Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I Knew I Hated Stretchy Fabric

So I really don't prefer stretchy fabric. I think it's because of my dogmatic aversion to making basic, casual clothing in favor of unique, attention-grabbing eveningwear (and also since I have a uniform that's kind of casual clothes out the window). Stretchy fabric is often reminiscent of sweatclothes or cheap sausage dresses

because they look like a sausage casing
and if I wanted those I could go to Target. Besides, I like  nice fabric. Can you blame me?

But my mom does contains some notable exceptions in her interminable fabric armoire. Before Christmas, I really wanted a new dress to wear to my family's annual Christmas Lunch. So much so that I deluded myself that I could whip up a new one in three days right before, between, and across final exams.

I scrounged (ok it's more like free shopping) for an appropriate pattern-fabric combination. I was inspired by a white, beaded, beautiful but sparse swatch. I had other fabric to pair it with, I just needed an appropriate pattern to...

Vogue 1316, Rebecca Taylor. I've loved this pattern since I bought it off the Vogue Patterns website, and now I could throw it together at home without pursuing four different coordinating textiles in half-yard increments at a store!

The fabric on the left is my original muse. It's a beaded polyester (I know because I burnt a scrap) that has a similar weight and texture to silk satin. To the right is a matching dark gray fabric. It's got the exact same design on it (how cool is that going to look?) but it's a--wait for it--STRETCHY knit. The middle fabric is a simple black fabric synthetic with a subtle sheen. It is one of the few stretchy fabrics I have encountered that I actually approve of because it is quite formal and pretty gorgeous. In a fabric store I would probably try to avoid both polyester and stretches, but since this was a matter of assembling instead of purchasing, and since everything was acceptably beautiful, I was all to happy to use them to make a wonderful dress. :) 

I used the white fabric for the main front (contrast 3) and back (white) panels, the gray fabric for contrasts 1 and 2, and the black fabric for the white bordering as well as the sleeves/yoke. 
I actually changed around some of the color blocking on the design, and I really liked the alterations. 

1. The original pattern calls for four fabrics, but I did not have four fabrics I cared to put on my dress. I also didn't really like the way that from the front view the hips are outlined in the banding and then highlighted in a different color, so I decided to make contrasts one and two the same fabric to minimize the effect. That way, the whole side panel of the dress would be one color. I like it better that way; it makes the garment look complex but still cohesive. 

2. I also as I said before really like my white fabric, so I decided to make both the large front (contrast 3) and back (white) panels out of the white beaded fabric. Again, cohesive and showing off my nice fabric.

3. Lastly, I made the sleeves (or the yoke, as the pattern likes to call them) in the same color as the banding (portrayed as white). My mom actually gave me the idea. That way, my dress would be entirely outlined in black. 

The body of the dress went together pretty quickly. It was just a matter of following the pattern and matching everything up (it took me a couple tries to align the side seamlines perfectly). 

The part that scared me was the fitting. The large back panel is one of the last pieces attached, meaning it's really hard to try on the dress before you've compiled the whole thing. I was afraid that the interlocking pieces would make adjustments hard. Fortunately, I figured out that I could fit the garment by taking it in/out on either side of the long back panel that runs the length of the dress without too much hassle. Fitting probably took me twenty minutes and I was really happy with the result.  

But a few days later, I picked it up again to finish putting in the lining...and it didn't fit any more. I chalked it up to the extra bulk, took in the lining, and refit the dress. I was a perfectionist. I the better part of a day taking it in in various subtle places, fixing bulges that developed along the back panel, removing the slack on the back of the neckline...

And when I tried it on it was loose again.

The only explanation is that somehow, in the process of ironing, my dark-gray stretchy fabric had stretched permanently. I was furious.  My dress had managed to self-undo undo half my nitpicking alterations. Ok, so maybe I was overexaggerating. The dress still fit pretty well. But still my absolutely perfect to-the-hair fit was compromised, my day was wasted, my Christmastime spent in angst and it's all the fault of STRETCHY FABRIC!!!

I knew I hated stretchy fabric. 

Well t that point I could either keep taking the dress in until the back panel was completely eclipsed or I could try to reverse the enlargement. Evidently there's a knitting technique called blocking that "reshapes" the knitted piece via soaking it and then pinning it to a board or something in the desired shape. Loosely (very loosely) based upon this idea, I spritzed the stretchy parts of my dress and then put it in the drier and hoped that somehow the fabric contracted.

It actually sort of worked...

Finished garment to come!


  1. Ehrmagerd amazing. Honey, you blew this one out of the park, cause that dress is stunning!

    1. Thanks! It gave me some fitting trouble, but I finally got it to work. Here are some pictures of me wearing the finished garment!

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