fashion fabric

Project MyWay #7–Michael Kors Knock-off Dress

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Well, I’m back to my old ways–my daughter’s graduation ceremony was yesterday and I made this dress yesterday morning. Good thing I’m an early riser (a little too early–4 a.m. since my trip to India).  So, I made the dress, cooked the food for the graduation party, picked-up the graduation cake and was at the ceremony at 2:00 p.m.!

The dress was perfect, we’ve been having a heat wave in Chicago and it was steamy and humid yesterday so this bright, cool dress was just the ticket. The only thing I didn’t have time to do is to shop for sandals. I was craving a pair of silver sandals to go with this dress. Luckily, I bought these cute Cole Haan black patented leather thongs on sale in January (at the Saks Fifth Ave. Outlet, must’ve been from last season). They worked out fine and I was pleased to be able to walk easily with the heels and crutches.

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File this under “I’m so glad I can sew”, I made this dress with a stretch cotton that was on sale for $3.99/yard. It was 60″ wide and so the dress only took one length of fabric, about 1 1/4 yard. I used an invisible zipper and a  stretch cotton from my stash for the lining. The total cost was about $10.00. I featured the Michael Kors version of this dress in my entry titled “What to Wear”.  I tried to find it again on the web, but they must all be sold out, as I recall it was about $1,200.

I used Butterick 4778, a Nicole Miller design, which has been discontinued. Sorry to use an out-of-date pattern, but E. has been giving me a hard time about doing too much and not resting enough since the surgery (sound familiar anyone?), so I didn’t want to ask him to take me to the fabric store for a new pattern. This pattern has just the right design elements–princess seams in the front, scoop neckline in the front and square neckline in the back, very fitted and tapered at the hem. I’m sure there is something similar available in a current pattern.

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The only pattern alteration I made was to cut the dress off to street length and omit the placket, buttons and front slit. With the shorter length, I didn’t need the slit for walking room. I was really happy to do an easy project without many changes, seems like everything I’ve been making lately has been so complicated.

A perfect fit was the most important priority for this dress. As stated previously, I’m lazy and seldom make a fit sample before I cut into my fashion fabric. This time, I cut the lining first and added a generous amount to all the fitting seams; side seams and front princess seams. Then I basted the lining together and tried it on, with the seam allowances outside. I then pin fitted very carefully to my body, re-basted on the new fit lines, tried on again, just to be sure, added seam allowances to the new seam lines and trimmed off the excess fabric. I removed the basting and used the lining as a pattern for the fashion fabric. This worked great!

I followed the pattern instructions except for 3 things:

1.  I “bagged the lining”–I cut the lining 1″ shorter than the fashion fabric, after constructing the dress and the lining, I sewed the bottom hems of the dress and the lining, right sides together then pressed the finished hem in place. Because the fabric was easy to press, I didn’t need to hand hem the bottom edge.

2.  I finished the shoulder seams with a method I used when I manufactured maternity wear in the early 80’s. I made lots and lots and lots of jumpers and always lined the bodices so I could use this nice shoulder finish I learned from Sew Smart by Judy Lawrence and Clotilde Yurick (click on the picture for instructions):

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Because the shoulder strap area was quite narrow, it was a little tricky sewing the final seam. I was saved by my Bernina Open Toe Foot, it’s good at getting into small places. I took 3-4 stitches at a time, adjusted the fabric, took 3-4 more stitches, etc.

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3.  The pattern called for seam tape to stay the neckline edge. My fabric is stable and a little heavy, so I skipped the seam tape and just stitiched the neckline edges to stay them.

I’m also happy to say I finally inserted an almost perfect invisible zipper. I used this method:

1.  Basted one side of zipper, sewed that side, starting at the bottom and sewing to the top (I don’t use an invisible zipper foot, I find it easier to spread the zipper and stitch close to the teeth.)

2.  Basted other side of zipper, sewed that side, bottom to top

3. Using my regular zipper foot, I started the center back seam, beginning the stitching about 1/2″ above the end of the zipper, stitching as close as possible to the zipper stitching, for about 2″

4.  Changed back to my zig-zag presser foot to finish the CB seam

I didn’t end-up with my customary bubble at the end of the zipper–yea! At the neckline, the zipper stops were perfectly placed on both sides. From the bottom of the zipper to the hem, I did have to ease in a little extra fabric on one side. Seems like it’s almost impossible to avoid this, because of fabric creep, I expect.

I placed the zipper stops right at the 5/8″ neck seam, hoping the zipper would close perfectly without a hook and eye. I’ve seen this on RTW, but it didn’t work. It spreads a little at the top. I hate that. When a detail is at the center back, it seems to glare at you if it’s not perfect. Next time, I’ll put the zipper stops about 3/8″ below the neckline seam and use a hook and eye. (I should take my own advice in the post “How to Fix all Small to Medium Sewing Mistakes”.

This dress will come in handy all summer, for dinner out on a hot night, a casual summer wedding or cocktails at someone’s home. If I can manage to lose the last 10 lbs. I gained between being marathoner and semi-cripple (I can start swimming next week, so that will be a great help) it will be easy to take in the seams on this dress and keep that fitted shillouette.

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Tailoring Tips

To achieve the best results in tailored jackets and coats, know your limitations!  Don’t try to make a fully tailored jacket in a light weight, light colored fabric;  the inside structure is sure to show through.  Fabrics with texture and subtle pattern are most forgiving.  Natural fibers are easiest to press and that is half the battle of a beautifully made garment.  If you have trouble with welt pockets, make a “fake” flap and skip the pocket.  If you can’t topstitch straight, skip it. Some details are worth the extra time they take: Understitch seams wherever you can.  Add mitered corners to reduce bulk.  Hand tape roll lines so lapels fall correctly.  Grade each fabric layer in seam allowances.  Use a damp press cloth for crisp seams (use a seam roll to prevent seam allowance show through).

Tailoring Tips

  1. My favorite tailoring book:  Easy, Easier, Easiest Tailoring by Pati Palmer and Susan Pletsch
  2.  I know fabric in  ready to wear garments is not preshrunk, so I never preshrink.  So far, I’ve never had a problem.  If this makes you nervous, have fabric steam pressed or dry cleaned before you start
  3. Steam fusible interfacing before fusing– place interfacing, resin side down on fabric, hold steaming iron 1-2″ above interfacing for 5-10 seconds.  Watch it shrink!
  4. Use Easy Knit to underline all pattern pieces;  this keeps edges of interfacing and hand stitches from showing through.  It adds body and some bulk to fashion fabric.  Mark darts on the Easy Knit, cut out the dart, and fuse.  This marks the dart perfectly on the fabric and reduces bulk in the dart
  5. For a softly tailored garment, a la Armani, use the Easy Knit method above and very lightweight interfacing
  6.  For a perfect sleeve cap:  Cut a bias strip 1 1/2″ wide and 12″ long from lambswool (the lining in neckties) or from a soft, loosely woven fabric.  Stitch the lambswol to the wrong side of the sleeve head, from notch to notch, just inside the seam line, pulling slighltly taut as you sew.  This adds a little ease so sleeve fits into armhole and gives the sleeve head a nice, rounded shape. Always stitch the sleeve into the armseye with sleeve against feed dogs and the jacket side up. A sleeve head is still needed!
  7. I like to use rayon twill lining to add some body
  8. Topstitch from 1/4” to 1/2″ from edge.  The bulkier the fabric, the further away.  Use a long stitch–6″ to 8″ per inch
  9. I found an awesome method for welt pockets at The Fashion Incubator, http://www.fashion-incubator.com/mt/archives/welt_and_paper_jig.html
  10. Use a felt, suede or ultrasuede undercollar.  My favorite method comes from an old Butterick Pattern magazine. (See instuctions in Tutorials)  Miter the corners of the uppercollar when turning under the edge
  11.  Pressing is important, but too much makes a garment look old and worn out.  I take my jackets and coats to the dry cleaners for a final press. Or, hang a jacket in the closet, sandwiched snugly between other clothes to “press” the lapel 
  12. NEVER press on the right side without a press cloth
  13. Creases can be set by spraying with a solution of 25% vinegar, 75% water, covering with a press cloth and steam pressing on cotton setting