From this …
After my purchase of that pattern a couple of years ago, I definitely had second thoughts. While I loved it when it was first available back in the 1970s – and at that time I was of the age when I probably could have actually worn it – I immediately realized it would not be appropriate for a 60-something-year-old! I tucked it away in my pattern file where I knew I would come across it occasionally and indulge a long-ago dream. Little did I know it would play a major roll in the realization of this polka-dotted dress.
It took almost eight years for me to come up with a plan for this polka dot silk fabric. I kept envisioning a waisted, sleeveless dress with a “flowy” skirt, but I could not find a pattern I liked, either vintage or new. I wanted to avoid darts as much as possible (that’s a story in itself for someday), which meant I needed a princess style bodice. Many princess line bodices have side seams, but I wanted one without side seams, and with princess line seaming on the bodice back as well. Pondering all this, I again came across my Belinda Bellville pattern above and thought maybe it would work, with a few changes. But then I noticed that the bodice was supposed to be cut on the bias.
After not having any success in finding any other suitable pattern, I gave it another look. Why not cut it on the straight of goods? It was at least worth a try in muslin, so that’s what I did. The changes I made to it included; 1) lowering the bust line, 2) eliminating the short-waisted front of the dress and restoring it to waist level, 3) placing the front center part of the bodice on the fold, eliminating the center seam, 4) lowering the neckline just a little, 5) making the waist larger, and 6) adding some ease across the back and shoulders. With all those changes, I had a bodice I really liked.
But then I needed to make a skirt to complement the bodice. When I looked at the skirt pattern, I knew I needed to divide it in thirds (for one half of the width of the skirt) and match the seam lines to the seams in the bodice. Here is what I came up with:
It was about this time I got the idea to make this dress in a longer skirt rather than knee-length, which is where I usually wear my dresses. The only question I had was – did I have enough fabric to do this? My silk was 45” wide, and I only had two yards. I spent at least an hour laying out and eyeballing my muslin pieces on the silk, on the floor, just to see if I could possibly accomplish this task. I found one combination that would allow this, and took a photo so I could remember how to do it!
It literally took an entire week to work out the pattern and perfect the muslin, but then the sewing began!
As soon as I completed the construction of the bodice, including its silk organza underlining, its catch-stitched raw seam edges, with the seam allowances around the neckline and armholes appropriately tacked in place, I knew I had a bodice which was just what I had envisioned.
Somehow the skirt seams all matched up perfectly with the bodice seams and the center front inverted box pleat, which I added, looked wonderful, I thought. I made the lining out of navy blue crepe de chine, purchased from Emma One Sock Fabrics.
When it came to under-stitching the neckline and armholes, I decided to do it in white. It mimics the white polka dots in the fashion fabric and also was much easier to see while doing all that handwork.
Instead of a box pleat in the lining, I did two side pleats to reduce bulk in that critical tummy region!
Fortunately, for the belt, I had silk taffeta left over from two previous projects, which turned out to be a perfect match. I did not want the belt to take away visually from the rest of the dress, so I made it a modest 1.5 inches wide. I think it is enough to complete the look, but not overpower it. And OF COURSE I wanted to finish it off with a tailored bow. (I am planning a post on making this tailored bow belt, so I will not go into the details of it right now.)
While this dress was firmly in my queue for summer sewing, at the time I did my planning I was not making it for any special occasion. However, as good fortune would have it, two unforeseen occasions are now approaching in late summer for which this dress will be perfect. I am definitely looking forward to wearing these dots!