How I made this:
Now let's go back to the beginning and talk about this tragedy...
I found this once-loved beauty in a free bin. It is a size 14, Liz Claiborne, severely 80s, mid-calf dress. Perfect for an awkward Easter photo. Although heinous, something called to me (aside from the price). It was in perfect condition and had potential so I took it home and stashed it away for an estimated four years. One night last week, I stayed up way too late fueled by a well-brewed cup of coffee and started to bring it to life.
I rummaged through my materials to find a complementary fabric. I love black and white, I love floral... but this dress was way too much of both. It needed to be broken up. I'm a sucker for mixing patterns and I like the way the turquoise muumuu looked alongside the black and white so I started cutting. I am in love with the Moneta dress pattern by Colette (check them out, they are amazing!) so I started shaping up the black dress to fit the pattern. First thing to do was to remove the collar and useless decorative buttons (of course I saved them for another day).
(Yes, I make my patterns out of TYVEK. I bought a roll from ScrapPDX [an upcycler's paradise] that will likely last me 40 years and it is flexible and indestructible--perfect for use, reuse and toddler abuse.)
** A note about fabric choice: The Moneta pattern is intended for stretchy fabrics such as knits. This polyester, synthetic beauty has no stretch, so I know I needed to plan for stretch, especially in the bodice (chest portion) and arms.
So I brought in a third dress. This one is jersey (stretchy).
99.9% useable, 0.1% ruined= 100% discarded unless otherwise used.
I cut the skirt apart from the upper at a slight curve so I can upcycle a top in the future.
I liked the look of the diagonals of the side seams of the skirt (perks of salvaging professionally made items-- stripes were already perfectly lined up which can be a bit tricky to sew from scratch), plus it avoided the bad area. So I centered up the sleeve template and cut them out. I prefer to use a rotary cutter for curves.
One came out upside down by accident... oops.
But after pinning them on to test out the look, I actually really liked it. Perhaps my subconscious leaked through and helped me make that mistake.
Next, I played around with the bodice design. I love the look of a curved bodice and in conjunction with the classic look of the Moneta dress, it seemed like the perfect fit. So I cut the pieces.
It needed something between the two fabrics to break up the patterns. In came bias tape. I tried out a few colors and settled on a very light aqua.
A quick shout out to the inventors of bias tape. I thought it was a quilty thing... and quilting is most certainly not my favorite kind of sewing so I have sadly overlooked it. HOLY BATMAN PEOPLE! If unicorns wore pajamas, they certainly would be constructed with bias tape. Here are some amazing facts:
It curves while laying flat!
It tames unruly fabrics (like my slippery black and white)
It gives structure to otherwise floppy fabrics. Perfect for armholes and edging.
I am officially biased. Look at that curve!
Then I lined up the back fabric and cut it to size (waited to do this step until my bodice was completely modified in case it was slightly different than pattern size).
Remember, I needed to accommodate for lack-of-stretch?
I salvaged the intact invisible zipper in the back of the dress to allow me to take the dress on and off (again, thank you to upcycling to be able to claim a perfectly sewn zipper that I didn't have to do myself). That fixed the get in and get out problem of not having stretch, but I needed to solve the mobility while wearing it problem. I like dresses that I can toss a toddler in the air with without busting an armpit seam. So I added side panels of the striped fabric to the bodice. It definitely adds a fun flair, but is critical for functionality of the dress.
I then shirred the skirt (gathered with a thin, clear elastic band [Lastin]) and put the rest together... and used more unicorn bias tape to edge the neckline.
Here it is!
I'd love to hear your thoughts. I hope you are inspired.