Couturier Sewing Class dress
I was browsing through some Japanese pattern books looking for a dress to make the other day, and as I crossed off option after option in my head, it dawned on me that I’ve developed some very rigid ideas about what suits me (and what doesn’t). We all have our rules, our personal likes and dislikes and ideas about what looks best on us. But I realised as I crossed off options that day that my NO list is getting longer – so pattern hunting and fabric shopping is getting more difficult. Maybe it’s an age thing – is it inevitable that we just get more conservative and set in our ways as we get older?
I suspect it’s more than age. I’ve ranted here before about the clothing dos and don’ts that are imposed by society on women as we get older – but I feel like I also impose rules some pretty tough rules on myself. Some I’ve developed from learning over time what suits me. Some are for practical reasons. Others I suspect are confidence-related. And a couple are silly hangovers from a thoughtless comment that came at the wrong time (me, sensitive??).
So here are just a few examples from my long list of styles and fabrics that I’ve labelled NO, along with the not-always-completely-rational reasons why they’re on that list:
– Fit and flare dresses (I don’t have enough going on bust-wise to balance them out);
– Halter necks or cutaway sleeves (scrawny shoulders);
– Anything with a scooped or low back (I burn easily);
– Autumnal and neutral colours (I wash out);
– Bold, primary colours, especially in prints (I get swamped easily);
– Two-piece bathers (babies);
– Culottes or flared, cropped pants (I’m tall so I look like a tall person who bought their pants too short).
And sack dresses. I don’t do one-piece sack dresses, because I think they make me look too shapeless (could it just be the name…?). Which is a bit of a shame, because I LOVE sack dresses on other people, and often those patterns are the first I gravitate to when I open a Japanese pattern book (and let’s face it – they’re full of them).
So I’ve admired this dress pattern, from Couturier Sewing Class, since I bought the book last year. I love the bow at the back of the neck. And the gentle curved shape. But because this shape is on my don’t list, I never considered trying it. Luckily our friend Justine is not so rule-bound and is happier to experiment with shapes and try new things (she is a true adventuress when it comes to Japanese pattern books). And luckily she’s happy to share her lovely makes here on our blog. Because seeing her black spotty dress, I’m very close to re-thinking my sack-ban. I just think this dress is really, really great.
So, Justine’s make details: A fellow sufferer of 70s childhood needlecord nostalgia, she grabbed this black spotted cord from Miss Matatabi a while ago (sadly it all seems to be gone…). It’s a very fine weight cord, and Justine reckons it may have worked better with something gathered, but I disagree. However, she reports it does cling a bit to tights, so she’s thinking of retrofitting a lining to the body of the dress (don’t you hate that when you realise you need a lining after the make is done and dusted?).
Justine originally traced a size LL for this dress, based on measurements from the book, but then lined it up to compare with her normal Aeolian size and went down to an L – to avoid total sack territory (while still keeping that simple shape).
In terms of putting it together, the hardest part was the sleeve dart at shoulder – it took a few attempts (is there a trick to this we don’t know about?). Justine says the neckline definitely benefited from stay stitching (and how darn great is that cord bias, those diagonal lines are very pleasing indeed). She worried that the bow at the back with long tails is a bit girly, but it adds such a nice touch to a very plain dress, so I for one am glad it stayed. The pocket is an add-on, it started as a square but morphed into this very sweet curved version, courtesy of Klarissa’s patented dinner plate technique for tracing half circles.
It’s a simple dress in a simple shape but the texture of the fabric and those dots really lift it from ‘another black dress’ into something really quirky and unique and lovely. So lovely in fact, I want one. I’m going to ask Justine if I can try hers on, in the hope that I may just overcome my whole sack thing and make one of my own. Because while it’s nice to have your own style happening, it’s also good to occasionally question what informs that style, and all the baggage that comes along for the ride. Even if you have to wait ‘til your friends do it first. Thanks Justine!