Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sometimes, you just wanna wear feathers

My mom made most of my clothes when I was growing up. Well, many of them were originally made for my older sisters, but I ended up with them. That, however, is beside the point. The point is that when I would go to the fabric store to pick out my new skirts, dresses, etc., I almost always tried to find the fabric that was most similar to the picture on the front of the pattern envelope. Times have changed. Now I get an idea of what I want to make, think trough the patterns I have, and find the one that is closest to the basic shape I want. Wrong style of sleeves? No problem. I find a sleeve from another pattern and swap that in, until the finished product is what I want—which often has little relation to the picture on the front of any of the pattern envelopes. This is more or less what I mean by the tag “fun with patterns”. And this blog entry is going to show how I turned patterns for two evening gowns into one nightgown set.

For the second year in a row, I was fortunate enough to be voted as a calendar girl by the forums on a local website I frequent. No, not gonna provide a link…those of you who already know me from there don’t need the link, and since it’s not a sewing/craft/making stuff sort of forum, probably anyone else reading this wouldn’t really be interested in the site. Anyway, I chose February as my month, and decided to do something Valentine’s-y. Being a bitter old maid, I generally avoid such things, but I decided it would be good for me. Builds character. Besides, I’d been wanting an excuse to make a beautiful flowy negligee like in old movies.

For the actual nightgown, I decided something with a sweetheart neckline would be appropriately Valentine’s-ish. I remembered a pattern I had used for a previous Halloween costume. It’s a modern re-interpretation of a vintage pattern:

However, I’m more comfortable when wearing sleeves. So the sleeveless model wouldn’t do, but when worn with the robe I wanted, the rather full sleeves wouldn’t do, either. Another dress pattern I have come to love has sleeves that are basically a thin band—enough to make me feel covered, but not particularly noticeable or distracting from the general look:
Because this is just a nightgown, I decided it really wasn’t necessary to line it (the original dress pattern is fully lined). This did make it a little tricky doing the neckline. I ended up stitching a line at each of the corners, clipping, folding over the seam allowance, and stitching it down. Also, I wasn’t sure whether I would need a zipper. The original pattern has a back zip, and the zipper is definitely necessary in the previous dress I had made. However, I was making this gown in tricot, which has more stretch than the satin I had used before. If I did need a zipper, I wanted it on the left side, not the back. Fortunately, after stitching the right side and basting the left, I found that I could easily pull it on. No zip necessary!
For the robe, I used a pattern that I have had for several years, but have never yet used for the project for which it was purchased:
I also used tricot for the robe, but a very sheer pink tricot. Because of the sheerness, I used French seams throughout. The pattern calls for lining the bodice, but I didn’t. Other than that, I didn’t alter this pattern. However, after I finished sewing it, the real fun began! What is a classic flowy negligee if it isn’t dripping with feathers? I bought a few marabou boas from a local craft store…and then started puzzling over the best way to attach them to the edges. I wanted the feathers on the ends of the sleeves and the hem of the robe. I definitely did NOT want to stitch them on by hand. Finally, I thought of Liquid Stitch. I carefully applied the adhesive a few inches at a time, then pressed the boa in place with my fingers. It did get a little sticky, but was faster and easier than whipstitching it would have been! I found that half a boa was needed for each sleeve. For the bottom of the robe (which has a train), I used two boas. Because the bottom of the robe curves up into the front without a clear demarcation, I started at the center back and just glued until I ran out of boa. This way, I could be sure that the feathers would end at the same point on both sides.

To finish off the look, I needed appropriate footwear. A quick trip to a discount shoe store netted me a pair of cheap heels that needed only a little alteration. I cut the bows off the toes, then covered the whole toe-band in more marabou. This time I used a hot glue gun (and, yes, got more feathers stuck to my fingers).
The robe and the slippers are definitely costume items, rather than being particularly useful. However, the nightgown has earned its spot in my sleepwear collection!
Photo by Miriam Latour