Sunday, March 20, 2016

Courage Under Fire!!! The story of one prom dress that almost was not - McCall's 6288 Mod

My daughter is very different from me and in her junior year she got invited to FOUR proms and I went to none. Thankfully, she does have a little job and can pay for some of her stuff. So we went shopping for prom dresses and were completely underwhelmed by the in-store offerings and the dresses that she wanted did not fit - we all have body issues. You probably know what I am talking about - lotsa lotsa rhinestones and sparkles, however, that is probably the point. In one of the stores we saw a very basic top and a poufy skirt which had a hefty price tag that was not justified. I blurted out - "I could easily make something like that" - big mistake! Daughter latched on to that - and asked me - can you really make me a dress? All of a sudden, I felt a bout of sewing confidence boosted by frugal self-righteousness - "but, of course", all the while averting my eyes...
That was 3 weeks prior to the prom. The reality is I have never ever made  finished an evening dress let alone a formal gown! First week, I was googling prom dresses, the reality and the urgency of the due date looming in a "distant" future - I had time, I got this! Daughter drew this sketch for me. She wanted an almost neoclassical dress with open shoulders and gathered skirt.

Despite having close to a thousand of patterns (including my years of Burda subscription), I could not find any that could be adapted to create what she wanted. I decided to act like Steve Jobs and shove my vision (of available patterns) to her. Alas, I was met with unexpected resistance and all my pinned suggestions were rejected. So I decided to wing it and go with the flow - to implement daughter's design. I went to the Hi-Fashion Fabrics store and got some samples. I came back and caught her before she left for work and she made her choice. I went back and got 6 yards of the sparkly blue knit and 8 yards of stretch mesh to create the "fluffy" overlay skirt. I was all gung-ho and ready to roll - then the reality of not having a pattern hit hard...
I imagined the seam all crooked and uneven due to two layers of gathers where the skirt is joined to bodice. But, wait, I thought, I had a solution - I will add a pretty ribbon and cover it. I ran over to Joann's and perused a tiny selection of acceptable ribbons. Before buying, I ran my tiny design mod by daughter and once again - a resounding No - Ribbon is a No Go. My resolve deflated anticipating a sewing disaster and I kind of stopped with all activities. Then, we had an argument, probably about her driving or lack of the ability to, and she told me not to bother sewing the dress - Twitter showed that she had no trust in me. That relieved me of my contract to sew the prom dress - I decided to save the fabric either for myself or for my mom.
Then about 6 days to prom, daughter asked timidly - "Have you started on the dress?" - "No," I replied. "But, I thought you would be noble!" Noble? Me? Mwahaha , I said. I WAS noble for the last 17 years, but enough is enough. Then, after about 5 minutes,  I changed mind and got with the program. Since there were only a few days left, daughter relented and changed the design to this:
Admittedly, this looked much simpler, generic, basic and doable than the first sketch. There is no ribbon or wonky seams to contend with. Plus, I have sewn t-shirts before (but not blogged). I found McCall's 6288 raglan t-shirt pattern and started working on the prototype.
First, I sewed it as is from scraps, tried it on, made corrections and redrafted the pattern to open shoulders and decrease the width of the sleeve - for some reason - McCall's T-Shirt patterns have super wide sleeves.
Then, I made a second draft t-shirt that looked more like the sketch and I added the clear elastic to it as well.
Daughter liked the second prototype so much that she wore it to school twice already even though it is not even hemmed, but teens can get away with a lot as far as fashion faux-pas.
Then, I got really tired from work, and did not do anything until the Monday of the week of the Prom. Daughter was getting increasingly nervous and kept asking me when will you start or did you start the dress yet to which I would say "hmmmmm-yeah-hmmmm" which could mean either Yes or No depending on what you want to or expect to hear. At the same time, my own mother has joined in scolding me for not delivering on the promise.Then, there was no turning back - I had to start - I have plunked $100 into fabric and daughter had no time to dress shop either in store or online. It had to be done. I started drafting the dress part, lengthened the skirt part of the top and cut lengthwise to create a skirt pattern piece - placed it on another piece of paper and traced the skirt front and back, trying to be designer-y. Later I have found there was no need to do that - all I had to do was swing out the side seams and lengthen it to the desired length and shape the hi-lo later on - since this is a knit. Now I know.

So I cut out the dress shell and the lining out of the power mesh and constructed each separately using my serger. Then, I sandwiched the sleeves - right side to right side and sewed it - then I sewed it into a conundrum - I could not figure out how to turn it out. So I had to undo one of them. Then, for the remaining sleeve shell and lining - I butted the sleeve openings together - right side to right side and sewed around it and that somehow worked. Then, I took the clear elastic and serged it all the way around the neckline along with the shell and the lining together. Then, I sewed the neckline on the sewing machine using the 3-step zigzag stitch turning down the elastic, I guess just like underwear sewing. Throughout all this, daughter would periodically run into my sewing room (Yessss, I do have a sewing room - thanks to my dad) and scold me. To that I would raise my finger and say the magic words - "Courage under Fire!" - she would run out, complain to her friends, get worked up and run back into the sewing room again to scold. To which, I would just chuckle and say the same thing again.
Then, I turned down the hem by hand - took me 2.5 evenings to finish it and here's the finished dress. Daughter was shocked that I was able to finish it and she tweeted to that effect. Then she said that she "be steppin' and finessing" and generally "be on fire" - thus I concluded that mission was accomplished to the satisfaction of the client. Now, what to do with the remaining sparkling fabric? I was thinking - maybe a wrap dress for myself? Maybe in another 10-15 years.
We forgot the boutonniere

I made that!!! (Both the dress and the daughter)

Bathroom selfie, of course

Daughter and her date with the matching tux

Non-stop selfies!!!

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