Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Donkey Dress

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Two years ago, right before the election, my sister came across this dress on eBay.  I knew instantly - I HAD to have it at any price.  Custom made for a friend of Lyndon B. Johnson's in 1964, I thought it would be the perfect dress to wear when I voted for Barack and headed off to celebration parties.

Problem is, when it came, it measured at a modern 16.  I'm an 8, so I was completely swimming in it.  I took it to a tailor who said he could make it fit me for $120, or make it "passable" for $50.  I chose the cheaper route.  On election day I proudly wore it, but the fit was still off.  I had to clip it in several places and wear a cardigan.

I still think I was the best-dressed Dem on election day.

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A couple days ago, I got the brilliant idea to tailor it myself.  I figured, I've got a grasp on construction, I can take it apart and put it back together.  Besides, I never liked the sleeves, which got hopelessly and uncomforably bunched under my cardigan. 

So.....I grabbed my seam ripper and took it apart.  Then I realized it was going to be a lot more complicated than I orginally thought.  Not only was the fabric was really thin and delicate, the lining was sewn to the bodice.

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Then I rememebered that I had a ton of black silk shantung leftover from my orchestra dress, so I would just make a new bodice.  The skirt is the best part of the dress anyway, right?  So I cut out my pieces. 

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If you're thinking it looks like New Look 6723 again, it's because it is.  I swear I own other patterns and won't just make this dress over and over in different fabrics.  I just wanted to use something tried and true when fixing this delicate dress.

Since this is the fifth time I made the bodice of 6723, I put it together in less than an hour. (Aside from the two I blogged, I made it two other times in summery cottons.  One turned out 50% messed up, but the other may make a guest appearance at some point.)  Those 8 curved seams that seemed so daunting the first time I used the pattern are now old news.

I know have a new bodice, and a clean, handwashed skirt with a brand new hem.

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Then it was time to attach the skirt to the bodice, and I ran into all sorts of issues.  The new smaller bodice doesn't line up with the seams of the larger skirt, but I can't take it in any smaller because of the placement of the donkeys.  My choices are to take the darts out and make them larger (ugh) or to baste a gathering stitch across the top and make it a pleated skirt.  While it's true that I never met a full skirt I didn't like, I don't think this particular dress is right for it.

So, the dress is on hold until I can muster up the motivation to re-do the darts.  The fabric for my holiday dress arrived in the mail yesterday, so I've shifted my focus to that.  The pieces are cut out and I will have an update on my progress tomorrow!

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