Christy Dawn copy-catting

a while back I got a bit obsessed with indie designer Christy Dawn’s beautiful vintage inspired designs. The lookbooks are basically like hipster catnip, with minimally made up models wandering around beautiful landscapes and climbing on old cars in gorgeous flowing cotton dresses.

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The website has a lot of crap about buying deadstock fabric and thus helping save the environment which I have to call bullshit on, but the designs are still gorgeous, and it’s cool that they are sewn up in the US. At around $200 per dress, the pricetag is a little rich for my blood (not that I begrudge them that- since I know better than most how much work goes into creating a garment). Also I’m not likely to pay for something as long as I can make it myself , so over the last few weeks I set out to do some Christy Dawn copycatting.

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The Aspen Dress

I wrote this whole post before I even wore the dress to the event, and was just waiting to plug some final product pictures into and post it up. I didn’t manage to get any good pictures at the gala itself.  I decided to just take some pictures when I got home, but then well….things got complicated. I talked to my mom a lot about this dress- asking her advice on the construction and sending her a lot of work-in-progress photos.  One of the last thing we talked about was how much she wanted to see the finished product.  I’m so sad she never got to see it.  Anyway, here is this long, long overdue post. 

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Back in October I wrote this post asking you all what kind of dress I should make to wear to a formal work event in December. Well, I finished it in the nick of time- literally hand stitching the lining in on the bus ride to Aspen.  Based on the comments you all left on that post, I decided to do a hybrid dress- the bodice is this Burda strapless bombshell dress, and the skirt is the By Hand London Elisalex.

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I bought Gerties craftsy class Sew Retro Perfect Bombshell Dress to construct the bodice, and I am so glad that I did because this thing was really fucking complicated! The bodice is fully lined and underlined, there’s a couple of yards of boning in it for support, and the cups have an extra little layer of batting in them for  more shaping and support. I was very very grateful for Gerties extremely detailed coverage of how to construct the cups because they were a doozy. Thanks to the class, though I can report that I did minimal unpicking here- I only sewed the pieces together upside down on one cup. After stitching a muslin, the lining, and the fashion fabric I now feel quite confident in my ability to knock them together with ease.

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 I think I’ll definitely buy another Craftsy class. It was really nice going at my own pace and being able to rewatch the videos as much as I wanted. My favorite part of the class was  when Gertie, about to demonstrate yet another section of hand stitching says “now, this may seem a bit fussy. Well, this whole thing may seem a bit fussy to you.” Uh, yeah. I did cut some corners in the construction in the end, mostly for the sake of expediency.I had no time to order spiral steel boning from the internet and then spend time cutting it, so I bought rigilene and macine stitched it straight into the lining. That was a real snap and has the added benefit of making the dress washable, since the steel runs he risk of rusting if you wash it.

I also did not hand stitch the lining all the way around. I machine stitched it at the top and then understitched the lining instead. and frankly….I think it looks better this way than if I’d hand stitched it anyway.

The elisalex skirt was the easiest part. I made it in just a couple hours, including the time it took to adjust the box pleats to line up with the bodice seams. The end result fits well, and I’m really happy with it.

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Here’s a recap of the process:

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The lining- I used a beautiful cotton print called “Gatsby”

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Endless hand basting of the lining to the underling

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The bodice coming together. I used a turquoise polyester taffeta for this. I was on the lookout for silk, but thrift won out in the end. This shot is from the road- I did LOTS of hand stitching during 20 hours of thanksgiving travel time

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An internal shot- here you can see the batting that goes  into the cups to give them a bit more shape.

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this is the only good picture I have from the actual event.

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That’s all folks.  Now I’m off to sew something really, really easy…

Wiggle Dress!

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I finished this little number earlier this week but haven’t had a chance to photograph it until now. It’s a bit tricky now that the days are getting longer because there’s never any sunlight left by the time I get home from work. I tried to organize a little photo sesh before work the other day, but we were interrupted by our landlord who had come to demand that we pay the rent. We’d been witholding it pending some repairs to the apartment that we’d been waiting on for weeks.

I was all decked out to have Dan take the pictures- the shoes, the hat, a giant vintage bag, everything, when Gino pops out of nowhere to accost Dan about the rent. Gino is a short, older Italian guy with a ridiculous toupee, a 70s wardrobe, and a Mario Brothers accent. So i’m lingering on the landing, trying to hide behind the door in my giant hat while Dan tries to placate him. “Whya you don’t paya the rent!? Whatta you needa screens inna the windows for? ”

Dan calmed him down and we scurried off to the train- no time for photos. (In case you’re wondering- we caved and paid the rent, still no screens in the windows)

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The dress is the Wiggle Dress, from the book Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, which I also used to make the blouse I entered in the Fall for Cotton Challenge. The dress is the cover image on the book:

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I used a mysterious navy wool blend suiting for the body of the dress, and I did something I’ve never done before which is grade between sizes- it’s an 8 through the shoulders and bust but graded down to a 4 at the hips. Gertie wrote these patterns based on her own shape, and I am just not that pear shaped. I went for an exposed gold zipper in the back. I’ll never get sick of that. invisible zippers can suck it.

And to answer the question that I know you’ve all been thinking about- no, i did not make the armhole gussets. What a weight lifted off your shoulders, knowing that one, eh?

The dress has a really close silhouette, which doesn’t really jive with the kimono sleeves. So it is supposed to have these extra little gussets in the armpits to give your arms room to move but not ruin the line. Here’s an example from Gertie’s blog:

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ain’t nobody got time for that…. I left em out and just gave myself some extra room in the arms. The thing is still tight as fuck though, and not just under the arms. I don’t know how I’m supposed to move around in it. Can’t decide whether to let out the side seams a bit or just go on a diet. I’ll keep you posted.

My inspiration lately has been a hell of a lot of Lana Del Ray.

Her controversial video for the song Ride is frankly pretty fucking creepy, but worth watching for the amazing outfits she wears in it, if you can get past the feminist outrage (transitioning later into culturally appropriative use of an indian head dress heeby jeebies). Anyway, as long as she keeps up that fantastic ’60s style, I’m gonna keep copping it (see also: summertime sadness, national anthem).

So how good’s my copycatting?

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My Fall for Cotton Blouse

I entered my first sewing challenge! It was the Fall for Cotton Challenge put on by Lucky Lucille and By Gum By Golly.  I haven’t quite mastered the whole editing-the-sidebar thing, so I’m leaving off the button until I figure that out….  

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I used this excellent tutorial from Coletterie to make the surface cording for the front.  It’s pretty easy to do and creates such a beautiful effect. I had a hell of a time turning the cording inside out until my mother pointed out that I hadn’t trimmed the seam allowance down enough (I was at home for the weekend).  If only I could always benefit from her sewing wisdom….

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The pattern is the Bow Tied Blouse from Gertie’s Book for Better Sewing.  The blouse itself is really easy to make, though my attempts to draw a new neckline made it a bit more off the shoulder than I was intending…. so I won’t be wearing it to the office anytime soon, but it works fine for something more formal.

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I created the design by just pinning the cording directly onto the blouse (see my extremely professional pillow dress form above ha ha….).  The first half was easy….making it symmetrical was the real struggle.  I think next time I will create the design on paper first, and just turn it over for the mirror image so that it’s perfectly symmetrical and draw it onto the fabric with chalk.  Seems like I spent hours trying to get those loops the same size….

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Sarai’s tutorial suggests hand stitching the cording down from the front, but I found it much easier to do from the back.  The only problem with that was that my pins kept slipping out.  My  mother had the excellent idea of using painters tape to hold the cording in place while I stitched it down.  It worked pretty well- though in the end I used a combination of tape and pins.

The fabric is an organic cotton sateen from organiccottonplus.com. I bought it after reading a review of it on Lucky Lucille.  It really lived up to her glowing review.  I also bought some of the same sateen in navy which I used to make my second Belladone, but this color (Baltic Sea Blue) had a much more beautiful buttery sheen than the navy.