I was trying to get this dress done really quickly, so I had about 2 hours to shop for fabric. Sometimes I shop for fabric online – assuming I know exactly what kind of fabric I want – but that was definitely not going to work this time. So I had to work with the local big-box fabric store and a little fabric warehouse nearby. I have to say that choosing fabric is my least favorite part of sewing. I still don’t have a great handle on how a particular fabric behaves and I most certainly can’t tell what something is just by looking at it. But mostly, it’s because I’m cheap. I know what the best fabric IS, I just don’t want to spend the money on it.
So this fabric warehouse is both fantastic and horrible for me, because it is cheap (like, really cheap) but I have no idea what I’m buying. (They also don’t take any payment but cash, which I found out to my chagrin after they cut the fabric and I had to go running down the street to find the nearest ATM.) It’s actually a great place to buy jersey fabric and cotton shirting, but this time I was just looking for drapey blue and black fabric, sheer blue fabric, and slightly heavy pink fabric. This made my decisions easier, but meant that I wound up with whatever I could find. The option for blue were a light, fine-wale corduroy or something polyester. Neither were overly drapey but the polyester was better than the corduroy. I’m not sure what it is supposed to be, but one side is soft and brushed, the other is tightly woven and matte and the whole thing is definitely synthetic looking. For the black I got what I think is a cotton shirting fabric, which is slightly shiny on one side. I also got an invisible zipper (which I promptly lost in my car until I got frustrated and replaced it, and then immediately found it again).
After that I had to go to the big-box fabric store to fill in the gaps. I got a polyester chiffon for the sheer yoke and a pretty pink fine-wale corduroy for the cape. And some gold metallic bias binding for edging, like the gold binding on Anna’s bodice. Overall everything came to a pretty reasonable cost.
All the fabric for the dress:
So I had my fitted muslin and re-drawn pattern pieces all ready to go, and the initial construction wasn’t that difficult. I was able to sew up the bodice and skirt quite quickly. Then I needed to put in the zipper. I didn’t want to do a regular centered zipper because of the different bodice and skirt fabrics. The topstitching would be fairly obvious on one of the two. So I tried my first invisible zipper. Trepidatiously, at first, but then fairly triumphantly. I will definitely be using invisible zippers on more stuff now. It looks more polished and wasn’t actually any harder for me than a centered zip.
With the zipper in! (Over a t-shirt) Fits nicely and the skirt has lovely body.
The hardest part of the dress was inserting the yoke to the sweetheart neckline. That was a real pain. I just couldn’t get the center to work! At the suggestion of my sewing teacher, I stay-stitched both pieces and then hand-stitched the center. This helped a lot, but I did get some bubbling after topstitching. Clearly I still need some more practice! I will say that the polyester chiffon was not the easiest fabric to work with.
I used prepared binding to bind the neck and armscye seams instead of making my own, which probably accounts for why the binding stuck out a lot. That and using the metallic binding, which is quite stiff. The seams are bound more like a quilt edge. Next time I would probably fold the binding completely under the fabric and topstitch. It’s possible that I just misunderstood the instructions.
I wish I had a picture of the finished product. I will try to get that done soon. Then I’m going to re-bind the armholes because the gold binding is a bit too costume-y and also just looked silly because it’s so stiff.
The dress didn’t wind up looking very 50s, but it is very Anna! I think with a crinoline and maybe a hat? We’ll see if I can get that done before Halloween! This may be a case where I just need to suck it up and buy the crinoline.
Stay tuned for the final post, with finished pictures, plus the accompanying half-cape!