In Search of a Princess (-line dress)

I’ve always liked princess-line dresses.  They have nice shaping, they can be made to be flattering to almost any figure shape, and they have nice drape.  Unfortunately, most stores seem to think they are silly, and not worth the time and effort to make.  I have found some, but usually there’s a waist line, or weird ruffles, or gathers or something.  Every once in a while, I can find a dress which is a flat piece in front and a flat piece in the back, and maybe some ties to give it shape, and that’s better, but still not what I want.  Also, there’s a trend recently to make dresses of knit material, which helps with the fitting many people with the same pattern, but is somewhat frustrating if you want a more structured fit.  And they never have pockets, so I have to carry a bag or leave my wallet behind (or put it in Himself’s pocket).  And then they cut the blasted dresses off at knee length.  All of them.

Why?  Why do they assume that all women want to bare their knees all the time?  It’s cold in winter, and they expect us to wear knee length dresses and see-though pantie-hose to keep warm!  Apparently my aunt was right when, in her adolescence, she told her father that her mini-skirt was warm in winter enough because she could turn her collar up!  And in summer, some of us just like the variety offered by the option to cover our knees now and then.  Bah, I should have been born in a different time to get the dresses I want, apparently.

But wait!  In some of those eras with dresses I like, they made their own dresses.  The first dress I ever made had big roses on a black background.  I was about seven, I think, when Mama and I cut it out (I think it was princes0line, even then).  She showed me how to sew it by hand, and left me to it.  By the time I finished it, two years later, it was a bit big for my younger sister, but she could grow into it because it was never going to fit me again.  Sigh.

These days, I don’t have to worry about out-growing my clothing.  And I have a Singer sewing machine, that I’m pretty sure is older than I am, and a surger.  I generally flip pretty quickly through the pattern books at Jo-Ann’s, going until I find a princess-line dress.  And yes, I can tell at a glance.  There are some very nice ones here and there, and if I am making it myself, dropping the hem to make it longer is a snap.  But the pockets stumped me.  I made dresses without the pockets because I just needed more dresses.  There was a nice twill I dyed dark blue and made a lovely dress from.

I had really good luck with that one, McCall’s 3219.  I wore it until the fabric started wearing out, I loved it so much.  But the pockets.  One of the options actually had pockets, but they were just patch pockets, not something that really seemed to belong there.  Then, one day, there it was in the pattern books.  Simplicity 2174.  Princess-line with POCKETS.

Okay, fine, it’s princess-line with a waistline as well.  But that’s easy to get rid of.  And it has POCKETS.  They are clever pockets, too, built right into the pattern such that this dress actually can’t get made without them.

The way to get rid of waist seams when you don’t want them is to overlap the bodice pattern piece and the skirt pattern piece, pin them together, and cut them out as one piece that runs the full height of the dress.  Not that hard.  Unless you forget to take out the seam allowance that is built into all pattern pieces.  Like I forgot.  And I made a lovely dress – that will fit a woman about two inches taller than me and all the height difference in the waist.  And I am not a short woman.  But it has pockets!

It’s hard to tell that the waist is too long in this photo, but it is.  And the skirt doesn’t flare enough.  Finally, and this is a material problem not a pattern problem, the fabric I made it out of it is probably rayon, certainly not natural, and it feels pretty nice and stretches well – and breathes not at all.  I decided on Thursday to make a dress to wear to a party at my parents’ house on Monday.  And I did, and wore it to a lovely outdoor party, where I just about collapsed from overheating while wearing that very lovely dress.  With a nice sweater over it, I will be able to wear it to any number of cool weather events.  But, despite its short sleeves, it’s not a summer dress.

Also, making a dress in four days while also continuing to live the rest of one’s life – not such a great idea.  Attending work happened, but not much else!

Still, the pattern basically worked.  And a month or two later, a friend finally convinced me that quilting fabric is good for making dresses out of.  I had been resisting the idea, even after seeing some of her dresses made from quilting material, but the dress she was wearing that day was too pretty to deny.  Quilting material, eh?  And a month after that I was driving down a random highway in Maine, and there was a quilting store, and I left Himself waiting patiently in the car and went in.  On the second floor, tucked in the back, at 40 percent off, I found this.

Only 45 inches wide, and usually I’d run a dress on fabric that narrow from cut edge to cut edge.  But, that color fade!  And the little speckled bits!  Despite my complaints about knees earlier, I decided that I had to have that color fade just as it was.  I pinned the bodice pieces to the skirt pieces (remembering this time to account for the seam allowance for the seam I wasn’t going to sew), borrowed a gore pattern piece from another pattern entirely, and started laying out my pattern pieces on the fabric.

In case anyone’s wondering, the random game rule books that one’s housemates leave lying around the basement work really well to weight down pattern pieces.  I think that one’s a WarHammer (spelling?) rule book, but I wouldn’t swear to it.

Carefully, so carefully, I sewed it up.

The consensus among my housemates and knowledgeable friends was that the blue looked better against my skin.  Also, the speckles on the blue end would extend down to the bottom of the chest area if at the top of the dress, whereas the green speckles would stop halfway down.  Blue got to be on top.

Being fitted by my cousin.

Flaring the skirt resulted in points at the end of each seam, but I decided that a handkerchief hem would be fun, and require less cutting and hemming details, and it was a very shallow point anyway.  And then I sewed in the invisible zipper, put a hook and eye at the top just to hold everything in place, and got to actually try it on.


See that pocket as I spin?  See it?  Just sitting there, almost invisible except for the shadow, because it’s just part of the dress!  And the pockets are the right length from my shoulders so they are a comfortable place to rest my hands, too!

I went swing dancing the following weekend.  I was very careful to wear shorts under the dress, because that skirt flares when I spin!  And it flared, and it breathed, and it has pockets!  A little shorter than I’d generally like, but sometimes one agrees to compromises.  It still needs a little fitting here and there, but ah!  I have a dress I can go dancing in, and I adore it.



Filed under sewing

5 responses to “In Search of a Princess (-line dress)

  1. Dragan

    Great dress and I agree with your friends/roommates about the blue on top, it works perfectly. I also like that style, but I don’t mind the ties so much, as long as they’re on the simple-side.

  2. Mama

    I like the speckles also – like rain in the jungle and like dew sprinkled in deep grass; and the length is nice and I know you have nice knees. The neckline is nice, but if you are not going to show your face, at least show the back of your head so we can know you still have one.

    Always pockets. Do you have any of your high-school pants, to illustrate your obsession-need?


  3. I need to get (and alter) that pattern. The first one though… in my experience, rayon always breathes! It’s made from trees, not dinosaurs. It’s the dinosaurs that don’t breathe. Although I remember hearing somewhere that viscose used to be called rayon too, or maybe vice versa. This is confusing. You need to bring matches fabric shopping. 🙂
    I just found some gorgeous rayon in a discount fabric store, and I want to sew it, but I can’t, because I have to finish the garb for Coronation first!

  4. Nora

    I said it once, i’ll say it again, i need to make me one of those.

  5. Robin

    Very pretty! I did finally get that pattern, and at some point I’m going to have to get going and make it, as soon as I decide what fabric to use.

    BTW, I’m thinking that the reason the quilting fabric worked better is because it’s probably 100% cotton, and cotton seems to work much better for this kind of flared skirt than rayon does. Rayon ought to be reasonably breathable, though–is it possible it was a rayon/poly blend? That would do it…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s