Friday, September 5, 2014

The Kill-Me-Now Last Summer Dress

In California, Summer doesn't really end after Labor Day.  For example, it was 90 degrees outside over the weekend.  I was hoping to have finished the Donna Karan dress by August 31st so I could wear it on my First Date Anniversary.  But I ran into a major hemming glitch.  Here it is completed a couple of days late on September 2nd.  Better late than never...TA-DA!

Fabric: linen from Mood Fabrics.
Lining: 100% cotton from Dharma Trading.

Back of Dress, where my pleat lined up at the bodice edge, but turned out different from the photo.
Vogue 1175 Discontinued
I cut a size 16 from the pattern.
If you have this pattern sitting in your stash and wondering about the sewing process, I might be able to help you.  I took the challenge of tackling this dress because to this day, I have never made a Donna Karan or DKNY pattern (from Vogue) that did not frustrate the hell out of me. This dress is no exception. So after reading this post you might have second thoughts about making this pattern in the recommended way. The good news is, it's not impossible.

The PROS: The dress is really adorable, and I love, love, love the trapeze shape and bubble hem. The pocket placements make the dress especially flirty.  Who doesn't love pockets right?

Here are the CONS to the dress with some photos:

1. The neckline is too low. Fixing it would require some major pattern alteration, and then having to redraft the lining.  This would not be a bad idea since the lining pattern does not match the dress neckline.

Notice how the center panel sits lower than the neckline pleats. If you look at the original pattern, you'll see that there is a horizontal space at the neckline, and it isn't really a sharp v-neck.  


To remedy this, I made a double pleat to bring the neckline down to the center panel.  This is the result after I added the extra pleat. Notice there is still a gap between the v-points of the neckline? This gap is correct.

 

Now take a look at the neckline of the lining.  Notice how it's a sharp point?   Well, I could have cut deep notches at the point to shape it, but I didn't want to risk it being off.

Lining has a sharp v-neck.
Then...I stitched the front panel shut so the neckline matched. It actually looks okay. I figured after I matched and stitched it, I could create a less sharp curve, to avoid bulk.

Before sewing together right sides together.
Completed neckline turned inside out.  I made a sweet swoop at the v-point.
I recommend stay stitching here. You can see the second pleat clearly now.
2. The rest of the lining pattern sucked. It's as if the lining was designed for some other dress, and it got mixed up in production.
  • The lining is likely too short in length for most people of an average height. If you're petite, it will barely be long enough to cover your thighs. I am 5'3" and it was almost too short for my taste. It would be a mini dress for someone taller.
  • The lining hem circumference is smaller than the main dress hem circumference. This is a bubble dress, where you sew the dress hem to the lining hem, and then flip it. The shorter lining is supposed to roll the main dress inward creating a poof effect.  If the hems don't match...no poof period.
I added an additional two inch panel to each side in order to create a wider circumference.  Drafting a wider side panel would also have done the trick. When I made the muslin, I did not make the lining, only the outside dress. So I didn't anticipate all these problems. My bad. 

Additional panel was added to the back of the original side panel.
3. Not all the parts of the dress pattern really align...even if you match all the circles, squares, darts, etc...  There will still be problems.  Like the shoulder straps are weird...the underarm cut seams low, and did I mention the cleavage? This dress works great if someone has an A bust cup or smaller, and wears pasties and maybe even doublestick tape for more insurance.  For me...I'm going to wear t-shirt or camisole under this dress and treat it like a jumper.

I had my daughter help me fit the straps, then I had to trim it, and play around 
with the widths so they matched. I handstitched the shoulder straps. I know, 
there's a stitch showing, but I really had to secure that edge. I might redo it later.
This is the center panel, where the bottom pleated panel is connected to. But this panel does not fit the bottom.
I also added fusible interfacing to this piece to stabilize it. Surprisingly, there was no lining cut for it, and 
my fabric was very thin and unstable.  I think this was a critical addition. 

I made the bottom ruffle wider because when I made the muslin, it was too narrow after I basted the pleats. I ended up cutting it on the fold which added the seam allowance. It still fell short about an inch...the result was the pucker. I was able to ease in the pucker by hand stitching this area.
Pucker gone after I eased the bottom ruffle to the center panel. 

The rest of the lining did not match up completely either. I had to hand stitch most of the lining, plus the hem in order to ease everything together. I used a slip stitch for the hem.  

Starting to piece the lining together. Before I discovered the hem problem. The lining is sewn right sides together
with the main dress and then turned inside out. The shoulder straps are left unattached for this purpose.

Here the lining has been flipped.

Side and back view of the lining.
After reading all this...do you still want to make it?  If I made it again, I might draft a new lining and a front bodice so the neckline and arm syce could be brought up.  At this point, they don't match up anyway.  The other option is skipping the lining completely or by adding a lining to the base ruffle piece. I think this would actually work better.  One could also replace the lining by adding a petticoat underskirt, which would give a similar shape but sans the bubble effect.

Here are more photos I took as I pieced this dress together.

Back skirt after I pinned the tucks together. It's upside down in the photo, which is how I worked on it.

Back bodice attached to skirt.

My fabric was very thin and unstable. I added an interlining of silk habotai to keep it from stretching.
But I think fusible interfacing like how I secured the front center panel worked better.
Back of the dress with the front bodice and pockets added to the side. 
Notice how the dress curves from the base of the pocket to the hem. 
Now look at the lining back below and see how it does not match.

Original lining front and side panels before I added the extra four inches to the side. 
Back lining panel was too small, at the top where it needed to be stitched to the back bodice, 
and the width. I hand stitched this panel in order to avoid puckering.
I stabbed myself with my Juki machine needle while working on the final hem of the dress.  Don't worry the machine wasn't running at the time so it did not go through my finger (thank God). It was a superficial wound but went in pretty deep at the space between the base of my pinky nail and finger. So it bled a lot and hurt like hell. 

My owie.

My husband rushed to the store for a First Aid remedy. Such a sweetie.

Happy Sewing!