As anyone who has been a reader here knows, Aunt Toby is all about ‘being prepared’. And one of the things I’ve discussed is having a wardrobe that will carry you though all of those panic-attack-promoting events.
But even your dear Aunty is not prepared 100% and recently, it came to my attention that I’m missing one thing that if I get ‘the call’, it would be far better for me to have it than not. That thing is a summer-weight black dress. Every plain black item I have is frankly in wool. If someone schedules their demise between the months of November and April, I’m all over it like a blanket. But people don’t arrange with their social secretaries to call up friends and family and ask when the most convenient time is to schedule a demise. I cannot describe to you the number of times I have sweltered through church and graveside services, wishing for something a little bit more….air conditioned to carry me through what was already a pretty stressful situation.
So (sew?), when I recently saw some black lightweight eyelet fabric, the lightbulbs in the ‘Sew Me Now!” sign that seems on permanent display in my brain went off with the added idea that perhaps I could do something a little bit clever with it so that I could wear the dress for other things besides funerals and memorial services in the summer.
Taking out my trusty TNT Using TNT patterns to get more out your sewing I made the dress without a lining, doing a Hong Kong Finish on the seams and bias binding the armhole edges and the bottom of the dress with black satin lining. Hong Kong Finish Because I had made this pattern twice before, I had all the fitting and other technical issues worked out, so the dress went very quickly. I already had it decided that I’d wear the dress with my black slip for the more ‘funereal’ events, but as you can see from the picture, it’s always good to have a backup plan. Oops. The slip is not long enough. Not a good look. I needed to do some ruminating and chew that problem over.
On the other hand, I already had an idea of how to handle the ‘how to wear/use this dress for other events’ issue, which was to take the dress pattern, simplify it and make a lightweight “under dress” out of a contrasting color. To simplify the dress, I took all the extra ease out of the top of the back (in the original pattern of McCalls 5701, there is about 4-5″ of extra ease so that you can make deep pleats in the back, like a late 1950s sack dress. I did not need or want all that extra fabric in the back underneath the dress itself, so I put the center back (which in the original is on a fold) on the selvage and then redrew the seam to take out all the fullness at the top. At the same time, I cut in at the armholes and lowered the neck to make the top more like a tank top and folded over all the edges twice to neaten the finish up. The result under the black eyelet looks like this.
Proof positive that this looks a whole lot better than the black slip, so I will get some lightweight black lining and do the same thing for an under dress in black. I’m going to try to find black rayon lining because I believe it should breathe better than acetate or polyester for summer weather. I’ll be ready for anything.
Just in case, you know?
(Thread and needle photo courtesy of Jon Sheedy)