Final Touches

My dress is done and under wraps for now, but I enjoyed the process of finishing so much that I can’t keep those details to myself! I handpicked the zipper into the skirt, which was my first time doing so and I’m beyond happy with it – I found the process calming (the opposite of previous zipper insertions) and it looks great. I’m not sure I’ll ever machine stitch a zipper again. I found that the zipper almost entirely disappears into the gathers, taking the term invisible zipper to another level.

For the bodice, I made rouleau loops using the remaining taffeta and some lace covered buttons that I got on Etsy. Initially, I tried using elastic button loops that I also got on Etsy, but they ended up being too stretchy and I think that the taffeta loops ended up looking nicer overall.

I slip-stitched the bodice lining to the center back and waist of the bodice. And just like that, there’s nothing left to do (technically)! But I couldn’t stop there – I added some temporary ribbon hanger straps because the dress is surprisingly heavy and I was worried about having too much weight hanging on the lace.

The very last touch, was this something blue cutie – shout out to Meg Barr for the logo.

With the dress finished, I’ll be exploring accessories next!

Tacking, cursing, sewing, and more cursing.

Typically, I prewash my fabric. However, I ultimately decided not to for this project. The fabric store’s website suggests dry cleaning for most of the fabrics, and I didn’t know whether that’s something a dry cleaner would even do (if anyone has done this, please let me know!). Also, based on the information I could find, washing can change the sheen and structure of silk taffeta which I didn’t want to risk. I considered handwashing the netting, but with over 25 yards needed it sounded nightmarish, at best.

Without needing to prewash, I was in a stand off with my final fabric for several days because I was too scared to cut into it. It was helpful for me to focus solely on the first step, which was also a lesson in sewing “by the book”. I have never found the grain of the fabric at the cut end, and I can’t say that I will always do it for future, less-fancy projects because it was kind of a pain and it hasn’t cause any issues (that I know of) for projects in the past. It was interesting to do anyway.

The good news is that silk taffeta unravels quite easily, so it wasn’t too challenging, just time consuming. But the bad news is that once the pieces were cut out, they began to fray almost immediately. I first used tailor’s tacks to mark the darts, the boning lines on the lining, and the notches on the bodice. I read that you should not cut notches into the seam line when using taffeta, because that would encourage fraying, but I knew that once I serged the edges the notches that I had cut beyond the seam allowance would be gone. I also didn’t want to risk leaving marks on the fabric using any kind of marking chalk or pen. I found tailor’s tacks to be tedious initially but kind of therapeutic once I got in the swing of it. Then I accidentally cut into my fabric with my new (and very sharp) scissors while I was cutting one of the loops and they were back to tedious.

Before and after serging.

Remember when I said that I am often winging it? And remember when I decided to cut off the seam allowances from the arms and neckline because I decided I only wanted one layer of overlay on the bodice? Well. I chose a stretch lace and it was reeeeal stretchy. I was worried about how the lace would hold up to the weight of the skirt, so I decided that I would actually do two layers, but use a dress tulle for the second layer. That way, it would be almost invisible while keeping the lace from streching. That meant that those seam allowances that I had taken off, I had to add right back on.

I sewed the side seams using two rows of basic straight stitches. Easy. For the armholes and neckline, I decided I’d do a french seam. Have I ever done a french seam? No. Did I practice? No. But I read a lot about it and thought a lot about it so I should be fine, right? NO. Well, yes – kind of, but not really. I started with an armhole, and I sewed that first 3/8″ seam no problem. Then I started trimming it down to 1/8″. About halfway through I realized that I had the incorrect sides together. I was frustrated and had to take out the seam, which took a long time because finding a white thread among white lace is not easy. Then I reassessed the situation and I realized that I had in fact sewed it correctly the first time around. AWESOME. I was even more frustrated, but I had just learned an important lesson which is to step back when frustrated. So I took a break, listened to some sad songs, and considered my options. I was mostly worried about my sewing machine eating up the fabric if I were to sew a 1/8″ seam. I know that people sometimes use tissue paper to stabilize netting, so I decided to try that first. If that hadn’t worked, I planned to just remove the seams and recut those pieces using the spare fabric that I had. The good news is that the tissue paper did work which I found pretty impressive.

I finished all the seams, assembled the bodice underlay, and basted the underlay to the overlay with no further problems. The darts were sewn in after the layers had been basted together through all three layers of fabric, so the darts would be hidden in the lining. Even though it’s typically said that you don’t have to finish seams if they are enclosed in a lining, I used a bit of fray check on the taffeta to be safe.

The midriff was pretty straightforward – I basted some lace to taffeta so that it wasn’t sheer over the lining and then attached it to the bodice. After this was all done, I breathed a sigh of relief and crossed my fingers that I had gotten all of the road bumps out of the way early on.

The lining is next, which is basically the same as the main taffeta fabric plus boning, but I had done a practice round of this with some cheap fabric (another lesson learned) so I’m less worried about moving forward with that.