Saturday, 8 July 2017

Navy and White Striped Shirt Dress

I love cool graphic stripes for summer.  Stripes are fun.  Stripes make me smile and they can cut a dash without being cute.  Stripes are also great to pair with colour, or plain, or pattern, or anything really.  Stripes play nicely with all sorts of other things in your wardrobe and even if they clash a bit, they do it with a certain style.

This bold navy version is an eye catching width but a lot easier to wear than you might think, as long as they are in two contrast colours.  Too many more colours in the mix and you might stray into children's television presenter territory (cheerful and fun, but not necessarily the look I'm going for here), or worse, television intermission card (yikes!).  Hopefully this bi-coloured bandwidth comes across a little smarter.

You can see from the back view that there is really no shaping at all in the dress cut, with a single back pattern piece cut on the fold and no darts front or back.  The tie belt pulls the overall rectangle in a little and gives a waist.  Made in a crisp cotton poplin, the fabric is cheap and cheerful too, as well as being completely washing machine proof and with just enough body to retain a bit of backbone.  I got this fabric for just £2.95 per meter and the dress took up around 3 meters in length, which when basic buttons were added made the whole thing come in at around £12.00. This poplin is widely available and comes in a many colours.

The shirt dress is a pattern hack from the Thread Count wardrobe builder pattern that came free with a sewing 'zine back in May. A loose, unfitted shape, this can be used as a good basic pattern to play around with and it has nice deep pockets in each side seam.  I would have liked to experiment a bit and perhaps cut one of the front sections with the stripes going across, but I didn't have enough fabric left to piece it together properly. The original pattern has a full length sleeve with cuffs, which I dispensed with straight away as I wanted a short sleeved summer dress.

By lopping off the lower half of the sleeve pattern pieces and making a very basic turn up around the hem, the sleeve shape needed no redesigning really at all, although I wanted to add a bit of detail here and had the idea of a tab to give more shape to the upper arm.  After sewing the tab to the underneath of the hem, I turned the tab to the outside and then finished with a row of top stitching to hold it in place.  

By adding a button to the shoulder seam line, sewing it to the seam allowance inside for stability, I can ruche the sleeve up.  Alternatively it works let all the way down too, with another smaller button securing the tab mid-way down the sleeve.

If worn this way, the sleeve hem sits just above the elbow and looks bit more relaxed.  

I do rather like the wide belt tied in a large, crisp bow as I think it looks eye catching with stripes against stripes, however you could just as easily tie a simple loop or knot, or even add a couple of belt rings for a simple belt fastening and a more dressed down finish.  This particular fabric holds its shape well too, so the wings of the bow stay nice and proud.

When the above shots were taken I was about to take this dress on its first outing to a friend's birthday drinks and dinner so I'd amped up the accessories a bit.  The shoes are M&S from about 3 years ago, in eye watering orange suede and I added a pair of perspex earrings in dayglo colours.  

But I also took this dress with me on a recent trip to Documenta festival in Germany and was so, so glad of it!  In 30 degree heat whilst walking around the city for 10 hours each day this could be dressed down beautifully with flats and kept me unflustered in the humidity.  

This is me, enjoying the fresher evening air after wearing this dress all day long in boiling temperatures, visiting various sites around the busy city.  I think it still looks pretty good considering I had really put it to the test. 

I'm standing here in front of the Parthenon of Books by artist Marta Minujin at Friedrichplatz in Kassel. This is a huge installation, a replica of the ancient Parthenon in Athens, recreated with a scaffolding frame and covered in thousands of books encased in clear plastic wrap.  During the day, the books have a mosaic appearance, full of colour and sparkle covering this replica building on a vast scale. At night it is silver and ghostly, lit from within like a futuristic visitor spaceship from another planet.  On 19th May 1933 the Nazis burned over 2000 books on this site, in the so called 'Campaign against the un-German spirit'.  In 1941, during allied bombing, Kassel's library on this site was destroyed and 350,000 books were lost.  This installation stands in tribute to banned books, censored writing and these historic events destroying literature either symbolically or as a casualty in the theatre of war.  It will then be dismantled and returned to the public with the books distributed once again into circulation.  

Documenta 2017 festival in Kassel brings together some of the world's most celebrated artists in a city-wide festival of work that provokes and inspires in equal measure. Complemented with some excellent German bier, of course.  Cheers!