My Summer of Hand-Sewn Dresses

comments (5) July 15th, 2008     

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Cranky_Daphne Daphne Adair, contributor
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The dress is still in good shape five years later. I wont do a
close-up of some of the less perfectly preserved details, but I do need
to do a little work to make sure it lasts another five. (I have a tall
photographer.)
It wears well at work—avec or sans office-birthday deedlieboppers.
The Monkey Dress! I love it so much that I sometimes cant
remember if I wore it to work already in a given week. Does it matter?
It reads as a brown dress to the casual viewer, so I can mostly get
away with it.
The Anthropologie dress.
Pile owedding dress materials. It may look like a blob of nothing, but its pink silk, taupe tulle, and creamy Swiss lace.
The dress is still in good shape five years later. I wont do a
close-up of some of the less perfectly preserved details, but I do need
to do a little work to make sure it lasts another five. (I have a tall
photographer.)

The dress is still in good shape five years later. I won't do a close-up of some of the less perfectly preserved details, but I do need to do a little work to make sure it lasts another five. (I have a tall photographer.)

Photo: Seth Howard

Once upon a time, my little sister was about to be married, and while I'd never sewn a dress before, I decided it was high time. When I say she was "about to be married," I mean it was June 1, and the wedding was June 7. Knowing no one in her right mind would do this, I avoided telling my friend at the fabric shop about my deadline and instead calmly listened to her advice. I didn't even buy the materials then and there; it was Saturday, and Sunday was wide open for shopping at the Pacific Fabrics outlet store. There I found an excellent cotton toile. I didn't even know there was a name for it, and at the time it was a little more obscure. It didn't matter, because I liked it, and my sister appreciated it, and I still wear it regularly.

My sister's was by far not the only wedding that summer. Suffused with success, I began to tell everyone far and wide that I planned to make three dresses for the three weddings on the docket that season. I'd also picked up a few yards of a fantastic novelty fabric at the outlet, and one of many vintage sewing patterns scooped up at thrift stores suited the bill. In spite of my partner's initial worry that monkeys were better suited to a skirt, I soon had the now-famous Monkey Dress, ready for our friend's wedding on Bainbridge Island later that summer.

By the end of the summer, I'd found a very cute dress at Anthropologie that I coveted and needed an excuse to buy. While it wouldn't be handmade, I justified the purchase and switch because it was mis-sized and therefore marked down—and I could alter it, which almost qualified as sewing my own.

In the end, it was way more difficult to pull out the zipper, take it in, and replace the zipper than I'd expected. The fabric was of adequate quality, the zipper pretty subpar, and there wasn't much seam allowance. My friend was a little disappointed that I didn't make my dress for her wedding, too! If I had it to do over again, I'd have tried to sew that third dress. I rarely wear this dress, mostly because of the halter-top style, but it's still in my closet.

Though I've sewn one other dress for myself since that summer, and several for some very sweet little girls who've come into my life since, I've opted to wear these three or store-bought dresses—often accented by hand-knits—to weddings since. But this summer, I've got at least one more wedding dress to sew—my own. I'm pretty excited but also a little nervous, which is why the dress looks like a pile of fabric at press time.

I'll let you know how it turns out!

posted in: dresses, weddings

Comments (5)

Eternal_Clouds writes: love the halter top its so cute
Posted: 3:52 pm on March 8th
Cranky_Daphne writes: Stampalina--I have but one Monkey Dress, for better or for worse! And I believe I wore the Anthro dress with Ene's Scarf to your wedding reception. :)

Thanks, Jen and Susan!!
Posted: 3:25 pm on July 18th
stampalina writes: I've seen you in some of these dresses but it's great to hear the stories behind them!

Does this mean you actually have 2 monkey dresses or am I hallucinating?
Posted: 2:33 am on July 16th
susanstars writes: lovely!
Posted: 8:35 pm on July 15th
Jen_W writes: You are my hero, lady.
Posted: 1:13 pm on July 15th
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