When I heard Frocktails was coming to Atlanta, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to meet some local sewing people! Bought my ticket, gave a little thought to what I had in my closet that would be cute. Just let that sit in the back of my mind and start to get excited. Then, I got an update email from them that there would be a straight up red carpet and professional photographers. What?! This obviously means I need a sparkly dress. I don’t know why, but that’s what my brain tells me.
Now I’m on the lookout for a fancy dress that isn’t too fancy, so I can wear it again if I want. Something that won’t take too long to make, but is not something I already have in my closet. I polled a few friends and got suggestions on styles they’d put me in and ended up in a style I’ve worn on a few locations. Definitely didn’t step outside my comfort zone here, as suggested, but I am just a sucker for classic, vintage vibes!!
Off to Fine Fabrics to find something inexpensive but fabulous! A few more annoying texts sent to friends to help me decide. Turns out they have so many pretty, sparkly fabrics to choose from!! And I rarely explore the fancy fabrics aisles. (That’s the official name.)
Home again to start hacking the pattern! I started with the vintage, gorgeous, ridiculously fabulous Patsy Party Dress from Rebecca Page Sewing. This has been on my “wish I had a reason to wear it” list since I saw the first line drawing. NOW I DO!!! I used the free version, but the add-on pack is amazing. Seriously gives you every fancy look you could need for a strapless dress.
This pattern also includes all the info to give structure and support so if you want to go braless and still feel supported, you can. There is info on interlining and how to add boning. There’s a blog post on adding a waist stay for even more support. (Peeps! I wrote this one! You should check it out.) In my desire to just sew quickly, I wanted to totally skipped most of this. I did interline the entire thing only because the sparkles are a little sheer. I would have added the waist stay, but ran out of time. More on that later.
Now, I love the vintage strapless look of the Patsy, but I needed to add straps. I wanted sparkly, cagey, strappy delight and I wanted that to start from more of the sweetheart neckline. I also needed to do a full bust adjustment (the free princess seam FBA download is super easy to follow and worked PERFECTLY!) A quick muslin of the bodice to check the FBA is the perfect opportunity to start this hack.
I pinned the muslin to my bra (the one I’m wearing under the dress, so everything sits in the same place) and marked how low I want the sweetheart to sit. I didn’t want to lose the vintage feel, so I didn’t go cleavage low. I took off the muslin and used my french curve to ease that point into the side of the center front piece. I didn’t want to lose any bra coverage on the side either, so just drew a nice, smooth curve. Cut off this bit and pinned it back on. It was exactly what I needed!! So a quick transfer to the pattern piece and I’m good to go!! (Keep in mind seam allowance when you do this!! You’ll lose 1/2″ from the top edge.)
The only other change I made was adding the strappy goodness. I wanted straps on straps on straps! Straps for days! Interwoven and heading in unexpected directions. Just straps. I wanted them narrow, but not so narrow that I’d throw them across the room while trying to turn them right sides out. I cut strips 1 1/4″ wide and sewed with a 3/8″ seam allowance. The fabric is super lightweight and it was really easy to turn them. Eight straps later and I’m ready to ask Virginia for help in figuring out where to place them.
This process was…fun. I clipped them to the front where I thought I wanted them. Then asked Virginia to pin me into it (that back is hard to pin myself!). Small tweaks and another check, and they are basted on; then I’m ready to figure out back placement. I tried something I thought I’d like and hated it. Virginia to the rescue! She moved straps around and clipped them where she liked them, with many photos shown to me so she could adjust and tweak. After triple checking that they were interwoven correctly (pro tip, they’re not…don’t look too close), I sewed them in between my main fabric and lining. A really good press and deciding not to understitch, and my bodice is ready to be sewn to the skirt.
Why didn’t I understitch? Well, I find those straps make it difficult to get a smooth line across the entire front of the bodice. My machine tends to bump a bit when I get to that extra thickness, and I don’t want to be sad every time I see it, or take it slow and responsible to get it right. But I still don’t want my lining sneaking out. So what the hell choice is that?! Bad sewist!! I just cheated the lining to the wrong side. When I pressed, I pulled it down a scant quarter inch lower than it is supposed to be. Really, really good press here and pinned the lining lower than the bodice all the way down, and across the bottom. Why? You might ask. Because I’m cheating on the next step too.
The pattern has stunning finishes, inside and out. But, I’m looking for quick and dirty and this is just for me. So, I’m not doing the lining how it is suggested. I’m treating the entire bodice as one at this point. Sewed my skirt on, then attached my zipper, after adjusting the back to take out extra width since my fabric stretched out a bit during construction (this step is included in the pattern and is one of the most important ones to get the right fit. It is worth the extra time. Promise!). Usually the zipper would be sandwiched in between the outer and lining, so there is no way it sneaks out and is seen. But, I’ve got straps RIGHT THERE. They give me some coverage for a little seam allowance sticking up. I can serge the back edge, make sure to get that zipper tape fully secured, then, if needed (and only if needed), it can be tacked to the lining with just a few hand stitches. Then I won’t even need those straps as a just in case. Yeah, I’m lazy. But I just saved myself from hand sewing the bodice lining all the way around the waist. Calling it a win!
That’s it. The dress just needed a hem and it was good to go! I left it hanging to let it stretch out fully. Hemmed it and decided if it needed a waist stay. (Why not? It doesn’t take long.) It turns out I ran out of time for hemming though. The outer fabric needed to be hemmed by hand. It was just the prettiest option and it. Took. Forever. So my lining is currently unhemmed and I didn’t have time to add a waist stay. I finished the outer hem an hour before I needed to leave. Whoops! Still had to pick some shoes, and a hairstyle. Thankfully, I played with some lippie options and watched youtube videos to learn how to put stuff on my face earlier in the week. A little help from the sister and I’m off to Frocktails.
This event was really fun. It was cool to be in a place where everyone had this crazy, common interest. I met some awesome new people. Some from just around the corner, some a bit further away. Some brand new, but oh so impressive, sewists, and some ridiculously experiences sewists!
I did finally get to meet Jessica, from 5 Out of 4 Patterns! She lives not too, too far from me and we’ve never met! That was cool as hell! And the superstar Aaronica, who is as fabulous in person as expected!!
All in, it was a really cool night. My feet and throat hurt (I’m old, but the music was too loud), and I definitely had a slow start this morning, but it was a night I won’t soon forget! If you have a Frocktails event near you, I highly recommend making some time.