I have to admit, every year I look forward to Homecoming: not because I'm a football fanatic, nor because I like wearing silly hats to school during Spirit Week (though I do)--but because it's the perfect excuse to make the most beautiful, exquisite, fancy, outstanding dress that it is within my capabilities to pull together.
I am at the point where I have so many self-sewn dresses that if I was going to spend time making another semi-formal dress, I wanted it to be, not only stunning, but notably different.
I was almost giving up hope of finding an exceptionally flooring pattern when I came across this
|The cutouts on this dress are perfectly positioned so you can see my really flattering bikini tan from the summer. Haha ;)|
I'm not sure what makes this design so arresting. I think it's the contrast of the geometric tightness of the top, with the angular straps, eye-catching diamonds, and central gathering, with the ethereal looseness of the skirt. I think it's gorgeous.
Furthermore, there's little doubting that this is a unique design. Have you ever seen a neckline like that before? Or a slit that's not actually a slit?
For those of you that are unfamiliar with Marfy, their patterns are expert-level, which basically means they come without seam allowances, or lining pieces, or, oh, instructions. When you order a Marfy pattern, you are pretty much ordering the geometric pattern pieces, and it's up to you to put them together.
And I had never put together a Marfy pattern before.
Guess what that means?
|Wondering why I'm wearing a tablecloth and a Roman soldier mohawk? There's actually a (pretty) good reason!|
Making a muslin was really helpful in putting together this pattern, especially since I didn't have instructions. I was able to copy all the markings from the pattern piece to the garment using Sharpie (no tears over ruining that horrible gingham) and then use the completed muslin as a 3-D map of what to do when I made the final dress.
The dress was actually not that complicated.
Here's what the front bodice piece looks like. The two squares are the two "diamonds" in the pattern, located at the base of the neck and just below the breast; you gather the bodice between E and D and between B and C and then sew those edges onto the diamonds.
The back of the dress and the two diagonal straps that come over the shoulders and join the top diamond are one piece.
The skirt was pretty straightforward. There is a two-pieced, A-line bottom layer and then a slightly fuller overlay that is open at the front.
Making the muslin also helped me figure out where I need to put openings and closures (something else Marfy doesn't advise on). I put a zipper in the side seam that extends for the length of the bodice and part of the skirt, and I added an opening, secured by a hook and eye, at the top of the center back seam so I could get my head through.
|Center back hole and hook|
After I made my hideous muslin and was pretty confident in my ability to assemble the garment, I found my fabric.
It might be sort of hard to tell from the picture, but this is some of the prettiest chiffon you've ever seen in your life.
It's an incredibly rich magenta and purple with just a hint of a sheen, and it drapes like heaven. I found it at Michael Levine in downtown LA. I went fabric shopping thinking I wanted something a little more intricate, with some beading or a pattern, but this fabric was so gorgeous and the color was so deep that I thought it spoke for itself.
For the underskirt and bodice lining, I bought some silk charmeuse in a complimentary plum color.
|Yeah it sort of needs an ironing job...|
Instead of lining the top in the normal way, which would have meant sewing the charmeuse to the chiffon right-side to right-side and leaving a seam that would be visible under the chiffon, I lined it by cutting out each of the bodice pieces in both fabric, laying them on top of each other, and treating them like one piece. I finished off the neck edges and armholes in a 5/8 inch (remember, I had to add the seam allowances myself because Marfy doesn't do it for you!) narrow hem. Which I sewed by hand, being careful only to catch the charmeuse and not the chiffon. Because topstitching is not acceptable on a chiffon Marfy homecoming dress.
You guys, there was so much handstitching on this project. (Which was, just to be clear, totally worth it.)
I sewed in the zipper by hand.
Do you see any stitching around the outside of the zipper? I don't see any stitching around the zipper ;)
I added the appliques by hand.
No, I did not actually bead this myself. I bought a swatch of beaded lace from downtown to adorn the diamonds on the neck and chest sections of the dress. I cut out a square from the beaded fabric, hemmed it, and sewed it on top after I was done with the structural part of the dress. I suppose it would be possible to add the lace in as you're putting the garment together, which would secure it in the seam allowances between the straps and the squares, but I was afraid that if I put it in while I was still assembling the dress the chiffon might snag on the beading, so I saved it until the end. Also, adding the lace on top of the other fabric pieces gives you an opportunity to sort of cover up any imperfections in your sewing where the corners don't intersect perfectly.
I did the same on the inside with a normal piece of charmeuse to cover up the crazy-looking thread-strewn seams that resulted from sewing four different edges of fabric to four different sides of the same square.
I also hemmed by hand.
|The charmeuse--a normal 5/8 inch narrow hem.|
I wanted the hem on the chiffon to be really subtle--no thread showing, and as thin as possible. After scouring YouTube for a while, I found about THE MOST AMAZING HEM TECHNIQUE EVER.
This is called a rolled hem. It's a super thin, almost invisible hem that shows up as barely a darkened line at the bottom of the dress. You don't even see the thread. The technique is hard to explain, so I'll let you watch the great tutorial below, but it works like magic!
If you're wondering why I also left you with a link to the first episode of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth, that is because that's what I recommend watching while you complete this hem because it takes forever. It's very worth it though, because the subtle effect it creates without interrupting the drape of the dress is essential for an elegant, couture look.
One last note: I used French seams on both the underskirt and the overlay for a clean, finished look.
Ta da! Marfy 2323!
If you've got any questions or comments or other observations, please feel free to comment and let me know what you think!