Monday 27 April 2020

How To: Classic Tie-Up Front Cutout Detail Maxi Dress

French/Italian Riviera anyone? No? Good! Stay home and safe. You can still be vibin to the life of a Contessa Italiana in this dress, made for market strolls and park picnics.

I cut the top pieces big for me to start with to be safe, since I knew I was doing a shirred back and wasn't sure how intensely this fabric would get smocked. So you could use my measurements to make a top between EU36/US4 (my size) up to EU38/US6, or maybe even EU40/US8 (as long as you're not super curvy). For a larger bust, I would adjust by making the tied up part of the top taller, and with a deeper dart.

For this project I used this incredible stretch crepe from Minerva (I don't usually work with poly-mix materials but I loved the texture on this so much that I made an exception).

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Fabric, 2 m (150 cm width) - or more if you want a full skirt  Scissors  |  Regular thread & elastic shirring thread  Pins  |  Sewing machine (& serger if you have)

I. Here are the very bizarre-looking top pieces I cut. You need:
- Four of the bird head-shaped pieces (one for each side of the top, cut in mirror images + their linings)
- Two each (total 4) of the small rectangles on the second row
- One larger rectangle from second row
- 2 of the long rectangle on bottom row
II. First I did my  back piece, starting with the large rectangle piece. I did a double fold at one long edge, and then shirred the whole piece. Here's a quick video on shirring if you've never tried it before. No need to mark the fabric to sew it, just sew the first line aligning your presser foot with the fabric edge, and continue going down, each time alining the presser foot edge with the previous stitch.
Then I took two of the smaller rectangles and pinned them so the shirred piece got sandwiched in between (right sides of fabric facing..
.. And sewed along the vertical edge over all 3 layers, pivoted at the corner, and then (careful not to sew the shirred part) stitched the two side layers together along the horizontal edge. Clipped the corder..
.. And turned right side out, creating a neat join for the side piece. Repeated on the other side..
.. So I had my ready back piece (extra wide at this point, I took it in later).
III. Then I made my shoulder straps - did them using just the simple double fold method - cut two long strips, folded them in half, folded the halves in half inside, and sewed along the edge. I din't need to make them this long, I ended up trimming to about 43 cm each.
IV. Now to the weird bird head-looking pieces. First I sewed an 8 cm or so dart at the side of each piece:
Then I attached the straps to 2 mirror image front pieces:
.. And placed the lining piece on top, right sides facing, pinning the sides and then sewing, stating from the arm pit, all around, leaving the side and the hem open.
Repeated on the other front piece, turned right sides out and pressed:
Then it was time to attach the front midriff piece (the two long rectangular pieces). Took one of them first and pinned the long edge along the bottom edges of the top pieces, leaving a 5-6 cm gap in between:
Then added the second piece on the other side, so the top pieces were pinned in between. Sewed along the pinned edge..
.. And as I flipped the rectangles down and pressed, I had a clean join at the bottom of the cutout detail.
V. Next I pinned the top onto myself and checked for sizing, ended up taking a good 5 cm in on both sides as I sewed the side seams. YES, I couldn've done this super clean so the lining would have hidden the seam allowance on the reverse, but I realized it too late.. so just sewed the sides normally and finished the seam allowance with my serger.
At this point you could stop and you'd have a cute top!
But I still had fabric so went for a skirt. I cut it out using the sophisticated technique of 'Do whatever you can with the fabric you have left'. So I ended up doing a skirt out of 3 panels, one more narrow front panel, and two that go around the sides and meet back center. I cut mine very long to be able to have a wide folded hem, which I feel is always so luxurious.
Here was my assembled skirt:
VI. .. Which I pinned onto the top, right sides facing, sewed & finished the seam with my serger.
VII. Here's my favourite way of attaching straps: First sew the strap so its end points upwards on the reverse (and making sure the strap is not twisted), then fold the strap up over itself, and secure either with a machine stitch or by hand sewing. Especially in this case with the shirring, I could hide the lower stitch in the smocking stitch neatly.
After that all that was left was hemming the skirt!
Oh yeah I did add a stitch on the right side on the side pieces, to keep the seam allowance pointing upwards (since I didn't line the skirt part, I didn't want it showing through).
This material is so unbelievably comfortable, I wish you could touch it.  Pure joy to wear.



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