When I designed the Winter Street Dress, my plan was to do lots of pattern hacks and a Fit and Flare Lace Dress was one of them. But then... life happened. Until now. For the PatternReview 13th Birthday Celebration, our theme was Dress from your favorite Era. While I do lean more towards the 60s shift dresses, there is something so sweet, so feminine about the 50s Fit and Flare Dress and that's what I decided to make.
The kind folks at my local Fabric Store - Fabric Place Basement provided the stretch lace and silk for this dress so thank you for that. If you are in the area, be sure to stop by and say hello (and buy fabrics of course!)
So, back to the dress. I hacked my trusty Winter Street Dress Pattern for this dress, but you can use any pattern for a knit dress with a fitted bodice. The skirt is easy to hack.
I wanted to make the front and back neck a little wider and a little bigger so I simply drew a new neckline, wider and lower. I love how the lower neck changes the whole look.
The skirt in the Winter Street Dress is slightly tulip shaped which I love but I wanted a flared skirt. Couldn't be easier. I kept the pleats and simply drew a new line from the waist to the hem widening about 2.5 inches resulting in 10 more inches of flare at the hem which was just enough for me. You may decide to add more or less based on your personal preference. You could also draft a circle skirt for this bodice if you like. And I've done that too.
And that's all there is to it.
I fell in love with the beautiful dark pink stretch lace and when I couldn't find a coordinating knit to line it with (do you know how many shades of burgundy there are!), I setteled on a gorgeous black stretch silk. I thought that the lace popped even more with the contrasting fabric. And the stretch in the fabric was a perfect match.
Making the muslin
Because my lace is a knit and the lining is stretch woven, I decided to make a muslin of just the bodice in the silk just to see if it will stretch enough. It did! Had it not, I would have gone up a size. I am now officially a fan of stretch silk.
Confident about my fabric choice, I got to work. I washed the lace and silk in the delicates cycle in my washing machine and line dried the fabric. Before placing the pattern pieces on your stretch lace trim the selvages because it tends to curl.
From Lace I cut out, Bodice front, back, sleeves, skirt front and back. From Black Silk I cut bodice, skirt and the neckband. I later decided to add the flounce in the sleeve as well so that is not pictured here.
Sewing is simple, really. You just need to use a lot of pins and patienceBecause of the stretch in the silk, I treated the combo as a knit and sewed most of the seams on my serger.
Place the wrong side of the lace bodice on the right side of silk underlining/lining and baste or pin so the layers don't shift.
Sew the shoulder seams and press towards the back.
While the armscye is flat, sew the sleeve. Then sew the side seams of the sleeve and the bodice in one step. Bodice is done. Well almost. For the binding, I cut a strip 1.5 inches wide and an inch shorter than the neck. I sewed it into a circle and then pressed the wrong sides together to create a narrow band. My initial thought was to use this as a facing, but I changed my mind when I liked the black silk peeking through. Had I thought of this before, I would have cut the strip on the bias so it lays a little flatter.
I pinned and sewed the band to the neckline right sides together making sure that the silk and lace don't shift. I used a lot of pins!
I pressed the seam allowances down and my neck was done. I love the exposed black silk band!
It was time to sew the pleats in the skirt. But first I basted the silk and lace together on top, to prevent them from shifting.
Because the lace does not press well, I knew that I won't be able to crease the inverted box pleats, so I decided to sew them down for an inch to help them lay flat at my waist.
Because I wanted the lining to be free hanging, I sewed the side seams of the lace and silk separately.
Finally I sewed the skirt to the bodice and my dress was complete!
I hemmed the lace and silk separately, making the hem deeper on the silk lining. I used the stretch 3 step straight stitch on my machine.
Here's a little tip on hemming stretch lace or any other fine fabric. Use strips of water soluble stabilizer. Of couse this won't work if your fabric is not washable. It prevented skipped stitches and gave me even stitches when I narrow hemmed my sleeves and the skirt hem. A quick rinse and the stabilizer was off. I trimmed the excess stabilizer before rinsing it.
To make the dress a little more retro, I sewed a quick tie belt from the black silk which added just the right accent to the beautiful lace. I am psyched with my new dress and loved wearing it at PR's 13th Birthday Party.
My absolute favorite part of this dress is the stretch silk which not only adds a luxurious feel to the dress, it is also perfect to wear with tights. I highly recommend it. Fabric Place Basement has several colors of this and they will even mail order if you call.