There is still all that snow outside you saw in my last post because we are in a rut of deep cold, with temperatures below freezing. Having no place to go, nevertheless, can’t put a damper on the warmth of my Valentine’s Day sewing! I’ve turned things up a notch for this year’s occasion with a spicy little number in a print so fun but totally out of my comfort zone. I am literally covered in shiny red lipstick marks! A lovely viscose blend base gives my bias flounced dress a flamenco flair. It’s a perfectly swishy and showy to move in for such an outspoken print. It has a bold and playful air. I couldn’t resist to copy exactly the pattern’s model version when a similar fabric happened to come my way.
The word “besos” is used in Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese languages to mean “kisses”. I think this multi-national word is an appropriately simple title for such a make, which is of a European pattern, fabric, and inspiration after all. Personally, though, I cannot get the song “Botch-A-Mi” by Rosemary Clooney (year 1952) out of my head when I wear the dress. As terribly hacked up the Italian language is in it, the fun song conveys the flair and energy I receive from my “Besos” dress, too. After all, I do love a good, rich red lipstick…although in Covid times, I leave no lip print behind anymore in a 24-hour-wear formula. Mwah! Sending out some virtual love with this post.
FABRIC: a metallic foil printed viscose challis ordered from Minerva Fabrics
NOTIONS NEEDED: Nothing but thread and a bit of interfacing was needed.
TIME TO COMPLETE: In total I spent 16 hours to make this dress, but that needs a breakdown which will be explained later in this post. The dress was finished on January 8, 2021.
THE INSIDES: I cleanly covered the raw edges to the main body of the dress in a double zig-zag stitch. The flounce hems were hand rolled – more on this further down.
TOTAL COST: a few yards of fabric cost me about $30
As odd as the print is for my taste, the construction was similarly interesting. Sewing the dress itself was easy but the finishing was a long, straining process. The main body fit me perfectly when I traced out my normal Burda size verbatim off of the magazine pattern insert (no extra fitting needed). The princess seams were curvy but long, basic stitching to do. To make things simple I eliminated the neckline facings to save myself some fuss and used wide bias tape instead. I have installed too many invisible zippers to count now so doing so down the back seam was a bother yet not difficult. Even the flounces were a bit challenging to add to the dress but not terrible to work with. I did adapt the shoulders to add my own sleeves, but that wasn’t a problem either, only the fun part. The hemming of all those flounced edges was the tiring part, because I reluctantly took the path of a higher quality.
First, though, more about my change to the sleeves and the shoulder line that led to the extra flounce hemming anyway. The original design called for a thin sundress-style strap over the shoulders, to be covered up by oodles of ruffles which go around the entire arm opening and front chest to the dress. I liked the look of this detailing, otherwise I would not have been interested in this pattern. Yet, I found a similar ruffled sleeve and shoulder detailing in many mid 1930s evening gowns enough to sell me on the idea early on, even before I found a kiss print fabric.
I was sorely disappointed. Once pinned together, I did not like the original Burda pattern’s design which I admired through some 30’s inspiration and couldn’t go through with it. The ruffles caused too much busyness for the elegance and princess-seamed slim lines in the body of the dress, and were very fussy to wear. I felt like I always had to beat the ruffles down away from my face! I could immediately picture some ugly staining upon the black crepe at the underarm ruffle – what a bad position for such a detail.
Time for some customization! I used the original strap pattern as a base to draft out my own piece which stretches over to the shoulder corner and fills in the armscye. Then I chose to draft my own circle sleeves to complement the bottom flounce, the 30’s style, and swishy elegance of the rest of the dress. I do believe such sleeves give my dress a very Spanish ‘flamenco dancer’ kind of air. However, they did add a lot more length of hemming that needed to be done, for as much as I liked what they added to the dress’ appearance.
Often, but not always, the prettiest things to sew sometimes also take the most time. Bias cut flounces have not always been on that list, but they now are. In years past, I have done a 3 step machine stitched hem of a bias flounce. Staystitch ¼ inch from the raw edge, turn the edge under, stitch on the fold, clip the excess, and turn under again for a small machine made hem. (This was done on the sleeves of my blue 30’s gown.) Such a process would’ve been much too complex for the yards and yards of hemming which this kisses dress needed. I’ve never had good success with a specialty foot for such a purpose either, especially when there are seams to get in the way, although I made it work on this skirt.
Most recently, I’ve normally relied on a local sewing room’s rent-to-use machines to make a tiny serged hem such as what I did here on this flounced edge wrap dress (post here). As much as I did like how that stitching turned out it was not a rousing success. The tiny hemming has tended to rip off of the edge of the fabric – bummer. Did I really want to do that again, anyway? Besides, I don’t currently have convenient access to a serger (overlocker). No, I needed a better, cleaner way.
I wanted to use this project as a spur to learn the proper way to make a hand worked rolled hem. I see such a detail on all of the couture gowns I have been able to examine at museums and fashion exhibits. It is not hard to do, just very tiny, time consuming work, one of the favorite stamps of pride to anything designer. Not that this dress is remotely close to anything like that, but the color black hides lots of flaws. Thus, I figured this would be my ‘training’ piece to get the knack down before needing it for a high-class project.
After watching a few different internet videos and written tutorials to have a preliminary lesson, I dove right in. I soon discovered I needed to wear a head lamp for the whole hemming job and could have used some magnifying glasses, too. You need to only grab a few threads at the points you catch the fabric. It is tricky, but after a few hours in on the job I found my pattern of both proper stitch spacing and a comfortable arm level at which to sew. In all I spent 8 hours on the dress and then I am crazy enough to go and spend 8 hours on the hand stitching – 5 hours for the bottom flounce, and 1 ½ hours on each sleeve hem.
This hand rolled hem job demonstrates more than anything else recent my dedication to both what and why I sew…only it is such a sadly subtle, unnoticed detail. I would almost prefer it to be a bold statement, but then, my whole me-made wardrobe is a testimonial to that in itself. Rather, I’ve had the privilege to look at the famous original Schiaparelli “Lobster” dress up close, as well as the best Dior and Lee McQueen garments, for just a few instances. You know what? The unassuming details on all of them combine with the pretentious particulars to make such iconic pieces all the more impressive. A hand rolled hem is the wall-flower, who deserves all the credit, in the back of a room while the person hailed by the crowd only did half of the work. To make that amazing outfit which delights the eyes from afar, well-crafted finishings are only a silent whisper which adds to the loud presence of a good-looking sewing creation.
This simple little Valentine’s dress has something in common with them now, and even if I’m the only one that sees that, I’m happy. There is in inner drive behind such a detail, I do believe, a love of the beauty to the craft of sewing, no matter if the maker you or me or McQueen. It’s nice to feel that these techniques make couture feel attainable for the home seamstress, but I find it more fulfilling to find through them a camaraderie with the designers I respect. It gives me a personal sense of pride, too. I’m not just making clothes to wear. It’s bigger than that – but this post also needs to be shorter than the time it would take me to emotionally vent about it here.
So, I’ll wrap this post up by saying I’ll imagine all the kisses on my dress are for all of you my blog readers, all of those along the way whose posts have inspired me, the relatives and friends who have supported my sewing journey, and the wonderful people who have brightened my day with a compliment or a chat because I am wearing something I made. My love goes to my family, especially – yes, always. My little photo bombing fur baby is always there to give his canine compassion, help me laugh, and share the love, too. I hope this Valentine ’s Day finds you and yours happy. Hopefully, it will be a good day to wear something that signifies how you feel inside, like me! Besos!