I love all things girly and ladylike so I was thrilled when lace came in style last year. I found this lace at Jomar in Philly when we had a mini-PR weekend last November. I don't remember exactly how much I paid for it, but somewhere in the neighborhood of $3/yd.
When I bought it, I was very influenced by Claudine's lace dress, which, as with everything she makes, is very classy and sophisticated. So I was thinking classy and sophisticated with a flesh-tone underlining. At some point, someone recommended I underline it with hot pink. I had to let go of the idea of myself as classy and sophisticated (which I'm really not) and embrace the true me, lover of hot pink. I think this turned out to be the right choice; I love hot pink, I think it really sets off the lace, *and* it makes the dress suitable for day. I wore it to work yesterday with a jacket and it did not seem outrageous.
The underlining is a polyester of some kind purchased as a lot from a vintage store several years ago for around $3/yd. This is a pretty fancy dress for under $20!
Now, I have something shocking to reveal. Prepare yourself for...
a muslin! The smallest size this BWOF 02-2009-124 comes in is a 38, so I had to size down two sizes to a 34 at the bodice. I am confident sizing down one size, but two sizes is twice as difficult. Also, I was concerned about the length of the bodice. It's not empire nor is it at natural waist, and I thought that midlength might really emphasize my flat chest. I wanted to make sure I didn't need to shorten it to an empire line.
It turned out that the lines were fine, but I was glad I had muslined nonetheless because the neckline was icky high (with a flat chest I find it more flattering to have a lower neckline, otherwise there is a long flat expanse of fabric above the bust that is just not attractive), it was so wide it was falling off my shoulders, and I needed the world's largest swayback adjustment.
I had already narrowed the front bust dart for an SBA, and that was good. After the muslin, I made the front neckline into a V to match the back neckline and lowered it a couple inches (I think I ended up going even lower than shown on the altered pattern piece). However, I also needed to narrow the neckline opening to keep the dress from falling off my shoulders and ensure it covered my bra straps.
Next I tackled the back bodice. I again narrowed it at the shoulders. I also ended up raising the back neckline an inch because I was concerned it might creep below the bra band as drafted (I did not cut off the seam allowances at the neckline on the muslin, so it the back is 1/2" higher than the finished product would have been).
Finally, I took a giant swayback adjustment tuck (around two inches!!!!) in the skirt back. I also redrew the lower dart point and added length back into the skirt (not shown).
Once all this was done everything was pretty simple. Projects with only four pattern pieces go together quickly! I guess it had been a while since I had done a standard dress with bodice, skirt, and nothing else.
I assembled the underlining and the lace overlay completely separately. I did all the construction on the lace with the serger, including the darts, as the seams were all going to show. I like the way this looks in the end result, because it emphasizes the lines and the darts.
Once both were completed, I joined the two pieces at the neckline, stitching along one fold of some double fold bias tape. I turned the bias tape to the inside and stitched by hand only to the underlining.
You can also see how I did the sleeve hems in that photo--turned the lace to the inside and stitched to the underlining hem allowance.
The only thing I'm not happy about with this dress is the zipper (though the side view shows how well the swayback adjustment worked!). I considered sewing the lace and underlining as one to the zipper, but decided this would be too complicated at the bottom of the zipper as I wouldn't have wanted the lace to be caught up in the seam all the way to the hem. So I put the zip only into the underlining, and then pressed under the seam allowance of the lace and sewed it down by hand. I think what I need to do is undo alllllll that hand sewing (ugh!) and trim off the seam allowances. The lace is not going to ravel, and while the zip is never going to appear seamless and perfect there, I think the double layer of lace is what is making it look so noticeable and bride-of-Frankenstein-y there. And then hand-sew it again, of course.
I wanted to use the finished selvage of the lace for the hem. Since I hadn't muslined the full length of the dress I had to make a guess at the exact length. I definitely did not want the dress to end up too long, and I ended up erring a tad shorter than I would have normally chosen. To me, it feels extremely short while I'm wearing it. But looking at the photos it does not look short at all; it is merely above the knee. It's so funny that above the knee feels so scandalous to me now, considering the short skirts I loved in my 20s.