Saturday 4 June 2022

Reconstruction: Linen dress not quite as good as the original garment, but much more useful

 Doesn't the Lady Grey Colette coat adaptation look lovely under the Jacaranda in this photo? I was half pleased with myself when I made this (ulp) 11 or so years ago, and I had a very interesting and in retrospect, enjoyable time making it, albiet with some slightly burdensome fitting woes.

However, I have never worn it, other than in the photo shoot. A very poor outcome for some lovely linen fabric and a lot of work. It has languished in my wardrobe, because frankly, it is the wrong type of garment for the subtropical climate where I live. It is too hot for autumn and spring, being fully lined with Imperial batiste,  ridiculously too hot for summer, and not warm enough for our very brief, but chilly, winter mornings and evenings. Despite this, I had great difficulty in setting scissors to it, despite several attempts over the past few years. I become attached to my projects.

2022, I decided, was time to Woman up and do something about this.

Naturally, I stuffed this up fairly spectacularly.


I used an op-shop find pattern, Kwik Sew 2255 as a starting point for the planned transformation from shoulder line princess double breasted coat to princess line frock.

 I had never used this pattern, but for some strange reason, did not make a toile, despite nearly always having to adjust patterns. Instead, maybe thinking that I only needed the general shape of the neckline, I merely traced out the front  and back bodice pattern pieces and merrily chopped away at the front of the coat to approximate the top edges of the front and back bodice pattern. I clearly need to go back to first principles with my sewing, because when I held up the massacred garment to myself, the neckline was unable to cover the salient sections of my bra.

You may have guessed that this experience did not encourage me to go forward with the project. In fact I think the coat  spent more than 3 months lying on my sewing table whilst I moved on to more immediately gratifying projects. 

However, after I'd made a few little smocked baby garments, my not-very-latent smocking addiction was looking for new targets. I thought that a smocked insert would satisfy my embroidery urges, and possibly rescue the garment from the too-depressing-to-finish pile. ( This pile usually finds it way fairly quickly to the rag bag, but the beautiful linen was resisting this move).

The smocking was great fun. I did show some embellishment restraint, and smocked the fabric in the closest shade of DMC stranded embroidery thread that I could find for some pretense at subtlety.

 I then had to work out how to attach these smocked sections to the neckline. 

 I carefully hand basted, then machine stitched the smocked sections to fill in the bodice, serenditously finding that I could slightly gather the top edge using the holding stitches from the pleating to encourage the neckline to sit nicely against the body. This was a little fiddly, but I was pleased with the end result.I then attached the back piece of the dress, and piped the neckline for stability.


Originally I had intended to keep the coat lining, and make a lined dress, but decided that this made the dress too warm to wear. Instead I drafted a deep facing from the original collar of the dress. This facing extends down the entire front of the dress, and I was able to reuse the interfacing from the coat for this purpose. I bound the facing with a constrast bias binding, as there were not enough scraps from the coat to make a self fabric trim.The only trouble with removing the lining is that I was unable to improve the seam finishing for the back seam of the coat, which orginially was pinked, then topstitched. The photograph was taken after I had worn and washed the dress, and some fraying is occurring.

I shortened the sleeves of the dress, mended the unavoidable left over buttonhole from the double breasted coat fastening at the waistline, and found some suitable buttons from my stash.

On starting to make buttonholes I realised that my forward planning skills have become very rusty. The smocked section is thick, mobile, and not suitable for a buttonhole. Oops.

I made a thread loop, oversewn with buttonhole stitch, and this works quite well for fastening the very top of the bodice.

The dress is not as well constructed as the coat, and despite my best intentions I cannot stop noticing the mended waistline buttonhole,  but I feel very comfortable (and thrifty) in this dress and  have already worn it multiple times.


Now I am feeling inspired to make something impractical and frivolous.



Mapmaker said...

Oh my goodness, this is terrific! Well done! I have a few long-ago-given-up-on UFOs that need this sort of loving attention. You've inspired me to go look at them. Enjoy your new dress in good health!

Carol in Denver said...

Your new dress is pretty and he smocking an elegant touch. Your tale of the transformation reads like a mystery, and a very satisfying one.

SewRuthie said...

Great dress and although the coat was beautiful, the dress is indeed a much more practical use of the fabric