circa 2004, before camera phones and social media, so I regrettably never got a picture of this dress. I wasn’t a big picture taker back then to begin with. Anyway, somewhere along the way I lost that dress. At some point I probably thought it was too mature for me, or maybe it just got lost during one of the dozen or more times I moved in my 20s. Either way, I sure wish I still had it.
I took an international politics class in college, and a requirement of the course was participation in a mock UN meeting. I chose to represent Monaco, and I thought my new blue shirtdress was the perfect thing to wear. I will never forget the feeling of wearing that dress. It was like I was floating. I remember sitting at my table listening to the international relations majors engage in mock debates, and all I could do was daydream about my dress and getting back to tailoring class to finish the blazer I was working on. My thoughts were soon interrupted when I got a note from Spain, sitting at the table behind me. This too, I wish I still had, because it one of those things that has stuck with me. It read, “Hey, Monaco, I love your dress.” There may have also been a smiley face doodle, I can’t remember. Spain was represented by a male classmate of mine, and that whole exchange stands out in my mind all these years later. The power of clothing and style and your confidence in clothes is real and cannot be overstated. Was he flirting? Did he just really like the dress? Did I look better in it because I felt so good in it? Maybe a little of all of it.
Here’s what I know: a shirtdress is classic, and it looks good on everyone. A few months before I closed my business I started thinking about shirtdresses again. So once I was free and clear to start sewing just for myself again, I was on a mission to make a few. At first, I had trouble finding the right pattern, but eventually I discovered Vogue 9077. It’s not the truly full skirt I’m ultimately after, but the details were too good to pass up. I love the front bands and the gored skirt. The first time I made it was last spring, and I used an eggshell linen/rayon blend. The skirt swishes and sways like you would not believe.
The second time I made it I used a pink linen/cotton blend, and it’s nothing short of lovely. The third and most recent time I made it was in olive sateen, and I love it. The swish factor isn’t there as much as it is with the others, but you lose some of that movement with sateen–and I’m okay with that. I went with long sleeves, and I adjusted the button placket so that I could sew a facing. Just to change things up a bit.
I’ve spent the past few years ignoring a couple things that make for some pretty comfy garments: elastic and knits. Elastic was for pajamas and bathing suits, and knits, well, they just weren’t my thing. What was I thinking, you guys?! The turning point for me came one day a couple years ago when I designed a few easy, classic skirts for a collection–and they happened to have an elastic waistband. The ease in making them coupled with the ease of wearing them was a revelation for us, especially me. Remember that for a long time my aesthetic had little to do with weekend wear or elastic or knits. In my defense, there’s nothing wrong with dressier tailored pieces–which is my true love language–but there’s also room for casual stuff too. In fact, I’m finishing a dress right now that has me excited to make more knit garments this winter. They can be just as fabulous as a dress in a woven fabric. But more on that later.
Today I can finally show you another finished piece from my group of fall projects, Butterick 5878. I first made this dress over the summer in a delicious pink floral challis, and I loved it so much I included it on my list for fall. I love this pattern for a lot of reasons: it has sleeves, it has a comfortable and forgiving elastic waistband, it’s quick and easy to sew, and a suggested fabric is rayon challis–only one of the greatest, yummiest fabrics ever.
There’s so much to love about the sewing and design process: dreaming up new garments to make, investing time into perfecting the pattern, carefully stitching the pieces together–I could go on. But I think we can all agree that the best part is seeing the finished product. There’s nothing quite like creating something with your own two hands and experiencing the satisfaction that comes with it. For me, it’s also a thrill to see the design elements and colors come together. In college, one of the most important things I learned was the importance of cohesion in a collection, and that theory has stuck with me since then. Every once in a while, I will whip up a stand alone project, but most of the time I like designing mini collections with coordinating components in a thoughtful color story.
Over the past few weeks I’ve posted my list of projects for fall, and I finally have quite a few things finished. (Cue a happy dance!) First up is Vogue 9202. This pattern had me the moment it was released. Jewel neckline, short sleeves, fit and flare silhouette, interesting seams–yes, just yes. I went with view B in a gorgeous fall floral sateen from Promenade Fine Fabrics in New Orleans. You find the fabric here. I should also mention that I thought I had all my autumn colors picked out until I saw that fabric. It changed everything. I mean, how perfect is it for fall?!