Ginger Made: The “Ladies Who Lunch… and Also Party” Two-Piece Dress!

Hi, guys! Long time no see! In the month since I’ve last posted, I’ve been busy as a bee working on a special project!  Over at the Mood Sewing Network this month, we were challenged to make a look inspired by a SS 2014 runway collection, and today I can finally show you mine!  Please pardon the photos- it was 21 degrees Fahrenheit and super windy, so I was freezing!

I’m not someone who really follows runway fashion, and, prior to this challenge, I had never even heard of the designers I’m drawing inspiration from.  But as I looked at many, many, MANY photos of runway shows, I kept coming back to Sea‘s spring RTW collection (seriously, check it out- there are some really cute looks here!).  The collection was split between looks that were tough, dark, and semi-androgynous and looks that were romantic and feminine. I especially liked the looks where the designers mixed up prim, proper textiles and silhouettes with modern details like cut-outs and exposed zippers.

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

I decided to make a traditional cocktail dress and help it to reverse age by turning it into a two-piece.  I wanted to use a fabric that felt classic and maybe even a little old-fashioned, so I selected black and pink cotton-poly tweed from Mood Fabrics NYC. It has a very loose weave, and looks like a something you might use for a French jacket or something similar.

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

I wanted to start with a sweet ’60’s vibe, so I used the skirt portion of my favorite vintage McCall’s 5995 pattern (here it is as a dress, and as a pencil skirt).  I changed the kick pleat to a slit and drafted a waistband with a finished width of 2″ and a 2″ overlap.  I wanted the silhouette to be neat and clean, but not too tight, so I was careful to fit the skirt but not go overboard.

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

I liked the cut-outs in the inspiration photos, but decided to take the idea a little further and turn the dress into skin-baring separates.  My original plan was to make the top from the Named Patterns Vanamo dress, but after a failed muslin, I abandoned it and decided to draft my own.  I stole the neckline from the Deer & Doe Belladone pattern, and fudged my way through the rest of the patternmaking until I had something workable.  The top closes with a separating zipper that’s covered by an overlap.  The neckline and armholes are finished with an all-in-one facing, which I didn’t enjoy sewing one bit- I didn’t think through my construction and hand-stitching rapidly-fraying tweed wasn’t one of my happiest sewing moments! I finally enlisted Man Friend’s steady hands and cool head, and he helped me forge through when I was down to my last nerve! The waist is also faced, which helped to reduce bulk, too.  I’m not kidding when I say that thinking out how the zipper and facings needed to be installed kept me up at night! I literally laid in bed, unable to sleep, sorting out the construction order and plan of attack on more than one night! I didn’t come up with a perfect plan as I still had to do tons of seam-ripping and re-sewing, but everything came together eventually.

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

…Did I mention the fabric has a very loose weave?  This makes it drapey and soft, but it was too drapey for my purposes, so I underlined every piece with black cotton shirting, basting the two layers together in the seam allowances and along the dart legs and centers. This made it much easier to handle. Unfortunately, it frayed like the dickens, so I also fused 1/2″ strips of interfacing to the seam allowances to help the fabric stay together.  This was a SLOW project!  By the time I’d underlined the fabric, things got pretty bulky, so I left off the planned linings altogether.  Instead I finished the seam allowances by zigzagging them and then stitching on rayon seam binding and wide ribbon inherited from my mom’s stash.

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

Look how perfectly the dress matches my purple skin!

I wanted to be really careful with proportions and fit for this outfit since I knew I would feel really uncomfortable or worse, trashy, if there was too much skin on show. But I wanted to make sure that the top was cropped enough to top to give a youthful edge to the look, like belonged on Jackie O’s younger, hipper sister.  I finished the skirt first so I could make sure the top was the right length.  I’m really happy with the final proportions.  I feel bold and sassy in this outfit, but still remarkably put together.  One thing that worries me, though, is that I’m not 100% certain where I can wear it!  Any ideas?

Ginger Makes two-piece cocktail dress

Although it was a challenge to decide on a runway-inspired style and sew it up, it was fun to work in such a different way and to wear something that’s a bit of a departure from my usual style.  But what about you guys?  Do you draw inspiration from runway looks?  Are there any spring trends that you’re excited to try out?

I wanted to do a supermodel pose, but I’m not sure my expression is vacant enough.

Ginger Made: The Wild Side Pencil Skirt

OK, there’s nothing very wild about this skirt, but I really like Lou Reed, so let’s just go with it, OK? First off, a wardrobe confession: this is my first pencil skirt ever!  Not the first one I’ve made, but the first one I’ve worn (or even tried on)!  I love the silhouette on other people, but I worried that it would make me look like a big rectangle since I don’t have much waist definition.  But when I spotted this sweater knit at Mood, I knew it had to be a pencil skirt!

Don’t worry– I had my bangs trimmed after this photo was taken. I KNOW YOU WERE WORRIED.

I didn’t have much time to sew this month, and really didn’t want to tinker with fit and muslins, so I used the skirt portion of my vintage McCall’s 5995 pattern and added a waistband.  Now I know why Carolyn loves TNT patterns so much– it’s such a breeze to jump right into sewing without worrying about fit!  I felt a little dumpy after I put the skirt together, so I pegged it at the hemline (8″ total), and now it feels just right!

I really like this fabric– it’s heavy enough to give me plenty of coverage (no gross bumps, lumps, or panty lines!), but it’s got enough stretch content to make it sleek and figure-hugging.  And I love that it’s a subdued (dare I say sophisticated?) spin on a leopard print.  I wavered a bit about the fabric at the store, but when I put the bolt down, several other shoppers started hovering around it and I nearly had to wrestle it out of another woman’s arms!

The only thing I’m not crazy about is that the thickness of the knit fabric makes it tough for the kick pleat to lie flat.  Any suggestions for this problem?  I suppose I could always go back and cut it out, leaving just a slit, but I do prefer the look of a vent.  Any thoughts?

Super invisible zipper! Invisible zipper foot = best purchase ever.

I realized as I was nearly finished with the skirt that I don’t have a single black top.  Not one!  So I dashed off to Mood at the next available moment and bought some organic jersey to make a quick Renfrew.  The jersey washed up really soft, and it’s one of my most comfortable tees!  I’m sure I’ll be getting lots of use out of it!

How do you guys feel about pencil skirts?  Love ’em?  Hate ’em?  Fearful?  And what about animal prints?  Do they bring out your inner “meeeeeyooooow”, or do you think they should be reserved only for Real Housewives of Wherever?

I’m pretty sure I’m hooked on pencil skirts now!  I can’t wait to make a Charlotte skirt!  Are any of you guys joining in on the sewalong?

Ginger Made: Vintage McCall’s 5995, or the Mello Yello Dress

Holy guacamole!  It’s hot out there, folks!  It’s the kind of humid heat where if a guy so much as looks at you cross-eyed, you could gut him like a fish mumble to yourself angrily long after he’s out of earshot!  But luckily, this weather can’t bring me down ’cause…

I’ve got a brand-new dreee-eesss (sing to the tune of “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket”… it’s your new favorite song!)!

This is a super-UFO… the dress that I started working on for my class with Gertie back in July!  I’m pretty slow, so I didn’t finish it during the four class sessions, and then I just couldn’t work up the energy/ambition to figure out the kickpleat thing in the back.  But I’m so glad I finally finished it!  I really like it, even though it’s not perfect.

The pattern is McCall’s 5995 from 1960, and I love the style!  I thought I would have to grade it up to get it to fit, but there was sufficient ease in the pattern that it ended up fitting really well without any major changes.  I shortened it by a few inches and lowered the neckline cause it was Choke City before I did (although I could have lowered it a tad bit more– it’s SUCH a high neckline that I’m pretty sure if I bend forward in it I’ll get strangled).  The only thing I’m not that happy with are the bust darts– I iron them nicely, but then the minute I put the dress on, they’re back to looking bunchy and weird.  My suspicion is that this is happening because, ahem, I’m not quite filling out the dress.  I suppose I could take in the side seams a tad to get a snugger fit, but I didn’t really want it to be tight and risk button gaping (one of my pet peeves).  I can live with it as is (or I guess I could wear a bra with a bit more… volume?).

The pleat thingy lays a bit flatter in real life… I think it turned out OK.

I used a light-to-medium-weight cotton that I bought at Tissus Reine on my trip to Paris last summer (ack, I wanna go back NOW!!).  It was just the perfect weight– not at all heavy, but definitely not sheer, and in a FAB nuclear yellow-green color to boot!  The pattern includes a tie belt, which I made just for kicks, but it’s kinda cute, so I may wear it after all.

Take the picture and quit cracking jokes, photographer!

I got to try out a few new techniques with this dress– it was my first time using a vintage pattern, doing bound buttonholes, doing a pleat in a lined skirt, and inserting a regular zipper.  It was the first time I used fabric-covered buttons, too, but I can’t truthfully claim that skill because Man Friend covered the buttons for me!

Guts (bodice front)

I serged the raw seams, except for the ones that I had sewed last summer (they were French seamed or turned-and-stitched).  If this photo looks a little wonky, it’s because the facings were annoying as all get out, so for the left armhole, I just faced it with some bias tape I had laying around to keep the facings out of the way of the zipper.  I ended up blind-hemming the first armhole facing and the neck facing to the bodice of the dress because they just wouldn’t stay out of the way, even when I stitched in the ditch at the shoulder seams.  Blerg!  I’ll probably skip facings altogether on the next dress and just use lovely, clean, neat bias tape.

Guts (back)

The skirt is lined with a very strange material… I’m really not even sure what it is.  Some sort of acetate, possibly?  I went into Mood last summer (when I was more clueless about fabric types) and asked for lining material, and they gave me this stuff– it’s got an element of stretch to it, which is probably what I wouldn’t have chosen if I bought it today, but it works totally fine.  The pattern suggests stitching a seam binding waist stay onto the waist seam to discourage stretching, so I did that.  I used seam binding to finish the hem, then hand-stitched a blind hem, which I’m pretty proud of.  This is definitely the nicest (and blindest, ha!) hem I’ve done to date.  If you’re wondering what the little white square is just above the waist, well… I had a bit of a serger accident.  I was humming along, finishing my seams, when a bit of the bodice fabric got tucked up under the seam and the serger ATE A HOLE IN MY DRESS BODICE.  Now, drama queen me of 6 months ago probably would have freaked out, cried, cut the entire dress into ribbons, and set it on fire, but I calmly approached it with the poise and white-lipped determination of a field surgeon fear, trembling, and a little swearing, and came up with a hillbilly fix.  I cut a tiny piece of fabric to fit the hole and ironed a square of fusible interfacing onto the wrong side.  Then I dotted Fray Check around the raw edges and hoped for the best.  It’s really not very noticeable, and hopefully it won’t fray over time.  If it gets worse, I’ll probably stitch up a wider belt and just cover up the mess with that.

Overall, I’m happy with this dress.  The color is so cheerful and fun, and it feels good to have defeated a long-lurking UFO, one that’s been looking at me accusingly for some time.  Plus, who doesn’t LOVE HAVING A NEW DRESS?

What are you guys up to these days?  Working on anything fun?  Hope you Americans had a lovely three-day weekend!  If you guys see fewer blog posts from me in the future, it’s probably because it’s really distracting trying to type with my assistant (and that’s the other assistant parked just inches from his fan):

I’m not bothering you, am I?