Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Cinderella Story, Middle Aged Version

Every December we attend a charity ball benefiting a local hospital.  Yes, every December.  I know that it is always on the calendar, yet I am never happy with what I have to wear.  Every year, I tell myself that I'm going to sew a gorgeous, flattering dress for next year.  But I get busy with other things and next thing you know, December is here and I'm pulling out my old standby: black taffeta skirt with one of three coordinating tops.
This top has seen more than a few too many charity balls. I think this one
was 2008, the first of many appearances.
One year, the lady sitting next to me wore the same thing.  We had a good laugh, knowing that it was more than a few years old. After that, I vowed not to wear the black taffeta top again.  Last year, I wanted to make myself a nice lace blouse to coordinate with the black taffeta skirt, but something else got in the way and I ended up with a velvet blazer and tank from Dillard's purchased a day or two before the event.  It was very warm and comfortable, but not at all elegant, a little too big and not that flattering.  We have a hideous family picture with me wearing it.  The kids make jokes about it almost weekly.
View C would be perfect!

This year was going to be different!  Even though I am (still) remodeling a bathroom, I was sure I could make time to sew a simple, but elegant blouse to top the taffeta skirt. Burda 7126, which would look lovely with lace or organza, would be perfect.  I even bought some fabric, and interfacing and glass buttons -- everything I'd need.  Then a last-minute business trip popped up on my schedule in the first week of December.

So once again, I found myself at Dillard's the day of the event.  The special occasion area was bustling.  It was truly disappointing to see the racks of identical gowns, that were not my style, and many were poor quality.  The taffeta skirt is a basic, so I just focused on finding a new top to dress it up.
I saw three women wearing this exact dress at the event.

There was a lovely white lace blouse, but the only one in my size had lipstick smeared across the front from another shopper.  It looked better on the hanger than it did on me and it itched.  I even saw a few of the same tops I tried on last year.  At full price.  Really?  Don't they mark down old merchandise?  I found myself feeling quite superior to the inventory.  Why didn't I plan to make something?  It would have been so much better!

After trying on a few tops and wondering if I could remove the lipstick stain from the white lace, I finally settled for a black lace Calvin Klein jacket that I thought I'd be able to wear over my velvet tank from last year.  At the end of my wait at the cash register, the harried sales clerk looked down her nose at me while "informing" me that there was a very important gala this evening that was keeping her busy.  I smiled kindly, "Yes, I know.  I am shopping for that myself."  She acted like she didn't believe me and didn't say another word to me while checking me out.  What?!  I nearly walked away, but bought it anyway and went home dejected.

I really wanted a beautiful dress like my daughter's Vogue 8997.  In fact, I was downright sad.  My husband chairs the hospital foundation board, and he would be in the spotlight all night, giving speeches and handing out awards.  I was sorry that he would have such a dumpy date.  Where was MY fairy godmother?!

Before I knew it, I was trying on my daughter's dress.  I felt like a little girl in mommy's closet!  Guess what?  It fit!  Yeah, it is three cup sizes too big for me, but it wasn't really noticeable.  About that time, Steve walked in and said "I think you should wear it.  It looks great."  So I did.
With my Prince Charming

Not only did I get many, many compliments, I was able to have fascinating conversations all evening: about sewing your own clothes. People were amazed that a regular mom like me could sew a lovely dress that fit.  They all told me how disappointing the RTW gowns are, and how hard it is to find one that fits.

At one point during dinner, Steve sent a text to our daughter with a picture of the two of us.  "Is that my dress?  It looks like my dress!"  I told her that it was very popular and several magazines and newspapers had photographed us during the evening.  It's going to be famous, I joked. "Well, I need it clean by Tuesday!"
with sisters Josetta and Veronica

I'm returning the Calvin Klein jacket today.  I hope the same sales lady is there, so I can tell her all about the dress that I made.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Finally: Pictues of Vogue 8997

My bathroom remodeling project is taking all my spare time, and I haven't had even a few minutes (or the energy) to upload pictures.  Unfortunately, my husband took most of the pictures that evening, and he didn't style the gown very well.  I'm sure he was focused on the face.

Front View, in the gallery next to the concert hall
Back view.  The flash really lights up the taffeta.

I was more than a little disappointed to see young women wearing super short skirts, when the dress code clearly stated "full length skirt".  After chiding myself for spending so much time on a gown that she may not have needed, I calmed myself by thinking "She is wearing the nicest dress on that stage."  She may have been wearing the nicest dress in town (on a Tuesday evening).

My attempts to photograph her on stage were not successful.
The taffeta lined with cotton broadcloth moves beautifully.
Too bad you can't really see it.

Some details.

The sleeves: were underlined with black silk organza.  The lace was fairly substantial, and I toyed with only using lace, but felt that the organza would offer a some protection since this is a dress that will be worn many times.  I didn't want an elbow to come poking through. Also, the organza added just enough color.
Thread-traced sleeves (before adding gussets).
I finished the seams with silk organza bias cuts that were dyed with coffee.  It's a perfect shade to blend with her skin tone, and a tad darker than a tea-stain.  Adding vinegar helps set the stain/dye in silk.  The bias strips disappear when worn.  They're not even really noticeable against the white background below.

The skirt: Stephanie wanted a taffeta skirt, since she is accustomed to borrowing mine and really likes the scroop.  I suppose it's like wearing a bell around your neck: everyone hears you coming, and they turn to watch.  Or at least it's fun to imagine they are.  We considered silk taffeta, because I really like sewing with silk and Stephanie really likes wearing it.  However, we needed 7 yards for this skirt.  It's very full, and I did add eight inches to the length.  So, we are happy with the nylon/poly taffeta that I found On Sale.  The additional 8 inches were just tacked on to the bottom of the pattern.  The "lengthen/shorten here" line just was not the right place for eight inches.  Although it added a lot more fabric, for a full skirt like this one, it worked out perfectly, multiplying the flare.
The sketches are interesting, aren't they?
Skirt lining: My internet order for the skirt lining was cancelled by the retailer late in the sewing process, so I ended up lining it with a lightweight cotton broadcloth that I had in my stash.  I had to piece it in order to get enough, but who is going to know.  (Other than you and me?)  I just couldn't bring myself to sew the icky lining that the chains sell (no Bemberg available locally).  Although the broadcloth adds quite a bit of weight to the dress, it also adds some nice volume and it's got to be comfortable to sit on cotton.

It was so much fun to see Stephanie playing with the university symphony.  I was reminded of the times that I took my little girl to the performances.  Shortly before the concert started, a large group of giggling college kids came in, sitting in front of us. My mother frowned and said "Oh, I don't what that noisy bunch sitting here."  I smiled and said "Those are Stephanie's friends from the dorm."  What could be better than your own cheering section?