Monday, November 21, 2011

the story of a pretty party dress

Sometimes I get a bittersweet feeling when I see the darling things all the creative moms out there are making for their little ones, especially the adorable creations my friend Rachel sews for her little girl. They just don't stay little for long! A decade ago I had my chance and I did sew some cute clothes for my daughter. Sweet jumpers and pants are all safely tucked away in a pretty keepsake box along with the handmade sweaters & dresses from her grandmothers.

That pretty box hasn't had anything added to it for quite a few years now.

Then, out of the blue, this fall she signed up for a ballroom dancing course at her school and announced that for the big ball she was going to sew her own cocktail dress. With a little help from her mom :)

I was absolutely delighted and perhaps a tiny bit daunted, because you know getting dressed up for a ball is a bit different than hanging out with your play-date after preschool.

So despite any fears or doubts of course I said yes. First she selected a Burda pattern online that we downloaded (40 pages), taped all the pages together, traced the pattern pieces, purchased pretty burgandy taft and tulle, cut and started to sew.
Then she found a different pattern she MUCH preferred.

(Big smile)

She didn't need long to convince me. I will admit that while  it seems a waste of energy and money for the other fabric, I was relieved as I was feeling really overwhelmed by that German pattern with no drawings. (I'm still planning to forge on with it though...half of my pins are in that fabric and I miss them! The dress will be pretty for Christmas or New Years, and she can get some more practice sewing.)
The new pattern is McCalls with English directions. It sewed up beautifully and my daughter did a great deal of the work herself.
We both learned a lot. For the first time I sewed a corset bodice with wires. The seamstress at the fabric shop gave me an excellent tip – cover the ends with duct tape to keep them from piercing through the material. Much faster than sewing little fabric covers on each ends. You would have never guessed would you, isn't it fascinating to get the inside scoop on these things?

Of course this all gets hidden and I'm proud that the inside is as beautiful as the out. 

At first we made the dress with the shirred waist. She tried it on and we both decided it wasn't flattering so ripped it all apart, cut out new pieces and sewed in the flat waist. I think at that point I had to go back to the fabric shop since my thread had run out. Then we had a few minor problems with the zipper / tightness of the bodice. By the end, I had sewn in the zipper three times. The fabric is pretty amazing still to be holding up so well! 

(By the way, the seam-ripper is now on vacation getting a well-deserved rest!)

Finally, a day or so before the ball, the dress was finished. The ball was a dream. Quite different than the "homecomings" and "proms" I remember from high school. These children actually knew the dance steps, for one thing. All the parents were there, everyone dressed to the nines, the children (young adults I should say!) all had partners. The boys brought pretty little bouquets for their partners and the girls had boxes of chocolates in return. They danced a few dances to show us what they had learned (disco fox and waltz and cha-cha-cha to name a few), then the girls danced with their fathers, the sons with their mothers, the girls and boys (all looking so incredibly grown up) danced with each other.

Everything was lovely. And my daughter was too. And after all that dancing, the dress still looks perfect! 
 Phew. Now back to that other dress....



un arc-en-ciel dans le lavabo said...

wow you're such a talented seamstress Karen ! this dress is so beautiful and well-made !! especially that kind of silky fabric, not easy & not sure I'd dare !
How I hear you about time passing by & girls growing, and the difficulty of adjusting not only sewing !
As you certainly know we don't have any prom nights or such here, but I started sewing only a few years ago, and miss that chance to sew for my DD when she was a little one :(
Anyway, no doubt your big girl was the most beautiful girl, she has wonderful genes ;) !

millefeuilles said...

I am SO impressed! I can only begin to imagine the huge amount of concentration and skill acquiring that went into making that dress.

It is absolutely beautiful.

nest full of eggs said...

Oh wow, Karen, you've been on quite the roller coaster with that dress.
I'm so impressed with you & your daughter... ballroom dancing course, big ball, & sewing the cocktail dress (which turned out perfect inside & out)...
Covering the boning with duck tape?? I'll have to keep that tip for future reference.
It was interesting to learn how this German ball went, I, too am only familiar with 'prom' type dances.
So as you know I've been sewing 2, 3, & 4 yr old girl stuff for my daughter these past few years, well I just recently (haven't even blogged about it yet) had experience sewing skirts for 3 teenage girls ~ not as glamorous as your daughter's cocktail dress as they are costumes for a Wizard of Oz musical performance, very bright colored flower skirts!
I learned a few new things & had fun making them.

Karen said...

Thank you each for your lovely comments. I really enjoyed them! xo