Introduction: Cherry Print Wiggle Dress

About: I adore sewing and knitting, mostly vintage or vintage-inspired patterns. I hope to inspire others to create lovely and lasting garments that speak of a past era and yet remain timeless and elegant.

I have tried repeatedly to use this leftover cherry print fabric, but there is never quite enough for any pattern I pull out. I certainly do not begrudge a single inch that was used on this gown, but I sure do wish there had been more of it on the roll when I found it in the New York garment district.

A pencil skirt would certainly have fit in the remaining yardage, but then there was the issue of finding a matching red or black fabric for a suitable top - and that seemed like way too much work. Have you ever tried matching two different black fabrics? It is almost impossible. And the color saturation of the red on the textile would have difficult to match as well.

But I was really down to scraps! After almost giving up on finding a suitable dress design, I finally found the perfect one for this amazing cherry silk/wool.

Step 1: The Mock-up

Since this design has quite a few smaller pieces, I thought there was a good chance that everything could be squeezed onto the leftovers.

Of course, you never can be sure until you start playing around with what you have.

But first, I started with a muslin/test version of the dress itself.

My standard alterations made this dress fit quite well, but since I was using irreplaceable fabric, I wanted to make sure I would be happy with the fit on the finished dress.

Then the whole thing was ripped apart.

The real test, of course, was to see if the pieces would fit on my leftover fabric (basically a yard of 60" wide fabric with a flaw smack dab in the center, plus scraps) . . .

Step 2: Making It All Fit

It took a bit of finagling, but, as you probably can guess, I did manage it!

I took pictures of my layout once I was happy with the result, and I also drew a sloppy diagram in case the pictures somehow disappeared and I was unable to replicate the jigsaw puzzle!

Then it was time to cut out the underlining.

The underlining for this is plain old mid-weight cotton. The stitching lines were traced onto that cotton, and then I had to fit those pieces on my cherry print. I would have liked a deeper hem on the skirt, but really, I am very, very lucky that everything fit!

Next up was a whole lot of hand basting . . . because such a gorgeous fabric deserves special treatment!

There are so many reasons I enjoy working with gorgeous fabric; one of the main ones, of course, is that it makes garment construction so much fun!

I like to use silk thread for this task - beautiful fabric deserves the best tools, and silk thread is such a pleasure to work with.

Step 3: Starting the Construction

I had my suspicions that this neckline might want to gape, so I used a scrap of organza to stabilize that portion of the fabric (this particular scrap is dark green because I dyed it for use as the underlining of this dress, so it is a little bit difficult to see, but it's there, I promise!). I measure off the length of the seamline and then subtract an eighth to a quarter inch and distribute the extra ease in the garment fabric along the length of organza. The organza is then stitched into place just inside the seamline so those pick-stitches will not show when the edge is finished.

The skirt and midriff pieces went together fairly easily.

The most irritating part of the process is removing those white basting threads after each seamline is stitched by machine!

For very special fabrics, like this one, I do a lot of hand stitching. Because all of the pieces are underlined, those stitches are easily hidden from the right side of the garment. In a silk blend fabric, this is especially helpful, since even the tiniest of stitches stand out.

The midriff cutouts on this design require that certain points be snipped right up to the seamline. A simple line of stay-stitching did not feel sufficient, so I used another scrap of organza and this gusset trick to keep any raw edges nicely contained.

There is quite a bit of catch-stitching in this piece!

I like to use a ham to elevate my project an extra few inches - this makes it easier on my back when I am hand sewing for long periods of time.

The real moment of truth is putting the bodice, midriff, and skirt sections together.

Now I needed to tame those oversized seam allowances . . .

Step 4: Interior Workings

I did alter the construction quite a bit from the original pattern directions. I don't mind the hand sewing, and adding the lining piece by piece gave me a lot more control over the neckline and midriff opening.

For the midriff opening, I used organza scraps and this technique to protect those points on the lining as well as the cherry print fabric.

And, of course, the skirt was lined. Got to cover up all those catch-stitches!

So far, so good!

This particular dress does not have an easy bra solution, so I added a pair of sew-in cups. They do not need a whole lot of securing, just a few catch-stitches where there is some seam allowance available for tacking.

The most challenging part of that was making sure the placement was correct and then keeping the darn things stationary while I stitched them in.

And, of course, this dress needed a waist stay. I was out of black grosgrain ribbon, but I did have this red petersham from Britex which I thought was a fun surprise on the inside of the garment.

Step 5: Putting It All Together

I also added a gusset to the center back seam. I am not a fan of a center back slit. They always wrinkle in odd ways and end up splayed open when you walk, or worse still, ripped all the way up the back to the zipper. (We have all seen that person walking on the street who has no idea that her center back slit has decided to go for broke - I would rather that wasn't me.)

I think this is a much nicer way to go, and it adds a nice swish to the skirt silhouette. I would have preferred a slightly larger wedge of fabric, but I was working with scraps, and this was the best I could do.

Of course, a hand-picked lapped zipper was the obvious choice. With the underlining and the heft of the fabric, I was not going to chance another invisible zipper snafu (of which I have had a few - this darn things are no match for heavier duty fabric and bulky seamlines).

Step 6: Finishing Touches

I really wish that I had a larger hem allowance to work with, but I shouldn't be complaining - there was barely enough fabric to get the dress cut, so that is where I had to compromise.

I like to catch the underlining to the fashion fabric just inside the hem so the two layers will not shift over time.

I also had to use a very small hem allowance for the sleeves to make this design work with my limited fabric. And hand-stitching the lining in place took care of that issue.

Step 7: The Completed Dress

I am so very glad I refrained from using the leftovers of this fabric on a design that was less than a perfect match. To be honest, I wish I had more the silk/wool twill fabric, because I would make another garment! And can you really have too many cherry prints in your wardrobe? I don't think so!

But for the moment, I am very pleased with how this project turned out!

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