“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” F. Scott Fitzgerald
Autumn is without a doubt my most favourite season and I get very excited at the prospect of changing leaves, cooler days, Halloween, bonfires and fireworks. As someone who designs and makes her own clothes I am forced to be foreword thinking when it comes to the seasons and way back in August I decided it was time to start thinking about my autumn wardrobe.
I began by collecting my inspiration and putting together the big mood board in my sewing room. My inspiration tends to come from several different sources, both vintage and modern. I massacred several fashion magazines and combined these cut-outs with some screen captures and some photocopies of other styles I wanted in my personal little autumn collection.
In an ideal world I would have a bit more time to dedicate to this ‘initial concept’ part of the design process as I greatly enjoy it and have previously used my Illustrator and Photoshop skills to create fashion illustrations (such fun!)- alas if I get too involved with this it cuts into my pattern cutting and sewing time so rough pencil sketches with lots of scribbled notes end up being my general approach.
I also start collecting my fabric samples at this stage, fabric sourcing actually influences the direction of my designs quite considerably as one is hugely limited by what’s actually available at the time. The most inspiring design can never be realised without the correct fabric so this needs to be taken into account and worked around early on. Sourcing fabric also helps generate new ideas- I personally like to use a design more than once with different fabrics as it can dramatically change the final outcome. Sometimes the fabric can be enough of an inspiration in and of itself- certain fabrics will instantly evoke a mental image of a garment with me. Having put my inspiration together I began by working on some of the lighter weight pieces I had designed.
The first of these was a dress with a sweetheart style-line separating two contrasting fabrics- in this case an ivory lace and an ivory super weight silk crepe. The dress features gathered sleeves and a semi-circular skirt with an elastic casing in the waist band. I didn’t want there to be any darts in this dress. To accommodate this I left the waist suppression to be gathered in at the waist and the bust dart allowance I removed in the sweetheart seam line. It took a bit of tweaking on the muslin toile getting the sweetheart seam to be the exact curve and shape that I wanted but really that was the extent of my pattern cutting challenges with this project.
In terms of construction this dress was a fantastic project. After a summer of sewing mainly cotton it was a joy to work with a more interesting and challenging cloth. Due to the fluid nature of the silk crepe I used a lot of hand basting stitches on the dress, I prefer to spend time on these than to risk having to spend any time unpicking machine stitches that have gone awry (I hate unpicking with a passion).
The lace I was working with for this dress is an eyelash lace with a distinctive scallop pattern running through it. Instead of hemming the sleeves I trimmed the lace along one of these scallops in order to create the fringed decorative edge. I also paid particular attention to the placement of the lace on the upper bodice, ensuring that the lace pattern sat centrally on both the front and back panel and that the pattern on the lace continued un-interrupted across the front and back sleeve seams.
The skirt seams were on the true bias and so I had to make sure that I stretched the fabric as I stitched them and also that I let the dress hang for 24 hours before hemming it. I hand overcast the seams on this dress as I didn’t want to add any bulk to them- although I think a Hong Kong finish with something incredibly light weight such as a georgette would have worked nicely as an alternative.
I cut a slit in the back of the neck of the dress and bound this before facing the neck edge with narrow silk bias binding. I then created a small hand worked button loop with silk button hole twist and attached a small pearl button. I worked a larger version of this loop in embroidery cotton on either side of the waist to hold the waist tie in place, I also stitched the waist tie directly to centre back of the dress with some invisible hand stitches in order to secure it further. I will be uploading a hand worked button loop tutorial soon.
I hemmed the dress with the application of a bias strip which I secured to the wrong side of the dress with a herringbone stitch. The bias strip was cut from a far lighter silk than the dress fabric so the end result was less bulky than a double turned up hem but neater than an overcast edge turned up once and secured. Overall I loved making this dress as it included quite a bit of hand work and several cute finishing touches. I plan to duplicate it in black and to make a top version in a nude pink silk. The sweetheart style line is also definitely one I will carry forward and use in some of my other designs
For any of you looking to sew something similar from a pattern Colette patterns Macaron is lovely and has a similar sweetheart style line on the bodice of the dress. Colette patterns are simple to follow and fantastic for anyone who is relatively new to sewing. Victory patterns also have a similar dress called Ava which is available for digital download.
Thanks so much for reading!