Sewing Projects

The Anniversary Dress

I kept running into pictures of a dress on Pinterest, and it stuck in my head. There was just something about it. The way it was gathered, the poofy skirt.. it was elegant, fifties-style, and gorgeous. I gave in and hunted down where to buy it, and then just about died. The seller wanted around $300 for the dress (in cotton), $60 for a petticoat and $50 in shipping. $410. I was sad.

Then I kept looking at the pictures, and thinking.. that’s something I could do. Why not give it a shot? I’d already challenged myself to go pattern-free with the TARDIS gown, and I hadn’t found any commercial patterns similar enough to modify. I started fabric hunting and lucked into a 6.3m bolt of lightweight stretch poly satin for $6/metre in a local fabric shop’s clearance section. I love amazing deals on fabric, and I loved that it wasn’t shiny satin. I immediately bought all of it and figured if I didn’t need it all for the dress, I’d figure out something else for the rest.

I started pattern drafting on February 21 with some leftover white broadcloth. I wanted to have the dress finished before Devin came home from deployment, so that I could wear it for our wedding anniversary trip to Seattle. 

I should point out I am not the neatest person when it comes to crafting/sewing.

I kept mucking about with the draft pieces, pinning and marking until I was happy with it. Once I was satisfied, I cut out the black satin. I lined the dress with the same satin, since it had a bit of stretch to it. 

Then came the draping. Dear god, the draping just about drove me insane. I tried a few different ways of draping the fabric before I was completely happy with it. 

This was the draping I was finally good with. It’s a large rectangle of fabric gathered at both the top and bottom. I have the lining piece pinned on underneath as a guide. It took a couple of hours to get it just right, but I pinned it all to the lining and turned it into one piece.

It’s not the most flattering shot. I had to use flash every time I took photos of this, as I was often working on it at night and black fabric doesn’t photograph well. I applied the same draping technique to the rest of the pieces for the bodice, and ended up with the back and the waistband, all pinned to my dress form.

Everything was sewn together, and I had to go back and make some adjustments to it later so that it’d fit better. As awesome as it is having a dress form to work with, it’s not an exact double of my body and I still need to do fittings. It does make life easier though!

I didn’t take any photos of putting the skirt together, but it was fairly simple. I cut two rectangles that ran the full width of the fabric, and purposely cut it about 6″ longer than I thought I might need. I measured over the white petticoat to check the length, but I still had plenty of fabric left and figured it was better safe than sorry. I could always serge off the extra fabric. I gathered the skirt fabric and attached it to the top of the dress, and then worked on the fit to add the invisible zipper.

The large bunch of fabric on the left of the waistband is excess that has to be removed for it to fit properly. The skirt is just pinned up; you can see a few pins which indicates just how much extra fabric I left. 

I should point out that I’ve been using invisible zippers since I was a kid, and while I love the finished look, I hate actually sewing them in. I have the designated foot for it and 90% of the time I can do it in one go, no problem. This time, I broke three zippers. I got them all sewn in no problem, but the gathered fabric at the waistband was a problem. No matter how evenly I spread the gathers, the zipper did not like it. I thought I’d succeeded once, I got the zipper done up.. then it split open below the pull. 

I ended up removing the gathered fabric from the waistband seam, and creating a tab that pulls over the zipper and hooks into the back piece of the waistband. Now it’s perfect.

I finished hemming it last night, and brought it into work to show my coworkers and ask them to take a couple quick photos of me in it. It’s kind of a ritual now, every time I complete a project I bring it in to show them and get some photos taken so I can email them off to the husband. Pardon my messy hair; hair appointment is this afternoon so I didn’t put in much effort.

J and I were shopping this weekend and I happened upon these shoes. They are gloriously TARDIS blue, covered in rhinestones, super comfy and they were on sale for $40 with tax. I had to grab them, and plan to accessorize with blue earrings and a blue bracelet. Have to go bead shopping first though.

I still can’t believe how well it turned out. I’m completely in love with it and can’t wait for Devin to see me all dressed up in it for our anniversary. 🙂

5 thoughts on “The Anniversary Dress”

    1. Had the seller’s fabric been different, $300 would have been fair. It was a black printed lightweight cotton. For $300 I would’ve wanted something a touch heavier and perhaps fancier. If I weren’t capable of making these things myself I would’ve paid for the dress.. but I did the petticoat for about $25 and am wearing it for 3 dresses, and the dress fabric itself I only used about half of what I bought, so $20 in fabric. It also kept me busy for a while, so approximately $50 in supplies and 20 hours of work is worth the savings. 🙂

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