Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Dita-Inspired New Year's Eve Dress


I went into an absolute frenzy of last minute sewing over the holidays! I posted all of it on my Instagram and Facebook, but I do want to detail some of it here as well. My favorite dress was the result of a completely hare-brained idea to make a party dress in less than two days for a New Year's Eve swing dance party, after seeing this picture of Dita Von Teese:


I love that neckline so much and wanted to attempt to recreate it, but adding a swingy skirt to dance in. It turns out that it was much easier than I expected! Here's my final neckline result, which I was pleased looks almost exactly like Dita's:


To get this result, I modified the Strapless Sweetheart Bodice from my book Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book. You only need to change the center front piece, and it's pretty easy. Here's how I did it: 


That's the original pattern piece above. Make sure you have the seam lines drawn in 5/8" from the edge. On all the instructions below, work on the actual seamlines, not the seam allowances. 

Make an inch-long horizontal mark at center front that is 1.5" below the sweetheart center front neckline. This line should be exactly perpendicular to the center front line. Here it is in orange pencil:


Next, make a little mark that is .25" to the right of the princess seam line.


Use a French curve to connect the two marks you've made.


That's the shape of your new neckline! Add a 5/8" seam allowance to the adjusted neckline.


Cut away the old lines.

That's all there is to it!

As far as construction goes, I sewed it pretty much like any other strapless bodice, using an underlining, steel boning, and a waist stay. The outer fabric is cotton velvet, and then I underlined it in horsehair interfacing. (I usually use muslin for this purpose, but I wanted something a little stiffer for this dress.) The below photo is from my Instagram Stories, where I've been posting step-by-step photos of my sewing projects with caption. (If you're not familiar, Stories is the new Snapchat-like feature of Instragram. I've never understood what Snapchat is, so I'm thrilled to have an alternative on a platform I already understand!).

I lined the entire dress in acetate taffeta, which is always my choice when I want something with some stiffness. It's especially great for the skirt lining, since it helps it stand out on its own. (Plus it swishes when you walk!) The boning is applied to the lining. As usual, I used 1/4" spiral steel boning. I was out of boning casing, so used single fold bias tape as an alternative. It's important to have a bone going up each princess seam, and I also place them diagonally on the bodice side front. (Boning placement is detailed in the book.)

A waist stay is important in a dress like this; I always use cotton petersham or grosgrain for this purpose. Hot pink!


The skirt is the 3/4 circle skirt pattern, also from the book, and it has two layers: the taffeta and then a sparkle dot-flocked tulle. (The sparkles didn't really show up, sadly, but I am left with glitter everywhere.)


The tulle doesn't need a hem, it can just get a clean cut (I use a rotary cutter for this). Then make a narrow hem on the lining. Everything else is finished as usual, including hand stitching the bodice lining around the zipper and the waistline on the inside.

Add some sparkly vintage costume jewelry and some statement shoes and you're done!


I adore this neckline modification, and I'm thinking I might even use it for some summer dresses when the time comes. Hope you're all having a fabulous new year so far!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Dressmaking Retreat Photos (Plus New Spring Sessions!)

My fall dressmaking retreats here in Beacon, New York, went so well that I've decided to add three new sessions for Spring! These are very small (4-5 people) weekend getaways where we just sew and sew and sew. Participants come on a Friday evening, and then we have a lovely welcome dinner and spend the rest of the evening fitting bodice muslins. On Saturday and Sunday we work on your dresses all day, taking many tea and snack breaks, of course. If you're interested in signing up for a retreat, all the info is here.

Here are a few of my favorite photos from the fall retreats! Here I am fitting Amy's beautiful Faux Sarong Dress.


Kaye and Chrissie getting a little bit silly while admiring Chrissie's new Polka Dot Day Dress. 



 Vicki's gorgeous version of the Cherry Print Corduroy Dress in a sapphire blue wool crepe.

Sometimes passionate discussions about seam matching break out.

Vanessa in her gorgeous strapless party dress. 

I had two Amys, and they both made the Faux Sarong Dress! (Coincidence? Yeah, probably.)

Henry showing a clear lack of boundaries. 
Hattie, teaching assistant. 


As you can probably tell, the last retreats took place in my personal studio, which is a spacious live/work loft. (Hence the furry assistants.) But if all goes well, I'm moving to a cute little house in a month so I had to find a new teaching space. As luck would have it, a fabulous new sewing studio is opening right here in Beacon, called Beetle and Fred (rhymes with needle and thread, get it?). It's so new that it hasn't had its official grand opening, but I can tell you that it's a lovely modern space right in the heart of Main Street, and it will have a fully equipped classroom. 

I'm pretty psyched for a whole new group of students in a whole new space! Email me if you have any questions about the retreats. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Tropical Sateen Giveaway Winner!

Thanks for all your lovely giveaway comments! I consulted the all-knowing random number generator, and got this response:

Entry number 95 was Ellen Boekee.

I know, I know, it seems a little too convenient for me to just get to hand deliver the yardage to someone in my class at Ray Stitch in London later this month. But I swear that's what happened! You can't outsmart the Random Number Generator! Congrats, Ellen, and looking forward to meeting you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Fabric Giveaway! Pink Tropical Sateen

So I made this dress about a month ago and have been trying finish the tutorial for it ever since! I used the strapless bodice and pencil skirt from Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book and adapted them so that they button in the front, rather than zip in the back. While I'm finishing up the tutorial, why don't we have a fabric giveaway? I have three yards of this lovely pink tropical sateen left from my personal stash. It was from my spring fabric line, and is now sold out from Jo-Ann stores.


To enter, just leave a comment here! All countries eligible. Entries due by the end of the day this Sunday. Good luck!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Announcing the Fall Beacon Sewing Retreats!


I'm so excited to announce that my Hudson Valley Sewing Retreat is back! Join me in lovely Beacon, New York, for a fabulous weekend of dressmaking. I’m opening up my spacious studio for two sessions this fall, with space for four students in each. These small retreats will allow participants to get away from it all, and focus entirely on sewing for a full weekend. Using the pattern of your choice from my book Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Bookyou’ll arrive with a bodice muslin ready for a personal fitting and leave with a killer new frock. (Whether your personal style is modern or retro, there’s something for everyone.)


We’ll begin Friday night with a festive included welcome dinner and then spend the rest of that evening having your bodice muslins custom-fit. That leaves all day Saturday and Sunday for pattern tweaks and dressmaking, with one-on-one guidance along the way. Students will leave with a custom-fit dress pattern that you can use again and again, tons of new sewing knowledge, and a stunning new dress.

I will give demos throughout the weekend on skills like lapped zipper insertion, working with steel boning, lining and underlining, My ginormous entire “archive” of dresses (handmade and vintage) will serve as inspiration and education.

My hometown of Beacon, NY is the perfect place for a weekend of sewing! This charming Hudson Valley town is just over an hour by train from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, but it has a lovely small town feel. It’s full of amazing restaurants, galleries, vintage shopping, boutiques, live music, natural beauty, and more. Fall is the perfect time to visit, too. (Don’t worry, I’ll make sure we take a few sewing breaks so you can see the town!)

Click here for more information and for registration! And don't forget to sign up for the retreat mailing list to hear about future events. Hope to see you here in Beacon! 

Monday, August 8, 2016

New Butterick Patterns by Gertie for Fall!


It's that time again--time to feel incredulous that fall patterns are being released because it's definitely, totally still summer, right? Don't worry, it absolutely still is. But how about thinking about some patterns for a couple "transitional pieces" that will take you through the changing seasons? (That's a little easier to swallow, right?)



I have two new patterns out in my "Patterns by Gertie" line with Butterick. In a little change of pace for me, they're both very '40s-inspired rather than my usual '50s designs. The first is B6380, a sweetheart neckline dress with a gathered bust and swing skirt.

With this design, I wanted to create a dress that's timeless and easy to wear, but still really rooted in the glamorous '40s.

You can really see the details on the line drawing.

One of my favorite details is the "tiebacks" above the bust that create the sweetheart shape of the neckline. There's also a midriff, flared skirt, and short sleeves with gathers.

This dress is great for drapey wovens, like the rayon challis it's pictured in. (This is one of my Gertie fabrics from last fall, but I still have a bunch for sale in my Etsy shop.)


Here are a couple of my inspiration images from when I was planning the dress pattern. I love the subtle silhouette of this era, coupled with the soft gathers at the bustline.



The second pattern is B6390, and it's a cute yet casual jacket directly inspired by Rosie the Riveter and '40s work wear.

It has all sorts of topstitching to define the style lines.


I lined it in the same challis as the dress is made in! (Dorkiest photo ever?)
Here's the line drawing for this one.


I love the pattern envelope for this one. I look like I'm hanging with my tiny, much cooler friend. She's dubious about my styling choices.

And a couple of my inspiration images, so you can get an idea of where I was coming from.





The jacket in the photos above is made up in a denim-colored wool, but I also made this design in another fabric. Here it is in a polka dot linen-cotton blend, complete with Rosie the Riveter-inspired pose and Carmen Miranda earrings.

And the back, paired with a totally different dress.

A detail shot. This one is also lined in one of my rayon challis fabrics.

Hope you like the new patterns! Can't wait to see your versions of these!
© Gertie's Blog For Better Sewing. Powered by Cake