Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sparkly Springtime Separates

There's this event at my school called Founders' Day. It's this big schoolwide ceremony that is deemed so important that the students are instructed to forsake their uniforms in favor of semi-formal "mass dress".

Lots of people "hate" Founders Day, because we get out late and you have to sit through an outside mass with all its unpredictable weather. I pretend no such reserve. If I can wear something I've made to school, I'm sold!

I realized two days before Founders' Day that the garment I had been planning on wearing instead was asking to be stopped by the deans on account of "modesty". Under other circumstances I might have braved spaghetti straps, but not bright yellow ones.

Here's a conversation between me and mom about this grave issue.

Me: My yellow Cynthia Rowley dress won't work, it's got exposed shoulders and it's too short.
Mom: What are you going to wear, then?
Me: Um, that sparkly green Anna Sui blouse.
Mom: *Gasp* You have fabric to make a skirt to go with that! You haven't made it yet!
Me: Yeah, well, that's ok. I'll wear the blouse with some nice pants.
Mom: When is Founders' Day?
Me: Tuesday.
Mom: That's in TWO DAYS!!! You have to get started!!!
Me: Well I don't really have time, I have homework and I'm making you a pie for your birthday.
Mom: Forget the pie! Forget homework! You should make that skirt!
Me: But I want to make you a nice dessert! And I don't really have the pattern figured out!
Mom: Leave those limes and get started for the Love of God!

I love my mom :) We have the same sewing sensibilities.

As you've probably gathered if you read the above dialogue, this outfit is not a dress, it's actually separates. The whole outfit together is actually cobbled together from FOUR different patterns :O

The main blouse is an Anna Sui pattern that I made a while back at the end of summer, shortly after purchasing this SUBLIME sparkly sea-green silk chiffon.

I just have to make you understand how beautiful this fabric is. The shade of green is by itself gorgeous: it's light and celebratory but not frivolous. The chiffon itself is diaphanous and drapey. And the multifaceted shimmer imparted by each of the tiny little dots of glitter makes it positively ethereal. If you held up the uncut swatch and looked at it from far away, it looked like you were dropping sparkles in the air in front of you. The way it reflects light reminds me of sunlight on the ocean.

So I immediately went home and started rifling through my Anna Sui shirt pattern stash. I love Anna Sui shirt patterns. I've made two thus far, and have plans to make another. She has some great designs that are perfect for very lightweight fabric, like silk chiffon and charmeuse. Whenever I (often) find myself drawn to colorful, beaded, flowy fabric, I start laying about for the nearest Anna Sui pattern.

LOOK AT THOSE RUFFLES. Not the short, gathered, stuffy kind, but the sweeping, drapey, bias-cut, pain-in-the-scissor-hand kind. You know it's a good ruffle when you extract the pattern piece and it looks like a crop circle.

Since the fabric is transparent, I thought a shell of some sort would be prudent. I bought a pale yellow-green silk charmeuse. Is it weird that when I look at this color I think of the green equivalent of "champagne"?

I used the slip from pattern V1160, a DKNY dress, as the basis of my shell (after trimming off the entire skirt, obviously). (Side note: pattern V1160 is a GORGEOUS dress behind all these clashing polka dots--recommend.)


If I wanted to make a skirt to go with it, I knew I wanted to carry through the ruffle design. Pretty much exactly like what is happening on the skirt of V1269 (this Chado Ralph Rucci dress and jacket).



Instead of drafting a waistband for V1269, I decided to use a basic skirt pattern I had lying around and to attach the magnificent ruffles to the hem.

Just a basic Simplicity skirt and pants pattern.
This took some alterations. I tweaked the skirt pattern to eliminate the slit and I had to almost half the skirt length so I could add the ruffle. Also, the hem of the Chado Ralph Rucci dress is a lot wider than the hem of the Simplicity skirt, which means that whereas the former used three full circles worth of ruffle around the bottom, I have only two on my skirt (which is good, because I was fudging fabric space already!).

I used the same green/champagne silk charmeuse for the lining of the skirt. I pretty much made two versions of the skirt, one in the glittery green chiffon and a slightly shorter one in the charmeuse, and sewed them together at the waistband. Ta-da!

This is the inside of the skirt. It's not too pretty, because I couldn't put the bad side of the lining facing out because it would show underneath the transparent sea-green fabric. I tried to finish the seams as neatly as I could. As you can see, I actually folded over the center back seam around the zipper to make a sort of narrow hem to keep the fraying silk from getting stuck in the zipper. 
To finish off the raw seams, I did a double stitched seam, which meant doing a second line of stitching 1/4 inch into the seam allowance and trimming close to the second stitching. This prevents fraying and it looks decently neat.

While making this outfit I also learned a new hemming technique. It's a pain in the butt (like most nice hems) but it's great if you want a really small, subtle hem that won't interfere with the draping of your fabric and you have a thread that precisely matches your textile.

Here's the basic process.I used black thread so you could see what I was doing, but really you should be using thread as close to the color of the fabric as possible.

Stitch 1/2 away from the raw edge of the fabric.
Trim as close to the stitching as possible WITHOUT snipping the thread

Using the thread for leverage, roll the fabric over the thread (you can think of it as making a very very very small narrow hem that encloses the thread.

Stitch in place

Shockingly, this actually works. I wasn't sure it would!

The nice thing about these pieces is that together they make a stunning and arresting dress-facsimile, but I can also wear them separately to change up my look.

The blouse goes great with a pair of jeans for a more casual look, and if for some reason I'm not feeling head-to-toe green I might try the skirt with a white blouse.

Disadvantage of this garment: I do shed green glitter. Not enough to noticeably affect the fabric, but enough to impact the chair I'm using. I kept picturing some guy in a suit to use my chair after me and walk around the rest of the day with green glitter on his butt! Haha :D Maybe not a disadvantage after all.


*Note: And this is where I would link giddily to the new Vogue Patterns summer catalog, if there were ANYTHING in the Vogue Patterns summer catalog worth getting giddy about. There is NOTHING INTERESTING in the entire collection. Please comment if you want to rave or start a petition ;)


  1. Wow! You really did create something here, It IS BEAUTIFUL. Enjoy wearing it!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! That is something I can faithfully promise to do!

  2. This outfit is spectacular! I really want to make that top now...It's gorgeous!!

    1. Thank you so much ! Isn't it a lovely pattern? I think I might have to go make it again! :)