This project was a little different to the others, in as much as I had the idea for what I wanted to make first, and then set out to find suitable cast off garments to cut up. Normally it’s the other way around.
Now, I’m a big Stella McCartney fan, and I’m also a fan of Nicole Scherzinger’s style, so imagine my delight when I saw the cover of last month’s InStyle:
It’s Nicole Scherzinger rocking Stella McCartney Winter 2011!
Obviously a “tribute” to this dress went straight to the top of the list of future projects. I know Ms McCartney probably uses only the finest, heaviest, drapiest 100% cotton jersey that’s hand dyed by silkworms in Nicaragua or something, but I had a different raw material in mind. Yes, that’s right, charity shop men’s T-shirts.
It didn’t take long to find suitable black and white T-shirts, but the plain beige one was a lot harder to come by. I eventually got all three from the British Heart Foundation shop in Gravesend. The black one (as new) was £1.99, the white one (still new with tags) was £1.99 and the beige one was £1.50.
Now, the beige T-shirt had some issues. It wasn’t as big as the black one, and the material was much thinner. It was worn, in places to the point of bobbly, and very very stretched. It also had a stain on the front which I only noticed once I got it home… typical!
As a first thought, what does the back of the “inspiration” dress look like? It could be literally anything! Isn’t it funny how you hardly ever see the back of designer dresses? Catwalk and magazine pictures usually only show the front. My initial thought was that the black was a symmetrical stripe down the side, so that the optical illusion at the waist happens both front and back. I was wrong – in the magazine it shows Nicole in another pose where you can clearly see the back of the dress is all black.
To make a pattern for this dress I used a jersey dress that I already own and like the fit of as a template. I literally used paperweights and drew around it (not the sleeves) on pattern paper to make a sort of jersey dress block. I folded the paper in half down the centre to check that both sides were approximately the same and then traced it off twice, once with the front neckline and once with the back neckline.
Here are the steps I used to create my pattern.
I started with my “block”:
The first thing was to draw in the desired necklines and racerback style armholes, shown in red below.
Next, I estimated how much black was visible from the front at the waistline. I came up with 6cm by holding the tape measure against my body while looking in the mirror! I also noticed that on the magazine cover, you can just about see a bit of black each side of the skirt. I estimated there was probably about 2cm of black visible on each side of the skirt. You can see on the diagram below that I drew a new side seam on the front piece by removing 2cm from the skirt, taking out 6cm at the waist, and tapering to zero at the armhole. I did the exact reverse on the back. I added 2cm to the skirt, added 6cm at the waist and tapered to zero at the armhole.
The next part involved doing some work on the front. I used body measurements for the shoulder-to-bust and shoulder-to-underbust and marked these on the pattern. I also measured down the centre front from the neckline to find a suitable point for the high point of the curve. I joined the points, drawing a curve by hand which I thought looked something like the original dress in the picture, shown in red below, and cut along it.
Now, the tricky part. It’s clear from the photos that the designer dress has a dart in the white piece to make the underbust more fitted, but there’s no corresponding dart on the beige piece. It was easy enough to mark a 2cm dart on the white piece by draping it on my body (red lines below). The tricky part was taking out 2cm of length from the beige curve without adding a dart. I slashed and spreaded it (blue lines below).
Actually, because I wanted to reduce the length of the curve, I did the opposite of spreading it. I overlapped the pieces by 6.60mm each (OK, just 6mm – I was working with sticky tape for chrissakes) to make up the 2cm reduction I wanted. I tried to show this with the green, red and blue lines below (click the picture to enlarge).
All that was left to do was to mark the seam allowances on and, ta da! Pattern pieces.
I cut 2 pieces of the white, so one could be used as a facing for the arm and neck holes, and also to help get rid of any transparency (it was quite thin!).
Not shown above, I also cut a facing for the back neckline and armholes to be used in a similar way.
Here’s what the pieces looked like before I overlocked them together.
You can see that the beige and black pieces are pieced. On the beige, there is a seam across the skirt and there is also what’s left of the shoulder seams just under the underarms. The black piece has two seams across – one at roughly the same level as the skirt seam on the beige (but not the exact same) and one between the armholes. Unfortunately this is what happens when you work with recycled materials!
I overlocked the white to the beige and was pretty happy with it.
Next I pinned and overlocked the side seams and tried it on to see if the fit was working. It was, but the front armhole was gaping on both sides. I ended up taking 1cm out of the white/beige seam at the underarm to help. All that was left once the fitting was done was to tidy the beige portion of the armholes by hand and make a hem using the twin needle on my machine.
Here’s how the finished dress turned out.
Ooops! My bad. That’s Kate Winslet modelling the dress at the Venice Film Festival.
This is me really…