Friday, 1 December 2017

A flower power dress for a silver flower child!

I decided that for the ‘F’ theme of the Saturday of the Murder Mystery Weekend I attended last weekend, I would be a Flower Child. I looked at various possibilities. I couldn’t manage the shorter shift dresses with boots. The dresses were easy but I don’t have boots like this - nor could I find them in my size (and even if I could I wouldn't have use of them again). I didn’t think there was any chance that the outfits with very flared trousers would fit me and I’m not yet ready to make trousers with that degree of fitting. Anyway, the whole point was not to buy or hire an outfit but use what you had. I couldn’t do that either! One of the images was of a very nice maxi dress in a 60’s floral fabric - I loved it. I even looked at buying the actual dress but it was extortionately expensive so I resolved to make a dress. I wasn’t able to get fabric even half way similar despite extensive searching but found a paisley pattern which is also reminiscent of the 60s/70s. I’m not sure what type of fabric it is. It wasn’t expensive. It is a woven fabric with no stretch. I bought enough to cover any possibility, at least that’s what I thought.
The pattern has a raised front waist

I looked at what patterns I had available - I didn’t feel I wanted to buy a completely new pattern when I have so many in my stash. The one I decide to make had come free in Love Sewing Issue 37, back in February, McCall's 7381. I liked the long version because of the length and the tie but wanted sleeves - and I wanted my sleeves to be flared and very long. So I drafted new sleeves for the dress, based on the existing sleeve pattern.

I was going to insert photo of sleeve pattern but I can't immediately lay my hands on it.

Again, I decided not to make a toile (this is becoming a habit but I am sure that once I get back to normal sewing that normal service will resume!). The fabric was absolutely horrible to cut out. It squiggled and twisted and didn’t want me to cut it out well. I wasted a whole piece, a skirt back, as I found that I had cut off grain and the two sides did not match, by quite a significant amount. I had cut out with the fabric doubled. My tutor Lyn came to the rescue and helped me cut out. I was going to draw full pattern pieces but Lyn helped me cut out with folded fabric - faster.

My problem with the skirt piece meant that I didn't have enough fabric to cut the sleeves as drafted. I had to shorten the sleeves by quite a bit to get them to fit into the remaining fabric - a good two inches at least as the skirt back wasn't big enough to take two sleeves. Anyway, it's probably just as well as they are very long and one of the other ladies at the sewing bee wanted me to shorten them as she said she couldn’t see my hands and I wouldn’t be able to work in them. I’m happy with the length for the purpose I have in mind.

I chose this pattern as I thought it would be an easy make. However, I found that it was not. There are lots of little fiddly steps. The instructions, however, are mainly fine so each step wasn’t difficult. But it certainly wasn’t a quick make. I can’t say I really struggled with any step though the front portion with the ties was a little tricky. The bodice is lined and has a facing which is interfaced and the bodice itself extends into long ties.

Showing the bodice lining and facing

I overlocked all the seams after stitching together on my regular sewing machine. I serged together and pressed to one side. Then I attached the skirt to the top and this went together okay. However, the next step was to create a casing for elastic by folding the seam allowances together and stitching nearer the cut edges to create a channel for elastic. I realised that I would have raw edges - and this fabric frays ++. I discussed this with Rory in sewing bee and she advised binding the seam. So this is what happened. Rory showed me how to attached the first edge of the binding all the way around the waist seam (not just the back where the elastic was going to go). The seam allowances were then trimmed and Rory helped me by sewing on the elastic while creating the second side of stitching on the bias tape. Rather than use a casing, she zig zag stitched the elastic while stretching across its path.

The dress was looking pretty good and getting close (finally!) to being finished. I tried it on and Rory and the others felt that the waist was much too loose. Rory kindly suggested that I forget that I have a very tiny waist - it isn’t but as a pear shaped person or ‘A’ shape, my waist is significantly smaller than my hips. The solution, which worked (thankfully, as plan B was going to involve a lot of unpicking), was to unpick just the two ends of the back waist seam and insert a shorter piece of elastic. I think I should have cut the waist out a smaller size in the first place. The dress is more bumphled than I like here.

Rory marked the length. The dress had dropped unevenly, so she marked it right around to the shortest length. I then put the dress on Madam, my model, to allow any extra drop before I finalised the length and created the hem. I then completed a simple overlock, turn and stitched hem.

At this late stage I found that the front part where the ties meet the bodice was less than perfect but in fact it was too late to do anything about it. I lived with it. Next time I'll have to take much greater care at this point.

I’m not keen on the dress as a dress for me - being tall and big, there is SO much fabric! The fabric, too, was chosen specifically for the event and is not in my colour pallet. I'm happy with the construction.

I wore the dress with sandals. I bought a wig to wear but that wasn’t suitable so it was just my own hair. I decided to get or make some form of headdress. Not a bridesmaid one. Too many of the floral ones I found were for bridesmaids. I unsuccessfully tried some vintage headbands - they just didn't work. I had enough fabric left over, despite my problem with one piece, to make a headband in the form of a long piece of folded fabric with angled ends which is tied to fit.

Over the course of my sewing weekend away with Susan, Kate and Chris, I completed the dress. Sue helped me re-level the hem again and I pressed and cut away more excess then sewed through.  I was thinking that this dress wouldn't be worn again so I didn't need to over worry about fine finish. Kate pinned me into the dress to get the poppet placement and used tailors’ tacks to mark the position. At home, I stitched the poppets on. Then I made a head sash.

So ready for the murder mystery weekend!

I wore the dress with sandals, head band, CND necklace, bangles etc. And a flower.

  • The dress was really comfortable.
  • I enjoyed wearing it and would happily wear it again. It's a dress rather than a ‘costume’ and can readily be worn again, though the sleeves mean that it is not quite everyday wear.

Less good
  • Nothing major, really.  
  • I'd make a full size, maybe two, smaller next time as I feel the shoulders are a little wide and I had plenty of room all over. I had to gather in a lot at the waist. There's a lot of fabric! Had I made a toile first I would’ve discovered this.
  • My outfit wasn't immediately recognised for what it represented by lots of those present.
  • Not quite my colour palette!!

David in his William of Baskerville (Franciscan monk) robe that he made absolutely on his own

Should I change the steeves away from these fancy sleeves to more ‘normal’ ones? The original long dress was sleeveless.
There is enough fabric in the current sleeves to slim down to more regular sleeves or I still have some fabric, enough to make a band for sleeveless. I’m not sure if I have enough to make short sleeves - maybe.


  1. Simple garments are often not so simple when you come to sew them! You really have worked hard on these outfits. And you have to love elastic - solves a lot of problems!

    1. As I found!! Yes, more work than I thought. The elastic here is at the back only as per pattern but needs to be tighter still, though a smaller size will help.

  2. What a fun event! I've enjoyed following your costume creation process. You definitely look authentic as a flower child; David's yellow pants are equally appropriate. Short sleeves would give your dress a different look; perfect for warm weather wear.

    1. Thank you, Mary. I was just thinking about you as I've been doing Chanel fringing! The event was great fun and I would certainly do one again - and would be happy to make costumes. The dress is quite warm possibly because there is so much fabric. I'll have a look at what fabric I have left for short sleeves or these could perhaps be cut though they're altered in width from the original. I've put it aside though as it's red silk dress for Helen and Chanel jacket before Christmas!

    2. The dress is so cozy looking - I would perhaps make the sleeves a bit shorter and narrower but not shorter than 3/4 length, or you lose the cozy.....The colors seem quite flattering; perhaps not your usual preference?


    3. Thanks, Ceci. The dress is cosy, you're right. And no, it's not my usual colour preference. One of the other views on the pattern has cuffed sleeves so perhaps that's an option.

  3. I'm reading backwards I suppose, will read further tomorrow. I do like your dress and I remember wearing something similar in the early 70s. That dress had tunnels and elastic in the sleeve hem, maybe that would work? Must have been a fun weekend!

    1. Thank you, Marianne. Yes, it was a fun and hard sleuthing weekend. I know what you mean about the elasticated cuff and I'll consider that if I don't need to change too much about current version as I greatly enlarged the bottom half of the sleeve (or I might just wear current version!!)

  4. I think this is just glorious and fun. I do agree that you could go down at least one size, but hey, that's why we sew!


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