Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Goddess Dress - 'Made Up Challenge' completed

I don't usually do flounces, well not unless I'm forced to (friends and family may disagree and say I'm always flouncing about, but don't believe them!).   But here's an interestingly shaped dress with two sets of ruffles at the sides that demand a bit of a dramatic turn.  This snowflake patterned ruffle dress is now named by me the 'Goddess Dress'.

I spent quite a while looking for a dress pattern that could accommodate extremely fine silk in white and yet not look too bridal or too fussy. Oddly the outsized ruffles on this Burda Style pattern (103A, The Ruffle Dress from May 2015), looked to me quite contemporary and not froufrou as you might imagine them being, which might be something to do with the way they are so exaggerated against the pared back style of the dress itself. Here's the line drawing as I showed before, so you can see where those flounces sit on either side of the body of the dress.  The front and back views are virtually identical, except for two tiny bust darts.

The dress pattern is available for download here and requires you to print it off, piece it together and then cut out and add your own seam and hem allowance. I mostly use ready printed paper patterns so this was a good exercise in doing a a download version, having relatively few pieces to organise.

I decided to line the dress as the silk is so transparent.  Also I hoped a lining would give the main section a little more substance. I made essentially two identical main dress sections, one in the silk and one in very fine, off-white polyester, to sew together at the shoulders and then treat both silk and lining as one piece of fabric from there on. I used the neck facing pattern pieces over the top for a neat neckline.  The ruffles at either side are one single layer of silk each, as are the oval shaped side pieces inserted under each arm-hole. I left out the interfacing (well, totally overlooked it would be more accurate).  With hindsight the side sections could probably have done with a little reinforcement to support the zip but it's not a major issue.

The dress has an invisible zip at the side, concealed in the shaped side sections, to leave the body of the dress uncluttered and simply shaped with the two darts.  I don't have an invisible zip foot, but you can insert one with a normal zip foot and there are tutorials to show you how to do this online (I used the burda style magazine step by step tutorial here). Ironing the zip flat before starting really makes a difference when inserting with a normal zipper foot.  Then it's just a question of getting as close as possible to each side of the zip band's teeth.

I wanted to introduce a raw quality to the edges of the ruffles to add a bit more contrast of rough with pretty. Instead of using a neat turned hem along the long side of the ruffles, I used a small zigzag stitch and left a minimal, visible fraying edge. Hopefully the stitching will be enough to keep the fray in check and I know I'll only ever be gently hand washing this garment so it won't have to a stand up to any harsh treatment in that respect.  Another difference in my version is that I hand stitched the neck facing down, using invisible stitches through all the layers close to the neck edge, to stop it from creeping around and being visible. The bottom hem of the lining is also hand stitched.  

It's also worth noting with this dress pattern, that it includes pieces where you can see both the front and back of the fabric, the ruffles as you can see in the photos here lay both right side and reverse side against the dress as they waterfall down, so that you need to be happy with the reverse side showing.  In this case, the silk is very similar on both the right and reverse sides, with the grey flower design being only slightly less prominent on the reverse.  Unless you look hard you simply can't tell the difference.  

The newly renamed Goddess Dress is my contribution to the Made Up Challenge!  A brilliant idea from sewing blogger Karen Ball over at didyoumakethat to raise funds for the National Literacy Trust.  I pledged to make the dress, in my blog post here. A great incentive to get the garment cut, sewn and completed in what would have otherwise been quite a busy few weeks, what with holidays and then back to school preparations for September.  The whole project was put to one side for a short while as I entered another online challenge (the PR Sewing Bee posted here), as I thought I would have plenty of time to do both.  Ha!  Famous last words!  An horrendously busy week at work meant burning the midnight oil to complete the dress, but I'm still here with a completed garment, breathless and staggering at the finish line.

It also means I now have something suitable to wear for my friend's birthday party coming up this weekend.  We are supposed to wear or bring something 'Goddess' related and as you know I'm never one to shy away from a dressing up challenge, however much it stretches the realm of reason or imagination.  I think this dress has enough Grecian lines and etherial floaty-ness to fit the bill with a little bit of other-worldly accessorising.  Even if the person wearing it is very much of this world and without much resemblance to a deity or boasting supernatural powers.  Could I make an attempt at Xena Warrior Seamstress maybe?  Could I make those white floaty ruffle-wings look like Princess's cape from Battle of the Planets?  
As part of the bird-themed G Force Team (fearless young orphans from the 1970's protecting earth and the galaxy), Princess' alter-ego was a swan, she rode a motorcycle and threw bombs from a specially adapted yo-yo!  That's who I wanted to be when I was young and a huge BotP fan.  Although I know I'm now stretching the theme of goddess into animated superhero territory, but that's really more my style I think.  I'll stop there.

I've broken out of my comfort zone a little with this shape of dress, it being basically a rectangle with not much shape sewn in.  This is a style I wouldn't normally see as flattering on me but it has turned out ok I think.  I believe the dress works for me because of the fabric though and drapes just enough to give it movement and contour despite the simple lines, and so hopefully doesn't make me look too much like a box.  I probably wouldn't make this dress up in another weightier fabric, because the shape would be too square on my frame. Given the drama of the ruffles I'm less concerned about the shaping of the actual body of the dress.

Now I do have to say that this dress very nearly ended up being hurled across the room on a number of occasions!  Firstly the downloaded burda pattern, despite being fairly straightforward in construction, included very minimal instructions and no diagrams.  I am a very visual person and I did find that where the instructions were a bit lacking, it would have been useful to actually see what steps they were referring to.  A couple of times I felt a bit left high and dry by the pattern and ended up ignoring the instructions altogether and just worked it out for myself.  I think it turned out roughly the same as the intended design, but I have to confess I'm not a hundred percent sure how the ruffles were supposed to neatly attach to the shoulder seams, or whether the bias binding is correctly applied where the side seams and zip meet rather awkwardly.  Then there was the fabric, which is gossamer fine and required a concentration level that I find hard to sustain for long periods of time.  Pulling, fraying, floating off at crucial stages when I needed it to stay still, this stuff was like stitching spiders webs.  Weightless fabric is heavy work that's for sure.  Whoosh!  Off it goes again!

But despite all that, I do like the design.  It makes a statement and the fabric was a good choice in the end.  The ruffles have a life of their own and waft around at the slightest movement or breeze, it was quite difficult getting photographs outside that show them properly!  The boat neck is pared back and unfussy to allow the billowing sides to take the limelight and the longer length allows for a fantastic waterfall cascade. 

Goddess coming through!  Let the flouncing commence!


  1. Beautiful, beautiful, absolutely the perfect fabric for the shape and style, and you look stunning in it. Well done for persevering, you've made a superb job of this dress!

  2. Great dress, always good to have a party to go to when you've just made one! R x

  3. Thank you AWR! That's very kind of you :)) I'm quite pleased not to have any more sewing deadlines now though. I like to take my time to get things done properly. I don't know how they do it on GB Sewing Bee!
    S x

  4. Thanks R, glad you like it. And yes, you can't have a new dress and no party to take it to, so that was perfect timing.