Tuesday, February 15, 2011
I don't have any real thoughts on the royal wedding, but I did love the dress Kate Middleton wore to announce her engagement. It is elegant but totally suitable for day, not flashy or sexy but not dowdy, and fit her very well. This Issa dress is listed on Net-a-Porter for $535--not an outrageous price for a silk jersey dress--but has been sold out since the engagement press conference. (As an aside, I am so happy to live a life wherein none of its details need be revealed at a press conference. Nobody cares what I do, and I like it that way.)
Net-a-porter has several shots of the dress and allows you to zoom in for details, which is a great way to get a better look at the dress. It turns out that it has ties that can be configured different ways to get that drape overlay look, which I realized when the back view showed the ties knotted. You can see that they style the example differently than Kate wore it (though the model photo shows the ties overlapped as Kate did).
My goal for this project--my last project of 2010 (along with the previously shown ruffle shoulder top and a sleeveless cowl top in my TNT Simplicity 4539 in the rest of the fabric)--was to be "inspired" by the dress, rather than copy it. The original has a low V neckline, but I thought a cowl neckline would work to replicate the feel, while being a little more suitable for my day job needs. I had already made Simplicity 2580 as a top, and knew it would work for me. Furthermore, I don't care for ties that tie in the back, as it feels somewhat juvenile to me and can be uncomfortable when sitting at a desk. So I did attached bands rather than ties. Finally, it's in purple rather than the original sapphire (and observe my big sparkly cocktail ring!).
My bands are basically two loops sewn into the side seams. The drape overlay pattern piece is 7.5 inches tall at the outer edge, 6 inches tall at the inner edge, and 28 inches wide (negative 2 inches of ease), inclusive of 1/2 inch allowances. I stitched the taller edge just below the sleeve seam (aka armpit)and kept the straight lower edge straight. My fabric--a Vera Wang polyester knit from Fabric.com, $5.99/yd, last December (I never put it away so it never technically became stash)--is lightweight and drapey but anything thicker will require a little more engineering, as one band must be tucked entirely under the other where they cross at one side seam. A better solution might be one band that loops all the way around the body and one band that covers only the front (sewn into both side seams). Or you could do ties, which would be easy!
Although this wears very well, you can see that the hanger view is quite unglamorous! To wear, you can either put it on with both bands hanging as shown in this shot and then pull the bands over your head (knits are wonderful). Or you can loop the bands over the dress before putting it on. I've done both ways, just depending on the position of the bands when I put it on! Once it's on, you have to futz with the bands a bit until they are arranged to your liking.
In addition to adding the bands, I also did a swayback adjustment and added width to the skirt pieces from the hip to the upper edge by just cutting straight up from the hip rather than curving in for the waist. I wanted to get the same flow that the original dress has. I gathered the extra fabric along the upper edge, concentrating the gathers near CF and CB. The seam and the gathers are hidden by the bands (though the back requires a bit of fussing to get the seam covered; it naturally wants to be about an inch below the seam) and you are left with just the nice sway.
I also added long sleeves ending in a cuff. I just took the sleeve from another Simplicity knit top pattern, modified a bit to reduce sleevecap ease. I had actually intended the sleeves to be 3/4, but when it was done they were close to full length and I really liked it. I was able to eke some cuffs out of the very final scraps of this fabric (the rest of the scraps became ruffles on the ruffle shoulder tee--there was nothing left of this 3 yards of fabric) to get the right length. The cuffs ended up slightly different lengths, but I did not want to unpick serging and twin needle topstitching so I think they're going to stay that way!
Obviously, I am not the first to knock off this dress, but this gaggle of art students quite amused me. They each made their own version of the dress and wore the dresses--with matching engagement rings--to Buckingham Palace. The motivation is unclear, whether they wanted to be a tourist attraction or make some sort of trenchant criticism of royal fashion, who knows? My motivation was simply to have a pretty dress!
The first time I wore this dress to work (the first day it was warm enough to wear cowboy boots), a colleague with whom I work closely wore a gorgeous blue silk dress (much prettier than this, but a similar feel) that she said she'd bought *before* the engagement announcement but hadn't had a chance to wear before the hoopla. She had deemed it safe to bring out only that day. We often find ourselves accidentally coordinating, but it was ridiculous that we both wore our Kate Middleton dresses for the first time on the same day!
You can see that I have finally learned how to fuzzy crop in Gimp, using this tutorial, though obviously I need a little more practice (or a more uniform background for the fuzzy crop shots) as there is a lot of noise remaining. I enjoyed putting myself towering over Buckingham Palace.
All photos are here and the pattern review is here