Monday, October 12, 2015

My "LBD" - Fit for Audrey herself...

I am always blasting the contestants of Project Runway ("PR")for their apparent lack of sewing skills, even though I myself have never designed a dress from the ground up. Granted, I have made a lot of patterns from other garments and certainly altered hundreds of patterns to make them my own.  I totally understand garment construction after sewing for 50 years, but my mini-me Colette and I have never started from scratch - sans pattern.

As Dave's 50th class reunion in Dallas Texas approached, I began to feel a little guilty about ragging on the PR guys (even though this year's crop are pretty untalented) without ever having tried to design a dress myself. For his reunion, I knew that I wanted to wear a classic "little black dress" to the event - it's not too dressy (but it can be) nor is it too casual. 

There's just something about a simple silhouette for evening. Trust me, I scoured the stores before I decided to go out on this limb and I saw nothing that remotely looked like a designer dress.  I was looking for the ultimate Audrey Hepburn dress....simple, good lines, black.

Colette:  "You can do this Laurel. I'll be with you all the way!"

Me: "I'm a little nervous...what if I'm a dismal failure at designing, and I'm destined to only be a seamstress. Ugh."

I had picked up some yardage from Stonemountain and Daughter Fabrics a couple of months ago in anticipation of finding the perfect LBD pattern similar to the design I wanted to wear. (Obviously, I never found that pattern and that's why I set about designing and draping a dress myself). So in true PR style, I set about making a sketch of the design I Audrey vision clear.

I used some cool little narrow tape to outline the design details on Colette. I wanted a short dress with a trapeze-like fullness at the hem.  I wanted the back to be dramatic (translation: Low) and the front to be high at the neckline with princess seams.

Once Colette was decked out in marking tape, I started creating the "pattern" pieces using inexpensive muslin fabric.  "So far so good.  I don't know what the heck is wrong with those PR dummies...this is a snap!"


"And hey, Laurel...why not make the muslin (the test dress) out of a fabric that in case it works out, you could have two dresses?"  I found some bright red fabric in my stash and used the pattern pieces that I had just created to start a little red dress.

The Little Red Dress was easy to sew together, and that's just about where things starting going haywire. Though the test dress looked like it was going to be adorable, evidently either Colette went on a diet or I got looked great on her...but...

Me: "Colette, why didn't you tell me that I have back fat?"

Colette: "I told you not to take out that extra padding. You're going to have to change the back of this cute little red dress to hide your second set of cleavage."

So, back to the drawing board after two sleepless nights trying to figure out what to do next. I took my original muslin pattern pieces and altered them to adjust for the sizing issues: I cut the back panel higher, made the front princess seams larger at the bust and cut the armholes a little bigger.

On to the final layout on my black fabric: the fabric is a very tight knit with Lycra added.  It's almost crisp like taffeta or peau de soie , but it stretched in one direction.  Choosing which direction to lay out the pieces took a little forethought.

After sewing the red dress so quickly I was anticipating the same ease of construction with my black fabric. Wrong!!!!!!!! The fabric had a right and wrong side but it was barely distinguishable to the naked eye.  However, when I sewed no less than three or four seems together, you could easily see the difference in the sheen of the fabric.

Me and my seam ripper became friends. My eyes are not what they used to be, but sewing on black fabric is virtually impossible unless you have a 500 megawatt light bulb over your shoulder. Sew. Rip. Sew some more.

 "WTF, Laurel!! Do you NOT know how to sew?" Rip.

Sunday came and the dress still had little construction issues that bothered me. I was so discouraged and announced to Dave I was off to Macy's to find a dress.  And like all other shopping trips to Macy's, every dress was so ho-hum, so cheap looking, so ordinary.  Penny's - ditto. After two hours, I sat in my car in the parking lot and lectured myself: 

"Just pull up your big girl panties, go home and fix the stupid thing, Laurel.  You KNOW HOW TO SEW!"

And that's how the LBD came into being...Me and Colette...start to finish - a one of a kind design by yours truly. Audrey would be proud...

Laurel. Ready for Project Runway.

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