Sunday, July 01, 2012

Dress #10 :: Transmogrification, Sparkly Style

When I was in grad school I took a writing course at the Harvard Kennedy School.  One day in class the instructor asked, "See, and The Economist makes great use of this funny word - transmogrify - by the way, does anybody know where that word comes from?"

Into the silence, a voice from the back of the room - mine - piped up.  "Calvin and Hobbes!"  A classroom full of future diplomats and heads of government agencies all swiveled around to look at me.  It was possibly the only time I spoke in class all term.

Shyness aside, I think "transmogrification" is an excellent word to describe this dress.  For those unfamiliar with the comic strip, Calvin's transmogrifier is a cardboard box with a handwritten dial on the side, and when you send something into the transmogrifier, switch the dial, and open the box again, whatever was written next to the dial is what pops out.  Considering the number of iterations this dress has undergone, I think it's starting to qualify for that term.

This dress began its adventures last summer, when way too many episodes of Masterpiece Mystery's Poirot had me longing for all things 30's, especially English cotton lawn dresses.  My absolute favorite was a butterfly sleeved self-fabric belted dress which I attempted to replicate using my bodice sloper and online tutorials for the sleeves.  Alas, this is one of those few instances where a dress photographs better than it looks in person, because the resulting frock was rather strange, to say the least.  The sleeves had this awkward tentlike quality to them, not fluttered enough to look properly butterfly, but too fluttered to look like they could possibly be anything else.  Ali's sister in law took one look at it, said, "Hm ... interesting, maybe a belt would help?" and then smiled encouragingly.

I tried.  I belted it and wore my gray blazer over the sleeves, which is a combination that works about 2 days out of the year in San Francisco weather, after which the dress was retired to the back of my closet where I let it marinate, waiting for the courage and the aha! moment to tackle it again.

I thought about lopping off the skirt and using the Taffy sleeve to make it into a blouse version of my original inspiration.  But I couldn't get away from the thought that this print (Liberty, making it the most expensive garment I've ever sewn myself) just wanted to be a dress.

So I took in the sides by 2" at each bottom and tapering away to nothing at the waist, pinched an inch out of the back, detached the sleeves, and let it marinate some more.  The silhouette was now what I wanted, but it seemed too plain, somehow. 
And as I was working on my other project, I hit upon a possible solution.  Yes!  The simultaneously irritating and lovely thing about me is that I always want my clothes to have the whiff of something extra, something interesting.  Even though the fabric pretty much speaks for itself, as before, I wanted to pair the plain silhouette and bold print with just a little bit more.

This is the sleeve pattern from Simplicity 2798.  Instead of adding the band, I used 1/4" bias tape in the main fabric to bind it off.  And because I'm anal like that, I added some 7/16" striped flat piping, from leftover fabric that Ali gifted me (along with the blouse itself, which I adore).

And here is the finished result!  I am so, so pleased with it, as it is exactly what I wanted it to be.  My goodness, that Liberty is expensive but soooooo nice to work with.  The print and colors are beautiful, the fabric floaty and silky soft, and the drape is absolutely lovely.  Comfortable, airy, cool, with just enough to make it distinctive without being a statement piece, exactly, yet I feel effortlessly put together when I wear it.  A perfect summer dress, if you ask me.

The original neckline was finished off with some 1/4" bias tape, but when I added the flat piping to the sleeves I knew I couldn't stop there, so I meticulously unpicked the original bias tape and inserted some more flat piping into the neckline, too.  I swear, making all of that bias tape and flat piping probably tripled the project time (hey, I'm slow, OK?) - well, that and actually ironing as I go, which is unusal for me but I'm learning to take my time and do it right - but you know what?  It's totally my favorite part of the garment.  That extra time it took to make this a dress that I really and truly love, so worthwhile.

So this is my entry for the Sparkly sewalong!  And it does feel nice to be back into some sort of crafting groove.  Though I have to say I'm noticing the return of some crafting obsessiveness/unrealistic planning tendencies, so maybe I should lay off it for a bit?  If I can get myself to do what's good for me, that is ...


Ali said...

I love this refashion! It's so you -- the body ease is really flattering and that sleeve is just thrilling because of the details :) What a great summer dress that goes with everything -- denim jacket, handmade cardigan! Scarves! Oh my.

Minnado said...

The dress looks very pretty. I love the way you have done the sleeve with the binding and good.

Roobeedoo said...

Oh so very pretty! You look really cool in it (both senses of "cool"!)
But where is the dress with mustard piping? We want that one too! ;)
Ha! Your lecture experience sounds very much like the kind of thing I would do / say!

Sigrid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sigrid said...

Both my sons credit Calivin and Hobbes for their extensive vocabularies, but we aren't always sure if words like "transmorgify" are real or something of Calvin's invention. I do love the details on this pretty dress. I'm guessing that those 1920s dresses need fabric that is even softer than Liberty. This dress seems to be the perfect design for the fabric.

Of course, "God is in the details." I think you need to stop beating yourself up for not whipping out loads of wearables and instead do what you enjoy best: taking your time to craft something finely made!

sew vala said...

I love your dress and the new sleeves,

Anonymous said...

Calvin and Hobbes! :)

I love it. Simple, summery and the sleeve detail is beautiful!

stealthypoo said...

also.. so jealous of your craftskills!!

Alessa said...

Transmogrification is a wonderful word, and I love how this dress went from ugly duckling to swan (which isn't to say that the first version is ugly in any way, because with that awesome print, it really can't be - just the metaphor, right?). The sleeves add a beautiful je-ne-sais-quoi. :)

Stephanie N. said...

I quite like what you did with the sleeves. Very pretty. And now I know about transmogrification... thanks!

RB said...

You mean no one laughed at your answer in class?? Sheesh, I would've been snorting big time. Those future diplomats and heads of government agencies need to take a class in Humor 101. ;-)

About the dress: Fabulous! So pretty and flattering and so worth all of the time you put in it.