Today we are starting with this very thick grey wool skirt from the Mind shop in Whitby. I paid £4.50. The wool is so thick it’s almost coat weight. The skirt is pleated into deep knife pleats which are sewn shut for the first 15cm or so. The whole effect is rather kilt-like.
It may be a stretch of the imagination, but… for inspiration I am using this rather lovely Louis Vuitton Fall 2013 dress as worn by Victoria Beckham on the cover of Australian Vogue (September 2013 issue). I love this because (a) it’s lace and I love lace, and (b) it’s plaid, and I love plaid. It’s clearly part of the slip dress/nightie trend that’s a throwback from the 90s grunge era, but smarter.
I had the idea to use the grey wool skirt for this look because I wanted to see how the thick wool contrasted with the delicate lace. But it took me a lot of work to realise that vision…
First off, I drafted a quick pattern from my bodice block that I thought would sort of resemble the inspiration picture and show off the stripes of the material at the same time. The steps are as follows:
1. FRONT – rotate bust dart 180 degrees so it’s in the middle of the centre front, in a horizontal position.
2. FRONT – draw in new neckline in a V-shape.
3. BACK – draw in back neckline. Close the back waist dart.
4. BACK – adjust to fit. On mine, it was gaping open at the back so I took some ease off the back neckline. Waist was perfect already (see toile photos below).
Here’s the front toile, pretty good:
Here is the back toile showing the amount of ease that I had to take out.
Now, I should have looked at this skirt more carefully in the shop because when I went to start working with it I found it full of rather suspicious looking holes.
I cut off the waistband and took out the pleats quickly using a seam ripper.
I then put the skirt into a carrier bag in the freezer for a few days to kill any moths or moth eggs that may have been there, then machine washed it on the wool setting (on my machine this is 40 degrees). I am reasonably confident that these two actions got rid of any creatures living in this skirt.
While wet, I hung the material to drip dry with the pleats horizontal to try and encourage the pleats to flatten. When it was almost dry, I pressed the heck out of it with a large amount of steam. The pleats are still slightly visible unfortunately… not quite ideal but it works.
I marked all the holes with pins to make them easier to avoid when cutting, holding the material up to the light to spot them easily.
When I’d finished, it was like a minefield. I had to place my pattern pieces carefully, avoiding any pins. The back was supposed to be cut on the fold but it ended up being two pieces with a seam down the centre back, as there wasn’t quite enough non-holy material to go around.
Here are some in-progress shots of the bodice. Note the pleasing effect of the stripes below the V-neck as they are almost parallel with the neckline before heading into the dart!
Stripe matching at the side… not at all bad…
Stripe matching at the back… perfect!
The skirt was a simple pencil skirt but I gave it a lot of taper towards the hem for a really pegged in look. To aid walking I left a slit up the back. This was originally going to be a vent, but the material was so thick that a slit looked better.
I had an offcut of black lace, about 2 metres, from an old project. I had already cut it roughly in half lengthways, around the flowers, where I had used the opposite scalloped edge on the old project. It was perfect.
Pinning this to the bodice, the top is starting to take shape – I made sure to pin the centre front at the peak of a scallop (on the edge where the lace joins the dress) and the top points of the V in a ditch, to emphasise the V-shape.
Here’s how the trim looked before I sewed it on.
I made rouleau spaghetti straps!!! This was a first for me and I loved it. I used a very helpful PDF tutorial which you can find here.
I used some black poly satin lining fabric from stash. Full disclosure: I was going to line the entire dress with it, but in the end I liked that the wool had a bit of stretch which the lining didn’t, so I scrapped that idea.
The rouleau straps were attached securely with some small zig zags, front and back.
Applying the lace was easy enough using the same technique I used on the red skirt from a few weeks ago. I appliqued it on using a small zig zag, all the way around. After trying it on, the armholes were too high, so I made two small fisheye darts in the trim above the left and right armscyes. This meant I could keep the top and bottom edges of the lace.
A small section of the lace had to be pieced at the back slit, but this was easy enough with the small zig zag.
This is all the lace that was left over – about 1 cm!
To install the side zip, I interfaced both sides of the seam, which I’m really glad I did. The zip went in relatively easily.
After that I very carefully went around the front neckline trimming the grey fabric just outside the zig zags. I had to be careful to cut around the areas that I’d sewn my straps to. I ended up leaving the back neckline intact for modesty purposes… the front looked great though!
I was delighted with this dress when I first tried it on, so much so that I have worn it to work events (under a black jacket) and to meet up with Jane and Marie (and Kathryn and Nicole) on a rainy day in London. I don’t think the pleats are terribly noticeable, but I am going to attack them again with my new water reservoir iron and see if I can really get rid of them.
We chose Bamburgh Castle as a backdrop to show off this dress. Here are a bazillion pictures taken on the sand dunes at this stunning location.