Our Sew Frosting challenge may be long over but I still have one very special dress to share with you. You might not think of a gold maxi-length crushed velvet wrap dress as a wardrobe staple, but given the number of occasions I found to wear it over the holidays, I would beg to differ. I think it’s important to have at least one show-stopping number to pull out for those special nights, something that makes the memories a bit more precious because you felt so good about what you were wearing.
The story of this velvet gown started at Tonitex, one of my favourite fabric stores in Montreal. I spotted this outrageously luxe gold crushed velvet last year and had to have it, despite having no idea whatsoever what to do with it. Crushed velvet gives me intense 90s flashbacks but I found the colour too seductive to resist. When Kelli and I started planning Sew Frosting, I knew this beauty had to get pulled out of the stash and put to over-the-top use. It’s a nice companion to my silk velvet Amy Jumpsuit; sometimes you need a little soft nap action in your life.
I knew I wanted to use a vintage pattern for this project. I used to sew from them all the time and kinda missed the challenge of making a totally different size work for me while scratching my head over the instructions. The search on Etsy is always the best part, and I stumbled over this pattern, Butterick 5119, designed by John Kloss. I have another John Kloss in my collection (I used it to make this dress and this dress) and I love his sexy disco designs for knit fabrics. The pattern was about 3 sizes too small, so when our patternmaker Celine had a slow day I asked her to grade it up for me. Knits are so simple to grade, especially when the pattern pieces are as simple as this one. Basically, we just added some width and length through the bodice and skirt. The bodice ended up a bit too long so I did end up recutting the shoulder and armhole to reduce gaping.
While I love this design, the instructions were basically garbage. The wrap neckline runs from the front all the way to the back and the directions were too simply fold and stitch the seam in place. With such a long bias seam, you really need a more stable edge to lay close against the body and prevent gaping. I brainstormed a few solutions and settled on using a hidden bias tape finish. I bought a roll of knit bias tape a few years ago and it was perfect for this application; I stretched it very gently as I sewed it the neckline and then folded and pressed it to the inside before using a long and narrow zigzag to stitch it in place. It’s not invisible but it is very stable and I have none of the gaping issues I generally have with wrap necklines.
The construction of this dress is a bit funny. Each side wraps around the body before joining into a skirt at crotch level. The visible wrap on the outside secures with a tie, while the hidden wrap on the inside lays flat against the body. The instructions called for individual hook and eye closures but I figured it would be faster and easier to just secure the edges with bra hook and eye tape. It’s not the prettiest on the inside but it’s super sturdy.
I ended up leaving the sleeve and skirt hem unhemed because this fabric doesn’t unravel and I preferred how clean it looked. As for the ties, I made a facing for them so you never see the wrong side of the fabric. The instructions wanted them hemmed and stitched in place but it would have been very hard to get a nice finish around the curves. You really need to be a bit of a sewing Columbo when you’re using vintage patterns, amiright?
The best thing about this dress is how dang comfy it is. It’s form fitting but flexible, and I can dance, sit and eat with relative abandon while wearing it. It ended up being both my New Years and studio Christmas party dress, and both nights I felt more glamorous than I have in a long, long time. I miss fancy nighttime Heather. She doesn’t make that many appearances anymore, but it’s nice to know I have the right dress in my closet when she is called into action.
So that’s the story of crushed velvet Sew Frosting dress. An adventure to sew, and a pleasure to see hanging in my closet.
How do you feel about crushed velvet? And does anyone else get as frustrated with vintage sewing pattern instructions as I?