Happy 25th Birthday to me! In a long-standing tradition of Sewing Bloggers who have birthdays, I made a dress for the occasion.
I'm a July baby, and for 23 years of my life that meant I had a summer birthday. Pool parties, water balloon fights, school holidays, popsicles and ice cream dripping down my face, and temperatures that require you to take melty things out of your car.
In Auckland, July is the middle of the rainy, cold winter season. There are no BBQs or popsicles, and it rains five days of the week. July is a lousy time to have a birthday.
At first, what I really, really wanted for my New Zealand birthday was to find some real live actual snow to play in, because that seemed like an apt turn of tables, but unfortunately Zeus et all (see wikipedia's list of Weather Gods) was not inclined to play ball. For two years running, there has been no snow, anywhere in New Zealand (except the wops in the far south, and the mountain summits) - on or predicted for my birthday. (of course, an unpredicted and very large sleety snowstorm ran through the south island the day after my birthday... Whatever, Zeus.)
Instead, I decided two things: First, I would made a summery dress, wear it on my birthday, and pretend the weather was going to play along. Second, in true Alice in Wonderland style, I would schedule a very merry Un-Birthday for January 11th, on which date I will have a proper, summer birthday party on my delightful patio where all of my plants will be in full bloom, the lemon tree will be fruiting, and we'll grill summery food and have a great time, weather gods be damned.
Coincidentally, soon after my un-birthday party I'll be leaving to visit home for a few weeks where there will very likely be actual snow on the ground, so it looks like I'll get everything I wished for this year.
We're not here for the travel plans today, though. We're here for the winter-summer sundress!
This month, some lovely sewing bloggers are running An Orla Affair - a sort of contest and feature-month type thing centered around a free pattern from French Navy called the Orla dress. I'd planned to make an Orla when the weather improved a bit, but when Maddie, Rachel, Allie, and Anya announced it for July, well - I'd be lying if I said I hadn't bumped the timeline of the make up a few months.
If we're being completely honest, this dress is probably destined to spend a few months marinating in my closet until the weather warms up a bit - but oh, how glad I'll be to pull it out again! I don't suppose there's anything wrong with making something and then squirrelling it away for later.... as long as 'later' eventually comes.
I was pretty excited about the ~quick and easy~ appeal of this project. Its design is super-cute, yet the draft/fit is forgiving in all the places that generally cause fitting issues. That said, I am Kat, Eternally Wary of The Woven Sleeve, so I made a muslin.
The front shoulder/armscye situation was near-on perfect: This is my biggest problem area for fitting, so I was pleasantly surprised. Rotate on around to the back, though, and we had a pretty major wrinkle situation going on. This is not a fit issue I've encountered in the past, so it took a bit of thinking (and mirror-staring) to figure out what to do to fix it. I couldn't find anything helpful on the internet. The closest I could find was a 'broad back' adjustment, but those wrinkles seemed to originate from the mid-armscye, and mine were definitely coming from the armpit.
Eventually, I decided to wing it and scooped about 1/4" out of the lower half of the back armscye. This almost entirely solved the problem, so I scooped another 1/4" out of the lower third before I cut into my fabric, and called it a day. There are now no wrinkles in sight!
I added a bust dart to help with the few wrinkles I did have in that area, and I added 1" of length to the bodice and 3" to the hem, although my hem is about 2" instead of the suggested 3cm, so not all of that length is actually present. I also added in-seam pockets because obviously, and changed the scooped neck in the front and the back to be a shallow V that matched the pattern of my fabric. I added about 8" of width to each of the front and back skirt pieces because doing so prevented me from ending up with awkward scraps leftover - the result is a slightly poofier gather than the pattern intends, but with my flowy fabric I don't think you can even tell - just makes for a bit of extra swish!
Perhaps my biggest change was adding a full lining to the bodice. I know I said I wanted to make a summer sundress, but I am cold no matter the season, so an extra layer is never bad. It also frees me up to wear my hot pink bra with this dress if I so desire. Team colorful bras!
The lining is some kind of lightweight but full-bodied silk from The Fabric Store - I don't know what it is, but I loved working with it and I think in the future I may only line dresses with this fabric. It's soft on my skin, surprisingly insulating, and it's doing an amazing job of holding this particularly wiggly rayon in place around the neckline.
I went shopping with the express purpose of buying Frivolous Birthday Dress fabric, and let me tell you, that was a hard one. I've been drilling Wardrobe Architect into my head for so long now that every time I picked one up, it was 'does this go with other things in my closet?' and 'is this one of my capsule colors?' I love this fabric, I'm completely happy that I picked it, and also it just so happens to exactly match my previously un-matched Juniper Cardi and also my seafoam Chucks, so... best of both worlds...?
As planned, I wore it on my birthday, and the weather was perfect! We spent a few days house- and kitten- sitting for some friends, so we walked along the local beach and Jon took my blog photos without rolling his eyes, and we sat outside for breakfast with a perfect, only slightly chilly, ocean view.
I went in to work for the afternoon, and was so unseasonably dressed that I had several outfit comments, which then sparked the inevitable "you made that?"/ "Kat makes everything she wears."/ "Everything?"/"Like, everything everything?"/ followed by the listing off of each individual clothing item for verification, (Orla dress, Juniper Cardigan, handknit Henslow Shawl, unblogged sea glass bracelet, and bonus bra/undies although this was not discussed) and then the predictable mock-disappointment that I didn't make my shoes as well. Surely I'm not the only person who has gone through this...?
So the verdict? I like the Orla. Fitting was fairly painless, the mods I made were easy and worth it, and I think the finished dress will get a lot of wear. Perfect for sunny weather, as it's got sleeves! Plus, it's been ages (over a year???) since I last made a sundress, and that is simply too long. My second Orla is already in the finishing stages, if that gives you an idea of how much fun I had with this one (I'm going back to the original scoop neck!) I think after that, I'll be able to shake the sundress kick and get back to more seasonally appropriate winter layers until the weather warms up a bit more.