One of the hardest things for me over the past few years is when I know exactly what I want to sew, but can’t find the right pattern for it or the right fabric. When I worked in the costume shop, I would see some of the seamstresses whip up their own patterns as if it was nothing. I could do that with basic things like a straight skirt or pants, but nothing really more than that.
A big project that I took on my senior year of college was to make a formal dress for our banquet that my theatre fraternity threw each spring. I knew I wanted something that was styled to look from the 1950s, but I couldn’t find a pattern that I liked. I had seen a vintage dress online that was my ideal, but that dress had sold for around $200 on Ebay, so it was way out of my price range.
I started with yards and yards of sheer blue fabric and yards and more yards of tulle. Oh there is so much tulle in this dress. The skirt was easy to figure out since it was just a big circle skirt. The top is where it got harder. The v-neck in front wasn’t too hard. I just drew up a pattern on some paper and made a mock up with some scrap fabric lying around. The tough part was getting the deep V in the back right. I wanted it to be low, but not stick out or anything like that. After lots of trial and error, it came out pretty well.
The part that took me the longest was the tulle petticoat. I just sat in my bedroom and gathered tulle for hours on end to give it volume. Looking back, it probably would have been easier to just buy a finished petticoat and put it underneath.
After it was finished, I made a bunch of modifications as the dress looked too simple being all just one fabric. I sewed ribbon together to create a cummerbund that I sewed to the waist. On the back, I added more ribbon cascading down the length of the skirt. I also sewed the shoulders together to keep them on my actual shoulders since they kept falling off.
Looking at it today, I would probably add a broach or something shiny like that if I were to wear it again. Though I’m not sure where I’d be going that I would need something this formal. The dress took me around 9 months to complete, because I would keep starting and stopping it. But in the end, I was very happy with the product, especially since I didn’t use a patter for any of it.