A dear friend got married last weekend and the attire was "cocktail." To me, this implies something different than semi-formal. They would probably be the same skirt length, but cocktail is a little more playful and stylish, rather than timelessly elegant. It seemed like the perfect venue for Simplicity 2497. It is not your typical "short, tight, and shiny" cocktail dress (much to my date's chagrin, I am sure) but definitely has an element of playfulness as well as a tasteful level of sexiness.
The fabric is the fabric.com $1.99/yd Vera Wang silk/rayon satin I bought in a frenzy in January. The fabric was lovely when it arrived (I couldn't get a photo capturing the satin sheen but trust that it is like normal satin), but pre-treating crackled and ruined the finish.
Figuring I had nothing left to lose, I ordered some iDye in violet from Dharma Trading (why did I not also order some iDye poly in black??? I am so annoyed with myself. I feel their shipping is too high to do a small order but I don't need anything else.) The fabric took the dye well, but I did not like the way the right (satin) side looked. The color was very grapey, and although the surface crackles were gone there was definitely some kind of textured look going on, sort of like a sand-washed silk, maybe. Bottom line, it just wasn't pretty or youthful.
When Cidell visited I solicited her opinion and she said she liked the wrong side of the fabric best. It took me a little bit to adjust to the idea of using the wrong side, but it was definitely the best choice. The wrong side dyed evenly and more richly than the right side. It has a twill weave that gives a little bit of visual interest. And I had been uncertain of satin anyway as it pretty much always looks like a bridesmaid dress.
The fabric is almost beyond medium weight into heavy, which had it's good and bad points. It did not need lining, which was fabulous. On the other hand, it did not interact well with my serger so I had to flash back to the olden days and zigzag all the edges. Ughhhhh.
The neckline and armscye are finished with self bias tape and I couldn't get a great turn of cloth on them. They are fine--especially as the neckline is covered by a ruffle!--but if I'd had time it would have been better to get some coordinating fabric for the bias tape. If I'd been thinking about it I could have thrown some into the dye bath, but it was way too late for that. To reduce bulk, I used lightweight lining for the front pocket bags and the midriff lining. I wanted to do a machine blind hem on the skirt, but there was no way I could turn under the edge and then stitch the turned under edge for the hem as it would have been too thick, so I used hem lace, which gives a nice little touch inside.
The pattern instructions provide a clever and vintage-y method for installing a pocket along the side seam with the zipper. I'd run across such directions once before but moved the zipper to the center back, as is my preference. Here, I feared moving the zipper to center back would make the back too bulgy. I followed the directions, which seem complicated but aren't if you follow them step by step. I am very pleased with the way the pocket turned out, although in the end I wish I'd moved the zipper to center back. Better a symmetrically bulging center back than one normal side and one bulging side. Ugh. It's not necessarily going to catch the average person's eye, but it is obvious to me that the two side seams fall very differently (you can sort of see it in this photo; the zipper is on the same side as the pin on the midriff).
My biggest complaint about the pattern is that the neckline is LOW. I mean LOW. I have no such thing as cleavage and don't mind a low neckline but even on me this was ridiculous and showing my bra. Because of the thickness of the fabric, I had to hand gather and then hand-stitch the collar to attach. I used the ruffles as strategically as I could to provide more coverage, but really I needed to raise the neckline at least half an inch, maybe even a full inch. Also, I took about an inch total, half inch on each side, out of the width of the front bodice below the bust point for a small bust adjustment. I think I should have taken it out of center front instead so that it would narrow the neckline.
I had very little time to make this dress and did almost all of it in 30-60 minute increments on week nights. Luckily, it's not that hard. I was pretty skeptical about it while I was making it and did not think it would be flattering. I feared the waist would fall too low and the bodice would be too billowy even with the SBA. I experimented with pleats instead of gathers but couldn't come up with anything satisfactory and was running out of time so just went with gathers. I was hoping it would be one of those projects that looks terrible until the very end, but was already figuring out which backup dress I should wear.
But I think that it did end up being one of those projects that looks terrible until the very end, and when it was finished I was mostly happy with it (the bra-revealing neckline and bulgy zipper in side seam being the causes of the "mostly"). I got a TON of compliments on it at the wedding, but most people knew I sew my own clothes so I can't tell if they felt obligated to compliment me or or actually liked the dress, lol.
I did not have Cidell to do my pictures, alas, but I did have a human photographer who even managed to include my feet in a few shots. All photos are here and the pattern review is here.
I'm going to have to do some sewing this weekend because I am now pretty much caught up on project blogging (Ok, there is a blouse and a hat still to go)! Eep! I still have a dozen or so pieces from last year I could write about, though, so maybe I'll just do some pictures instead. `-)