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
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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!