Sewing, What I wear

The Peonies aren’t Wallflowers dress

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

The last time I posted a bit of self-sewing, the post was all happiness and delight and ‘this is the best dress ever!’-ness.


This post isn’t going to be like that.

Today’s dress is  not really bad…  It’s just…definitely not my favourite thing I’ve ever made for myself.

The orchids & ambivalence dress,

It started like this:  a friend and sewing student had a dress she loved, but that wasn’t quite right, and she wanted to make a dress inspired by it, but  perfect.  So I helped her to draft a pattern that took all the good stuff, and changed all the not-good stuff.  And she’s been making versions of this dress right and left, and they look AMAZING on her.

I tried on one of her versions, and well, it looked pretty good on me too.  So, with her permission, I made myself a version out of an orchid purple peony patterned silk that I got for $5 per meter (!) in a Fabric Warehouse sale.

The fabric is amazing, but as this dress?  Well…I just don’t think it’s amazing.

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

I mean, it looks great if I do this:

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

Or this:

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

But realistically, I’m not going to spend my life carefully contorting my body into the three weirdly twisted angles at which a dress looks good at me (Bust forward!  Waist back!  Shoulders twisted!  Arms out!  Knee cocked!).  Blow that for a lark…

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

It’s OK.  It’s not terrible, and I had fun making it, and it is a beautiful dress.  And I knew going into it that purple just isn’t my colour.  Maybe the friend who originated it wants it?

Alright.  Whinging aside!  Fun stuff!

The photoshoot is another hardware-store special.  I’m actually really enjoying exploring anything photograph-interesting in the surrounds of the hardware store, and it does mean you are getting a more diverse background than my usual “Ooooh!  Historical stuff!  Flowers!  Ocean!” photoshoot themes.  This time we found cricket batting cages, a car-yard, and an alley with a white brick wall.

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

One thing I know is that you should never underestimate the photographic potential of a white wall!

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

Especially when, in addition to the wall, you find a motto:

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

live at home

Just hanging  around in the alley.  Simple words on a laminated piece of paper.

I like it.

It’s a phrase that we usually use quite dismissively.  “Oh, he lives at home with his parents.”   “Her?  She so unadventurous.  Such a live at home.”

Really though, it could be quite profound.  Shouldn’t you actually live at home?  Make where you live your home?  Why should adventured only happen out in the wide world?  Shouldn’t we actually turn the space where we spend most of our time into a place to truly live, and decide to truly live where we spend most of our time?  Three words on a laminated bit of paper and suddenly I was thinking about it.

Mr D did not approve of my gutter philosophising.  He was appalled enough that I picked up the paper  (germ-phobe), thought it was ridiculously silly, and not at all inclined to take a photo of me with it.

We had a  little jokey  tussle for power over it, standing in the alley, with him photographing everything but the slip, and me refusing to pose without it.  Then I pointed out that his goal was to get the photoshoot over as soon as possible, and I wasn’t going to put the paper down until I had a proper photo with it, so he might as well just take the darn picture.  Which he did.

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

Then he took a picture of me doing the “Haha!  I won!”  Tongue-stick-out.

Because we have a relationship built on mutual trust and respect and the agreement that we shall be as mature as possible about all the important things and as immature as possible about everything else.

The Peonies shouldn't be Wallflowers frock,

So the dress?  Not awesome.  The time spent with Mr D & the photoshoot?  Awesome.  I’ll call it a win.


  1. I think it is a beautiful dress! It’s definitely a style that requires posing in to look perfect (not so good for getting it done days at work, for example), but the colors and large scale flowers are stunning!

    I’m curious, is the belt separate or is it elasticized silk? It’s hard to tell in the pictures.


  2. Actually, I think that color looks fantastic on you! Maybe it’s more vibrant than you usually go and you just need to get used to the idea? Anyway, it’s lovely and looks like a great dress for a nice evening out.

  3. That is so true about poses being more flattering on certain clothes than everyday wear. I think that can be one of the disappointments when making something from the pattern. Real life doesn’t always match the cover photo.

  4. Lyn Swan says

    Gorgeous! Both the dress and you! Purple is my favorite.

  5. Julia Ergane says

    I love the colour, print, and the basic pattern; however, I am NOT loving the waist. It should be a waistless sheath (cutting up that gorgeous flower –ouch!). The lines would be so much better. This SHOULD NOT be a sacque — it needs to be sculpted.

    • Unfortunately it’s a very delicate fabric – it can’t be made into anything with lots of seams or fitting. No sculpting 🙂

  6. sheila says

    Love the dress, both colour, print and pattern but not the belt. The shoulders appear to have an outwards facing pleat on them, could the pleat be reversed? Would this give a cowl effect?

  7. Like Julia I love everything about this dress but the waist! Looks like fun was had with the photoshoot!

  8. I love it also, waist, color and all. But I see what you mean about purple not being your color. It *should* be even more splendid but it isn’t, quite. Maybe because it’s not yellow, so you don’t feel your most radiant in it?

  9. Elise says

    Kendo really makes sense: if you don’t super-love it, then off it goes. But love of experimenting is love, too! Great fabric.

  10. I like the dress a lot…except I’m sad that the belt covers the white flower. I love flowers and a flower that huge shouldn’t be hidden. =)

    Now for the philosophy…because I’m just now reading your post because I’ve been away and just saw your fb post. =)

    Live at *home.* That was my first take on it. Of course any word can be accented and create a different meaning for each person. For me, the word is “home.” I try very hard to make where ever I am living (because I’ve moved around a bit) feel like home. I guess I even try to make a hotel room or a cabin or a tent when we are camping feel like home. I suppose that might extend the meaning a bit?

    This was really a cute photo shoot and I’m glad you two had fun!

  11. Hmm, philosophy. Maybe when you think of it as live (as in alive) at home? But that sounds odd. I don’t think I can be philosophicl, because GIANT FREAKING FLOWERS ON PURPLE. Does not bring out my inner philosopher, brings out my inner, ok outer, ok total SELF 😉

  12. holly says

    Gorgeous colour! Great fabric. To me the issue (aside from the belt which I don’t feel does justice to the frock) is the length. Maybe if it was mid calf the proportions might have worked better? (I know you wouldn’t go shorter)

  13. Lynne says

    The dress looks amazing when you are contorted into wildly uncomfortable poses, but out of them, it tends to wear you, rather than the other way round. Partly the colour. BIG patterns have that tendency, too. The only way to fight those things is to buy a lot of the fabric and make a great big full length gathered skirt with the top made of carefully chosen bits. Of the plain fabric, perhaps.

    I love the shoot – it does look as if you both had fun!

    And I think the ‘live at home’ sign is serendipitous. You do, and do it well. I think we should ‘live at home’. If we haven’t managed to make our homes places where we want to be, then it is time to move, or call in some help. I feel sorry for the people who always want to be somewhere they are not. And I am not including refugees and others forced by violence or circumstance to be in awful places. Just we lucky ones who have some choice.

    Recently, a friend of mine visited the parents, in China, of a friend of his from his time at university in New Zealand. They were lovely, very welcoming, and cooked a beautiful traditional meal for him. But the meal was the only colour or pattern in the house. No picture, no photos, no textiles, nothing on the walls. They were not poor people, they just seemed to have lost their cultural reference points, some how. I don’t know how they felt about their home, but I imagine that for them, home would be wherever the family was.

    My home is quite different. More like the home of the caddis fly larvae. Google it if you didn’t spend your childhood peering into streams and ponds. It picks up bits of stuff in its environment and sticks them together to form a tube. My home is a bit like that, but the stuff is on the inside. I am surrounded by the things and mementos of things that I have loved in my life. Home is where my stuff is.

    • Chrostíci! 😀 I was fascinated by them as a child.
      It’s a bit like it for me, too; lots of stuff, and what with travelling between two places, there also tends to be a bit of hauling around more stuff than strictly necessary in my backpack. Thankfully, in recent years, the stuff has been somewhat reduced, and I’ve finally arrived at the stage where some of the completely useless mementoes taking up space at home can be thrown out to make more space for actual living…
      Hm. Maybe that’s what that motto means for me now?

  14. I think you look awesome in the dress when you’re standing around pretty normal. I love the color, the pattern. It’s a simple cut and I think the bold purple is totally your color.
    I want a dress like that.

  15. Susan Robinson says

    Well – let me only say this about that – we we used to joke about President Nixon. I thought the dress looks amazingly good. It made me think that I could get away with big patterns on fabric.. There are lots of them around but they have scared me. If you can look terrific in a dress with a big pattern, maybe I can look OK (I’m no fashionista). Thanks for giving some courage!

  16. That is the most beautiful fabric I have ever seen- I wish I could find some here! Sadly, though, the Ozarks are a little short on fantastic gloriously purple silks:( I do think it looks lovely on you though!

  17. Amy Patrick says

    People are always trying to go,go,go. I love being at home. I am never bored and can spend my whole vacation at home.

  18. Well, it looks great on you in that photo where you’re sticking out your tongue, too, so maybe it’s actually a dress to be silly in? “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple”-like? Get a red hat that doesn’t go and see what it does for the dress. 😀

  19. Kirri says

    I think you look fantastic in this dress. And I can imagine, that inadvertently you would naturally pose in flattering ways while wearing it for an occasion – tasting canapes, looking at a view, climbing into a car… So the dress would look it’s best without you conciously trying.

    But if you don’t feel good in it, then you won’t feel like you look good and that would show somehow.

  20. I adore this frock! And the fabric (oh my god I need the fabric).
    I think the colour really suits you, you look radiant in it!

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