Saturday, February 7, 2015

Purple Passion

Last Summer I had the opportunity to make a custom outfit for a mother of the groom. It's always nice when a client returns for a second custom dress - even after many years have passed.  She wanted to be very comfortable for this late-September wedding, first and foremost. She also readily acknowledged that she needed an outfit that would suit her body type and age, without being too matronly. And she wanted a little bit of glitz.
This was a very pleasing project for me, for a lot of reasons.

The initial query was through an email in early June,  which contained a photo my client had found on the internet. (Sorry, but no link to that dress - it apparently is no longer available.) Her question for me was, should I buy this dress? As often happens with online sources, I felt it was a case of too good to be true - the two piece outfit was being offered for under $150, with a multi-tiered dress of chiffon and satin, plus a flowy embellished jacket. I responded that more often than not, the garment that is shipped by these sites bears no resemblance to the sales photo, that she would probably receive a very dress of inferior fabrics very poorly made, and it would be horribly wrinkled from being crammed into a tiny package. It was a really good price, so if she was willing to take a chance she could end up with a great dress for the wedding - or she could be throwing her money away.

Pam's next question was whether I could make her something like this. I certainly couldn't duplicate the garment for anything less than 5 or 6 times the listed retail. That put it well out of her price range, and I figured that was the end of that. But I've sewn for her before - 20 years ago, a bridesmaid's dress for her sister's wedding: large floral print on polished cotton, remember those? - and she really liked the idea of getting something that both suited and fit her. Faced with the challenge of coming up with an alternative that fit her budget (luckily quite a bit more than the $150 internet questionable dress, though still well below my original estimate) I started to think of alternatives.

The first surprisingly satisfying thing about this project is that it started with a sketch.

I've taken a couple of fashion illustration classes at ASDP conferences and chapter seminars. These have been so valuable to me, because I never thought I could draw! Now I have the confidence to create a drawing of what I envision for the garment, and then let the customer see what I have in mind. Having a set of traceable body images from an ASDP colleague helps to make my drawing reflect how it will look on the client, rather than on a disproportionate model figure. How gratifying it was to have Pam review my sketches and pronounce this version 'perfect!'

After I shopped for fabrics appropriate for the investment she'd be making in this outfit, Pam's choice was a relatively inexpensive polyester satin-back crepe from the local big-box fabric store. Well, not so local, as it turns out. The only branch that had the yardage I needed in the right color was about 35 minutes away. But I did found several possible choices for the added touch of bling for the jacket, in a sale bin at a local independent fabric place. A friend and I had a great time digging through the trough to find treasures I could bring home, for my client to make her final selection. I returned most of the ones she rejected, keeping just one extra because it spoke to me - someday I'll find a use for that floral applique!
The color is really a much more vibrant purple -

This is the bling chosen for the project, what's left after cutting off two pieces for the shoulders of the jacket. I have a container full of the beads removed to create seam allowance at the ends.

The dress is pretty much a custom drafted pattern that was fine-tuned by draping on the body - a v-necked, sleeveless A-line dress. We left it unlined, and I bound the neck and armholes with the satin side of the fabric facing out. This ties it to the jacket, which used both sides of the fabric as focal points.

Using the Tabula Rasa Jacket Swing Variations from my colleagues and friends at Fit for Art patterns, I showcased the satin face in the front bands, side panels, and swing cuffs on the sleeves. The beaded trim highlights the front shoulders, against the crepe (matte) side of the fabric. I love how this outfit came together, and Pam was beaming as she took it home with her.
Doesn't fit Gwendolyn as well as it does Pam -

Here you can see the satin binding on the dress neckline.
I needed to use my zipper foot to sew the seams next to the beaded applique. The mesh at the lower edge is tucked under and hand sewn.
Bonus! I received a Christmas card from Pam, containing a photo print of the wedding party. I also altered the bride's gown -she said they both received many compliments, and Pam was comfortable all day.

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