Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Sleeve and Back Crisis - hopefully averted!

The pressure of the wedding sewing is starting to get to me. To be honest,  it's more the pattern making than the thought of the construction. I'd be more than happy to take a pattern and make it up. No decisions. No problems. Certainly no designing. I don't mind the minor alterations required - not even FBAs!

I've been struggling with the design of the bridesmaids’ dresses. We have an inspiration photo,  which I can't show here, but it has a pretty open back. That itself causes issues as there just isn't the fabric available to provide support so the open parts gape.

Worse, the girls were keen to have a boat neck at the front.

Boat neck plus open back = disaster! There is just no support available and the shoulders fall off the sides.

I have Suzy Furrer's classes and her book, 'Building Patterns, The Architecture of Women’s Clothing', which I like and use. I carefully watched her video on how to create a boat neck and carried out the steps on my pattern. The video was more detailed and I have included a photo of my pattern alterations on one of the patterns (Joanne's). The diagrams below are from the book, not specifically about boat necks, though the video section was.

Showing front neckline

At Christmas,  I had the first basic toiles and a front boat neck version for the two bridesmaids to try; the back was a standard back. Reasonably successful and I marked the changes required.

I attend a Sewing Bee with Dan and she is helping me think about the dresses now, for which I'm extremely grateful as I was really struggling.

Joanne, my middle daughter, visited last week. I was able to take her briefly to the class and Dan fitted the toile. There were a number of issues related to the boat neck and the open back, which I had now created for Joanne’s visit. Helpfully, Dan pointed out that the bodice was too long - it looked much better when pinned shorter. I thought I knew where I was going.

I had made a sleeve but found it took full and puffed and we didn’t like it. This was a sleeve from a pattern I'd made previously - Simplicity 1418 - which I thought would have worked. It didn’t. So Dan also went through how to create two types of  cap sleeves and roughly pinned one on one side, using the sleeve I had created. The other side was sleeveless and finished. I rather liked the sleeve she pinned and so decided to make a ‘proper’ version later - I haven’t got around to this as yet! Dan says that a cap sleeve can be added later, so I don’t need to worry about that at the moment, particularly as we’re thinking sleeveless at present. That could change! So many things have changed already.

We originally preferred the sleeve on the left

I have some photos of the toile, which I'm not publishing. As Joanne has returned south, that's what I have to work with.

As I can’t show any photos, I'm including the step diagrams instead.

Alison, my oldest daughter,  visited over the weekend (nice to see my grandsons). As I've been pretty ill,  I hadn't had a chance to make the alterations to the toile she tried at Christmas. I did some quick pinning and hacking when she retried it! We identified some serious flaws and I realised I’d have to completely redraw the pattern

I also read about how to contour for a low back in Suzy Furrer's book and while Alison was attending a function on Saturday,  redrew the pattern and made up a new toile. I quote here from Suzy Furrer and show her diagrams:

“If the back neckline depth is level with or lower than the base of the armhole an adjustment needs to be made to the back bust ease. If the back neckline depth is level with the depth of the armhole, bring the back underarm/bust seam in 3/8". If the neckline is midway between the armhole and the waist, bring the back underarm/bust seam in 5/8". If the neckline depth is at the waist, bring the back underarm/bust seam in 7/8".
This adjustment will prevent the back from gaping and wrinkling. The more skin exposed, the tighter the garment should be. This is a negative ease situation. This adjustment is only done to the back, not the front. The adjustment is in addition to the 1/4" taken off the sloper to reduce ease at the bust.”

In addition,  I decided to follow instructions on how to make a cut on cap sleeve using Tanya Whelan’s book Sew Many Dresses sew little time; the ultimate dressmaking guide. I haven’t used this book as yet but have read through and it seems interesting but I can’t review it as yet. I have other sewing instructional books but wanted to use this one as it is modern and I thought more suitable for these dresses! The all in one cap sleeve was a suggestion from Alison who likes this type of sleeve. It didn’t work - my fault entirely. Perhaps the problem here was that the sleeve pattern I used wasn't one of the ones in the book (the book comes with patterns). I used the sleeve pattern from my original block for Alison - worse, I hadn’t altered the sleeve pattern in line with the bodice alterations - the armscye had been altered because of the contouring required. Anyway,  the back part of the sleeve looked okay, just like the diagram. I wasn't at all sure about the front as it didn't look at all as per photo in the book,  no matter how hard I tried. I sewed it up. The armhole was so tiny that Alison said even if she lost so much weight that she became skeletal it still wouldn't fit!

This is where I went wrong! The back was fine but the front awful.

I’m including the diagrams from the book to show the process. I haven’t included the actual instructions - you know that this isn't intended as any kind of tutorial (perish the thought!) but rather to make up for my lack of photos! The one instruction I realise that I didn't follow as I didn't fully understand the way it was written was to make the top of the sleeve front match the back front. Mine didn't.

Looking from the front. front/back shoulder seam along the top.
 Additional fabric inserted measures nearly 2" at sleeve edge
On one side I inserted a patch (or gusset?). I've shown a photo of that here. I slit open the other side and was going to see how much fabric was required but we ended up hacking the sleeve off completely. I mean hacked!

I wasn't happy at all with the toile fit. I have a number of photos - though it turned out I didn't have all the necessary photos - no photo of how the side seams lay.

I sent a lot of photos to Helen. I indicated the problems I was having and suggested changes - largely providing more fabric and therefore more support. I think I anticipated some objection to my suggested changes. That didn't happen.

I came to some decisions and can’t afford to change direction now. I have to get on with it! No more procrastinating by writing blog posts!!

Last night, I went to Dan’s sewing bee.  Of course, no Alison but I was able to take the photos.

I was keen to get advice on how to deal with the problems. Interestingly,  once again the bodice waistline was a bit low - I seem to have difficulty working out where the waistline should be.

The shoulders were falling off the shoulder line and I thought this was entirely due to lack of support - however,  Dan showed me that the shoulder was too wide in the first place. She also recommended a change in the design lines.

We also discussed how to construct the facings and generally make up the dress.

So, I'm going back to the original toile - it was too difficult to start to work with a partly altered one. I got confused almost instantly. Despite having to remake all the alterations made previously, it's worth it. So - alter shoulder width, alter neck width, add fabric to back, shorten bodice,  modify design lines. Make facings. Quite a number of changes!  

After the class, I had a telephone discussion with Helen and I feel a lot happier - not despondent about going back to the original block. I'm visiting the girls in 3 weeks or so and hope to have a full working toile in an appropriate fabric made up by then. I have 3 sewing bees with Dan between now and then for any further advice I need.

On another note,  Helen told me that she successfully wore the tartan pleated skirt I made just before Christmas to a Burns Supper. Final blog post with photos here
Naturally she wasn't wearing her Christmas hat and slipper socks!

Okay - quick sewing room tidy (I have been working on it, honest!) then I need to get things ready for golf tomorrow - I'm feeling better enough to try a few holes, I hope (and maybe a few on Saturday if I survive!) - then a teams bridge match at my house tomorrow afternoon. I'm back at college on Thursday evening but hopefully might get some sewing done on Friday - unless we go to Bowes Museum to see a couple of exhibitions there - we postponed from a couple of weeks ago as I was ill. This weekend can be sewing, certainly

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Solved! Somehow I've started following myself and want to stop!

Okay, I love followers and love comments but I draw the line at following myself!  I don't know how it happened - it certainly wasn't deliberate.  This morning I got an email giving me further blog suggestions, similar to my own, which I had somehow started following.

It's interesting, however,  to see how my blog looks on Bloglovin. Big photos don't work as they're out of focus. I've seen that on Bloglovin before - the photos are fine if you click through to the original blog post.  I'll stick to medium in future,  though.

Anyway,  I tried to unfollow me but that's not an option - the icon against my name is to follow me rather than unfollow me!
I don't know if it's confused because I use two email addresses and multiple devices.

Do you have any advice?

Do please comment.

Thank you. Anne

Update - sorted out. Thanks,  Marianne. I still don't know why it happened in the first place,  though!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Weekend in London; Fabrics of India, Fabric browsing in Soho, Liberty in Fashion

Fabrics of India

Last Friday David and I travelled down to London by train and visited the Fabrics of India exhibition in the Victorian and Albert Museum. We also intended seeing the Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition. In the end only David saw that as I spent a lot longer in the Fabrics of India exhibition than I thought I would. The JMC exhibition consisted of her portraits of famous people and showed how she managed to master and move beyond the technical aspects of photography while it was still at a very early stage in the mid to late 1800s.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Fabrics of India exhibition. I won't completely review the exhibition here - for one thing, it has now ended and others have already adequately reviewed it (see for example Kate at Fabrickated). The exhibition was more extensive than I realised and so I spent a long time there. It was very busy which is a disadvantage of going at the time I did.

The exhibition,  and the accompanying book,  set out to provide an overview of the textiles of India (using the term India in its previous very wide sense to include many parts of Asia). The V & A hold the greatest collection of Indian textiles in the world but had never held an exhibition (not had anyone else);  indeed many textiles in the exhibition had been brought out of storage for the first time ever since they were acquired in the 19th century!  One piece of textile on display had never been unwrapped - not even yet.

The textiles included pieces that I associate with India but the range was much wider. As well as very old pieces,  over 1000 years old, there was covering of modern Indian designers - who often design in collaboration with European designers or fashion houses.

So too did the exhibition cover the impact of textiles on culture and politics within India and way beyond its borders (see too Kate's post

The fabric that I will likely use for my MOB , a dupion silk,  was brought back from India for me by my friend Veena.  She took a piece of David's tartan and tried to match/tone the blue in it as I wanted to highlight that colour in the kilt rather than clashing completely!  She brought me two blue dupion silks,  one green (also in the tartan) shot silk and a purply blue and green saree. I look forward to using all of these fabrics.

(This is not a photo of my actual fabric,  rather a photo from Wikipedia as is definition;  my fabric is more of a cobalt /electric blue) 
Dupioni (also referred to as Douppioni or Dupion) is a plain weave crisp type of silk fabric, produced by using fine thread in the warp and uneven thread reeled from two or more entangled cocoons in the weft.

I wasn't able to take photographs but I did buy the exhibition book which has lovely photos of the exhibits and the explanations. There were a few film clips including one on indigo dyeing (I thought of Kate then), one on embroidery and one on printing block cutting. David and I have become interested in fabric printing since having some fabric printed. I wanted David to write about that process but he probably won't do so, so I may, at a later date. I was also very interested in the process of Ikat, particularly double Ikat - I couldn't believe how complex these patterns were. Likewise,  I thought I knew what ‘tie dyeing’ was - didn't we all try that in the 70s? However, the textiles we saw had such amazing complexity that I would never had guessed this was the process. There was also an amazing embroidery technique - unfortunately I forget the name and can't find it in the book, so far,  at least. The first section of the exhibition,  covering the materials and the making of them was far and away the bit I liked best.

Fabric shopping

I was staying with my daughter Helen and future son in law A in their new flat in east London. They’ve just had the kitchen replaced and a partial wall knocked down and are very pleased with the result though they have some way to go before they have completed all they want to do. We hadn’t  seen the flat and they were excited to show it off. We loved what they've done.

Our plan was to fabric scope/shop on Saturday in Soho,  before moving onto Joel and Sons and then Goldhawk Road  for some cheaper practice fabrics. I'm making A a waistcoat and he wanted to choose the fabric and is also involved in the choice of fabric for the bridesmaids. This meant he ended up being with us for rather longer than I'd hoped and we got less done than we wanted. Mind you, Helen and I were both somewhat ill so that didn't help! We didn't buy the final fabrics but have a fair idea of what they will be. We didn't get to Joel and Sons but H will visit there on Saturday coming. I bought some  fabric potentially for my backup MOB outfit, though I found it didn't really work for what I had in mind after I got it home, so I've abandoned that idea. More fabric in the stash.

Liberty in Fashion Exhibition

On Sunday I was originally travelling back early to allow H and A to get on with their decorating. However, I saw that there was a Liberty in Fashion exhibition on at the Fashion and Textiles Museum and decided to go on Sunday and get a later train home (David had to go home on Friday night - I had an open ticket). Helen decided she would come with me.

Kate has also covered this exhibition in two posts ( here and here)  so again I won't go into it in any detail. Liberty has had a large contribution to British fashion,  both in its own work and its impact on the work of other designers and this exhibition celebrated that,  showing the evolution of design, patterns and colour by era.

I was able to take photos (only on my phone and without flash so they're not great I'm afraid)  and with some of the exhibits,  I could get really close and personal looking at design and construction detail. I appreciate that though I'm not a great Liberty fan though the fabric I bought,  mentioned earlier,  was a Liberty lawn.

A had gone overnight to a function in Cambridge but was due back for lunch;  at that point we were going to show him the lining we bought for his waistcoat and some additional samples of bridesmaid dress silk fabric from Goldhawk Road, bought on Saturday. However,  the exhibition was smaller than I thought and it took us less time to go around so I decided to go home without meeting A for lunch. The train journey was busy and an hour longer than usual because of engineering works, all I didn't want to hang around longer than necessary.

All in all a nice weekend. But it's always nice to get home! 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

MOB style 'results'; a request for help as I need to interview a small business person/professional dressmaker for my course

I posted a number of pictures of me in various outfits and received a few online opinions. I took these photos to my sewing classes and got opinions from everyone there. The first is a sewing bee at which the average age is probably around my age. The second is my college course where I'm the oldest, probably.  These comments are relevant to the opinions gathered. 

dress 4

One dress, number 6, was a Marmite dress. Some (including my course tutor,  who felt it was very flattering), picked it out as their favourite. It's the one of all of these I don't feel good in. My husband likes it,  I can wear it, but I wouldn't choose to. Others immediately pointed to it and said ‘not that one’. Otherwise it simply wasn't included in choices made.

dress 6

Dress 4 gleaned most votes. This is probably my favourite. I've made the image a lot larger to allow the tucks at (R) shoulder and (R)waist to be seen

dress 4 - enalrge

Dress 5 was extremely popular but a bit Marmite-like too!

My course tutor loved this,  though I think that could be more to do with me having some attitude in the photo,  something she's trying to encourage in my sketchbook.  Others said they might like the dress if I wasn't standing in ‘that funny way’! It was pointed out to me that dress 4 has slightly cutaway shoulders which I hadn't noticed.

There was an age issue with the older ladies in their 70s preferring the dresses with the longer length and somewhat more flare, while some of the younger opined that these dresses had to be shorter or longer than the length these are - just not right, although my youngest daughter did like dress 1 and at the length it was.  

Dress 8 was a very popular style though many loved the style but didn't like the fabric and my daughter said it looked too casual,  although she too loved the shape.

dress 8

Dress 9 was popular and included in many choices across age groups. It fitted well. At first, that is.

dress 9

The RTW outfit I tried on was popular too.


Other issues:
  • There was a comment that most of my necklines were very similar.
  • They also felt I suited this neckline
  • A couple of ladies, including the tutor in my sewing bee, preferred the slightly lower and wider neckline of 3 and 8, feeling that 4 was too high. Personally, I prefer the higher. Perhaps an in between length will result!
  • Two older ladies picked the V neck Viyella dress but others specifically said the neckline was not the most flattering for me. Interestingly, I always used to love a V neckline when i was younger. I just seem to have moved away from them, though not deliberately.
  • Length - knee length by a large majority
  • A couple felt dress 9 was a bit old fashioned; I think this goes along with Marianne’s view that the skirt would need to be narrowed. My future son in law chose this as one of his favourites. He and Helen had similar choices. My husband and I both like this one.
  • You can see for yourself from the comments on my post what was voted for by those who were kind enough to comment.
  • There was a definite feeling, and I agreed, that I needed a sleeve.
  • One woman on my course had brought in an image of a dress she thought would be good for me. The photo was taken of the dress on her mother, a skilled dressmaker, who is probably older than me by just a few years.  The dress relied on the fabric quality and some subtle shaping. It had a cowl neck. It was nice but she agreed that this type of dress doesn't work with a jacket. She did ask did I really need a jacket.

Do I need a jacket?
I believe so.
The wedding is in the frozen north (!) at the start of June. The weather could be pleasant and warm - last year on the day it was a beautiful sunny day 16°C. That's very cold for my southerner future sil and most of the wedding guests and probably too chilly to want to be in a sleeveless or short sleeved dress outdoors for photos.
The weather could be much colder and it could be raining.
So I feel I want a jacket more for warmth than style though of course that's important  too.
  • The jacket can be plain or lace. Plain, that is solid dupion silk or a lace outer layer, over the silk or a finer layer.
  • I'll have a look at all of my jacket patterns
  • I'm thinking princess seams or cardigan style.
  • I have a new Knipmode pattern and the Morris blazer new to me.
  • I have a number of jacket patterns,  many of which are not suitable,  I feel
  • I need to look through all my jacket patterns some of which came free with a magazine s
I haven’t absolutely decided on a dress style, by the way.  Dress 4/5 and dress 9 are the frontrunners of these styles. Dress 9 has the advantage for me that I have already made it and have further altered the pattern since I made it. I'd need to draft a sleeve. Of course, my tutor might not find that ‘acceptable’ for the course if I haven’t made the pattern from scratch, but that doesn't stop me making the dress. I could also make a version similar to 4 with cobalt crepe which would probably work with the slightly more draped elements of that dress. We’ll see. I have to really ration my time.

For the course, I have to ‘interview’ (could be by email etc) someone who runs a small business, preferably mother of the bride type, I think. I don’t know anybody. Does anybody know someone who might be willing to answer a couple of questions? Or know of an article or blog someone might have produced? This comes about because adult education funding is dependent on working opportunities and seems set on thinking that everyone wants to set up a business. Any small dressmaking business would do, I think. Naturally, I have no plans whatsoever to move in this direction!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Some thoughts about dress styles and style - and your opinion on shapes requested, please! Working with bodice block to design MOB

The styles you choose are very much personal taste but how well you suit it depends on body shape, too.

For the record, I am currently about 2 stones at least (okay 3!) overweight. As I'm 5’11”, excess weight shows slightly less on me than on a petite person - but it still shows (and I was horrified at how much it shows in the photos)!  My measurements are 41, 35, 47; I take a size 36DD bra and RTW size 18 (both UK sizing - I think that's a 14/16 in US sizes) In big 4 patterns, I'm 18 on top and 22 on the bottom by the sizes they give, though often less than that on the bottom depending on how much ease is in the pattern. I'm pear shaped. I'm not happy with this situation;  I had hoped to lose a fair bit of my excess weight for my daughter’s wedding but realistically I'm not going to manage more than a stone or so. But I will manage that. I will!! Once the Christmas chocolates and biscuits are finished ...

Aug 2010
So this brings me to my mother of the bride (MOB) outfit.  I'm (probably) planning to use dupion silk. This will have to be lined and interlined. No, I've never sewn with silk. I know to use sharp fine needles and only to pin inside a seam allowance.  I've read about stabilising with starch etc but my fabric is dry clean only so I can't wash out any substances. I'll use a rotary cutter with a new blade to cut out. I'll cut on a single fabric layer. I know to be careful with the steam iron as fabric could mark with water. I know all that in theory - but not in practice. I believe dupion is slightly easier to sew than other varieties of silk I do have crepe as an alternative and am open to suggestions! Might have to think about that. Linen?

August 2010 with Helen who was a bridesmaid to her sister
My textile course covers pattern cutting,  fabric manipulation and garment construction. None of it in detail.  My final project is my MOB outfit. I have to research design inspirations, draw (! ) some examples, make up some samples, decide on a design for my outfit, produce the pattern and then make up the outfit. A mood board and sketchbook are also key components

I found images from some designers that appealed - DKNY for example.  I found myself attracted to similar things over and over. Lots of asymmetry,  which surprised me. I say that because I haven't had much success with asymmetrical garments in the past. I posted these photos in an earlier post.

I decided I was going to go with a dress and possibly a lightweight jacket. I'm not keen on the bolero in the photos above.

Okay,  the dress.
  • Fitted, semi fitted, loose
  • Darts, princess seams, dart equivalents  (pleats, tucks etc)
  • Seaming at waist, above waist, below waist
  • Straight skirt, A line, flared,  gored,  pleated,  circle etc
  • Waistline seam/no waistline seam
  • Sleeves of various styles or sleeveless or even cut back (but I'm not pursuing that!)
  • Jewel, scooped, V neckline etc  - there are so many styles.
  • I'm sure that’s not everything. There are so many options and combinations.

I decided I was not very keen on gathers, pleats or tuck darts. I prefer the smoothness of darts.

I made up samples,  based on my bodice block, of:
  • Basic shape
  • Shoulder princess seams
  • Parallel curved asymmetric darts
    I found these very difficult to stitch - I obviously don't have the technique right. Ends, where I had the biggest difficulty, are very messy an puckered, although they have been pressed
  • Parallel curved twin French darts
    I can say much the same as above
  • Multiple parallel shoulder darts
This isn't right but I like the concept. The shoulder appears rather wide. I think I need to hone my bodice block.

My first sample, on the model
What did I find?

Well I loved the idea of the curved asymmetric darts. My first rendition wasn't satisfactory as I forgot to back the darts off the bust point. Just made me look very lopsided. Also, I really don't know how to sew these darts and struggled. I think the idea has potential but I feel the dart needs backed off even further. I found it difficult to sew - not good news when using silk. And what skirt do you put with this? My waistline is a problem as in effect it slopes from back to front and I fear a waisted dress emphasising this

I quite liked the French darts but had similar problems sewing them.

I really like the parallel multiple shoulder darts. They weren't too difficult to sew as they are straight - much easier! However, I both marked and pinned the darts -  the end darts were very tiny so no option of pinning inside dart allowance. And would markings come off silk?  Any suggestions for suitable markings for silk?

I cut out the surplus paper from the inside of the largest dart. Then added seam allowance and cut out from fabric. It would have been much easier to sew the huge dart and then trim off the excess fabric. I've modified the pattern to do that next time.

As part of this process, I visited a store (Boundary Mills) and tried on a number of dresses (mainly Jacques Vert). I took dressing cubicle photos on my phone. They're terrifying! Can I bear to show any? I'll show only my favourite of these! It's no real surprise that it's a patterned shift /sheath dress and collarless jacket. My silk is plain (cobalt blue) and I do wonder if a plain dress would work as well in this in of outfit.

I made the following observations, negative and positive:

  • I don’t like cowl necks (which is a pity as I have a potential RTW MOB with a cowl neck - a silk dress and bolero/jacket but I don't feel they go together.  I find a cowl neck difficult to pair with a jacket. See photos at each side 
  • I don’t like circle or very full skirts
  • I'm not really very keen on a waist seam and would rather have a continuous one piece dress.
  • I don’t like gathers or tuck darts
  • I don’t suit crossover tops - maybe in stretch, that’s different but I'm talking woven here; of course, this is also RTW and it could be that making myself one, which would fit so much better, would also look better. Though my floral Vogue dress belies that!
  • I like sheath dresses ending just about the knee - these can have princess seams or standard seams
  • I like fit and flare dresses ending below the knee
  • I like an element of waist shaping
  • I don’t like the asymmetric waistline dresses on, though one of my own dresses, pictured below, has a gather at the waistline on one side.
  • I prefer a sleeve - I didn’t decide absolutely what length

I decided to try on some of the dresses I have in my wardrobe - not all special occasion dresses, just dresses to see what I thought. Some of those are stretch dresses. David took photos. I was horrified at how thick around the middle I've become. I'll post some of these and comment. I'm only posting those I have some time for - there were others that didn't reach here!

1 to 9 - read across then down the rows
  1. I've had this dress for years and love it (Windsmoor)
  2. Viyella. Not sure if neck is a bit low and exposing. Woven. Recent thrifted purchase
  3. Klass - casual stretch dress. I like it without the supplied belt better than with.
  4. Phase Eight. I love this dress. Slight stretch. Photos don't really show the slight gather at the waist. Works well on this dress but on some I've tried just adds to the bulk
  5. Roman. I've never had this dress on though I've had it a while - needs a strapless bra, Stretch
  6. Can't remember the make - it makes me feel matronly. Woven
  7. M&S. I like this dress and get a lot of wear from it in the summer. Woven; lined
  8. Self made from PR's winter street dress - I like this; stretch (in fact so much stretch I've already shortened at the waist and it looks like I need to do it again! This fabric grows! I do have a more stable version shown here but wasn't sure it would fit at present.) The neckline is rather wider and looser than it was.
  9. Self made princess seamed dress for PR's Little White Dress contest last year; shown here without accessories of any kind, as required by contest. I liked it but it shrunk a lot in length and I binned, after salvaging its expensive zipper. Woven and lined.
  10. I could have a number 10 to add a different style - the Vogue 8646 wrapover dress I made and have posted about previously (July 2015) but didn't want to include as I dislike it so much! Largely because of the circular skirt, the too short length and the unflattering bust shaping - that's enough isn't it?

For a pre-Christmas celebration, I bought a red lace dress (M&S). I quite liked it but wasn’t absolutely sold on the scoop neck, which I found too low and wide. I didn't immediately return as I rather liked the length and where the waist fell. I was ill and didn’t get to wear the dress so eventually decided to return it as I couldn’t see me wearing it any other time than Christmas - and hopefully I will be smaller next Christmas. Anyway, I don't have the storage space. This is a photo of me trying it on, just before I returned it - I hadn't seen this back view prior to that or I would never have considered keeping it! I'm glad I took it back - I don't like the back neckline detail at all as it makes me look quite hunched. Partly because David got me to stand this way but that's not a good look.It was very difficult to get it to lie correctly at the back and shoulders, so  maybe it wouldn't have been so bad if I'd been wearing it in earnest. Not to mention the dress was half price in the post Christmas sale and I'd paid full price.

Too many wrinkles in the wrong place here
I had to go into town on an errand and tried on a couple of dresses in John Lewis. Both Damsel in a Dress. One was just too small. The other I liked (and the most like my DKNY inspiration dresses). It was too small around the hips but was made of stretchy fabric and I reckoned I'd slim down - and there is a 90 day return policy. So I went to pay but discovered it was full price - I'd picked it up from an ‘up to 70% off’ rack. I didn't see much point in buying a dress that didn't fit if not in the sale so I left it (it also had a dirty mark on it). I also tried on a Coast skirt but really didn't like it - they didn't have my size which didn't help - it should have been nice but I felt the pockets were superfluous. I'm not showing a photo of that skirt in public! 

So my thinking at the moment is:
  • Sheath dress with waist shaping
  • Small cap sleeve - I would like a sleeve. It's more difficult to put a jacket on over a longer sleeve and certain lengths can look very ageing, I feel.
  • I'm not sure I can incorporate my shoulder darts, which I love, into this, so I reckon it will probably be princess seams, or may be standard bust and waist darts. Waist darts would be double ended. I could maybe have two parallel ones which would slightly up the ante.
  • Might, or might not, incorporate a lace panel. Probably only if princess seams.
  • Knee length
  • Collarless jacket. Possibly in lace if I don’t use a lace panel, otherwise in matching fabric if (and it’s a big if) I have enough fabric.

Okay - my problem is perhaps obvious to you. This doesn't sound very exciting and doesn't incorporate much designer flare. However,  if I use nice fabric, sew it well and it fits well, and it's a style that I like,  there will be nothing to beat it. Do you agree? I absolutely don't want to sew a dress that doesn't meet those criteria purely to get extra points in the course. I'd be prepared to give up the course tomorrow rather than do that. In any case because I say I'm designing and making my MOB outfit doesn't mean to say that's the one I have to wear,  though RTW is probably not very likely, and time constraints are significant.

I’d really appreciate your comments. I have called out for help before - I'm really rather stuck! Thank you in advance.

Update and Continuing with Machine Embroidery Course

I haven’t been sewing anything recently. I’ve managed a few alterations and repairs and a little bit of machine embroidery - though I’ve f...