Constructing Sparkle

I recently entered the Gen Art/Perrier Bubbling Under design competition. If you got picked as a finalist, you had to schlep your butt to New York to attend the event, where the winner was announced. If you win, you have to make one of the pieces you sketched and take it to Miami for another event. As Kathleen was kind enough to announce, I ended up winning this competition (insert happy dance here) so now I have make one of the outfits.

If you read my blog, you’ll know already that I chose to make the dissolving bows dress. The event is July 27th, but I have to finish it by the 20th, because I fly out to New York for tradeshow season the 21st.

I want to share with you how I plan to construct this dress and I’d like to hear any feedback or suggestions you may have. Basically, it’s a dress with a lot of stuff on it, and a pleated underskirt. Okay, it’s a little more difficult than that. Whenever I sit down to think about it, that Geoffrey Rush character in “Shakespeare in Love” pops into my head.

Some character: “And how the bleep bleep are you bleep gonna bleep bleep bleep?”
GR’s character: “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”

Here’s the sketch of the dress.

It’s a gold charmeuse. I want to line it with white habotai so the gold self is clear and you get soft slinkiness next to the wearer’s skin. I rarely like to do a matching lining. Just a personal quirk.

The straps are lengths of chain. That way, I can easily hook on the draping chains and show a bit more metal in the back.

First of all, I decided to detach it from the dress itself so the dress looks and feels lighter on the body, especially the top part, which everyone looks at first. It’ll have a grosgrain ribbon waistband, 2 layers of very fine taffeta sandwiching a row of bias wool pleats.

1. Prep work. Cut all pattern pieces. Body is on-grain, spaghetti, bows, ruffles all on bias. Make spaghetti, bows, lengths of ruffles.
a. Need spaghetti for straps and waist drawstring.
b. Bows and ruffles to be raw edge.
2. Attach chain straps to front. And how exactly am going to do this?
3. Hand-sew bows all along right spaghetti strap and down the front. Machine-sew smaller ruffle pieces onto front. (Hand-sewing for pieces to be sewn in one spot, machine for longer stitchlines.)
4. Sew 2 tiny buttonholes for the drawstring opening under one of the ruffles. I want the gathers to be adjustable so the wearer can just pull the dress over her head and also have some wiggle room for different body types.
5. Sew front and back together at right side seam. (French seam)
6. Add right pocket-hand-sew from inside. I don’t want any topstitching on the dress, except the DNTS drawstring waist, but I don’t have the proper equipment so I’ll have to hand-sew. Any suggestions are particularly welcome here.
7. Add right long wrapping ruffle piece.
8. Attach chain strap to back. Again, it’s a mystery.
9. Sew lining pieces together at right side seam. (French seam)
10. Attach lining to self along top. Edgestitch and press. No surface topstitch.
11. Sew self and lining together with a double row ½” apart for drawstring channel. I might have to create a seam here so that there’s extra body as it’s a high-abrasion area and it will be easier to mark for sewing.
12. Sew left side seams of both lining and self. (French seams)
13. Hem self and lining separate from the self. (1/8″ babyhem) Hem of self will be hidden under the ruffles. I also want the dress to shimmy with the light layers as the wearer moves, as opposed to a thicker double-layer skirt that doesn’t move.
14. Run a length of spaghetti through waist.
15. Glue on rhinestones.
16. Put together chains/rhinestones/pearls. Hook onto chain strap on dress.
a. Chain around neck will require a clasp.

Here are the sewing steps for the underskirt:

1. Prep work. Cut all pieces. Taffeta underskirt is on grain, pleats are bias.
2. “Make” check pattern.
a. I actually turned the charcoal wool pinstripe into a check, by sewing perpendicular rows of metallic gold and silver thread into it.
3. Sew all wool panels together.
4. Press pleats.
a. Wool is raw-edge and deliberately frayed a bit with gold and silver threads running off the edge.
5. Sew white taffeta panels together, both layers, but separate.
6. Sandwich pleats in between 2 layers of taffeta for a clean finish inside and out, press.
a. I’m not doing all over wool to 1. reduce costs 2. reduce weight and 3. I don’t want a lot of charcoal under the gold to muddy the color.
7. Sew together the lengthwise edges of the taffeta, flip right side out, press.
8. Sew on double layer grosgrain ribbon waistband.
a. This is a trick learned from making corsets understructures. You tack in a grosgrain ribbon with a slide clasp to suck in your waist before you hook and eye the full length. Grosgrain ribbon is really strong and doesn’t stretch at all.
9. Sew on slide clasps, 3 for adjustability.
10. Sew on small snaps to the ends of the wrap skirt, so the skirt doesn’t open up too much when the wearer walks or sits.

Feel free to attack my methods, tell me I’m doing it all wrong, and I should be doing it this way or that way. I’m tired, everything’s a mystery, my brain wants to wander off and work on the next project and I’m no construction pro. Not by long shot.

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