First Dress Challenge: Design 1: Mod
I’ve decided to give myself a new creative challenge—to design three dresses with entirely different looks, created from the same pattern. With the first dress I’ve assigned the additional requirement that it be made entirely from materials that I already have because, like most sewers, I have way too much fabric.
The pattern I chose is a vintage 1970s sportswear/athletic dress pattern with optional shorts (McCall’s 3163 ©1972)*. I don’t quite know where someone was intended to wear the floor-length dress with the thigh-high split, but the other two are pretty obvious.
Inspired by the 1960s, the look is mod—a mini tunic with shorts, paillettes, and feathers...worn with kohl eyes and thigh-high boots.
A crucial thing for me is always to avoid dry-cleaning and thus to make garments machine-washable, which meant in this design that the feathers and paillettes must be removeable. To make this possible, I decided to sew thread tacks in matching thread so that they wouldn’t be noticeable, and to put the feathers and paillettes (and rhinestones ‘cause why not?) on jewelry clasps that could attach to the thread tacks. To make the look more adjustable, I decided to sew the thread tacks in a grid across the front of the dress. In this way, one could attach the adornments in a symmetric or asymmetric pattern, sparsely or filling the entire grid.
The only hinderance in construction was the restraint I’d put on myself of not buying new materials. I used feathers that I pulled out of a trim which are not great quality, don’t have strong stems, and were losing plumes easily (they also stained my fingers black). In the future, I’d buy individual feathers whose stems will better hold a thread knot to the jewelry clasp.
*For anyone who sews this pattern, I noticed a mistake. The side seam circles don’t match up between front and back. To align them, one would have to gather the back above the circle, which would make the back significantly shorter than the front—an obvious error. I went with the higher of the two.
Photos from the photoshoot were taken in New York City's SOHO neighborhood on a bitterly cold day. Because of this, the only shot below that shows the dress uncovered is the last one, taken right after completion.
Special thanks to photographer Portia Makoma for braving the frostbite.