Sep 19, 2011

This Bombshell Dress Made me a Believer

What is it that capital-B Believers say? "When God closes a door, he opens a window"? That phrase doesn't make much sense when you live on the fifth floor (and you end up arrested for climbing the fire escape to enter your apartment), but the sentiment is nice. And I may not be a capital-B Believer, but I finally see the light when it comes to this Bombshell Dress I've been sewing.

Made from the stunning peacock-print silk I originally intended for Vogue 1207, which turned out to be super flawed and straight-jacket-like, it's really turning out beautifully, non? How blessed am I that the other pattern didn't work out. I think this was a much better use of this eye-catching print.

I had to take this picture with a flash, which adds more shine to this silk than exists in real life. Plus the skirt is still just pinned to the bodice. But you get the idea, right? It's like hundreds of evil eyes watching you. Nervous?

I cut my own skirt pattern, because I didn't really like the draped sarong the pattern came with. I wanted something simpler, with a bit of flare to it. Plus this silk hangs so beautifully. It deserves to be free.

Wanna see the guts of a bustier top? I lined my bra cups with felt because I couldn't find the needle punch recommended in the course materials. It seems to have worked fine. Plus it will keep me warm:

And here's my lining, with spiral steel boning sewn into the channels. Nothing is perfect, but I think it will look super hot in the end anyway.

Have I preached the Gospel of Gretchen enough yet? Take the class if you're interested in sewing a super hot dress that fits you like a glove. The video tutorials walk you through every step, and you can watch them again and again, until you get it. You can also post questions and see what other students have asked. I think even if you were a novice sewer, if you took your time and paid attention, you could pull this off easily. No one step is super hard. It's all about pacing. 

Oh, and we still don't know yet about the apartment, which is giving me heart-palpitations. Also, they've already found someone to move in our place, so who knows if we'll be homeless at the end of the month. Life better cut me a break soon.

Sep 14, 2011

Optimism and my Bombshell Dress bodice by the light of day

I feel most like quitting late at night, which is why it's best for me to do little that's challenging after my kid goes to bed. Take last night, for example: I was sewing the bodice of my Bombshell Dress when we got the news that the apartment we want doesn't necessarily want us. Or at least they don't want us without a guarantor, which is ridiculous because we make more than enough money to afford it. And it's a rental. New York, you know? On top of it my husband's boss is replacing him with someone who will do his job for less money. This month has been enough to make us want to cut and run. But where would we even go? We are defeated. And we would sell out — if anyone was buying.

In the mornings, I feel more optimistic. Like maybe this bodice isn't so bad. It doesn't yet have the boning and bra cups sewn in, and is not yet lined. So this photo above is not a fair indication of what it will look like in the end. And maybe we'll find an even better apartment for less money, and then we'll be relieved we didn't get that other one. And maybe my husband's next job will be better. And maybe I won't have a stroke from all this stress by tonight. 

In case you were wondering how much work it is to sew a dress of this sort — it's a lot of effort (which is enjoyable when you're feeling fine, or a frustration overload when your stress level is already at Threat Level Red) — so don't ask me to make you one. Testing the muslin, cutting out underlining and then the main dress fabric, hand sewing each bodice piece to the underlining — this couture shit is for real:
Pinning the bodice:

 With so many steps and so many pieces, there are so many places you could go wrong. That's why it's best to walk away when life has you ready to explode. That last piece of advice was meant for myself.

Sep 10, 2011

Making the Muslin for My Bombshell Dress

It's not your fault that the clothes you buy don't fit your body. They were made to fit someone who is a "perfect 10" (or 4, 6, 8, 12, etc. etc.), which few of us are. And making something as fitted as the Perfect Fit Bombshell Dress is the fastest way to understanding exactly why the clothes you buy don't fit your body. Like today I learned my back is three sizes smaller than the rest of me. I guess that's better than the alternative, but it can throw things off — bra size, for example. 

I made it through the first five lessons in Gretchen Hirsch's online sewing course at And as you can see, I have a pretty decent muslin made for the bodice now. I had to adjust my pattern to make bigger cups to account for the fact that my boobs start in my armpits. If the tummy looks loose on my dressform here it's because it was made to fit me, not my mannequin (this dressform hasn't had a baby).
 Want to see how many pieces go into making something so fitted? Nine pieces for the front bodice:
Four pieces in the back. Plus it's all lined. And there's a skirt of course. Still, I am making decent progress. I may actually pull this off. But I don't have boning, needle punch, Petersham or boning casing in my sewing studio/apartment foyer. In fact, I don't even know what three of those four things are. SO this project could still go off the rails. But I'm loving the video tutorials at I think this will be so worth the $25 course fee. I was watching one of Gretchen's videos today when my three-year-old walked in. Lucy stared at the screen and then said, "Is that you?" Gretchen has short, dark bangs, distinctive black framed eyeglasses — and is covered in tattoos. Sometimes I wonder if my family even looks at me at all.

Sep 9, 2011

FINISHED! The Marc Jacobs Bow Print Dress

There was a point in making this Marc Jacobs bow-print dress that I actually put it on backwards and considered making this deep V the front. That's how long was the road to redemption for Vogue 1207, an adorable but unfortunately non-functional Misses dress pattern. Quickly rejected, that I even considered the idea illustrates my intense desire to make this flawed pattern work. Because after cutting into this precious bow print fabric (which I bought at Metro Textile for just $5/yard), I just couldn't jettison this project because of poor fit and constricting sleeves. Plus I started this dress a couple days after I was attacked by a crackhead in the park. So it has sentimental value of a sort. How much do you love the back of this dress? 

And those pockets? I love them too:

I should have taken photos an hour later though, because I would have been smiling much bigger (as it is, my smile is still a little lopsided, thanks to some swelling and a cut that remains on my chin). Today we found a spacious and affordable new apartment in a lovely quiet neighbourhood. We adore it, but I'm not getting my hopes too high in case we are rejected. Because attaining a new apartment in New York requires as much paperwork as getting a Greencard, no exaggeration. I've done both. But I like our broker much better than our lawyer, so hopefully we have as much success with this new place as we did with my immigration status. 
 To make this dress functional, I had to hack away at the sleeves, which were super cool looking, but prevented me from raising my arms. And I like raising my arms. So what am I left with? A little sideboob:

 What do you think? In my opinion, that's too much underarm. But I otherwise love this dress....if anyone has a fix they can suggest, I'd love to hear it. Here she is again, from the front:

I've got my fingers crossed in those pockets that we get this new place. My family needs some good news!

Sep 8, 2011

Bombshell Dress Class and Poor Decisions?

I finished my Marc Jacobs bow-print dress, but it has been raining for days and days here with no break in the forecast, so taking posed pictures of me in it will just have to wait. I hacked away at the sleeves, and though the results verge on side-boob cleavage, I think it's passable. I will wear it. Probably not often. But it's adorable, especially if I don't raise my arms. My husband likes it. But I may have inadvertantly learned that he has a thing for side-boob. Silver lining?

I also pulled the trigger last night on signing up for Gertie's Perfect Fit Bombshell Dress online class. With the discount (that you can get through a number of places:; Oonabaloona's blog, among others), it was only $25, and that includes the cost of the pattern. Even though we are moving at the end of the month, and I have writing assignments out the wazoo, and I am anxious beyond belief after being mugged two blocks from our apartment two weeks ago, I thought I'd add to my workload by making this dress, hopefully in time for a wedding we are travelling to in early October. And hopefully in this peacock-printed silk I bought at Metro Textiles a couple months back:
Of course, it specifically says not to use silk or other slippery fabrics in this dress, but I love this print soooo much, and am willing to experiment with underlinings and fusibles to get it into Bombshell Dress-ready state. Don't judge. My decision-making capacity has been severely limited in recent weeks. I tried finding a dress at H&M, but everything I tried was flawed in some way. Now I need something to look forward to, and following through on this class could be it. I wake up at 6 a.m. every day worrying....about finding a new apartment, about packing up this crazy space, about how my kid is going to react to it all, about how all my friends think we suck for fleeing this 'hood, about whether I'll ever be able to sew anything with this lovely silk.

The first step is printing off the pattern, but wouldn't you know it: we are out of ink. Something good better happen for my family soon.

Sep 5, 2011

Marc Jacobs Bow Print Dress Hopes Dashed Again?

The prettiest little straight jacket I've ever made
 Oh for the love of all things printed, would this dress just hurry up and finish itself already? My dozen readers now know the awful origins of this project. But how will it end? With the shreds of this divine Marc Jacobs bow print cotton braided together to make a noose? I'm not quite suicidal over this crazy-making pattern, but close. I love the skirt now and how it co-ordinates with the bodice and this brown leather belt (the new skirt is a cream-coloured corduroy. I cut my own A-line pattern for it to keep it simple after ripping off the hideous and unflattering original skirt). It's a little wrinkly here, and un-hemmed, but you get the idea:

It looks freaking adorable with my newish Dansko sandals. I took the back in a bit, re-shaped the waistline, and the whole thing just fits perfectly now. The only problem is I still can't raise my arms. Like, at all. None of the pattern reviews I read made mention of this bodice's straightjacket-like properties. Perhaps I made an error in construction. Or possibly those ladies prefer standing demurely with their hands clasped behind their backs. I tried it on and thought, "Well, maybe it wouldn't be so bad!" It looks amazing, after all. But at that very moment my kid yelled "WATER!!" and I ran to the cupboard for a sippy cup. What followed was so totally awkward, I began to worry about the fact we don't have curtains in our kitchen windows right now. I had to bend sideways at the waist to raise my opposite hand high enough to grab a cup from the cupboard, arm bent at the elbow. If I went out in public in this thing and attempted a similar broken-doll maneuver, my friends would never let me hear the end of it.

UPDATE:  Here I am in it (that's how high I can raise my arm. Sad, isn't it?):

So what to do? The bottom half of those amazing folded sleeves will have to go. Such a shame. I really liked that it was a short-sleeve dress and not sleeveless, which it will need to be if I ever hope to wear it out.

Sep 1, 2011

The I-Got-Mugged-And-All-I-Got-Was-This-Stupid-Dress, Take 2

Thanks to the savvy reader Justsewsew, I now know that the navy bow-print fabric I used in my post-mugging dress disaster is by Marc Jacobs. The horror that so many of you urged arson on me, pleading with me to burn the crappy dress I sewed in the days following getting punched in the face by a crackhead! I understand that the sentiment was you standing with me — against the crackhead AND the dress that was causing me so much unhappiness. BUT MARC JACOBS fabric! C'mon!

Here are the MJ bow-printed items I found online:

At least now the thought of that divine bow-printed bathing suit will keep me up at night (and not how unsafe my neighborhood is. See? We're making jokes about it already. Good).

Anyway, not today, and not tomorrow, but eventually I am going to make this bodice work. Maybe a brown corduroy skirt for fall?

Mmmmm, scratch that belt. I loaned all my leather belts to a friend, so have nothing else to throw on top of my pinned on corduroy to give you a sense of what it would look like. Any thoughts? Or does anyone want to be my bodyguard on a trip downtown for skirt fabric? What colour or fabric  (or skirt style) would you choose to go with this bodice in cotton?


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