Good grief. This dress fought me every single step of the way. It was pretty much the sewing equivalent of being in the ring. The dress was Rocky, and I kept thinking it was going to go down early in the fight. I’d land a solid right hook–BAM! You don’t like my serger? Well I’m gonna roll your chiffon hems anyway! And it would come back with a devastating body blow–WHACK! Your visible, contrast basting stitches will never come out — take that!
But apparently, we’re reenacting Rocky I here, because I won in the end. Like Apollo Creed, I am not in good shape and there’s blood everywhere (Kidding! Metaphor! It’s just thread!), but I am victorious.
Okay, let’s talk about the pattern first. This is McCall’s 6460, from 2011. I am entirely unsure why I ever grabbed this one, but it came in handy. Pattern stasher for life! At the last minute, I realized I needed a new dress for a family wedding, and clearly, I needed to make the process as tedious and nail-biting as possible and sew it myself. (I’m shameless, and never miss an opportunity to be like, “YEAH, I DID MAKE IT!!”)
I had a couple of fabric options in mind when I headed to Hart’s. I stared at this embroidered silk chiffon for probably 40 minutes, trying to commit. It was pricey, at $24.99 a yard and would require underlining, so the dress option I really wanted (Vogue 9053) was out of the question. The McCall’s option only called for 7/8 of a yard, which is basically what sealed the deal. I picked up coordinating navy chiffon for the yoke and some navy satin lining. And a couple of other fabrics because, you know, fabric.
Cut to me at home, realizing that even though I bought a bit of extra fabric, I still did not have enough to cut the dress on the crossgrain for horizontal stripes. So much deep breathing. Endless sighing. I considered vertical stripes, but it was… not good, people. And I didn’t have the time or money to go back to the store to get another cut of super-expensive (to me, at least) fabric.
It was not a pretty moment. Rocky had landed his first serious punch.
But Apollo Creed doesn’t let these things crush his spirit. Even though warning bells were ringing out with, “Holy shit, most expensive dress you’ve ever sewn, don’t ruin the family pictures with your janky handmade crap,” there was no other option but to piece the damn thing. The damn stripey thing. The damn uneven wavy stripey thing. Shit.
But I did it. And it’s not terrible. Sure, I would much rather *not* have a pieced-in inset on either side. But I’m a fighter, too, as my unevenly embroidered nemesis soon realized.
Okay, fashion fabric carefully cut to try to match stripes, then successfully pieced and underlined, it was finally time to get to work.
Rocky was not ready to go down yet. I traded blows with this dress over the hemming of the chiffon. I thought, “Hey! I know! I have a serger, I should learn to do a rolled hem!” I went out and bought navy thread for my serger (no navy cones available anywhere, WTF?), and learned how to remove the stitch foot and had to rethread it at least three times, but finally got it working on test scraps. I slide my back yoke under the presser foot and get ready for the magic. It will look so narrow and so professional! Everyone will be so impressed!
Hahaha, nope. Turns out, doing rolled hems on curves on lightweight fabrics is not something to be entered into lightly. When you move the fabric along the curve (of say, an armhole or neckline), the stitching pulls away from the fabric, somewhat tearing it in the process. So you try to redo that portion. And it does the same thing, but with some additional fabric shredding. Not to say it’s impossible, but I had a rapidly diminishing amount of fabric from which to recut and retry. After I ruined two bodice and back pieces, I tapped out.
I used Christine Haynes’s Craftsy tutorial and did it all the tedious way. It looks pretty good, but instead of zipping along, it takes a million times longer. Not great when your deadline is looming and you wasted two nights on a failed technique.
Whatever. Apollo Creed doesn’t care. Let’s go 10 more rounds, chump! (Sorry, Dress, you’re not a chump, I’m just caught up in the moment…)
Anyway, every single step was hard. Attaching the yoke along a sweetheart neckline was hard and took additional handstitching all the way around to keep the seam allowances in place. The fabric kept fraying and pulling out of seam finishes. The basting stitches required for the bottom panel were a huge pain to remove.
It all sucked.
It worked. I took every punch this dress wanted to throw at me, perhaps not with much grace, but with a fair amount of grit. And it’s beautiful. And it fits. And the stripes on my invisible zipper lined up amazingly well. (Full credit to the invisible zipper technique from Butterick 6168, the Lisette dress I made into a maxi.)
So let’s call it a truce, my Pretty Pugilistic Cocktail Frock. We’re both winners here.
For the record, here are the changes I made to the pattern:
The instructions call for binding the neckline and armholes with self-fabric. I thought that would look too stark and stripey in navy, so I skipped this in favor of very narrow/rolled hems.
The instructions call for the zipper to be inserted from the top of the neck downward. I didn’t feel good about inserting a zip into chiffon, so I finished the back yoke edges, began the zip at the top of the main fabric, and added hooks and eyes at the top.
I had planned on leaving off the front and back darts to avoid disrupting the pattern, but it actually (shockingly, for this project) was not a problem, and it fits SO much better with them than with just narrowed side seams.
While I made View C, I opted to attach the bodice like View D. In View C, you apparently attach the bodice to the yoke, right side to wrong side, and just leave the raw edges exposed. WTF? I seriously wonder if a step was left out of the instructions.
Well, I’m done here, and as a bloodied Apollo Creed and Rocky agree at the end of the first movie, “No rematch!” Let’s be friends, okay?