Once again, I’ve been scrambling to finish a dress and it managed to pull me away from both writing and social media for a while. Long-time readers of the blog may recall the purple widow’s dress I made for a 5th grade presentation… good gracious that was 8 years ago!
Anyway, this year, we needed a dress in time for Anime Expo in LA for a cosplay of Eliza Hamilton from the Broadway musical. Over the last few months, the cast album plays here non-stop.
We ended up settling on Simplicity pattern 4092 (AMZ affiliate link) and decided on the larger pictured variation.
We didn’t find any mint green fabric we liked at our local Joann Fabrics store, so I asked my friend who does a fair amount of sewing and she recommended fabric.com. Lots of pretty fabrics there and all the types and colors we were looking for. And then some. They also have a nifty feature where you collect virtual fabric swatches and then arrange them on a project board. That was VERY handy!
I’ll be honest. I haven’t really done much sewing in the past 8 years. And the pattern we chose looked the part but was a bit beyond anything I’d done before in terms of complexity. I’d never done a fitted bodice with boning before. I’d never done anything like panniers before. So I blindly followed the directions on the pattern as written. Turns out I probably could have saved myself a lot of time if I’d just sewn down the cover that came on the boning and used it as the channels instead of marking and sewing the channels in myself as they’re not seen on the outside at all.
But, I like learning new things, so that was a bonus and it’s done. The pattern for the dress doesn’t show it well, but the bodice and the overskirt are one part, and the underskirt is a second separate piece. This considerably lightened the load of what we had to work with at any one time and meant it didn’t pull as much against where we were sewing. Working with multiple layers of 5-6 yards of fabric means you’ve got a lot of fabric to juggle!
• A new sharp seam ripper is your friend. One with an ergonomic handle is heaven. Did you know that your laptop screen can be used as back-lighting to see where the stitches are easier?
• Directions, as written, can be confusing and numbered steps bear no relation to actual time required to complete. The fitted bodice & panniers took forever!
• Do NOT ignore the diagram for laying out the pattern pieces to be cut. (I knew this and should have supervised closer. We ended up short one panel of the underskirt with no extra fabric. It worked.)
• Fabrics that fray easily are EVIL. Fabrics that are slick and slip and slide easily are EVIL. This means that pinning carefully and extensively is recommended. Finishing all raw edges as recommended is also a good plan.
• Proper seam allowances and straight seams matter. Otherwise you might not end up with the size you need (good thing for corsets!) or you’ll miss catching something and end up with a hole where you don’t want one.
• If things are going together too easily, stop, stop and check what you’re doing. There is a big problem. If you can’t find the dot that’s mentioned on the pattern piece, check to make sure you and the directions are talking about the SAME pattern piece. These were also supervision issues.
• I can do a nice neat neckline using bias tape and slip stitching by hand when I try. Glasses are helpful for close work too. Who knew!?
• Check your hems before you sew ’em. I was much happier with the results this time around!
• I still hate putting in zippers, so we avoided a zipper this time, but grommets for lacing can be a pain in the butt too.
• I am so relieved that I live in a world where sewing machines exist and the whole thing did not have to be sewn by hand. I’m not sure I would have survived. My friend suggested that maybe I was taking my first hand modiste research a bit too seriously. Ha!
So, in the end and even a day before they left, the costume came together and seems to be a hit at Anime Expo (Eliza and Alexander got interviewed by Cosplay America on Friday night! Pretty cool!) although I’m glad the heat has been dialed back a notch from last week.