Sunday, 12 June 2016

Completed: Aphrodite Dress

I was alerted to I Am Patterns, a new (to me) French pattern company by Jen. I love both the Pan top and this, the Aphrodite dress. At the time though, I had no need for a backless dress. Then I was invited to a wedding reception of a colleague and although I have plenty of dresses that would suffice, an idea was born.

This is the first time I've bought a paper pattern in I don't know how long! I normally go for PDF for cost, immediacy and I figure tracing is as joy-killing as sticking together a PDF. It was nice though to have a "proper" pattern for a change, and this one comes in a nice sizeable envelope, big enough to also hold the additional traced pattern pieces.

The pattern was the easy bit though. This dress went through a lot of iterations before I actually placed a fabric order. The only finished versions I could find online were on French blogs, and with the help of a french dictionary and my 2nd year at Uni French (where we learnt no sewing terms. Honestly!), I managed to figure out that most of them had used fairly robust fabrics. I also ummed and ahhed for a long time about whether to make it backless or not, even conducting an IG poll (results: 50/50 for and against).

In the end, I decided I wanted a solid colour, but not black, and that I probably wanted a lace or similar insert. I particularly fancied a geometrical lace, or even something laser cut. I love the look of the stripe lace in this skirt, although obviously it's black.

I made a quick, but fairly comprehensive muslin in the size 38 and I made the muslin backless to check how it felt and looked on. As suspected, the backless was just too... bare. As the dress is a boxy shape the back stands away from you a bit, so I just felt that anyone tall would have a great view right down to my knickers. Not what I'd feel comfortable in. So, back to the lace.
The lace was from Stone Fabrics. I couldn't find anything that fit the idea in my head, but this was suitably unflowery, with more of a foliage design and quite lightweight. It's also a beautifully rich royal blue and was only £8.50/m! It also appears to be the same lace that Rumana used for her dressing gown in last week's Sewing Bee. Even P recognised it!

The rest of the fabric is poly crepe bought from Fabriclab on ebay. It's the exact same fabric that Jen used for her Inari, but in a different colour. I actually bought the colour she has too, as I was short of time to order swatches and I didn't know which would work best with the lace. It has a lot of drape and is surprisingly lovely for the price (£6.99/m), but it's quite staticky and it frayed badly. It also doesn't press well, and I have a few shiny bits as a result.
The dress isn't hugely well made, but I had about a week to make it so there was no time to redo things that didn't absolutely need it. As a result, there are a few puckers (you can see them in some of these photos), a few wispy thread poking out from my French seams and one of my bust darts has a bubble at the end.
When I made the muslin the dress seemed fairly roomy, and I considered sizing down. But with a seam allowance of 3/8" I would have had to trace a smaller size, then add seam allowance to do French seams, so instead I stuck to the size I muslined and instead took a SA of 1/2". In hindsight I should have stuck with the original size, as it's now a little tight over the thighs and when getting it off and on (there are no closures of any type), but it's totally wearable and comfortable.
The only other changes I made was to add 5cm to the length. I'm glad I did as it ended up pretty short as is, and at 5'6, I'm not overly tall. And I cut about 6cm off the length of the sleeve as it felt more summery.

The pattern itself was fine. Apart from the back detail it's a fairly simple dress to put together. The instructions come in French and English and the English translation is not quite right. For instance on the facing it instructs you to topstitch, when it clearly means understitch. I suspect this is a translation issue rather than poor instructions though, and as the dress is marked as Intermediate, I don't expect this would cause anyone any issues. On the English translation, all measurements are in inches, whereas they are in cm in the French version. I used a hybrid of both, because I can't cope with 16ths of an inch. The backless version has the edges topstitched, and the full back does not, but because the poly was hard to press and I didn't want seam allowances showing through the lace, I topstitched here. I think it looks quite nice. Topstitching lace is good because you can see through the lace to your SA markings on your machine! :) One thing that I found odd was that there wasn't a double notch on the back of the sleeve and bodice, so I was kind of left guessing as to which was the front and which was the back the sleeve. Another quick IG poll backed up my thoughts, and it seemed to work, but why cause the confusion?
Ignore the smartarse comment from my brother!
I really like the resultant dress, and I really enjoyed wearing it. The colour is glorious, and I love the lace insert (pity I can't see it when wearing it though...). It feels a little short for bare legs, but I'm going with it. Just need to work the fake tan! The only downside was the underwear. I wore the stick on bra that I wore with my Ailakki jumpsuit, but it didn't really work. It kept unsticking! It was a really hot evening, and there was a fair bit of dancing, but I had to keep fiddling with it all night. I'd like to wear the dress again, but am not overly keen to keep wearing that bra, so I might have to come up with some other alternative. Maybe I could just style it out with a matching bra?
I doubt I'll ever wear a backless version, however gorgeous it looks, but there is lots of scope for playing around with contrast colours or textures in that back panel. I think with a bit of length added, it would be so cool as more of a daytime dress. Imagine pleating/pin tucks in the back, or a bit of stripe directionality (my current crush), or a simple colour block? And although the pattern doesn't suggest it, it would definitely work in a stable knit. Lots of possibilities, fully justifying the £14 price tag for the pattern! I will be making this again.


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