Self-Care and a Self-Drafted Party Dress

The past week has been a difficult one for me, personally. Maybe, if we weren’t living in pandemic times, I could have coped a little better but, possibly for the first time in my life, without going into the details of my personal life (we’re here for the sewing, right?) I felt totally defeated; physically, mentally and, most of all, emotionally. I spent Saturday through to Thursday accomplishing nothing… not a single stitch. For someone who consciously sets aside at least half an hour of creative time every day, this was quite a shock to the system.

However, like everything else life has thrown at me, I worked my way through it and mentally prepared myself to focus on one of the things I enjoy the most in a bid to resume some kind of normality. For me, sewing has become a means of self care; I love taking my time with a project. It feels good to create something out of nothing and to feel the benefits of creativity. And I suppose this dress has kind of become a metaphor for my personal experiences lately… this make was all over the place; the original plan had to be scraped and I had to improvise a little but I’ve managed to pull it all together somehow to create this cute little party number (although, you better believe I’m not saving it for parties).

I’ve had this star mesh from Rainbow Fabrics Kilburn¬†for an absolute age; maybe it was the gold and silver that drew me in but I decided it was time to bring it out and create something.

I knew it would be a time-intensive sew – the mesh would have to be sewn as an overlay. I had originally intended for the whole dress to be composed of the mesh – I’d even embellished the facing pieces – but after sewing the bodice up I realised there were a few little stress points and I knew that, if I wore it (it was a fitted bodice), there would be a risk of tears in the mesh and the whole project would have been a waste of time…

So I went back to the drawing board – I rummaged through my stash but didn’t really see anything that would work with it the way I had envisioned. So the project got abandoned until I had a thought sometime near midnight and realised I had an old stretch velvet dress in the wardrobe that I never wore but there was enough fabric there that could be repurposed to make a top part of the dress – the only difficulty would be in how I would be able to attach the stretch fabric to the skirt which was comprised of the mesh and a lining underlay with no stretch! Friday morning came, Simon went to work, and I was in the sewing room by 8am thinking up a plan to use the old velvet material.

A sensible person would have made a skirt / top combination, probably – but I am not a sensible person and I do not like wearing separates. Now, I realise this is probably a mental thing but I don’t think separates flatter me at all – and, yet, when I posted this dress on Instagram, people seemed to think it was a skirt and dress combo… so who knows?

Anyhow, I made the bodice; a simple high neck, scoop back top with long sleeves. I usually go for a more cleavage-on-show look for party dresses but I played it safe. Stretch V-necklines can be more effort than they’re worth (unless they’re a wrap). This could easily have been hemmed and worn as a top but I was intent on making a dress so here began the process of getting the woven and stretch fabrics to come together.

The lining fabric was so slippery and prone to move that it ended up being unstitched twice before I had the sensible thought of using stabilising tape at the seam line – that took care of the lining / mesh. I also had to take care to control the stretch of the velvet at the seam so I decided to sew in elastic at the seam to help join the two. It worked – and it fits well for something I decided not to put a zip into.

For me, this dress is a reminder that you can always salvage something from even the most difficult of times. And sometimes you might have to give yourself a push to do the things you love – trust me, the last thing I actually wanted to do was sew – to help you feel better. Sewing is naturally a mindful activity and I firmly believe that the focus it requires can be a massive benefit to our mental health! I’m getting my sew-jo back and have a couple of makes cut out and ready to go.

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