A Twinkle in His Eye 1955

My silk gown and reversible overskirt

This lovely creation all stemmed from a challenge. I belong to a professional sewing association, ASDP, that hosts an annual sewing challenge in conjunction with Threads Magazine.

For the 2022 Threads Challenge, we were to use a vintage pattern from the pattern archive at the University of Rhode Island as an inspiration.

I thought that this was quite fitting as both my father and I graduated from URI! My father graduated in 1954 and I was in the class of 1992. My parents met while my mother was in college at the University of Connecticut which was also in the 1950’s, so I thought I would choose a design that was popular during that era

Evening Ball Gown 1955
Dress with Overskirt

I also had this sewing pattern, the recently released version from McCalls, as well as the original pattern released in in 1955 from McCalls which I bought on eBay.

I could imagine that my mother would have worn a gown like this in her day as she was quite the stylish and elegant lady, so I kept her in mind and close to my heart as I planned out and sewed up this dress.

The original 1955 pattern release. I love the fashion illustration!
McCalls re-release of the style from their Archive Collection

I ordered 9 yards of the silk dupioni from Mood.com to ensure I had enough for the sheath dress and the overskirt. Once the gorgeous material arrived, I went to my local favorite fabric store and purchased enough material to line the dress in silk habotai, and also line the overskirt, which is not part of the patter, but something I wanted to add to catch the eye when wearing this already eye-catching dress.

The materials and patterns

I got to work making a mock-up in muslin of the dress and asked for help with the fitting from my go-to expert Marla Kazell.

Once I was confident with the fit of the dress, I got to work cutting out the fabrics and the new version of the pattern, McCalls 7897

Ready to cut into this spendy silk!

I sewed the dress up without much issue, using the pattern instructions to follow, and making it fully lined. The pattern has you create a facing for the inside edges which I thought wasn’t good enough, and fully lining the dress would make for a nicer finish in my opinion.

The work in progress

For the overskirt, I just made the printed silk organza lining out of the same pattern pieces and hemmed it to meet the outer red material before attaching it to the waistband strip.

The pattern also has a cummerbund as part of the look, but I left that off as I wanted to have the overskirt easily removable for the showcase of the garment. I have enough leftover silk to make the cummerbund, so perhaps one day I will make that as well.

I submitted my garment into the challenge, along with photos of the finished garment, a description of the dress, and the story behind why I chose this style and pattern, to the ASDP Challenge committee. Here are some photos that I submitted to the committee:

Front of dress wit overskirt
Back of dress with overskirt, and the lining peeping out
The dress and overskirt from the side-I love the volume!
Front of the dress, with the overskirt reversed, showing off the lovely floral print!
The sheath dress on it’s own, so sleek and elegant!

After several weeks, I got a notice that my submission had been chosen as a finalist in the challenge, and I was to send in or bring the dress along with me to the ASDP conference where all of the challenge finalists would be in the fashion show and the judges and audience would choose the winner. I was overjoyed to hear this news, and excited to share my make with fellow sewing enthusiasts that would be attending the conference in Baltimore, MD in October.

I packed the dress and overskirt in my suitcase, along with hand sewing needles, thread and a little sewing kit, and made it to the conference almost ready to submit my dress. I knew that I had to make some final sewing touches to the dress, and of course, left these to the very last minute! I still had to sew the lining down to the inside edges, at the shoulder and to the zipper, and hem the skirt lining. I did this all by hand, rushing through it in my hotel room at the very last minute, just in time to submit it to the contest committee for the final review. That, I believe, really hurt my chances of winning the challenge, as the judges of the challenge are expert seamstresses and would surely be examining my rushed and messy sewing up close.

The time came for the fashion show at the conference where dresses from past challenge winners, students and finalists from the 2022 challenge showcased their work to the audience of other conference attendees as well as anyone who wanted to attend the show. I modeled my dress, as I made it to fit myself, and got many ooh’s and ahhh’s on my completed look! I was next to last in the runway line up, standing proudly amongst some other amazing creations and works of art. I felt so honored to have been a finalist in the challenge, yet a little disappointed I didn’t win any of the challenge prizes for the work that I did.

I love my dress and am OK with not being the winner. I just wish I had snapped a photo of me wearing it or asked for a photo from the fashion show! There was a photographer there throughout the show, so I am sure I’ll get some photos of me in it eventually.

I put time and effort into my creation, and know that it wasn’t perfect, certainly not up to the standards of expert seamstresses or for the editors of a nationally published magazine such as Threads. Am I disappointed in myself? Yes, certainly, as I had the time to do a much better job with the finishings of the garment. However, I am very proud that I was chosen as a finalist, and have learned a great deal about the level of workmanship that needs to go into a project that would be chosen by a contest judge.

After the Threads challenge winner was chosen for her wonderful workmanship and design, they announced the theme of the 2023 Threads challenge for next year. This time, the challenge consists of designing a piece of outerwear that is inspired by a 2-dimensional piece of art. What an amazing challenge! Since I didn’t win this year’s challenge, I am eligible to enter the next one, so with that, I think I’ll go for it! Now, to find some inspiration and start planning what I can make…and DO IT! That’s the new challenge!

Modeling my creation!

A Tall Drink of Style

Suzanne demonstrates her Tall Drink of Style in her new Love, Stephanie coat!

Suzanne and I go way back, 37 odd years in fact. All the way back to freshman year in high school where we carpooled to school with our moms and a few other students living in Concord and Bedford who also attended our school Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts. It is a small, private college prep school on a beautiful campus where the classes were small and everybody knew each other.

Fast forward to modern times where we keep in touch with old friends and family through social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. That is precisely how I’ve reconnected with Suzanne and many other friends from childhood, high school and college days.

Ever since I’ve been connected with Suzanne (she used to go by Suzy), she’s been a wonderful fan and always excited to see and comment on what I’m currently sewing. A few times she’s even commented like “I just love what you’re creating!” and “someday I love for you to make something for me!” which is such a wonderful and flattering comment to hear, and more and more, something I’d like to achieve full time. Custom clothes making for clients and even more, a fashion line of my own.

Well, one garment and one client at a time, I’m starting to see this dream come to life. So far in 2022 alone, I already have 8 clients that i have already, or am currently working on creating custom garments for, plus have several bridal and special occasion alteration projects, a re-fashioning project in the works, other special makes on the list. Unfortunately I have had to turn away several potential clients as I am simply too busy to take on more.

I’m also am working with an amazing business coach who is helping , me get organized, set goals, focus on my brand and core client profile, continuing education and skill development, plus I’m building a new website and branding refresh. I expect this is going to be a great year for my business and continuing growth on the horizon. So yay!

Back to her! Suzanne saw the lovely leopard coat I made for myself and that was the one for her! She reached out to me and asked if she could commission me to make one just like it for her. Of course I was delighted that she asked and jumped on the offer.

I got to work right away to plan out the process and set up a meeting to discuss all of the options and details that go into making a coat for someone other than myself. We started with a zoom meeting to talk and actually speak to each other after all these years. I made a PowerPoint presentation as I like to do for any new client, to help explain her pattern and fabric options, talk and demonstrate more about the details she would like, and my pricing levels that depend on the components, the time, and the level of difficulty. I also include my work process and a timeline with milestones and deadlines.

A screen shot of some of my PowerPoint slides

Suzanne loved the presentation and chose the style and fabrics right away, knowing she wanted a coat just like mine with just a few customizations.

My version of this amazing coat!

I sent her some fabric swatches in the mail so she could touch and feel the lovely and soft hand of the high quality materials I’d be using to make her coat. The only differences she wanted from my version was black silk lining and a slight different collar shape.

Butterick 6385 pattern
The leopard print wool blend coating material

I also asked her to take body measurements according to a handy chart that I also sent over. We scheduled another Zoom meeting once she had the fabric swatches and measurements ready to confirm everything before I got started making a mock up in muslin for the fit and style review.

As soon as I was done sewing up the muslin of the coat, I mailed it to her and asked her to contact me as soon as she received it. She sent over some photos of her in the muslin which was great and a perfect prelude to our Zoom meeting which followed shortly after

So far, so good!
Even just in muslin it looks great on her!

With just a few changes to make to the pattern after our Zoom meeting, I immediately got to work cutting out her coat in the fashion fabric. This honestly took the most time and careful organizing with precise cutting, carefully transferring the pattern markings such as the darts, notches and matching points, and also doing the same to the flannel underlining layer (which was going in between the fashion fabric and lining) for warmth and added “body” to the outer material, and also the silk lining. Time consuming to say the least, but this step is a really important part of making a successful garment.

The coat fabric, laid out right sides together, pattern pieces anchored down on grain and prepped to cut out

So, I sewed and I sewed (and I sewed some more!), all the while keeping her posted with my progress, trying hard to meet my deadline to get it to her in time to wear it this winter.

Installing lace hem tape as part of the finishing
Hand sewing the hem to the flannel underlining
Of course, my Love, Stephanie label had to be beautiful and stand out!

After many long sewing hours and late nights hunkered down in front of my sewing machine and pressing table, I was so excited to finally finish the coat, pack it up, and ship ‘er out!

All packed up and ready to ship across the USA!

The coat arrived in perfect time for Suzanne to model for her new business launch of a fashion stylist in the Boston area appropriately named A Tall Drink of Style

Looks soooo good on her!

Check out her new business endeavor and give her a follow here on Instagram https://instagram.com/atalldrinkofstyle?utm_medium=copy_link and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/atalldrinkofstyle/photos/a.102674092375020/102673925708370/?type=3p

A Tall Drink of Style logo

I so happy for Suzanne and her new chapter in life, and I am incredibly flattered that she asked me to represent her style in a custom garment creation for her new business!

Now, that’s a tall drink of style!

Stay tuned for more great style and trend ideas from Suzanne, plus in collaboration with me, even more fashion and wardrobe ideas!

Ciao for now!

Red is The Color of Love

It’s been far too long since I have posted anything here on my beloved blog, so I thought it was time to update and refresh with a quick post. What better way to do that with a bright and exciting project that I made for myself for our first wedding anniversary!

So, here she is:

Red maxi dress with flutter sleeve and sash

I cut out and sewed this dress in three days during time after work hours and the weekend before our dinner date, so it was a bit of a rush job. Due to lack of time and general dressmaking laziness, I didn’t make a mock-up, I just went by my body measurements, comparing to the pattern measurements, and a mini tissue fitting (essentially holding the pattern tissue up to myself and eyeballing what I needed to adjust). I added 4 inches to the skirt length knowing I wanted it to be long enough to wear with heels and for it to be floor length. I may add more length next time so it really touches the ground. I also fully lined it (the pattern instructs to just line the bodice) and made French seams for the skirt side seams.

I just love how this dress turned out! It was so comfortable to just slip into, strap on some heels, a pretty necklace and earrings, a dab of Miss Dior perfume at my neck, and DONE!

Yes, I realize that I match my front door.

I used this Simplicity 8832 sewing pattern, view C, for this dress. I just love the simplicity of this pattern (ha, haa, meant to do that) and the lines of the dress design:

Line drawings of Simplicity 8832 pattern

What I am NOT so crazy about is how they styled the pattern cover. I think they could have chose a different fabric, or had multiple versions made up in different fabrics, to show off the designs of this pattern:

Simplicity 8832 Sewing Pattern Cover

I hope that I am not coming off as a snob. My apologies if I am offending anyone, but I just looks a tad, I don’t know, “old lady shower curtain” to me in this particular fabric:

Don’t get me wrong, I love a beautiful floral fabric for a light and airy dress such as this, but I was going for a look more like this:

Dark green floral dress

Or even this:

Gorgeous burgundy velvet dress

I suppose I can chalk this one up as a wearable test dress and can plan to make it again in a more luxe fabric for the next time. That is part of the beauty of knowing how to sew and make your own clothes. You get to be the designer and create your own vision! I just love that about sewing and it brings me a great deal of joy and satisfaction.

Meanwhile, happy first anniversary to my loving, cutie-pie husband! It’s been a wonderful first year and I look forward to many, many more!

Back to the drawing board and up to the sewing room as I have a few exciting new client projects that I am working on. Yay!!!