How the villain dress came to life

Better late than never, the blog about my villain print dress. ๐Ÿ™‚

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First of all I would like to dedicate this blog post to my granddad. ๐Ÿ™‚ If you missed it on my socials, he passed away last April (2022) at the age of 102 (that isn’t a typo, he really
was 102). I’d always say he was one of my biggest fans and supporters, he was of
all his grandchildren really.

His grandfather (my great-great-grandfather) was a tailor by trade and would, amongst other things, make army uniforms. I remember my granddad telling me that sometimes his mum would send him to them, to have trousers taken up or repaired. As they of course had the knowledge and tools to do it much quicker. I think, due to this, he enjoyed seeing the sewing gene passed on to me.ย 

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He never minded me being me either. Whether I dyed my hair in all kinds of colours, played with nail polishes in all colours of the rainbows, he’d always just say it suited me. ๐Ÿ™‚ Therefore no matter what anyone else would think of it, I’d think, granddad thinks it’s nice. ๐Ÿ™‚ I know he would also be honest with me if I looked ridiculous ha-ha, as he would state his opinion too if he didn’t agree with something ha-ha. He never got to see this dress, but I know if he would have done, he would’ve just told me again, what a great job I did creating it and that it suits me. ๐Ÿ™‚ย 

The Dress

Now, onto the piece de resistance! The dress itself! I don’t have many photos of it being put together, as I simply forgot. When working I tend to get into a certain zone and just go. I am told when I am in this zone, I can look unapproachable, oops. It’s just me concentrating, honest! Feel free to ask me anything, even when working! ๐Ÿ™‚

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With this dress I did know I wanted to pattern match as much as possible, which wasn’t an easy feat, as this fabric is very busy shall we say. I will say honestly, for your first pattern matching project, start with something a lot easier! Like a pin stripe for example. And fabric wise, instead of what I used for this dress (bamboo lycra), chose a nice cool wool or a cotton. Something that doesn’t slip and slide everywhere on you or easily stretches out. Start simple and work your way up from there. And final bit of starting advice, never beat yourself up if they don’t align perfectly. Like everything, pattern matching, is trial and error. Giving it a try, is already great! Because if you don’t try things, you may never fail, but also never succeed at new things. ๐Ÿ™‚

Inspiration

My inspiration for the design of the dress was the 50s style gowns. The ones with the fitted bodice and full on skirts. I personally like this style on me and my body shape. The bodice has a princess cut line and the skirt is a full circular skirt.

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As the name of the skirt states, if you place it laid out on the floor, you will see it is one big circle. This is why, when twirling, it gives this fantastic movement. If you look at the Rock and Roll time (1950s), you will see these everywhere with the big fluffy petticoats. Youngsters loved how the skirts responded to the dancing they did. Pure theatre! They wanted to have fun and put their own mark onto this world. And why not? It’s something every generation wants to do and fashion is a great tool! As it’s accessible. The way we dress ourselves, is
something we can use to show who we are, our interests, push boundaries etc. I think we sometimes underestimate how much fashion/clothing communicates. But if you look at the history of fashion, it is really fascinating how clothing has helped at times to break through to new grounds and possibilities. ๐Ÿ™‚ If you’re interested in history of fashion, the V&A in London is a good place to visit and of course the Fashion Museum in Bath, is an absolute must!ย 

Fabric

The fabrics for this dress, came from Enchanted Fabrics (the print) and Scanlanarts (the netting and ribbon for the petticoat).ย  I did not get sponsored or asked to mention these companies. I can’t guarantee either they will still offer these, but you can always have a browse on their sites, there might be something else to your liking.

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The print is a bamboo lycra and the netting is 100% nylon and the ribbon is a satin.ย 

Pattern Cutting

I can’t give a reference for a pattern to buy for this dress, as I make my own patterns. I use the Mueller und Sohn; Rundschau technique. This is also why I can’t state what size this dress is, as I took my own measurements and worked from that. If you search for rockabilly patterns, you will find similar looking dresses. I have worked with Simplicity patterns myself and Butterick and these, to me, came across as easy to follow. Others, I can’t really give an opinion on, as I haven’t used them. To determine you’re using the right size, measure yourself first and then see what size corresponds with their charts. It could be one measurement comes up a size bigger and one a size smaller. Always chose the bigger size and tweak in, where it needs to be made smaller. This is far easier than trying to make it go bigger to fit. Take your time with adjusting the pattern if it needs it, as it is really worth it in the end. ๐Ÿ™‚

Toile

As always, I first made a toile out of the pattern I made, only for the top part. As the circular skirt, I couldn’t really go wrong with. I usually make it out of calico, as calico mimics most fabrics really well, is inexpensive and as it’s cotton, you can easily reuse it over and over again. The toile also helps me see if I am on the right track. Did I measure everything correct? Do I like the shape? Are all the points where they should be? As you don’t want any dart point to sit in the wrong place, as that creates an off look. Once happy with everything and the pattern adjusted where needed, I could cut everything out. ย 

Cutting the fabric

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This was the most time consuming part of it all. If you want to pattern match, don’t rush things. You’re going to need a lot of patience and check everything over and over before putting your scissors into the fabric.

I started with cutting the top pieces. I used my front piece (the whole front is 3 pieces) as an anchor point. That one was going to determine everything else. The side pieces, I cut one by one. This is time consuming, but it was to make sure I didn’t cut anything wrong. Don’t forget to mirror the pieces! If you haven’t pattern matched before, I would say start with something easier. Like a pin stripe for example. With this type of pattern, you can fold the fabric double and pin through and through the stripes. To make sure you get all pieces the same way. Do make sure you don’t cut through your pins of course, as that isn’t great for your scissors.

With this fabric, what I did to help me and I always do with pattern matching. Is mark with pencil here and there on the paper patterns, where it needs to match. With a pin stripe this is very easily done, you mark where the lines would connect with each other onto the paper pattern and then place it onto your fabric. Here I had to find where the characters would line up and make little marks that way. Basically, just really take your time with it and don’t beat yourself up, if they don’t match exactly. It is a tricky feat to pattern match, but you will get there. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Once the front pieces were cut, I checked how high the villains were placed on the front bodice as that helped determine where the back piece should go. As the back has a seam in the middle, to cater for the seam, I again had to cut these pieces one by one, to ensure the connecting pieces at the back would match as much as possible. As our bodies are of course curved and not dead straight, there will be areas where matching things exactly is just impossible.

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The skirt part is made up out of 7 pieces (I know, right). These took me quite a few hours, spread out over days. As I really wanted to get these right. I cut them out of this many pieces, as cutting the skirt in whole parts (the front in one and the back in 2 parts), would mean the characters would look sideways on the sides when the skirt would hang on the body. Cutting the skirt in so many parts, meant the characters would all appear the right way up. Pattern matching them on all these seams was impossible though, but I did want the pieces to match on the waist as much as possible, so I did my marking on the front piece again, to help things. With the front skirt part cut, the sides for the front part were cut one by one too. As again the centre front was my anchor point here, to show me what height the characters would hang and therefore where the next piece should go.

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When all pieces were cut, I cut the bodice lining out of the same fabric. I didn’t pattern match here, I was pattern matched out by this time ha-ha and reckoned it’s on the inside.ย 

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Sewing

When sewing, one thing my teacher taught me at the time to make life easier for yourself, is to always make your front and back 1 piece first. Then the shoulders and then the side seams etc. Plus to sew from shoulder to armhole and armhole to seam. As you can cut the hem if it’s a bit uneven and it won’t affect anything. I do this every single time I make a garment. ๐Ÿ™‚

The darts in the back bodice of course meant my characters would be mushed a bit there, but darts are a necessity if you want a tighter fit. So I just took that as is.

Pattern Matching

Trying to pattern match, does mean sewing it up will require more time (I did mention pattern matching requires tonnes of patience right?).

Tacking thread is your biggest friend with pattern matching! If you only pin the pieces together, while sewing it up, the pieces can and will probably move around. What I did with all the seams, was pin, check it all matched nicely and then used tacking thread to sew it together first. On some points I’d do an extra stitch, to prevent anything from moving on me while it was being sewn under the machine. Sometimes it would still find that tiny bit of movement and I’d end up unpicking a seam. But, using tacking thread did save me a lot of time in the long run! You can pop pins in to help the tacking thread on notch points if you want. Whatever helps you.

The curve in the front bodice, to help that sit nice and flat on the body, I cut V-s into the seams. Each would be about 1 to 2cm away from the next. Then they’d get gently pressed open and you end up with a lovely looking flat sitting seam. ๐Ÿ™‚

You may wonder what if you leave the seam alone? Well if it doesn’t have them, the fabric will be in excess in places in the curve and have nowhere to go. It will look very lumpy bumpy then. So this is an easy little trick to get a lovely smooth look in those rounded shapes.

The zip in the back is a concealed zip and probably as expected, I did take this one out more than once. As the characters kept moving on me. But got there in the end! Concealed zips aren’t huge fans of going past seams or other lumps and bumps, this is completely normal. Just make sure it doesn’t have anything too thick to go past and don’t force anything of course.

Oops moments.

To make everyone feel better and show anything can happen when sewing, when I got the dress ready for the lining and finishing up, I noticed one part of the neckline was too big. My guess is it perhaps stretched out somewhere, as this fabric has a stretch to it. This happens! Don’t panic if it happens to you! The solution can be different for every problem, but here I needed to re-cut the neckline, back into the right place. If something like this happens, just try a few things by pinning them first. See how everything reacts, till you find your solution. ๐Ÿ™‚

I also noticed that the way I cut the front, it looked like my head on Cruella’s tiny body. That needed changing too! I lowered the neckline and everything was fine again! ย 

Let it hang out

With the circular skirt, the way they’re cut, it is best to leave these hanging for about 24h, before hemming. This helps the fabric get all of its stretching out of its system, in lack of better wording. I left my dress on my stand for a few days, so all the pull could happen. I measured down from the waist to the hem and adjusted where needed afterwards, to make sure it was all the same length again. Then it was time to press the hem in place and for it to go under my cover stitch machine. As the fabric I used has a stretch to it, using a cover stitch, it will move with the stitching when needed. I used a dark purple thread, so it isn’t too visible, but also matches most of the characters in the print.

And the dress is finished! I love wearing it, dressing it up or down. The fabric is so soft! Photos below, with and without the petticoat on. ๐Ÿ™‚ Photos taken by my husband in the UK and France.

4 thoughts on “How the villain dress came to life”

  1. Ineke Robbe-Ansems (mam)

    Heel interessant om te lezen. Mooie foto’s erbij ook. En inderdaad, opa zou deze jurk prachtig hebben gevonden!

  2. Love this Debby, you are so talented! I love the back story around your dear Granddad – I never appreciated he was a tailor so really lovely to learn with and understand your super special bond. I also love the way you have explained the detail to inspire & help the next generation of sewers. Brilliant piece & fabulous unique dress! Nx

    1. Aaah, thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was my great-great grandad that was the tailor. ๐Ÿ™‚ There appear to be lots of tailors and dressmakers in my family tree, which is fascinating to me of course. ๐Ÿ™‚ Definitely got the sewing genes.

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