Friday, May 18, 2012

Making My Own Dress

Since making my own chemise from scratch, not to mention this darn corset, I've been feeling pretty confident in both my sewing abilities and my ability to follow written directions with minimal visual aids. 

Sometime ago, my roommate Kimmy decided that she would do an adelita or soldadera (the kickass female soldiers of the Mexican Revolution) outfit for World Steam Expo this upcoming Memorial weekend. Curious about how to put this together, I looked up what women traditionally wore in Mexico back in the day, and came up with something often termed a "puebla dress," but also known as a "Mexican peasant dress" and a "boho dress," that is still worn by many women today, probably because they are uber comfortable, lightweight, colorful, and just generally very fun.

This search led me to the Mexican dress, the best resource for such things that I have found on the internet. The fabulous webmistress includes a PDF file of her own technique for making this type of easy-breezy gown, which I decided to buy because $5 is nothing for a pattern and because I like supporting fellow clever crafters.  (She also offers a Native American triad dress pattern that I may try in the future. We shall see.)

The peasant dress is basically a chemise with short sleeves and no drawstring at the throat. Very simple, very cute, very comfortable for the approaching hot summer months. I went to JoAnn's and picked up a few yards of cheap 100% cotton muslin fabric because if I was going to be trying something new, I didn't want to use something expensive and end up ruining it. I used muslin for the chemise, and I find that to be quite comfortable, though I've only worn it out once. It turns out this pattern ends up leaving you with a fair amount of leftover, unused fabric, which I might be more upset about if I had paid an exorbitant amount (something I never do). Be warned if you do this yourself, though! Be sure the fabric is not too see-through. Mine turns out to be on the border. No brightly colored undies for me!
The basic pieces are the yolk, front, back, and two sleeves. The hardest part was spacing the pleats correctly, which, thanks to my previous experience with the chemise, was not that difficult to me.

I've actually opted not to do the embroidery. I was thinking of using it as a chemise for particular hot ren faire days, even though it isn't entirely period accurate. I also think I may just wear it around with a belt or a scarf tied around just under my boobs, creating an empire waist since without the embellishments, the dress looks quite plain.

Because this is a simple, not particularly form-fitting dress, it's really pretty easy to make. There are enough pictures to give a decent visualization of what each step is supposed to looks like, and the explanations are simple and clear. If I had one uninterrupted day, I', pretty sure I could make one dress from start to finish. As it was, it took me one late evening to measure and cut out the pieces, one afternoon to assemble everything, and another hour of a third day to complete the sleeves. As I said, quick and easy. I would have actually completed the sleeves sooner if I hadn't sewn my seem too close to the end so that the elastic wouldn't fit the first time. You can't tell by looking at it that I had to re-do it, though, so everything's fine.

Now I just need the weather to be warm enough to wear my new dress outside!

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