Monday, May 3, 2010

Liberty of London Sunflower Dress Redesign.

Remember my Target spending spree when the Liberty of London line came out? Well, I returned most of it, except a couple of childrens dresses destined to be fused into one adult sized garment. In fact, I hustled a few weeks ago to sewed this dress to wear in Hawaii, and then I carted all the way to Maui without wearing it! Silly me. However I am still super excited by this dress, mostly because I love the sunflower print, and also because I am proud of my redesign work to turn a childrens sized gown into a plus size summer sundress.

I used the bodice portion from Simplicity 4401 (Misses/Women's Evening Tops and Skirt) to create the new bodice. Because I am lazy, and also because I did not know exactly how to do a full bust adjustment (FBA) on a pattern that gathers under the bust, I sewed the size 28W. To make it fit I added an underarm dart, which I simply pinched out from the piece while wearing my muslin cutting to ensure it fit my shape. The pinch to fit method actually worked so well to create a snug, shapely fit that I may try it again in the future.

According to the pattern, the top is designed to angle upward at the center bust, rather than follow a parallel line to the floor. However, I sewed the Simplicity bodice to the garment parallel regardless in order to follow the elastic seam of the existing Target dress. What resulted is a low cut dress and a bit of looseness under the armpits, with some resulting extra fabric. However, since I added a tie closure at the back of the dress, I am able to gather the excess into the tie without problem.

For the back closure, I extended the length of the straps so they could button to the existing smocked dress bodice. I also added extended strips of fabric to the sides of the bust piece on each size with the intent of pulling them tight and knotting them along the back, sort of like a sash. It has the benefit of allowing me to only attach the bodice along the bottom of the existing smocked bust section, leaving the back totally open and free. This allows more flexibility of fit, since I just pull the long back tied tightly in order to make the front fit snugly. I think you can see it all clearly in the backside image (plus my awesome Maui tan-line, even with SPF 70 on!).

I think the A-line flow of the dress and the ankle length are very flattering for my figure. I am able to fulfill my fantasy of the comfort and ease of a maxi dress without the excess fabric or hippie-esque nature of other maxi dresses. Plus, I feel very clever for reinventing the piece into something that fits (although I still can't believe a Girls size XL could even squeeze around my middle!).

Bring on the summer patio parties, because I really feel great about the dress and I plan to wear it again and again. I love the Liberty pattern and the details of the original design like the ruffled pockets and green trimmed lining. I think I managed a flattering and well-fitting adjustment. Most of all, I am proud of my ingenuity to make a piece of the Target Liberty collection work for me. Now, of course, I feel like to need to visit Hawaii again to war it as intended. Or I could just whip up a quick Mai Tai in my own kitchen and wear it lounging on the front porch. I have a feeling for which of those scenarios is likely to happen first!

p.s. The wildflowers in Texas were absolutely astounding this year, perhaps the best in my short memory of South Texas wildflowers. Many of them continue to bloom strong, popping bright shots of sunshine and life in the most unassuming patches of dirt around town. Just the other day I was driving the highway through a part of the city I rarely visit, and I took one of those cloverleaf exits that loops you in a big circle onto the next highway. As I drove around, I looked into the usually dry, patchy center of the loop and saw huge burst of wildflowers in yellow, orange, purple, and red glowing from this little patch of destitute, usually ugly highway. It felt like I was driving into a giant whirlpool of wildflowers. It was sincerely a sight to behold, and it reminded me that beauty can indeed be found anywhere you are willing to look closely.

To echo the long imitated words of my college photography professor, "I think these photos have a painterly quality." Except my professor had a British accent, which made the statement sound more comical. I think the real reason it was funny was because we did not understand that painterly is a legit art term. Now that I know it is true in the wisdom of my adulthood, I can say that these images remind me of a watercolor. Beautiful.


Renegade Picnic said...

This is WAAAAY awesome Kate. You look really good (and tan!) in the dress.


Sarah said...

You look so good in your creation! I love the pictures. Perhaps we can have a garden party when you come to Colorado;what do you think?!?!

Anonymous said...

Recently revisited your blog, and was enchanted with how lovely the liberty sunflower print is and how lovely you look amongst the wildflowers. I recently bought a beautiful small dress made in france dyed with a natural dye (woad) and plan on replacing the bodice with a new one and keeping the original bottom. It's nice to hear stories of people appreciating lovely natural fibers. Elizabeth