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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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