For this dress, I followed the Craftsy class The Couture Dress with Susan Khalje. The class goes through the entire process of making a couture dress. It gets pretty detailed, right down to the hand-basting and the hand-sewing of the lining and zipper. I liked the "on-demand" aspect of the sewing class - I went on vacation in the middle of following the class and was able to pick up again after we got back without worrying about the class access being cut off.
I wanted to make a dress that was very fitted - I couldn't stop thinking of Joan on Mad Men. In real life, I am sure the actress is tiny, but it doesn't stop women with real hips like me from looking at the snug, waist-flattering dresses she wears and wanting to recreate the look. Here is my inspiration photo.
When you sign up for the class, you are sent this commercial pattern. They send Vogue 8648. I do like the instant-ness of a downloadable pattern, but it was nice to have an actual pattern. I chose view C... but since I ended up ditching the sleeves, it looks much more like view A.
1. Muslin and fitting, 2. Pattern Adjustment
The first step is to trace the pattern onto muslin - and take away the seam allowances in the process. Since I wanted to make it a very tight fit, I ended up making the muslin a little too tight and had to let it out once I got to the fashion fabric step, so I recommend giving yourself a little breathing room in this step.
I liked this part of the course because the instructor demonstrated how to use a commercial pattern and adjust it as if it did not contain seam allowances. That part was helpful for me as I had never seen that done before.
3. Fabric and stabilization layer
I chose a cotton fabric for the fashion fabric layer and a muslin for the stabilization layer. This is also the step where I would have put on sleeves... and I did attach them, but when I put on the dress, it was just too tight with sleeves, so I ended up leaving them off. In this step, there are also hand-basted seam lines that are done. I actually liked this method of sewing and fitting. It is a lot of extra work, but nothing is more disappointing than getting through with sewing a dress and having the fit way off. For me, this step assures a proper fit. I followed Susan's advice in the course and changed the pattern to have a higher back panel. It was fun to change a pattern like that. In my world, it was daring and I felt like a non-rule-following rebel. (For the record, I am aware of how cool that doesn't make me)
Ay, ay, ay.... the hand-sewing took a week of sewing in front of the TV to accomplish. (My fella and I did get season one and 6 episodes into season two of Falling Skies watched while I did this stuff, though, so that was fun.) The lining is all hand-sewn in three separate sections. This is where I am glad I followed the course as presented and I understand this is the couture method, but I wouldn't do it again this way. For my style of sewing, I would do a lot of this by machine. I have used the method of sewing right sides of a bodice together and turning it inside out for other dresses and liked it.
VariationsI only changed one thing from the class. I added a slit down the back of the skirt for some room to sit and move around. I have it here shown with the hem lace I used for the hem on the fashion fabric.
Other Cool Stuff- A Lapped Zipper
I was very happy to have my first lapped zipper. In another Craftsy course I took, The Bombshell Dress, the teacher demonstrated it, but I wasn't up for putting it in quite yet. In this course, I did it and was very pleased. It is all hand-sewn. I have struggled with zippers in the past when trying to put them in by machine and I honestly think they are easier to put in by hand. I love how this looks. The class made the process easy to understand and perform the right stitches on it to make it stable and strong.