"The chemise dress is a wonderful starting point for your sewing career. There is no waistline seam . . . you just cinch it in with a belt."--VoNBBS
Ha! I just can't get over the fact that the editors of VoNBBS considered this a project for an absolute beginner. Sure, there's no waistline seam, but there's also a mandarin collar, a faced slit opening in the front, a thread chain button loop at the neckline, and bias-cut cuffs. I mean, really. If this was the first dress I ever tried to make, I think it would have ended up being my last.
In any modern sewing book, I think we all know what the first project for a beginner will be: a wrap skirt. It's just inevitable. I can't recall the last time I've seen anyone wearing a wrap skirt, but sewing books seem to think they're an integral part of any wardrobe.
But I digress. This post is supposed to be about the making of the chemise dress. I was apprehensive about this project, to say the least. Sure, it looks great on the model with the 22" waist, but what other woman really wants all that extra fabric bunched up around her waist? No, thank you.
I realized that fabric choice would be even more crucial than usual with this project. I wanted something that would drape, rather than bunch up, around the waist. But it needed to have enough body to make the tailored cuff and collar. You might be able to guess where I went: the 4 ply silk.
I did stray from the original dress pattern and book instructions quite often (guess I was feeling rebellious). I shortened the pattern by 4 inches. I made use of some of my modern luxuries, like serging rather than hand-overcasting the raw edges. I also added interfacing to the collar, neckline facing, and cuffs. Other projects in VoNBBS (the tailored ones, like the suit and coat) make use of sew-in interfacing, but the dresses and skirts do not, oddly enough. I used a purchased belt from Anthropologie.
The most interesting thing about this dress is that, to me, it looks almost contemporary. This shape certainly isn't what we associate with the early 50's, anyway.
I'm just happy to be moving on from this project. Hemming it really got me down, as you might have heard. I think this was partially because the hemline looks different depending on whether you're wearing a belt or not. VoNBBS instructed to wear a belt while marking the hem placement, but in retrospect, I think it would have made more sense not to wear a belt, and made sure the hem was straight as it hung down naturally. It still looks rumply to me from all the fussing, but ah well. But no sense dwelling on that now.
Next up from VoNBBS is the full, gathered skirt in gingham. But I'm going to take a little break for other projects, I think. I don't want to risk VoNBBS fatigue!