Making a Orchid Inspired Dress, Part Two

This is the second post about making my Orchid Inspired Dress! Today i’m going over the process of making the lower half of this costume. The post about making the bodice can be read here.

The skirt base is a really big circle skirt cut from striped upholstery material. Unfortunately at the time I bought this material my math skills failed me and I purchased wrong amount. I only bought three yards and I really needed another eighteen inches. I had to crop the front and back of the skirt by four inches just to cut the skirt out. Yikes.

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Here you can see how that ended up looking on my dress form. Do you see the problem?

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Luckily I had a plan that would cover the hem! It would involve the three yards of organza I bought without  a real purpose in mind.

So I did a rough patching job that lengthened the front of the skirt. It was pretty ugly, but it’s okay if it’s ugly, I can cover that up later.

(that could be my personal motto)

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The back of the skirt was also too short, so I used leftover fabric to make a train. I planned on using the organza to cover the seam, so the stripes not lining up shouldn’t be noticeable in the end.

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With the skirt the right length all the way around, I could move onto hemming! I started by stitching a half inch away from the lower edge. This was done to prevent fraying more than anything else.

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It still frayed a huge amount in some spots, so I trimmed those places with pinking shears.

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Then I used a basting stitch to turn the edge over.

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And then the edge got turned over again, this time by two inches.

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I sewed that down, by hand, with a whip stitch. This hem was ridiculous, I think it was six yards long or something similar. It took all afternoon to finish!

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It was around this point that I felt the skirt looked a little boring. So I decided to paint spots up the back of it. The logic here was “My Orchid has spots, so my dress should have spots!” which seemed like a bright idea at the time. I drew these spots out with a colored pencil, then filled them in with a jacquard paint in the color “violet”.

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After putting on the first layer I had a “Oh god what have I done” moment of immediate regret. I definitely didn’t love how it looked, but by this point I was committed so I kept going.

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The paint wasn’t as opaque as I had hoped, so I did a second coat with a setacolor ink. This stuff wasn’t very opaque either, but I was running out of it so I decided two coats would have to be enough!

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With the spots done it was time to decorate the hem with organza. I debated about what technique to use, but finally decided to sew it into tubes and to tack them down kind of haphazardly. It all sounds very strange but I had a vision!

Here are the strips of organza.

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They got sewn into tubes, then the seam allowance was trimmed down, and they were turned rightside out.

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I had a few different sizes. I really wish I had bought more organza because I didn’t have nearly enough. I had hoped to use some of these on the bodice and top of the skirt but I needed them all for just the hem,

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I didn’t steam or iron any of the tubes, so they still had a lot of volume after being pinned and stitched onto the hem. I also used all the remaining mesh from my Fluffy Feathered Dress to make it look like flowers were growing up the dress. I’m pretty happy with how this turned out, though I wish I had more organza so I could have made the strips wider and the effect more pronounced.

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With the bottom of the skirt done, it was time to focus on the top half – I guess this part could be considered a peplum, but that isn’t a word I think of applying to part of a ball gown!

These are the pieces that drape down from the bodice in petal like shapes. I drafted these by hanging my few remaining pieces of organza from the waistline, then trimming them into the correct shape.

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Once laid flat they looked like this. I sewed the darts and cleaned up the edges.

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Then I finished those edges off with home made bias tape.

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Now it was time for the draping! This would be done with purple taffeta, like the bodice was. I used the same technique and cut strips of taffeta which got folded in half and stitched up the side, then turned right side out.

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After a lot of pinning I came up with something I liked!

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So I took it off the dress form and tacked the strips down so the draping pattern would stay put. Then I stitched the tops of the “petals” together so sewing it onto the bodice would be easier.

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But before sewing anything I decided to make another piece for this dress: A bow. I cut three more strips of taffeta and sewed them into tubes (see a running theme with this dress?) then folded the edges into points and whip stitched them closed.

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Then I put the bodice, skirt, peplum, and bow onto the dress form just to make sure everything looked the way I wanted.

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I was really happy with the draping and placement of everything (and the bow, I always love a good bow) but I thought the skirt was lacking in volume. Though it had tons at first, my petticoats have a habit of deflating, and after two weeks of working on this project the skirt had shrunk and looked pathetic.

But any good seamstress should have a bolt of petticoat net on hand! And I did! I cut out a few large rectangles and sewed them into strips.

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Then the lower edges got trimmed with home made bias tape so they wouldn’t catch on anything.

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The tops were gathered down and stitched together.

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And in no time at all I had a netting lining for my dress!

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Now I felt comfortable sewing everything together. But (isn’t there always a but?) I had to fix up the opening in the back first, because it had turned into a frayed mess.

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I trimmed back the worst of the frayed parts, then attached taffeta bias tape around the opening.

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I also sewed a zipper underneath the bias tape, but for some reason I didn’t take photos of that part.

Now I could finally begin assembly! The peplum was sewn onto the skirt, then the netting was sewn in. The photo below shows the netting just before being tacked to the interior of the zipper.

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With all the layers together I could finally attach bias tape to the top. This prevents fraying and any scratchiness from the netting.

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And then the bodice got attached!

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Here is how it looks finished! I wish I had photos of the back but this dress is too big for my room, the train ended up being cut off in every picture.

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Thank you for reading!

Making a Orchid Inspired Dress, Part One

I’m back with yet another fashion project, which has kept me from going insane while finishing up the final details on my tudor costume! As the title suggests, this is a dress inspired by my orchids. I got the materials for this project (and talked a bit about it) in my birthday haul.

 In that post I mentioned that i’m really easily inspired, especially by things around me. I’ve had a pretty little orchid sitting next to my desk since January, so it was only a matter of time until I made a dress inspired by it. I’m honestly pretty impressed with myself that I  managed to hold off for three months.

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The original dress design can be seen below. I wanted it to be simple and elegant while still being visually interesting.That is a description I would use when talking about orchids, so I think it makes sense that my orchid-inspired-dress can be described with the same words.

. I had hoped to find materials in dark ivory, light purple, and a dull fuchsia, which when used together would create a gradient effect.

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But then I got another orchid. And I found the color patterns of this one a lot more interesting. I think the deeper purple spots and contrast against the lighter ivory better fits my “Simple, elegant, and interesting” description. So the sketch got revised a bit, and my fabric choices became much different than I had originally planned!

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I ended up with three yards of 120″ wide striped fabric, three yards of silk organza, and three yards of silk taffeta. I thought I bought four yards of the silks, but I remeasured and realized I was wrong about that! Honestly I should have bought four yards of all these fabrics, I  almost ran out part way through the project.

But I standby the actual fabrics I picked, even though I got the wrong amounts. I love the color, sheen, and weight of the taffeta, it was lovely to work with. The striped material gives just enough texture to what would otherwise be a boring circle skirt, and the organza gave it a lightness that the project needed.

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And here is Dotty (yes, I name my orchids) with the inspiration fabric.

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Okay! Now for actual progress photos! I wanted the bodice to be asymmetrical, and by that I mean as asymmetrical as I could get with everything still being covered. The majority of the bodice would be made from off white material, with a purple taffeta “collar” across the neckline and shoulders.

 I managed to accomplish the shape I wanted pretty easily, and my mock up fit on the first try!

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I made a few slight alterations to my pattern, the most major of which involved lowering the waistline. Then I marked out the boning placements and where the lacing loops would be.

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After making the skirt (which I will blog about next week) the fabric I had planned on using was almost entirely gone. I had enough to use for the bodice, but none of the stripes would have pointed in the right direction, much less matched up. So instead I decided to make the bodice from organza, with the option to add lining later on.

This is the bodice cut out.

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And with the boning channels marked out!

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I cut my boning channel casings from the leftover striped material. I cut these  out across the fabrics grain so you can see all the stripes. It isn’t very noticeable when the bodice is worn, but I think it’s a fun touch!

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Those got sewn in place. Unfortunately this part didn’t go smoothly. The two bobbins I had made in advance had something (I have no clue what) wrong with them which caused a tension problem and left me with very messy loose stitches on the underside. Ripping out stitches on organza is hell so I just went over the channels again after fixing the bobbin.

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Then I added boning! These bones don’t go to the top of the bodice, so  I had to hand stitch stoppers to keep them in place.

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Then I added another layer of organza overtop. This diffuses the look of the boning channels and makes the bodice slightly more opaque.

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I cut two inch wide strips of purple taffeta on the bias and folded them into double fold bias tape. Then I pinned them around the bodices edges.

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I sewed it down by hand and for once i’m pretty happy with how it looks! My hand sewn bias tape hasn’t been cleanest in the past, so this is a big improvement for me.

Not sure if it balances out the sloppy boning channels, but it certainly helps!

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I also cut out one inch wide strips of fabric on the bias. These got ironed and sewn into quarter inch wide strips that are three inches long. I made about twenty of them, all to be used for loops up the back of the dress. I think loops look a lot more elegant and since elegant is the buzzword for this project, I decided it was worth the extra time to make them!

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They got folded into loops, then pinned onto leftover bias tape.

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I sewed over them several times until I was confident the loops were secure.

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Then the loops got sewn onto the bodice. This part doesn’t look as pretty. I was trying to avoid hitting the boning channels while being unable to see where the bone ended since the loops covered them.

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Now it was time to add the collar. I cut more strips of taffeta and sewed them into tubes, so the raw edges were hidden inside the tubes. It’s a little wasteful fabric wise, but saves the time it takes to hem the strips and completely avoids having to combat puckered silk hems.

I can’t really describe how I draped this. I pleated the end of the strip and placed it at the waist, then I just tugged, folded, and pinned until I was happy with how it laid. I cleaned it up a little bit after taking this picture, since the neckline wasn’t as smooth as I wanted it to be.

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Then I tried it on! I liked how it looked a lot, but it needed a couple of alterations. The biggest one was taking in the collar (that feels like the wrong name for this, though i’m not sure what else it would be called) at the shoulder, and taking the entire bodice in by more than an inch.

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I re-draped the collar so it was a little smaller in the shoulder, then tacked everything down so the pins could be removed.

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Before doing that I took it in by a inch. I did this in the under arm area, right next to the boning channels. Then the extra fabric was stitched underneath the boning channels. It’s obvious from the interior, but from the outside it is hard to tell!

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Back to the collar. Here are all the tacking stitches. Not the prettiest thing ever, but much nicer to look at than tons of pins or puckers, which are the two alternatives. The edges of the taffeta were tucked underneath the loop closures and whip stitched down.

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With the collar done, all I needed to do was finish the lower edge with bias tape! So I did that. This time I used cotton bias tape that I had leftover from making the skirt.

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And it was done! Could probably use a steaming, but that’s all that I have left to do on it.

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Thank you for reading!