Monday, November 13, 2017

Frocktails dress, 2017

Some would say the Oscars. Others would nominate the Nobel Peace Prize. Your more sporting friends might vote for the AFL Grand Final. But for me, dear sewing friends, the social event of the year is the one, the only Frocktails party!

There are so many things I enjoy about this night. Seeing all of my favourite local sewists in the same room is utterly brilliant. As is oohing and aahing over all the incredible outfits on display. But one of the best things is being able to create a one-off frock, and this year I was determined to put my rusting pattern making skills to the test, and create a pattern from scratch. Why? Just to see if I could. I really felt the need to push myself.

So I did!

Frocktails #3

Anybody who reads this blog know that I have a thing for a statement neckline, and a statement sleeve/shoulder. Now, generally I feel that never the twain should meet, so I decided to focus on the neckline aspect. I also wanted this to be a knockout evening gown, so I decided on a low and sexy backline, and since I adore all things vintage, I went for a full circle mid-length skirt. A happy afternoon was spent with my pattern blocks, and before you could say "seam allowance" my pattern was created, rising up from a sea of scrunched up paper.

Well, that was my designing done. Now for the calico!

Frocktails #1

I was lucky enough to have a sewing day with the lovely Julia Bobbin, and I sewed my calico there. We were sharing the sewing space with a group of quilters who meet there regularly, and as soon as I came out of the toilet in my toile, their quilting chitter chatter ceased and they began to remark upon my dress. (Julia told me later that you could clean see my underpants through the calico, but we'll just draw a veil over that bit). Thankfully all their words were kindness itself (nobody mentioned my underpants!), and after making a few minor adjustments, I was satisfied with the fit. The calico fabric itself was a bit tight and unyielding, but I thought "Pah! No need to worry yourself over that, Jorthy!" and went merrily home to cut out my actual fabric.

Here, my friend, is where my sewing sadly deviated from its projected path. I had STUPIDLY failed to take into account the 'give' difference between my calico and the fabric I had chosen for the dress, which was a silk/cotton blend with a loose-ish jaquard weave. And this, alas, is where I started to sail clean into stormy waters, instead of safely berthing at Point Successful Sewing.

Due to the aforementioned looseness, my bodice ended up being much larger than my calico one. I did not, however, realise this fatal flaw until after I had not only sewn the darn bodice up, but sewn in the lining and attached the skirt. I then waited until Tyger got home from school, then got her to pin together the dress in lieu of a zipper being inserted. I stood there, with Tyger repeatedly (hopefully accidentally) stabbing me in the back with pins, silently mouthing a certain naughty word that may or may not begin with F to myself as I gazed in horror at my gaping bodice. It was so bad that I feared an imminent nip slip, and I really have very little there to slip. GAH! So I took off the dress, and did what any sewist in a hurry would do - I tried to take in the seams without unpicking anything.

This, of course, did not work at all, and left me with a lumpy sad bodice that still had major fit issues. So out came the quick-un-pick, and I unpicked the whole darn lot, then re-sewed, making each seam (of which the bodice had 6) 0.5cm wider than before.

IT STILL DIDN'T FIT!!! I'm pretty sure this is when I stopped mouthing that pesky F word and started bellowing it, before I calmed down and accepted my lot: there was nothing left to do but redraft the bodice pattern, taking the loose weave of the fabric into account, and begin again. So the next morning, that's what I did.

Did I mention Frocktails was only a day away? No pressure!

This time around the fit was much much better. I ended up taking 2cm off each seam allowance, which improved matters greatly. I probably could have taken the side seams in a wee bit more, but the quick-un-pick and I were sick to death of each other by that stage, so I decided that extra breathing room was fine by me and left it as was.

Once my bodice was fully lined, I sewed the front panel on, and from there I attached the skirt. The very cool thing about the front panel is the nylon cord I found to use as the straps. It was thin, but so strong, and the colour match was great! I am really pleased with how it turned out - it looks exactly as I wished it to.


As I mentioned before, the skirt was a full circle. Man, that thing just asks to be twirled about in! To make it look as full as possible, I sewed in horsehair braid, which I had never done before but will probably do to everything in the future because it looks so goshdarn awesome! Ok, so sewing 6 metres of braid in by hand maybe wasn't so awesome, but the end result was worth it!

All in all, I am super proud of my dress! It has been literally years since I drafted a pattern from scratch, so I am thrilled that it turned out so well. I feel like I have been plodding along a bit with my sewing, not really trying anything new, so I really wanted to push my oar out and extend my skills. After all, if you fail, you just grab up the quick-un-pick and start again, right? I was also reminded of how beautiful fashion can be after seeing the Dior exhibition at the NGV, and this in turn led me to remember the line in The Devil Wears Prada about how fashion is art that we live our lives in. I have the sewing skills to make my life in clothes as colourful and unique as I want it to be, so I decided to go all out and see what I could achieve. It was worth every F-bomb!



Project Details
Pattern - Self drafted by yours truly
Fabric - Silk/cotton blend textured fabric from The Cloth Shop
Notions - invisible zip, nylon cord, horsehair braid


  1. Wow, good for you! The dress turned out stunning!

  2. Gorgeous! Love the fabric and the back bodice line especially and it is hard to beat the swishy skirt for glamour!! Just lovely!

  3. It was indeed spectacular and worth the F’s!

  4. Actually I remember saying you could see your underwear and that you should totally make a transparent dress because you have a wonderful bottom! �� As you know I think you and this dress are wonderful!!

  5. Oh I snorted at "nip slip". That would be a Brownlow dress moment but you are waaaay classier than that and Frocktails is so much better than any hangers-on in dresses event. You and your dress ARE the event. Love this dress, the fabric texture is divine. I kinda wish you'd not fessed up about the string straps and left us all thinking you were a teeny tube turning master. You're certainly a bodice fitting master!

  6. ooh that fabric looks luscious and your draft really lets it shine.

  7. Fabulous job! This dress is utterly beautiful.


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