How long must a fabric be in one’s possession before it can be considered “not new”? This is an important consideration to fashion sewing if you are, like me, always trying to use one of my “collected” fabrics, as opposed to purchasing new. I tend to think if I have owned a fabric for at least three or four months, then it is no longer new (maybe newer, but not new.) So, please indulge me as I congratulate myself on using this fabric, purchased last September from Farmhouse Fabrics.
As soon as I spied it on their website, I knew I wanted to make a shirtwaist dress. When it arrived, its fate was sealed, as its weight (very light), its drape (very fluid), and its allover meandering print made it perfect for such a dress with a bit of fullness in the skirt. And I just happened to have the perfect pattern, too, purchased several years ago from an Etsy store.
Making the muslin (toile) for this dress identified several areas which needed adjustment, specifically the back of the bodice, the shoulders/upper sleeve, and the waist. I added shoulder darts to the back of the bodice and was able to minimize a saggy back by making a horizontal dead dart across the lower back of the muslin .
In addition, I elongated the top of the sleeve by about 3/8” and replaced the normal easing in the sleeve cap with a dart.
The waist? Well, unfortunately I just needed to make it larger, taking a bit from each skirt pleat to accommodate the extra girth of the bodice.
I thought long and hard about how to underline/line this fabric in order to preserve and enhance its qualities. I felt a silk organza underlining would add too much body to this soft and fluid wool challis. On the other hand, an underlining provides that wonderful surface on which to secure interior stitches (such as the hem, the facings, the seam allowances) invisibly. I finally decided to underline the body of the dress with a very fine black cotton batiste and forego a separate lining. I also used the cotton batiste as the interfacing in the collar, the cuffs and the front facings. The sleeves I left un-underlined.
Knowing the seam allowances would be exposed inside the dress led me to finish off those raw edges with Hug Snug rayon seam binding.
Because I was working with wool, I decided to make bound buttonholes. This decision probably added at least ten hours onto the making of this dress. Memo to self – if the buttonholes are small, and the fabric frays easily, and the fabric is dark, it’s probably best to avoid bound buttonholes. I thought I was going to lose my mind.
But the silver lining – or should I say gold lining – to the whole buttoning aspect of this dress is what I found for those little fasteners which can make or break a project. And here is where my predilection for much-loved vintage elements sneaks in oh-so-gently. Because this fabric is dark and rich in appearance, I felt a contrast button would be best. But the button would have to be equally rich in appearance, preferably enhancing a design element in the print. Here are the buttons I used:
And here were three other choices:
The cross-hatching in my chosen buttons picks up the woven rope design in this equestrian print, and I think adds just a tiny bit of sparkle to what is otherwise a tailored dress. Because they are tiny, they are not overpowering.
And where, you may ask, did I find these four sets of buttons from which to choose? Vintage they are, all four, all purchased bulk by my mother in the 1950s from a manufacturer of quality dresses for little girls. The store was Ruth Originals in Asheville, North Carolina (USA). Over the last 30 to 40 years, I have often searched in this magic box of buttons given to me by my mother, sometimes finding exactly what I need, other times not. My quest this time was for a “horse of a different color” and that is what I found.
I am very excited to make this pattern again – and again – and again, hopefully using long-stockpiled fabrics – and buttons with a similar rich history.