Finished project: Love at First Flight dress

I’ve been sewing like mad for all sorts of clients, and I’ll show you images of those soon.  As a little treat for myself I took some time to whip up something for me.

This is my Love at First Flight Dress:

The inspiration for the dress was the amazing Echino fabric by Etsuko Furuya for Kokka.

Steph took me to a fabric store while I was in Australia, and I saw this fabric and I had to have it.  It was love at first sight.

How could I not?  It’s pink and blue and red and green and turquoise and mustard.  And it’s linen cotton.  And it looks like Christmas in the Antipodes: all sunshine and ocean and brilliant red pohutukawa flowers.  And it has birds on it!   Just look at the full width of it:

And then I saw the Au$32 a metre price tag.  Ahem.

I bought everything that was left on the bolt anyway: just about 3 metres.  Did I mention that it has birds on it?

This is now probably the most expensive dress I have ever made strictly for myself.  That includes my wedding dress.  I like to buy my fabric on sale.

The pattern is roughly based on Butterick 6527, which I inherited from my Grandmother.  I made it without the cape, because 1) I didn’t have the fabric, and 2) it would be a bit much with the cape considering the fabric I did have.

I say ‘roughly’ because the pattern I have is a 32″ bust, which I am not, and it also has an 11″ bust to waist ratio, which I do not!  So I resized the bodice  and altered it so much I wish I had just drafted my own pattern.

The pattern also has a gathered gore skirt, and I wanted a simple rectangular gathered skirt to take full advantage of the fabulous fabric, so I completely re-did the skirt.

I whipped the dress up in one day of ‘ZOMG – love this fabric so much – must sew – just do – don’t think – don’t plan’ sewing.  Which mostly worked, because mostly I really know what I’m doing.  But even totally really knowing what you are doing doesn’t compensate for thinking and forward planning.  So the dress has a few minor issues that a bit of forward planning would have avoided.

I wish, for example, that I had trimmed just a bit off the length of fabric so that the pattern matched up at the back seam.

I was so worried that I didn’t have enough fabric that I didn’t realise that sacrificing 3 inches off fullness would still have looked good, and made the pattern match.  By the time I did realise I could cut a bit off I’d already sewn in the side pockets, and didn’t want to make the back of the skirt less full than the front, especially since I forgot to compensate for the un-gathered portion at the front of the skirt and had sewn my pockets exactly at the sides.

Learn from my mistakes, dear readers: think three times, measure twice, cut once, sew once!

While there are the tiny mistakes mentioned, most of the construction is quite beautifully done, and I’m very pleased with it.

The bodice is fully lined in calico/muslin (because after that outer fabric it didn’t need one of my trademark crazy linings) all stitched down with perfect tiny hand stitches.  I didn’t line the skirt, but I do wear it with a petticoat, because I love petticoats.

The zip is done with hand-worked prick-stitching and I even switched threads to match the different colours in the fabric.  Because if you are going to be insanely perfectionist when sewing, you might as well go all the way.

The back has with a cunning little peek-a-boo between the zip and a neck button (OK, that was partly because the zip I  had around was a bit short and I didn’t want to buy a longer one), and a darling little flower-painted button, a vintage ‘orphan’ from my button collection, to fasten the top-back:

Peek a boo zip

I made tiny custom-fabric piping out of a bright red to go all around the top of the bodice, and used bright cherry-red front buttons to match.  The buttons are ornamental: I didn’t see any need to make the straps button on and off, so I sewed them down (they lay much better that way too).

I repeated the piping on the edge of the pockets, which are my favourite part of the dress:

You see, I really wanted cutaway pockets on this dress.  But I didn’t want to mess up the amazing print with side seams.  So I got cunning and set the pockets into the dress, and supported them with some interior engineering.  So now the dress has pockets, but no side seams.

You have no idea how happy the pockets make me.  The first time I wore the dress (to a Christmas party, of course!) I ran around showing them to everyone.  My best response was “Cute” and then three minutes later “Wait…what?  How did you DO that?”  The awesomeness had to sink in.

The pockets are lined in red fabric to match the piping:

I just love red and pink together.  It’s so cheery, and unexpected.

The photoshoot for this dress was supposed to be all brilliant sunshine and sparkling ocean and blazing pohutukawa trees.  And Christmas Day was just like that, and I forgot to take pictures.  I thought I’d wear it again for New Years, and get them then.

Yeah.  It’s New Years.  Its freezing, it’s pouring, there is a howling southerly.  I had to make do inside with glaring grey light.

54 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Nelly says:

    What a gorgoeus dress and it so suits you too.Happy new year Miss Dreamstress xx

  2. Eva says:

    Wonderful fabric – so cute!! Love that dress!!!

  3. Sassy T says:

    Absolutely amazing, it is so eye catching. I woiuld be over the moon if I had created a dress like that.

  4. Ash says:

    Happy New Year!

    And if the new year should contain any more information on how you did those pockets, I’m sure I wouldn’t be the only happy person :)

    • Happy New Year to you too!

      I’ll do a tutorial on the pockets as soon as I 1) find another print so fabulous that it needs to not have side seams or 2) concede that this isn’t going to happen and just do stunt ones. #2 is more likely but makes me sad because I *hate* sewing stunt items!

  5. Libby Gohn says:

    How cute! I can’t wait for summer in the northern hemisphere, now!

  6. Natalie says:

    LOVELY!

    So how did you do the pockets?

  7. Dawn says:

    You rock that dress!

  8. Grace says:

    What a delightful dress, yes that is the cutest fabric. And your post was even more cuter.

  9. I love this dress! I love that you lined the pockets with the red! I also absolutely love pickets… they should be large, and sewn into every dress, skirt or trousers for women. I saw a wedding dress with pockets last week. Thank you for your photos and explanation! Sadly, I didn’t keep any patterns of this era, or I would send them to you. At age 16 I made a blue and white striped cotton dress with a halter top, with notched collar on the halter. I loved that dress! Of course I didn’t have your skill for details.

  10. prttynpnk says:

    I love this- I think you’ve gotten every inch of cute out of this fabri with your choice of pattern, lining, buttons- too sweet!

  11. This dress is absolutely dreamy! The way you worked with the print is fantastic, especially from bodice to skirt. And those sneaky little pockets? Swoon. Love it, all around. I may have to get my hands on a length of that Echino fabric now…

    • Thank you!

      From my research the fabric is quite hard to find (I’m really glad I bought it when I did rather than trying to find it cheaper on the internet, because it *isn’t* on the internet) but hopefully you’ll get lucky. It also comes in other colourways so if raspberry pink and blue aren’t quite your thing you could be in luck!

      There are also coordinating fabrics in the range that are equally to-die-for, one of which I bought and need to make something out of.

  12. Lauren says:

    Very, very darling dress!!!

  13. Shelley says:

    That fabric is just so not my style – but it is definitely yours! It is an adorable dress and you look great in it! Worth every penny, I’d say!

    • That’s what makes the sewing world so fun – we all love different things.

      The funny story about this fabric is that I mentioned it was ‘quite outrageous’ for my tastes to the sales assistant, and he told me it was way too quiet and suggested an EXTREMELY vivid pink print. It’s all a matter of perspective!

  14. Justine says:

    sewcountrychick.comsewcountrychick.comI love the combo of modern Japanese fabric with a vintage pattern. Beautiful! Would you like to post  your project on my Sew & Tell Saturday linky party at my blog this Saturday? Its geared specifically for sewing projects !
    Justine @ Sew Country Chick
    Justine

  15. Kathy P says:

    That dress is so full of awesome I can hardly stand it. It flatters you perfectly. I’m also charmed by the fact that your lipstick matches the piping.

  16. Cornelia Moore says:

    too cute. way too busy for me except in my deepest blue Gemini moods (they’re cyclical) but absolutely charming on you and in it’s own right. lovely work, and definitely a 10 for your ratings!

  17. Cornelia Moore says:

    too, too cute! the fabric is way too busy for me except in my deepest blue Gemini moods (they’re cyclical) but it’s absolutely charming on you and in it’s own right. lovely pattern, lovely work, and definitely a 10 for your ratings!

  18. T. Sedai says:

    So cute! I love it!

  19. Lynne says:

    I think it’s wonderful! And the pockets are very, very clever! You do indeed look like the best sort of New Zealand Christmas.

  20. StephC says:

    !!!! I love what you did with this fabric! It’s so great! Love at First Flight indeed. You’re terribly clever, dear.

    I’ll be pondering those pockets now… I’m sure I’ll end up trying to make them… and probably make a mess. Well done indeed.

  21. jackiead says:

    Your dress is sooo very cute and you look so fresh and festive. I love that you hand pricked the zipper, my favorite way of inserting a zipper even though it is more work.
    Wishing you and yours a very Happy New Year.

    • Thank you! I love hand pricked zippers. I don’t think of them as more work – I think of them as “Well, if I do it this way at least I know I won’t be re-doing it a dozen times to get it right!” ;-)

  22. Ness says:

    You are one very clever lady and you looked fabulous at the dance. I wish I knew you’d made it at the time. Gorgeous and inspiring!!

  23. Theresa says:

    Love the fabric, the name of the post, the red lips, the red pocket-trim — everything! What a fabulous dress to wear in an Antipodean summer.

  24. Gabrielle says:

    Such a pretty dress! Yes, a bit expensive – but hopefully being linen it will be comfortable and lovely for many years to come!

    • Thank you!

      That’s the goal! I really try to make the things I sew for me be things I will wear for years to come. So far it’s been pretty good. I have a dress I made when I was 16 that I still wear. It’s rather snug these days though ;-)

  25. Barbara says:

    This was a fascinating post to read. I really enjoyed the details and explanations on the construction of this piece. The pockets are exquisite and I can’t wait to see a video tutorial on how-to put pockets in without a side seam. (yes?) Enjoy the new year!

    • I’ll do a tutorial, but it won’t be a video tutorial. I don’t like following video tutorials and I think that the the techniques used for these pockets would be hard to show in a video, so it will be a ‘lots of photos and explanations’ style tutorial. Hopefully that will work!

  26. Carolyn says:

    So darling, so clever!

    I’m now going to a) search and search for that pattern – it’s awesome! and b) figure out how you did the pockets. My go-to summer dress style is a vintage bodice pattern and just gathering up rectangular lengths for the skirt. When I have a border print I try to do it all in one piece too. I love pockets, but never considered trying to make pockets work with such fabrics – now I will!

  27. Jane says:

    Ohhhh so pretty and cunning and fun! One of my favourite things you’ve ever made!

  28. Trish Blair says:

    Wow, that is so great! The piping looks amazing and I love that pattern. I have a piece of Echino, um somewhere – will have to dig it out and use it.

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Meet the Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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