The Amalfi Dress

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The idea for the Amalfi dress originated from the pictures of these Vera Wang dresses that I saw advertised in a fashion magazine. I particularly like the navy one.

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Navy is my personal substitute for black and I adore maxi dresses so the colour and style were both perfect. I do like the shape of the cut out in the navy dress, but my dress had to be wearable!

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There was this beautiful navy cotton voile in my stash with a matt satin look on the right side that I wanted to use for this dress. It is very light but not see-through and that allowed me to leave out any lining. The aim was to keep the dress as light and airy as possible for sightseeing on our travels in the summer heat.

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When I get an idea for a garment from a picture I have seen somewhere, I usually go on a hunt amongst my patterns to see which part of which pattern I can use to make the garment. I usually have a similar pattern to what I want to make and just adjust the rest. That was the same procedure for this make. I used McCall’s 7418 for the bodice of the dress and just made up the skirt as I went along. The skirt part is made using one width of the fabric for each piece of the front and the back. So the middle section has more gathering than the bottom, because I wanted it to be a-line in shape. I just gathered and then sewed the skirt parts together after deciding on the finished width I was after. But I am thinking of redoing it and sewing the gathered seams together with elastic because they are quite fragile and could tear if the gathering got stretched.

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To be honest, I don’t even know where I got this pattern from. I’ve had it for ages and never used it. I think I got it from a friend and was going to resell it on Ebay but now it was put to good use and I may use it again! I used version C down to the hip and did the rest pretty much free-style by trying on, fixing, trying on, fixing – you get the idea…. I only altered the pattern by making the back a little higher so that I could wear a strapless bra underneath without anything showing.

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The bodice has an invisible zip sewn in on the left side. I was going to try and make it zipless, but due to the shaping in the bodice, I couldn’t squeeze into the dress without a zip somewhere.

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The top of the bodice is interfaced front and back but otherwise the dress is unlined and beautifully light to wear. It does crease a bit being 100% cotton, but I wasn’t going to drag an iron around in my suitcase! I found that packing wisely helped to keep creasing to a minimum and if I took the clothes that creased easily out of my suitcase and hung them up as soon as we got to where we were staying, I could get some of the wrinkling out. I have also heard that hanging clothes in a steamy bathroom helps to “iron” them out somewhat. Haven’t tried that yet.

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The pattern has quite a few variations for the straps and back. But I decided a simple cross would go well with what I had in mind. I was going to make simple straps but then decided that plaited ones would look more interesting. So I cut strips of dacron a little shorter than the fabric straps to fill them with. The idea was to pull the dacron through the tunnel of each strap, but that didn’t work. In the end, I placed the dacron in the middle of each strip of fabric and hand-sewed the strap in the most invisible stitch I could manage by wrapping it in the fabric strip. Yes, this was very time-consuming but well worth it and I was able to plait the strap strips with the hand-sewn side on the inside.

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I wore this dress on a few occassions and was very happy with the way it turned out. It’s just as light and airy as I imagined it to be. Cotton voile is perfect for summer wear.

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I’m thinking about the same dress in a short version somewhere down the track. But my wish list is ever growing and who knows when I will get around to that….

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STYLING: shoes – midas, gold chocker – David Lawrence, sunglasses – Carlina square by Chloe, watch – Gucci, bracelet – gift, gold rings – Lovisa.

LOCATION: Amalfi, Italy

 

 

Roman Holiday

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I don’t wear much black. I used to wear black a lot in my late teenage years and early twenties, but these days I usually find black boring and prefer more colour and pattern in my fabrics and clothing. However, in making my Rome dress, I have rediscovered black for myself again. I have to admit that there is something special and timeless about a little black cocktail-style dress, that no other colour can compete with.

My Rome dress is one I have wanted to make for some time in memory of the 1950s Dior silhouette labelled as “The New Look” back in the day. When defining the design and pattern for this dress, there was not much room to move, because I had very fixed ideas of what it should look like. The first thing that I decided on was the colour – black. I just thought that something classic would have to represent the Eternal City. The second thing was the 1950s skirt shape. I love the skirt shape of “The New Look”. The third thing that was non-negotiable was the neckline. It had to be v-shaped, almost heart shaped, without revealing too much. My main inspiration was the picture below that I found and photographed from a fashion magazine. I love everything about it. The line of the dress, the model’s pose, the pleated and puffed skirt. It’s just beautiful altogether – sigh.

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So I was on a mission to find a pattern that resembled this dress and what I had in mind. That was not easy. I wanted to make the bodice just as in the photo above, in one piece. But after looking through my pattern collection, I didn’t have a pattern that matched exactly what I was planning to make.

I still haven’t uploaded all of my patterns on my blog, but I do have a good collection and didn’t really want to buy another one if I didn’t absolutely have to. So it was time to compromise. I found this one – Simplicity 4581 and thought it would do the job just fine. And also suit the fabric I had chosen from my stash. It turned out to be a good choice.

I only used the pattern for the bodice and decided to make my own designed skirt with pleats to replicate “The New Look” in some way.

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Now I think the fabric is a cotton silk blend, but I am not sure. That it is a jacquard is quite obvious. And a gorgeous one too! It’s quite thick and doesn’t crease easily. I bought it from a warehouse sale I went to last year with a sewing friend. I got about 3 metres of it for a dress and coat and after making this dress, there is still heaps left over for the coat I want to make and maybe even a small fitted jacket.

The bodice didn’t require too much fabric and I only used one width for the skirt because the fabric is just over 150cm wide. So like the Capri dress, it only has a seam in the back.

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When it came to the skirt, I was debating on whether to underline it or not because the fabric was quite thick. But then remembered one occasion where I was at David Jones (a department store in Melbourne) having a look at some of the high-end clothing construction and found a pleated skirt made by a designer that was underlined in netting. That was it! My dress needed the stiffness of the netting for more structure. That way that the skirt would retain a good shape without a second layer underneath and also stop it from creasing too easily.

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I played around with the pleats and for no particular reason, decided that three pleats in the front on each side and two at the back either side would look good.  The centre pleats at the back hide the invisible zip conveniently. Because the netting is very itchy and uncomfortable, I lined the skirt in a thin black lining fabric, to make it bearable to wear.

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The bodice of the dress is not underlined because the fabric is quite heavy and it would have made the seams too thick. The top of the bodice is interfaced and the midriff section is lined in a black stretch cotton to give the dress a clean finish on the inside.

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Oh, and I almost forgot – the fourth requisite for this dress was that it HAD to be photographed at the Trevi Fountain – AT SUNRISE. Luckily for me, my good friend and photographer Meg caught up with us in Rome for a few days and insisted we do a photo shoot of one of my garments. She was just as adventurous as I was in getting up at 5:30 in the morning to take some photos for me at the Trevi Fountain before the polizia or too many tourists were there.

I was adamant on getting into the fountain for the photos if there was no danger of getting arrested, but unfortunately the polizia were there at sunrise in their little Fiat supervising the tourists… Still we decided it couldn’t possibly be against the law to just sit on one of those rocks just inside the fountain for some harmless photos. So I got onto the rock just inside the barrier and Meg began taking photos. About 10 seconds later, the polizia started to whistle. I said to Meg “Do you think he means us?” But she just told me to sit still and kept taking photos. When he got louder and louder and started yelling, we decided it was time to move. Thankfully he didn’t come down to us and make Meg delete the photos or give us a fine!

After the photo shoot we went to a bar for a coffee and cornetto (Italian croissant) and had a good laugh about our eventful morning!

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In conclusion, I have to say that I love how this dress turned out. The black jacquard is gorgeous and a real treasure -find at $5.00 per metre! The dress fits me perfectly and using the net as underlining was exactly the right choice in getting the skirt to hold it’s shape and not crease (too much). The only thing that I need to fix is the right “boob”. I find that the gathering tends to make it “sag” a little. Otherwise, very happy with my Rome dress!

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P.S. My apologies to those of you who are getting this post the second time around. I accidentally pressed the “publish” button instead of the “preview” button when editing two days ago and off it went into the blogosphere…

STYLING: shoes Apart Fashion, necklace and bracelet – Zara, gloves – Myer, sunglasses – Margot by Tom Ford

LOCATION: Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

PHOTOGRAPHY: meggi-design

The Pompeii Dress

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Pompeii has been on my must-see list for a while now. When we finally made plans to go there and do the sightseeing on a very hot and humid day in July during our week on the Amalfi Coast, a suitable thing to wear turned out to be this simple lemon coloured linen shift with some natural leather sandals. The heat combined with the humidity was a killer. So linen was a good fabric to opt for. I guess shorts and a t-shirt would have been the most obvious choice in a hot and dusty area, but I just didn’t feel like doing the typical tourist thing. Besides, there was nothing uncomfortable about wearing a dress while at Pompeii, on the contrary.

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I used a sunny yellow linen in a medium to heavy weight from The Fabric Store for this dress. I usually prefer the thicker linens because they have a nicer drape to them, but the thickness always depends on what you want to make out of the linen.

For the pattern, I used one that I have mentioned in my blog many times, in another variation. So my apologies, but here it goes again! I used this pattern in the sleeveless version and narrowed the width by quite a bit to make it into a slight a-line shift dress.

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There are two things that I don’t like so much about how this dress turned out. The bust darts are a little too high and the arm holes need to be cut out a little lower. I will leave the darts, as they don’t bother me too much, but the arm holes will need fixing, because after a few hours of wear my armpits get a bit sore.

The back of the dress was supposed to be two pieces, but I decided one piece would look nicer and cut it on the fold. The front and back yokes are interfaced with linen and the whole dress is underlined with yellow lining.

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Otherwise, a simple but versatile and cute dress to wear almost anywhere and very quick to make. Once again, no zips or buttons. Just slip it on over your head and dress it up a little with some accessories. I wore a wooden beaded necklace which went well with the natural leather sandals.

Yes, linen creases too much and is not a suitcase-friendly fabric, but it comes in so many gorgeous colours, prints, weights and blends with cotton or silk, that it’s hard to resist. You really can’t beat linens or cottons in summer.

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Italy is full of beautiful little shops selling all kinds of linen garments for men and women. I must say, Italians are some of the best dressed people I have seen during my travels. Even little old ladies are clothed in elegant linen pants and shirts with beautiful leather sandals and a classy handbag.

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Pompeii was amazing! Some of the merchants and bankers had spectacular palatial homes, like this beautiful atrium house.

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STYLING: sandals: Tony Bianco, necklace: Lovisa, sunglasses: Carlina square by  Chloe, bracelet: gift, watch: Gucci, silver ring: Apart Fashion.

LOCATION: Pompeii, Italy