Okay, so the title is a lie. This wasn’t technically my first dress. I made a can can dress for my A level project, a few velcro-down-the-side tube dresses for a production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ at uni and I started a dress for my friend Portia which unfortunately never made it passed the pinning together stage. But this was the first dress I had made to fit me and wear. What’s more it was to be the first dress that my 14 year old cousin had ever sewn and I was teaching her how.
A little background info: My cousin wanted to take GCSE textiles but it was in the same options block as PE. Sporty little thing that she is she chose PE, but still wanted to learn how to make clothes. I said that I would show her how to follow a dress pattern as her mum had shown my mum some 20 years previously. We decided to make one each together.
I selected the pattern that came free with ‘Love Sewing’ Magazine. The Bardot dress was rated easy, had a handmade bias bound off the shoulder neckline and a zipped back. Keeping it simple we both opted for the short sleeve option and used light quilting cotton, though I added side seam pockets (to challenge myself) and a lining because my fabric was pale and lightweight.
It was a really simple dress to put together, shaped with darts and with raglan sleeves, the most difficult bit was the homemade bias binding as the instructions do not give enough length for the whole neckline. Having never made a garment before my cousin coped really well. The waist darts matched the skirt pleats pretty much perfectly, the topstitched the neck binding neatly and even made her own adjustments. I teach older students who couldn’t have done as much on their own as neatly.
Just as I added the much needed lining and (for me) essential pockets, she put her own spin on it. Adding a tuck on each sleeve and a gather in the centre neckline, changed the shape of the dress completely. It really suited her, in spite of her complaints about the length (it sits a few inches above her knee – a highly flattering but deeply unfashionable length for a 5’9″ 14 year old).
I on the other hand was unhappy with everything but the length. Proud as I was of myself for adding a lining and pockets, when I wore it I really hated it. the colour and pattern were wrong, the thing was the wrong shape and style for me. It did nothing for me but wash me out and make me look huge.
see the huge waist, washed out face and gapey back? (ignore the socks)
However, my cousin got a lovely dress out of the experience, and skills she can use forever. She mastered inserting a zip, making and using bias binding, pleats, darts and following a pattern.
So, in spite of her repeated use of the phrase “that’s not in my job description” (code for teenage laziness I remember all to well) we both really enjoyed the experience and I couldn’t be prouder. Slimmer maybe, but certainly not prouder.
(P.S. I tried it with a red belt. What do you think?)