Adventures in Dressmaking: The high school reunion dress that wasn't

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The high school reunion dress that wasn't

This is sort of a sad story, but it includes a pretty neat dress I just made. ;) So I mentioned briefly that I'm on my high school's alumni association board, and that we planned our first-ever event to take place between Christmas and New Year's. My high school is a tiny arts-based program in downtown Portland, and was a very enriching and mind-expanding place to go, but we don't have much school spirit--no sports teams, not enough people to hold reunions! But the school is old enough now that there are almost enough alums to invite to an annual event--we called it the "Alumni Homecoming" this year to celebrate the last year in the old building while they buy a new one.

Annnnyway, I'd been planning the event all last year, and also thinking about what I'd wear. I wanted to wear a very cool dress that I made, so I started planning. Nothing too bare or showy; can't look like I'm trying too hard! ;), but also has to be very pretty, of course. I designed a crossover wrap circle skirt with a high-low hem, loose and flowy, and figured I'd use an old standby Simplicity 2497 for the bodice--also simple and loose. Here are some inspirations for my vision...



Source: Ruche.com via Suzannah on Pinterest




I looked at that black Urban Outfitters dress pretty closely and decided that it could be even cooler if the high-low crossover skirt was also a circle skirt--a lot of fabric!, but very full and flowy. So I had some fun cutting that out. It's also gathered to the waist, which I gave elastic instead of a waistband and zipper, so there was a lot of room to move the gathers around and make the waist circumference approximate.

So I kinda just guessed where the overlap should be on the skirt, and it ended up being super short in the front--oops! So I took some coppery-gold-ey cotton/silk blend my mom had just used as a lining on a dress for herself, actually, and made a little circle skirt detached lining, which I basted to the skirt when I zig-zagged the elastic waistband on.


I gave the skirt a tiny rolled hem (that's a wiiiide skirt hem, phew...) and used bias strips to bind the neck and armholes, which is what the pattern calls for, I think--although I did line the bodice with self fabric and gave the outside layer some extra fullness in the front.


So, hey, dress done, right?? So why is this a sad story? I dunno, I didn't feel right about it... that pattern is not really the most flattering on someone like me, and the gathers are pretty awkward on the bodice sort of all around... I like it but if I want to use it yet again I really ought to draft my own bodice pieces that don't taper out--seriously, the bodice looks like a triangle getting wider at the waist. Lots of gathering at the waist band, if you give it one, and a little snug over the bust.

And of course I finished this like, days before the event, so I didn't have time to dissect it again and try to repair it. So after all that, it wasn't ready for its debut at my high school alumni event, but hopefully I'll wear it soon. It's pretty lightweight for winter, anyway.

I ended up wearing a super-stretchy $10.99 Ross dress that I picked up frantically, with a black natural-waisted skirt over it, although I did get to rock my ridiculously high wedges and some big jewelry. As seen in my Instagram the day before...

And I think it was the better choice. With a bunch of young art school kids (graduated between 1999 and 2012), there was a huuuge mix of outfit choices! I had no problem being among the dressiest, but the contrast top/skirt dress look was a little more playful than the elegant high/low skirt dress look.

So, uh, now where should I wear my non-high school reunion dress??

13 comments :

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  1. If you don't overdress it, you could waer it in day-to-day wear or an evening out with your hubby in late spring/summer. It looks like it's the perfect dress for those hot, warm summer. I think it would be even more stunning with something casual gold around the neckline (a brouche or something)

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  2. I think it'd look very nice belted. Do you have any wide or semi-wide belts in a muted tone? I'd love to see what you come up with- I think it has potential, even with the more blouse-like fit up top.

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  3. I understand why you didn't wear the dress, but I like it on you the way it is. I agree with the top poster that it looks like something you could get away with wearing more casually.

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  4. Girl, you'd look lovely in a burlap sack! Just saying... ; )

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  5. i think if you dyed it a royal blue or an emerald green the dress would look amazing (or coral). Can the fabric take dye? If you can't dye it, i'd just do brightly colorful necklace, belt, and shoes to ad some contrast.

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  6. I think it looks beautiful the way it is. It is kind of short in front, but if you wore it over a pair of leggings (or maybe a catsuit), it would look fabulous, and the airy layers would be awesome and flowy.

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  7. Suzannah, I love that you've shown us this one! My first thought was its the colour that's not working for you. I agree, dye could be the answer, and it needs heels as high as you can go....

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  8. Hello, Suzannah- I will forever be envious of your sewing skills! The dress is very pretty. I love the skirt! -Marci @ Stone Cottage Adventures

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  9. Your dress certainly looks like your inspirational photos so you got that right. I think this would be perfect for a beach, park or even festival!! Otherwise it would be nice in winter over some black leggings!! So this way you can wear it all year round. However not sure how cold your winters are hehe. I think it's great you had a dress in mind and made it though not everyone can do that!

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  10. This is super cute - I think that style (and color) are super flattering on you! Hope you had fun at the reunion :)

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  11. I think the main reason it doesn't quite look "right" is the fact that it doesn't work well with your skin tone. I'd dye it to give more contrast, something bright would be really nice maybe creamy orange or coral or something...

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  12. That is a gorgeous fabric you chose! I love the muted color and that light ethereal floaty feel it has, and it really matches the airy bohemian feel of your design :) The decision to make the skirt fuller was pure genius, it adds so much flirtiness and charm to the dress! I can sort of see what people mean when they say the color is too light for your skintone but with your dark hair I don't think it's an issue; when I first saw the pictures I thought the color looked lovely on you. I know what you mean about the fit of the dress and I think part of the issue is that the bodice is a bit too short so the waist sits too high on you. The original pattern was designed with a wide waist band, so the bodice was probably drafted to hit just above the waist. If you just omitted the waistband then it stands to reason that the resulting waistline would be too high. Since the skirt starts just above your waist, your waistline is being obscured by the gathers in the skirt. I'm sure you have a much better idea than I do of what adjustments for fit can be made, so those are all the suggestions I have :) Thank you for sharing this dress with us, it is so pretty!

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