I continue to experiment with fabrics I find at thrift shops, yard sales, and in remainders and roll-ends bins. The experiments are not always successful, as I never know what the fabric actually is, and sometimes I suspect it’s there because it didn’t get manufactured quite successfully (as in the lovely/horrible fabric of my Marcie Tilton trousers).
I’ve been fondling a large piece of what appears to be heavy-weight unbleached linen from a thrift store, wanting to make some kind of robe-like thing with it. First I washed it. That was a disaster. The chunk of fabric had been cut into. The picture above is unravelled warp and woof threads that I had to cut off after the washing. There was a lot of it. Then I had to try to heat and pound the now stiffened and wrinkled fabric back to the soft and smooth ‘hand’ it had when I bought it.
This is also a story about backtracking and backtracking away from my original intent. I had in mind a kind of jumper — something sleeveless you’d wear over a blouse or t-shirt. I didn’t want to design my own, so I went looking for patterns. There were none. I looked for dress patterns that I could alter a bit. Eventually I found this, boring looking thing that had panels. I wanted panels, something made of blocks. What I didn’t realize was that these panels curved for the bosom, making the item semi-fitted. I threw in the towel and decided just to make the d*mn dress. Did I mention I haven’t worn a dress since … wait for it … 1979? Yup. I’m not sure why, since I have worn skirts from time to time. It’s not that I don’t like things that hang from the shoulders — I love robes, caftans, tunics, shifts, on both men and women. The biggest beef I’ve had with both skirts and dresses involves stockings and footwear. When I’ve worn skirts it’s been primarily in the summer, when I wore them with bare legs and sandals. But stockings? I grew up in southern Ontario, snow and sub-zero temperature weather, at a time when girls had to wear dresses to school, apparently in the name of decency. I’m not sure how mini-skirts and stockings and heeled shoes got designated more decent than jeans. Anyway, I had to walk the proverbial ten miles through snow and sleet to school everyday and “nylons”, as they were then called, do nothing for warmth. And they’re uncomfortable. So are pantyhose. So forget it. For, like, 40 years.
Two things have changed. Tunics and leggings. When I was standing in St. Peter’s Square in Rome over Christmas, I looked around to see what the women were wearing. This is what I saw in the most fashionable city of the world: thousands of women of all ages wearing tunics and leggings. Not a pair of pants in sight.
So, I haven’t sewn a dress. I’ve sewn up a tunic, which I can wear with leggings and tall boots in colder weather, or with sandals in milder. To balance the sackcloth look of the tunic body, I combined it with the slinkiest velvet (another remainders bin find).
Since this dress was made up of panels and yokes, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to use two contrasting fabrics. And to add pockets. The only change I made was to shorten the hem, and narrow the bottom of the tunic (since this fabric was not going to drape, I added structure instead). Oh, I also eliminated the seam up the back. It wasn’t necessary, and the back yoke is in two pieces, which now abutt the single centre back piece. I really like the drop shoulders of this pattern, and whether you like the sackcloth- like quality of the main fabric or not, I think this version is a lot more attractive than what the pattern envelope shows.