Until just over a week ago, I didn't own a ball dress. We'd booked tickets to go to a charity ball and I had also offered a 2 hour sewing lesson for the auction to raise money for the Polly Parrot Children's Hospital Charity. So, I thought I'd better make a bit of an effort and make a dress!
My inspiration was a sewing vlog called The Stitch Sisters. Two lovely ladies called Rachel and Nikki talk about their sewing plans, makes, fabric buys and all things dressmaking related. They are a fab double act and I would highly recommend a watch on YouTube. Rachel had talked about her options for a ball dress - and Vogue 1374 was one of the patterns she was considering. I've never worn anything backless and loved the old-style glamour of the cowl back.
The pattern is designed for stretch fabrics and I opted for a beautiful midnight blue stretch velvet. The design is quite 'fabric hungry' and I needed 3.5m plus 3m of a special stretch lining fabric called tricot. Google came to the rescue and I found a fab online supplier of tricot called Stone Fabrics. A quick phonecall at 4.30pm and a lovely lady called Arianne provided advice and promised to pop the lining fabric into the post that afternoon. It arrived at 11.30 the next morning with a lovely note - now that's what I call good customer service. I'd already bought the stretch velvet from my local John Lewis - but I wish I'd got that from Stone Fabrics too as they have a wonderful selection of colours and it looks like really good quality. The total cost of the fabrics and habberdashery I used was around £55.
The key thing when cutting out velvet is to make sure that the nap (direction in which the velvet fibres brush flat) is the correct way up for all of the pieces. It also helps to use lots of pins and not to iron directly onto the fabric (I used a press cloth or finger pressed the seams open). The construction was reasonably straight forward - although I did have a few head scratching moments when the cowl outer layer was attached to the lining. I decided to add bra retainer straps to the shoulder pieces to keep everything in place - but the back is rather low cut - so a backless bra / bra extender is essential. I had a rather lovely conversation with friends on Facebook about underwear options for a backless dress! The power of group problem solving is amazing!
So what did I think of the finished version? Well - I'm pleased with how it turned out. The fabric was beautiful to wear and I felt very grown up and glamorous (especially with a wonderful 'up-do' from my amazing hairdresser) But do you know what - after an evening of making sure my back was straight and holding my tummy in ....I was very happy to get back to jeans and a sweatshirt the next day. The red carpet life would not be for me!
PS If you fancy making your own evening dress but are a bit nervous about getting started - book a lesson and we can work on it together. 1:1 lessons are £15 per hour (minimum lesson is 2 hours).