A Black Tie Wedding: What to Wear

My last post detailed my pool party tunic for the wedding our family attended in Miami earlier this month. The wedding was black tie and of course I created a special dress (when friends and family know you sew, you can’t exactly show up at these affairs in a store bought garment).

Here is the inspiration design and spectacular fabric from B&J’s. I spotted this while shopping in the NYC garment district and knew this would be the fabric to work with.

inspiration

The black silk taffeta from Como, Italy is a border design composed of hand painted flowers and dimensional black flowers in what felt like vinyl paint. A closeup look shows the brush strokes. This design was definitely done by hand; there is somewhat of a repeat but there are irregularities characteristic of hand work.

flower-closeup

Now that I have the fabric, what to do with it? Sometimes the characteristics of fabric dictate the design. I wanted a slim fitting style with fullness at the hem. I did a toile using released box pleats, but it just wasn’t right.

box-pleating

Flaring the skirt using a border print poses problems. The hemline has a distinct curve which causes he border to appear off grain. Layout showing a conventional pattern shaping:

layout-1

The hem curve may not look pronounced in this scaled down illustration but it became quite noticeable when enlarged to full scale. Solution: break up the fullness into multiple smaller sections which allowed the hem to follow the horizontal line of the border. I had three yards of fabric and planned for the hem fullness to be distributed as 1 yard in the front and 2 yards in the back. Lower bodice sections fit nicely in between the skirt sections.

layout-2

My custom dress form also needed a little tweaking as this design would follow the back hip area closely. Most dress forms stop at the hip line but I wanted mine to extend down past the low hip. I constructed a new cover and also added two flexible arms. Details of how to modify a dress form in this way will come in a future post.

refined-dress-formdress-form-arm

The dress was designed using a combination of draping and flat pattern design. I applied style lines to the form to drape the bust and hip areas. The side seam was shifted towards the back; I felt the back seam lines worked better this way. The front had a single princess line; hem flare started 9 inches below the low hip and flared to 36 inches in the front, 12 inches in each of the 6 back sections for a total hem width of 108 inches.

style-lines-1style-lines-2

The silk taffeta was underlined with silk organza. A layer of black cotton muslin provided additional support and extended from the waist to 9 inches below the low hip line. It was catch-stitched just inside the seam lines. The interior corset was cut from two layers of cotton tulle, one layer on the cross grain and one on the lengthwise grain (a technique I picked up from studying the work of Barbara Matera, the renowned Broadway costume designer). Spiral steel boning is enclosed within the casings. I find the tape used to stabilize armholes in tailoring makes a wonderful thin and strong way to prevent the top edge from stretching out of shape. The white zip is basted in for fitting but will be removed when the corset is sewn into the final dress.

interior-corset

I felt a lining in the hip area would be prone to shifting and might cause wrinkles, so I opted to finish the seams in this area with lengths of grosgrain ribbon. The white boning which extends from the top to low hip is one length of horsehair braid stretched, steamed and zig-zig stitched into another length of un-stretched horsehair braid. I find this boning is flexible yet smooths the seams over the body in a slim fitting garment.

interior-boninginterior-hip

I found a wonderful  embroidered tulle with three dimensional flowers to form the upper bodice and sleeves. An underlayer of cotton tulle was fitted and thread traced for use as a pattern when cutting the heavily embroidered tulle. Having each section with seam lines thread traced made it much easier to place the design so it would be mirror-imaged from right to left sides.

final-tulle-fittulle-used-as-pattern

A section of the embroidered edge was shaped to follow the collar. The decorative edge fell stitched in place and excess cotton tulle trimmed away.

collar-detailcollar-completed

I don’t care for the look of just sewing a plain seam when an appliqued seam could make the transition from one fabric to another look better. I sewed the back upper bodice through the layer of cotton tulle only; then hand appliqued the decorative tulle edge.


The front seam got a few appliques to disguise the seam. Working with lace is so forgiving as you can hide almost anything. Here is a shoulder seam before and after a little applique work. I also find it easier to work in sections and complete as much as possible before joining one section to another. Finish the skirt, inner corset, lace section and bodice before attaching them together. It saves much wear and tear on the dress.

shoulder-seam-1shoulder-seam-2

front-view

side-view

back-view-skirt

Another small detail gleaned from Barbara Matera: raising your arms in a close-fitting dress can be difficult. Solution: add an underarm gusset. I cut a football-shaped piece of stretch mesh (about 5.5 inches long by 3 inches wide) and inserted it in the underarm seam centered between the front and back. Sewing by hand was much easier than manipulating the dress into the machine. It doesn’t show and makes moving so much easier.

underarm

Have you ever had a major clothing malfunction? For the back closure  I found a zip with sheer mesh tape while shopping in NYC. It was only available as a two-way zip. I figured no problem, I would just insert as usual and not use it as a two way. Put my dress on; all’s fine. We are leaving for the ceremony and my daughter-in-law notices the zipper is starting to open in the middle of my back. Within minutes the entire back is open. I tried to run the slider to the bottom and realign the coils but no go. My husband asks if I have anything else to wear. This is an out of town affair and I didn’t exactly bring a selection of evening gowns. There is only on solution: get sewn into the dress. Fortunately my husband is an OB/GYN and has a fair amount of experience sewing (humans that is). I did have a supply of needles and thread so, with Holly holding a cell phone light on the sewing (operative) field, I told him to just whipstitch (non-interrupted running stitch), the zipper tapes (incision) closed. I had a backup supply of needle and thread in my evening bag just in case but his stitching held firm throughout the night. I’m replacing the zip with my standard invisible version which has never once failed.

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Another Wedding and a New Tunic

Our family is in wedding mode.  We gathered in Miami this past weekend to celebrate our nephew’s marriage. I also finally got to meet Sarah of Goodbye Valentino in person! We have been following each other’s blogs for several years and I was invited to do a guest post for the launch of “The Tunic Bible.”  I wore an ankle length tunic to the welcome party around the hotel pool; very appropriate attire.

with-sarah

The tunic fabric was purchased in Mood several years ago. It is like raffia but much softer and woven with a knit backing. The fabric is quite flexible and extremely comfortable. I used my master tunic pattern and was able to eliminate the back waist darts and incorporate the shaping into the side seams.

I enjoy having my garments look clean and finished on the inside. All seams were bound with narrow strips of bias cut china silk. I attached them with hand sewing; much more elegant and softer than machine stitching.

inside-armholeinsid-front-facing

The side vents and hem were invisibly slipstitched, catching only the knit backing, to prevent them from flipping to the right side. The collar band was faced with a scrap of gold toned silk charmeuse.

inside-heminside-shoulder

The challenging aspect of this project was to work the trim (also purchased at Mood Fabrics) so it looked custom shaped for the neckline. The neckband trim was arranged so that the motifs were symmetrical at center front and front neck opening pieces were mirror images.

tunic-trim-1

Removing the unwanted beads and stitching was tedious to say the least as I didn’t want to damage the net backing. It would be needed to back the bald areas and prevent beads from sinking into the textured fabric. Save the removed beads for later.

tunic-trim-2

To create a neat finish at the lower edge I stitched silk organza in the desire shape to face the edge. Hand stitches here; machine stitching this would have been impossible to control. Turn and trim the organza.

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Fill in the areas with saved beads and it looks like a custom shaped trim.

Next up will be the gown I created for this black tie wedding. Sarah just published pics of her stunning outfit; be sure to take a look.

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The Wedding Gown: Inside Details

My youngest son was recently married and I had the joy of creating my new daughter-in-law’s gown. But before elaborating on the details of her gown I thought I would share photos of gowns I created for my other two daughter-in-law’s.

My oldest and his bride opted for a beach wedding on a far flung island in the Bahamas; not easy in terms of travel and logistics, but spectacular. She chose heavy silk crepe fabric and I embroidered abstract roses on the skirt. Random petals were cut out and backed with silk organza. The embroidery doesn’t show well in the photo. Silk organza flowers covered the narrow shoulder strap and cascaded down the bodice.

liz-gown

My middle son’s bride chose an antique looking crochet lace woven from silk, wool and cashmere. The ivory lace was backed with white silk charmeuse and underlined with ivory silk tulle. The lace required precise layouts as it had a large pattern and I wanted to position the scalloped edge to skim the ground in the front. Hemming this lace wasn’t an option so the toile needed to be carefully fitted. I also played with various edge and seam finishes using the lace borders. Here is a pic of her getting unrumpled and set for her entrance.

sarah-gown

My youngest and his bride chose a beach setting for their wedding so her choice of a simple gown sewn in heavy silk crepe worked well. We designed a dress with a fitted and flared skirt, bodice with low necklines front and back, and jeweled belt.

The problem with low neckline in both front back is keeping the shoulder strap up. The bride doesn’t want to spend the night struggling with falling straps. Spiral steel boning solved the problem. After attaching the strap to the back bodice, interfacing with a channel for the boning was stitched to the underlining. The boning extends to the waistline seam in order for the strap to be supported from the waist up.  Seams were turned under and catch stitched, ready for lining.

back-boningback-strap

My first draft of the bodice had all the shaping transferred to one dart but no matter how I shaped and pressed the dart it ended in an unattractive point. The day before our final fitting I removed the front bodice and remade it using princess seaming which had a much better silhouette. I added a layer of cotton flannel to the front to camouflage a stick-on bra. The flannel was catch stitched just inside the stitching lines to avoid unnecessary bulk.

bodice-first-draftbodice-second

Firm cotton sateen reinforced the center front. I normally use silk organza for this but the deep plunge neckline needed something firmer.

front-stabilizer

The lining was inserted by hand. There was no way to do this by machine and sometimes sewing by hand is simply easier and produces better results. Hand sewing enabled me to ease the lining in much smoother than could have been done by machine.

lining-1lining-2

A final touch for good luck is a horseshoe covered in silk ribbon. I start with a small cardboard horseshoe shape. Wrap narrow silk ribbon from both ends meeting at the top. Secure with narrow double sided tape and add a bow.

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A French bustle held the skirt up for the reception. Color coded silk ribbons made it easy to tie everything up after the ceremony.

bustle-diagram

The bow drooped but all else stayed secure.

bustle-back

veil-in-wind

preview

 

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January 9, 2017 · 6:29 am

Sewing a Wedding

It’s been SO long since I posted but my blogging time was replaced by sewing time for the past two months. My youngest son was just married and I had the joyous task of making the bridal gown, my gown, altering 3 bridesmaid dresses, adjusting three suits and restyling my mother-in-law’s gown ( I had made for her many years ago from fabric purchased in Paris). Sounds like I had my hands full.

Details of the bridal gown are coming soon but here’s a preview of the newlyweds.

preview

My new daughter-in-law chose navy and silvery gray as colors. I persuaded my husband to go fabric shopping for my dress and we wandered into Mendel Goldberg Fabrics in NYC. If you’ve shopped there, you know the exquisite things they have and the exquisite prices. I thought hubby was going to seize, but one yard was easily enough for what I had in mind and the total price of the dress would be far, far less than anything I could buy. His response was “go for it!”

lace-yardag

The bodice draft began with design lines taped onto my body double dress form. Muslin draping was cut and formed to follow the design lines and the pattern created.

marking-dress-form-backmarking-dress-form-frontmuslin-toile-backmuslin-toile-front

I often play with layers of fabric to achieve the desired effect. After trying various combinations of nude tone silk organza, black organza, black cotton tulle and black silk tulle, I decided to use one layer of nude organza, one layer of black cotton tulle and two layers of silk tulle. The fabrics provided the necessary opaqueness and support for this heavy beaded lace.

cutting-tullebasted-for-fitting

Beaded lace doesn’t cut well so I opted to construct the underlayer and drape the lace over, adding handstitched applique darts where necessary.

finished-underlayerdraping-lace

The front princess seams needed support but my favorite spiral steel boning was too rigid. I often use narrow horsehair braid which I stretch and steam to made it narrower and stiffer. The horsehair is inserted into the front seam and provides the right amount of shaping without looking unnatural. Spiral steel was used at the side seams for additional, flexible support.

lace-bust-dartfront-princess-seam

To finish the cap sleeve edges, I cut the scalloped edging and hand appliqued it on. There was just enough scalloped edge to finish the neckline but none left for the edges of the cut away back. Buying more yardage for this would have been ludicrous! From the scraps I was able to cut beaded circles and appliqued them along the back edges. The excess tulle was trimmed away.

cutting-edgingback-edge-trim

All this detail work required hours and hours of hand sewing. I entertained myself by setting up my sewing in front of the TV on election night and watched the totally unpredicted results flow in. Now I know what my readers in the UK must have experienced with the Brexit vote. Hopefully our new president will be good for this country and the world.

For the skirt I chose a sheer polyester chiffon and had it professionally pleated in a sunburst pattern. Use polyester, NOT silk. The pleats won’t be permanent in silk. I had a discussion with Lisa at International Pleating and they don’t recommend silks unless you plan to wear the garment in a dry environment and are prepared for the upkeep. As this was for an outdoor beach wedding, silk seemed a poor choice.  This service is more accessible than you might think. I took my yardage to Tom’s Sons International Pleating in NYC, although you can also ship fabric to them. They have a wonderfully helpful yardage calculator on their website and your pleated fabric is shipped with explicit instructions for seaming the panels together. Shop the Garment District has more info on her blog about this company. I asked for the waistline seam not to be cut (the inner circle when you draft a circle skirt) as having the fabric at the point makes it easy to hang and store your pleated yardage until you are ready to work on it.

pleated-yardagethread-trace-pleat

I found it easiest to locate the “inside fold” (read their seaming directions) and thread trace the fold. Do this on both sections and then baste together before seaming. Make sure your work is absolutely flat to avoid rippling along the seam. The skirt was lined with a separate skirt of metallic silver gray charmeuse. The bodice and two layers of skirt were joined and the scalloped edging covered the seamline.

waistline-seamhemming-skirt

Hemming took some time. A wonderful feature of a professional style dress form is that you can raise the form so the skirt hangs free of the base and you aren’t marking a hem while lying on the floor. A yardstick rubber-banded to a heavy jar made a wonderful marking stick. The hem will flare out when stitched so allow an extra 1/2 to 3/4 inch in length to compensate. A few shots of close-up views:

dress-closeupdress-back

dress-sleevedress-on-form

We had the joy of bringing our son to the chuppah and celebrating his marriage. Wedding gown production is next.

mob-dress-2

The rehearsal dinner was also a beach affair and I made a white lace tunic, idea courtesy of Julie and Sarah of The Tunic Bible. White cotton lace was underlined with skin tone cotton.

lace-tunictunic-interior

I used darts in the back underlining but eliminated them in the lace layer. White linen formed the placket and collar and all seams were finished with narrow binding. I wore this with skinny navy pants for a comfortable night on the beach.

 

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Winner: The Tunic Bible

Thank you for all the lovely comments. These tunics were. Fun to create and I have a few more planned. The winner of the book is Andrea Birkin. Andrea, please contact me at  mf953@aol.com  before Saturday 10/15. I need your mailing address as the book will be sent directly from the publisher to you.

 

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The Tunic Goes Couture

The Tunic Bible has been published!

tunic-book-cover

Welcome to day 2 of the blog tour. I met Sarah online through her Ready-To-Wear Fast project. I’m thrilled to present my interpretations of the tunic. At the completion of the blog tour, each of the sites will host a book give-away. In order to be entered please leave a comment before midnight October 9 and you will be entered in the drawing. The winner will be announced at the end of the tour.

The first version used a mid-weight linen and was lined/underlined with lightweight cotton/silk voile. My construction order differs slightly from the one in the book. I completed the front facing first; then stitched darts in each layer; finally joined the face fabric and lining to be handled as a single layer.

black-placketblack-hem-detail

I also added extensions at the sides to provide support for the heavy trim. Hems were mitered and all seams bound with bias binding made from the lining fabric. The excess beads were removed from the ends before turning the edges under. The edges looked a little unfinished, so I cut an additional piece of trim, folded it to form a narrow edge, and stitch in place.

trim-edgestrim-edging

black

The next version was constructed from a saree I had worn to a wedding. I couldn’t see myself wearing it again but the fabric was a beautifully embroidered silk with an interesting decorative border.

placket-layouttrim-miterplacket-insidecollar-layout

I arranged the border as the placket and used a narrow band of trim around the placket and collar. The lining/underling was handled the same way with darts sewn first and then the two layers of fabric handled as a single layer. The seams were bound with bias strips of the lining. Loads of hand sewing, but this is the world of couture!

cream-insidecream

Here’s the schedule for the tour: Enjoy!

The Tunic Bible Blog Tour Schedule

 

 

October 3

C&T                    www.ctpub.com/blog

Pattern Review            www.patternreview.com/blog

 

October 4

Cloning Couture        www.cloningcouture.com

Generation Q Magazine    www.generationqmagazine.com

 

October 5

Oonaballoona            www.oonaballoona.com

Featherstitch Avenue    www.featherstitchavenue.com

 

October 6

Allie J                    www.alliemjackson.com

Thanks I Made Them    www.thanksimadethem.blogspot.com

 

October 7

Sew Busy Lizzy            www.sewbusylizzy.com

Jennuine Design        www.jennuinedesign.com

 

October 8

Inside The Hem            www.insidethehem.com

Girls in the Garden        www.girlsinthegarden.net

 

October 9

Sew Manju                www.sewmanju.wordpress.com

My Love Affair with Sewing    www.myloveaffairwithsewing.com

 

October 10

Evolution of a Sewing Goddess    www.evolutionofasewinggoddess.blogspot.com

Creating in the Gap        www.creatinginthegap.ca

 

October 11

House of Pinheiro        www.houseofpinheiro.com

The Tunic Bible             www.thetunicbible.com

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Chanel Shoulder Pads

Anyone who has constructed their version of the classic Chanel quilted jacket is aware that there is no provision in the design for shoulder padding. Unfortunately, many figure types are enhanced by the addition of even just a slight lift at the shoulder line. I came across this RTW Chanel quilted jacket WITH shoulder pads.

jacket1jacket2

The lining is silk chiffon and is difficult to see in the photo. Each section of the jacket, including sleeves, is quilted in vertical lines about one and 1/4 inch apart. The lining seams are finished by hand: amazing to find this in RTW! There are also shoulder pads covered with the silk chiffon. Happily I was able to get inside this garment and copy the details.

jacket3

Here is the jacket wrong side out with the shoulder pad visible and the pattern I was able to reconstruct. The inner working of the shoulder pad were identical to a pattern I previously posted on 1/20/2016: The Chanel Shoulder.

Here is a copy of the shoulder pad itself:

shoulder-pad-pattern

I don’t have pdf conversion software, but if you right click anywhere on the pattern you will have an option to print. Print to fit on 8.5 by 11 paper and it should print to the correct scale.

I’ll run through the construction of the shoulder pad again so readers don’t need to toggle back and forth between posts.
pieces1pieces2
On the right are the sections cut from cotton batting. Left photo shows the sections completed. Check the post from 1/20 if you need additional hints.

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I’ve shown the inner layer (pattern piece 3) placed on the mannequin first, topped with the optional additional padding (pattern piece 4). Stitch these layers together.

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Pattern pieces 1 and 2 (already stitched together) are layered on top and pinned for sewing. Next photo shows the completed shoulder pad.

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Since the lining in this jacket has already been attached by quilting, the shoulder pad needs to be covered by matching lining. Here are the lining pieces: Shoulder Pad Cover

 

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Sew the darts in both top and bottom cover pieces. Notice both sections are cut out bias grain. There is also NO SEAM ALLOWANCES on the outer edges. Allow about 3/4 inch or 2 cm. Pin the upper cover (the piece with two darts) on the top of the pad. Stitch just INSIDE the edge of the batting.

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Place the bottom cover section on top of the top cover layer and stitch just OUTSIDE the batting. I find it easier to sew with the cotton batting layer on top and the silk fabric next to the sewing machine feed dogs. It controls the ease better.

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Leave about 2 to 2.5 inches open along one side to turn. Trim the seam allowance to 1/8 inch. I increase to 1/4 inch around the opening the make sewing that closed easier.

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Attach to the jacket with 1/4 inch French tacks so the shoulder pad will move slightly when worn. I usually use four tacks: one at each end of the shoulder seam and one at front and back where the sleeve joins the jacket body. These aren’t limited to Chanel jackets. Anytime you need a covered shoulder pad these are wonderful. I like that the sleeve head support is incorporated into the design. Also the pad is securely stitched to the lining so these should withstand the cleaning process. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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