Behind the Seams: The ‘Mademoiselle’ Dress

What is Behind the Seams?

To complement the posts I’ll be contributing to The Sew Weekly (TSW) Challenge, I’m starting the ‘Behind the Seams’ (BTS) series to share more information on my thought processes during preparation and/or the actual construction process and sometimes tutorials on how things are done. More images of the completed garment will also be posted here. Through this series, I hope to share with you the ‘why’ ‘what’ and ‘how’ information and off course the photography sessions, hiccups and stories where relevant. So, if you like to, you can treat my post on TSW as Part 1 and BTS as Part 2 🙂

Week 1 Theme: Coco Chanel

As some of you already know, the inaugural theme is Coco Chanel and you can find my TSW post here.

The ‘Mademoiselle’ Dress:

Photo Gallery

How Coco ‘shaped’ my outfit?

I do not think I have ever done this much research before making a dress and it had nothing to do  with actual sewing but in getting to know more about a woman. The legendary Coco Chanel.

I loved her ideal of the LBD  and how versatile it should be. “A dress that was minimalist, sophisticated, elegant, to be worn at any time of day.” The Telegraph elaborated on this ideal perfectly. “Her revolutionary approach to design meant that the dress could be worn as day, cocktail and evening wear.”  And while I couldn’t sew my dress in black as it was for the Lunar New Year, I held this ideal close while selecting the sewing pattern. A dress that could be worn anytime.

Chanel was credited for making jersey a popular fashion fabric. And that definitely gave me a push towards using matte jersey for the dress. Nonetheless, her original jersey garments were mostly in black, grey and blue so I think the red color I chose is more Chanel (the brand) than Coco Chanel. Pure red garments can be found in almost all of its recent collections and numerous ad campaigns. A signature Coco Chanel design element is fraying at the hems or fringe trims, which I was most happy to add to the neckline.

How can I leave out the bright red lipstick and costume jewelry pearls. We owe these all to Coco Chanel and I had to adorn myself with them during the photo shoot 🙂

Pattern Review

The sewing pattern I used was No. 3 ‘Gather drape dress’ from the Japanese Sewing Book, ‘Drape drape’ Volume 1.

This is the first Japanese sewing pattern I used which didn’t require the addition of seam allowance.  I don’t read Japanese but as usual, the diagrams made the steps crystal clear. It was also the first time I sewed a dress from a one piece pattern. I was amazed just looking at it!  Little did I expect this dress to take up so much of my time.

The pattern is rather big so they divided it into two on the pattern sheet so you need to join them while tracing at the round circle indicated in the diagram below.  Look for the two No. 3 patterns on the overlapping pattern sheet and match the semi circles.

I followed the book diagram closely for the bodice and front of the dress. However,  during fitting I realized that a zip was not necessary for this dress as opposed to the notions recommended by the book. Also, I had to change the back of the dress rather drastically. Yes, I used the seam ripper a lot for this project.

You see, the book only shown a photo of the front of the dress but not the back (now we know why) and when I saw the technical drawing below, I thought it would only make my hip look bigger, which was fine by me. However, imagine my horror when all those gathers ended up at the narrowest part of my waist! I think it might be because the pattern was designed for Japanese women who are usually more petite than I am. I’m 5 feet 7 so for any brave soul attempting this project in future, try to lengthen the bodice if you see fit. I also lengthened the hem by 3 inches.

I removed most of the gathers at the back of the skirt so it ended up much cleaner. It is times like these that I wished I had a dressform as I had to repeatedly put the dress on, make markings with a fabric chalk or pin, take it off and baste.  It still isn’t perfect but now, I dare wear the dress out of the house 🙂

So, there you have it, my version of ‘Drape drape’ dress No. 3 with no zipper and overwhelming back gathers. The top of the back bodice is held together by huge snap buttons. I did quite a bit of hand stitching with the rose trim at the neckline too as it would be ugly to have a machine stitch running through it. A red dress is fabulous for the Lunar New Year as red is the color of prosperity. I hope you think it looks somewhat inspired by Chanel too 🙂

I had been enjoying the utopia of total control last year and now, the challenge is pushing me beyond my comfort zone. Instead of sewing along themes I am comfortable with. I now get to complete projects based on themes discussed and decided by the TSW team. Both exciting and definitely a whole lot more challenging. Perhaps for that reason, I also find myself more exposed, more vulnerable to self-doubt. I hope as the weeks and months progress that I will get more accustomed to the process and get to enjoy it  even more. It is also likely I am just feeling a little overwhelmed with all my family projects for Lunar New Year.
I hope you will enjoy this new series I am adding and if you find it beneficial, a simple comment is most appreciated 🙂 That way, I’ll know whether I should continue doing BTS.
It has been raining (sometime pouring) here for the past one and a half weeks. I hope for some sunshine so I can do some outdoor photography. That’ll be fun!
Have an amazing week everyone! A bientôt!

26 thoughts on “Behind the Seams: The ‘Mademoiselle’ Dress

  1. It’s beautiful, and all that thought and research is amazing. What an amazing save with the dress back, too… I would not have had the patience to do all that picking out in jersey. Good job!

  2. I love how you would not expect this dress at all from the theme Chanel, and I think it looks much better without the gathers in the back.

  3. Hooray, you did it!!!
    The dress looks amazing and the pattern is really different and stunning,
    I must have this book!
    Thank you for the article, I look forward to what you are going to do next!

  4. I think you look absolutely beautiful in this dress, and it’s definitely versatile. Your growing confidence with Japanese patterns is encouraging me to take the plunge myself! Thanks for the continuing inspiration! Now I just need to wait for my machine to get fixed! 😦

  5. I am late in knowing this but congratulations on being a Sew Weekly contributor! What an auspicious start to the year. This dress is beautiful and simple enough to be worn at any time. And kudos for making a jersey dress too. I am quite sue you’ll do great with The Sew Weekly project. You never fail to inspire me. And please keep the BTS posts coming. I’ll be coming by often:).

  6. great job on the dress & (belated) congratulations on The Sew Weekly selection, I’m really looking foward to seeing 4 versions on each theme each week.
    and I vote for keeping the BTS series 🙂

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