The Making Of My Cushnie-inspired Maxi Dress

I have been a fan of the luxury women’s wear brand Cushnie (formerly Cushnie et Ochs) for many years.  I love the brand’s use of vibrant colors and the sexiness of its garments.  The moment I saw Michelle Obama at the 2017 ESPYS in the Cushnie Et Ochs Larissa dress, I was instantly inspired.  I absolutely loved the neckline and the fit.  This particular dress has an understated sexiness that fits well with my fashion aesthetic.  Unfortunately, the $1900 price tag is not sexy and does not fit my wallet aesthetic.

 

I already have a little black dress but love this neckline and wanted to incorporate it into a DIY project.  I’ve been into jumpsuits lately and have the perfect fuschia crepe for it.  Before I cut into that, I needed to make sure that I got the details of the neckline perfected on a practice project first (i.e. create a muslin or toile).  Rather than use traditional muslin fabric, I used an animal print scuba knit from Fabric.com that I’ve had in my stash for. . .let’s just say a long time. I decided on a maxi dress for the test garment.

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I started with drafting a bodice sloper. I then traced to get a full front bodice pattern piece (black outline in the picture).  I studied photos of the original dress.  I then drew in the cutouts on the piece (purple lines on the pattern piece). 

So here is where the project started to go left:

Laziness got the best of me: Instead of repeating the drafting process with the back bodice pattern piece, I just cut two fronts. I know good and well my front and back are not shaped the same but. . . oh well.

When I first started constructing the bodice, the fit was of course terrible because it was HUGE. I fixed that problem and lined the bodice.

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Moment number two when things went even further left: I don’t have a tailor clapper so as I was ironing the bodice seams, I placed my pattern weights on the seam to help flatten them. I moved the bodice while the weights were on the seams and ended up stretching out the neckline. DOH!!!!! So even though the shape was what I wanted, I completely destroyed the neckline by stretching it. The solution: fold over the stretched out part and keep in movin’. But you can still see that the neckline does not lay perfectly flat.

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I kept the skirt relatively simple. The width of the scuba knit was about 60 inches so I opened the fabric and sewed the back center seam parallel to the selvedge. I divided this piece into quarters and matched the center front and back of the skirt with the center front and back of the bodice. I matched the other markings with the side seam. To make the circumference of the skirt piece the same as the bottom of the bodice, I pleated the front and gathered the back. I sewed the two pieces together and Voila! A wearable muslin.

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For the next garment, I won’t be making the same mistakes again. Lessons learned in preparation for making the real garment:

#1- I should not have skipped stay stitching the neckline.

#2 I should have been more careful when I was ironing this knit fabric.

#3 Cutting two front bodice pieces instead of one front and one back was just plain silliness.

Overall, I like the dress and plan on wearing it.

Denim on Denim for the Spring

Spring is right around the corner so I have started thinking about pieces that will help me to transition from the cool weather that we have now in the DC area to the warmer weather we are expecting. The fabric I used for this denim-on-denim ensemble is a light to medium weight chambray denim from AK Fabrics in New York City. If you have not been there, it is definitely worth stopping by the next time you are in the NYC Garment District. The staff is friendly and helpful and the fabrics are reasonably priced. This denim was excellent in quality and was about $12/yard. 

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The top was made by using Mccalls Pattern M6083. There was a lot of pattern hacking involved in creating this top. I extended the armholes into cape sleeves and added waist ties. I used the front pattern piece for the back and the back pattern piece for the front. To create a deeper ‘V’ in the back, I added extra pleats. I could actually wear the shirt in the reverse with the ‘V’ to the front.

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The joggers are a pattern that I have now used three times. I love Vogue pattern V8909. It is super easy, super quick. I’ve been able to use it successfully with both woven and knit fabrics, so it is really versatile.

My Summer Jumpsuit: Mccall's 7755

Whew, where did the summer (or the year for that matter) go??? It’s already August but there is still time for fun in the sun and outdoor evenings.

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Over the last few years, I have fallen in love with jumpsuits and incorporated them as wardrobe staples.  A jumpsuit makes getting dressed very simple: it's one piece, so I don’t have to worry about mixing and matching a top and bottom or the ongoing debate of to tuck or not to tuck.  I also love the fact that in general, they are very versatile.  Depending on the style, the fabric and the accessories, you can wear one for a casual day out or as evening wear. 

 

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This jumpsuit pattern from Mccall’s was super easy to make and even easier to wear.  There are a total of 4 pieces that you need to cut and there aren’t that many seams.  Since it is very loose fitting, there were minimal alterations to be done.  So if you have someplace to go this evening and need to whip something up, this project is for you.

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This jumpsuit is very easy to dress up or dress down for your summertime needs.  Using a gauzy or semi-sheer fabric could turn the jumpsuit into a great coverup for the pool and the beach.  On the other end of the spectrum, a medium weight silk could turn it into an outfit worthy of an evening wedding.

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The crepe I used was from FabricMartFabrics.com. Unfortunately, it is no longer available purchase but they do have a wide selection of other fabrics that would be great for this project. 

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One Pattern, 4 Different Dresses

Simplicity pattern #1059 is one of my all time favorites.  It is a vintage pattern from 1969 that was re-released.  What first attracted me to Simplicity’s Pattern 1059 was .  . . well, it’s simplicity.  It has very few seams and no complicated details.  The clean lines of the pattern design made it very easy to adapt to multiple styles.  And I absolutely love a deep v-neck so this pattern will continue to be in heavy rotation. 

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The Sweater Dress

The first dress I made with this pattern was a sweater dress using a sweater knit from the Nicole Miller collection at Joann fabrics.  This was by far the easiest of the adaptations.  To make the dress more form-fitting, I cut a size smaller than my measurements would have suggested and took in the seams to fit my shape.  I also eliminated the front seam and made the sleeves short. 

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The LBD

The second time around, I adapted the pattern for an LBD (Little Black Dress).  I needed something that I could wear out when the weather was a bit chilly.  Of all of the projects, this was by far the most difficult.  I took the bodice from the original pattern and then blended the lines with a knit skirt sloper that I drafted.  I added an exposed metal zipper in the back and a slit up the front.  I debated for a while whether or not to keep the dress sleeveless but decided to make a cape sleeve.  I took the original dress sleeve pattern and altered that to achieve the look.  This dress was a whole lotta work but I was pretty happy with the end result.

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The Summertime Maxi dress

This 3rd variation has a special spot in my heart because the fabric is from my grandmother’s stash.  The fabric was probably made some time in the 1970s.  I have no idea what the content is or where it was made but moment I saw it, I knew I needed to be draped in it.  So I decided to make a maxi dress.  However, with a 45 inch width and a scant 4 yards of length, the piece of fabric was a bit too small.  I extended the pattern pieces so the dress would be floor length but that meant that I could not have the sleeves as originally designed by the pattern.  I adapted the sleeves to be shorter but wider.  I added a slit to the front of this one as well.

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The Ankara Maxi Dress

For the 4th project, I used an ankara wax print to make a maxi dress with a cut-out in the back.  I took the bodice from Simplicity 1059 and made a cut out in the back. The skirt was two long rectangles.  The front had a slit in the center (are you seeing the theme here?).  This was attached to a waistband with piping.  I added pockets to the side.  

One huge lesson from this dress: always make sure you have an adequate ‘exit plan’ for any garment.  As much as I love this dress, it requires an amazing feat of  acrobatics to get into and out of it.   The next time I make something like this, I will definitely be more thoughtful about the zipper length and placement. 

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The LBD for Fall

Every woman needs a Little Black Dress (LBD) in her closet.  It should be something that fits well, is versatile, and makes you feel marvelous.  I didn't have a dress that fit these requirements leading to a "I have nothing to wear" situation for evening events during the fall.  This dress solved the problem.

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How I did it. . .

I took Simplicity Pattern 1059 as the base for the bodice.  The skirt from a self-drafted sloper. The fabric is a refined ponte from Joann Fabrics. 

The question is always how to make black more interesting.  As this is the Year of the Sleeve, I decided to go with a cape sleeve.  

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I altered the sleeve from pattern by widening the angle of the seam lines and using a compass to draw a curved edge.

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And an exposed zipper is always fun and functional.

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And those are Amrita Singh earrings that you can barely see and Stuart Weitzman pumps.