Two Australia Day Dresses

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Today, the 26th of January is Australia Day and being a bit patriotic and feeling very blessed to be living in this beautiful country, I am dedicating this post to Australia Day and the great Aussie spirit.

As a teenager, I had a t-shirt with the following stanza from the poem “My Country” by Dorothea Mackellar on it and have it in my head ever since:

I love a sunburnt country

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizon,

I love her jewel sea,

Her beauty and her terror –

The wide brown land for me!

The whole poem is much longer, but this is the most celebrated and well known part of it. In a very short few lines I think it sums up the diversity of our big and beautiful country!

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The traditional thing to do on Australia Day is to get together with family and/or friends and have a real Aussie BBQ or spend the day at the beach. And of course you can buy all kinds of weird and wonderful Australiana leading up to the day to help you in your celebrations!

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My first Australia Day dress is made using two different patterns. I used two patterns that I have recently used for other dresses – Burda Young 8517 for the top part of the dress and Butterick B4919 for the full skirt of the dress in trying to replicate this Caroline Constas dress.

Caroline Constas Dress  Caroline Constas Dress2

Burda Pattern 8517a Burda Pattern 8517 Retro Butterick B4919 Retro Butterick B4919b

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I found the perfect fabric for it in the shop a few doors down from The Fabric Store, where they sell all kinds of remnants from Australian clothing brands. It is not exactly the same as the dress I was aiming to copy, but close enough.

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The fabric is a blue and white striped cotton from Gorman – a good quality Australian brand of clothing. It’s a beautiful shirting cotton for only $8/m! I also got a few metres of white rayon from the same store for underlining which was also a bargain at $6/m! The rayon has a beautiful soft, flowing feel to it.

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I don’t think the Caroline Constas dress looks like it has underlining, but I am totally into underlining almost everything these days and used the white rayon to do the job for this dress because I assumed it would be see through and too “flimsy” with out a second layer. I had underlined the front and the back of the top, but when I was getting down to the skirt bit, I found that it would have become too much and too bulky because of all the gathering in the waist. So I decided to leave the skirt without any sort of lining. Luckily for me, it turned out well and not at all see through like I first thought it would be. Because the skirt is gathered a lot and I didn’t think that a narrow elastic would hold it in very well, I used a wider elastic for the waist than for the top and the sleeves. To make the dress a little more interesting, I made the front of the skirt about 8cm shorter than the back. It gradually slopes down on the sides to a longer back that is unfortunately not very evident in the photos.

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I made real button holes for the front patch and used buttons from my very small button stash. I should have made the first button hole a lot lower, which I realised when making the casing for the elastic. It ended up exactly in the spot where the stitching should go and I had to stitch that part from the inside by hand using slip stitch.

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Overall, a nice airy summer dress in a natural fibre that will probably get a lot of wear. I used a red ribbon as a belt in keeping with the Australian flag colours for this post, but a tan leather belt matched with tan sandals and a tan cross body bag would also look great for daywear.

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Since Australia Day happens to be in summer over here, I decided the photos of my Australia Day dresses just had to be at the beach. And my good friend and photographer Meg knew of exactly the right spot! When she told me about it, I immediately knew what kind of props we would need – thanks to and courtesy of Hubs – the keen surfer! Unfortunately, it wasn’t sunny when we got to the beach, but it was still beautiful and quite deserted – which was almost nicer!

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The second Australia Day dress is a synthetic fabric tube dress that I made without a pattern. I just traced around a fitted dress onto the double folded fabric, making sure that the stripes were aligned to match up on each side and the rest was trial and error. Once the dress was sewn together, the back had to be cut a little lower than the front, so I used the stripes as guide lines to make it as even as possible.

The bust part is made using a second layer on the inside that is about 25cm long so that you can wear it without a bra. It has a wide elastic on the top to hold it up and elastic on the lower part of the insert.

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I really like this dress and have worn it quite often. The fabric is a very soft blend of something with lycra, but because it’s matt and not shiny, it doesn’t look like an 80’s leotard lycra!

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Have fun if you are celebrating Australia Day today!

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Styling: Australia thongs: Aldi ($1.99!!!!), vintage red Rip Curl handbag: op shop (borrowed from Meg), red bead necklace: $2 shop, white sunglasses: Zara, brown sunglasses: Tom Ford Margot, surfboard: vintage Rip Curl, silver ring: custom made.

Photography: meggi-design and my other half

Electric Blue Gauze Top

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I have had this gorgeous Donna Karan linen gauze from The Fabric Store lying around for a while now, half made up as a dress and never quite finished off because somehow it just didn’t look right. Then last month I was in the city and visited Zara. If they had gold card membership, I would probably be on somewhere on the top of their list! But this time I was just having a very innocent look around, not really wanting to buy anything. That innocent phase didn’t last long because a pair of electric blue shoes caught my eye almost instantly. They were kind of hard to ignore because they stuck out like a sore thumb and I just fell for the colour!

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I didn’t have any blue shoes in my shoe collection apart from navy ones and had been wanting to buy a real blue pair for some time, but wasn’t specifically on the look out. Anyway…. I brought them home and thought of returning them, because despite finding the colour amazingly beautiful, I didn’t have anything to wear them with….until I rediscovered the half finished dress in the Donna Karan electric blue gauze.

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That’s when I decided that was reason enough to keep the shoes (any excuse will do!) and started to play around with the dress. I decided that whatever I was going to make out of it, I would wear it with these shoes. In the meantime, I have found a few other pieces in my wardrobe to wear these shoes with, so my guilty conscience is not so guilty anymore!

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I started by taking the skirt and the top of the dress apart and thought at first to just make a skirt instead of a dress but then I was putting the skirt on over my head and before I put it down to waist level, I realised that this would be perfect for a strapless top! I already had the lining also in an electric blue cotton polyester (I think) that I got from my grandmother. (She doesn’t sew anymore but still has a healthy stash, so if I need anything for a muslin or lining I have a look at what she has lying around.)

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The skirt part of the dress was already as good as done. I had doubled the gauze to give it more body and colour, so there was no need to hem it. All I had to do to finish off the top was to connect the lining to the gauze, put in an elastic band to gather it and hem the lining. Just a quick make to wear with shorts, skirts and fitted pants. Wear heels to dress it up or flats to keep it more casual.

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Because the top is gathered with the elastic band, it can also be worn as a skirt. So it’s another two in one! But for this post, I have used it as a top.  Most importantly, it’s great to wear because it’s so light that you almost feel you’re not wearing anything! And lastly, the colour is pure summer! Taking photos in Brighton but thinking of the Italian Riviera in summer – somehow the grass is always greener on the other side…!

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Thanks to my very supporting Hubs and boys for always helping out with the photo shoots!

Styling: shoes: Zara, shorts: Zara, beaded necklace: unknown brand, coral necklace: unknown brand, gold ring: Lovisa, silver ring: Apart Fashion (German label) sunglasses: Margot by Tom Ford, hat: Country Road, bracelets: Mother’s Day gift from my boys

Welcome 2016!

Happy New Year! I hope that 2016 will be a cheerful, healthy, creative and successful year for all of you!

Now that 2016 is well and truly under way and I only have to get used to writing, typing or thinking of 2016 as a date, I thought I would share some of my creative new year’s resolutions for this year. I’m sure most of us have new year’s resolutions – whether we end up achieving them or putting them into the “too hard” box is another thing…but once again I have made some of my own for the year of sewing, styling and creating in no particular order:

  • set up my own sewing room in our back yard bungalow – long work in progress trying to declutter it! I will keep you updated!
  • photograph and upload all my sewing patterns in their correct categories – also a big job because there are so many of them!
  • post one blog post a week in any one of my categories
  • finally get around to filling up the Fashion Styling category with some posts
  • work through my stash without adding to it unless it is things I need to finish off a garment such as lining, zips, buttons etc…
  • make a good mix of vintage and contemporary clothing in 2016
  • make more and buy less clothes in 2016

That is my little list which will instigate a lot of pleasurable work and effort and at the end of the year I will be able to tell you whether I have succeeded in ticking all the above boxes. Now it’s time to roll up my sleeves and get to it!