Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

When I first joined the Mood Sewing Network one of the things that excited me most was having a wide variety of beautiful fabrics I'd never used before at my fingertips. I've really tried to challenge myself to sew with new and slightly trickier fabrics this year; so this month I decided to take the plunge and try one of the most infamously tricky fabrics to handle and gave in to my urge to snap up some of this stunning printed silk chiffon from Oscar de la Renta.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

I probably should have picked a slightly more straightforward garment for my first chiffon project but I have a tendency with my sewing to jump right in feet first and all I could envision this fabric as was a dress with a full, floaty skirt. So that's exactly what I did! I chose the skirt from By Hand London's Flora Dress as this was the fullest skirt I could think of. It is a  I had an image in my head of the movement of contemporary ballet skirts and knew that many of these are formed of layers of chiffon and lightweight silk so I chose this antique white silk crepe de chine for my lining/underlining. I used just the one layer of the crepe in my skirt, if I'd been sure the whole project was going to work out or if it had been for an extra special occasion I probably would have put a second one in to add a bit more plushness to swirl of the skirt. As it is I am so delighted with the movement and the weight of the chiffon and crepe de chine together. It doesn't show up fully in photos but hopefully these two give you some kind of idea!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

For the bodice I chose view A of Simplicty 1876. It reminds me of the Sewaholic Lonsdale (which I've previously made three of!) but I prefer this halter tie to the Lonsdale straps. I found this pattern in the bargain trays at the front of Dalston Mill for £1 a while back and can't believe it hadn't caught my attention before. I can't wait for next summer already so I can make a breezy cotton version with the more fitted skirt that comes with the pattern.

Fitting the bodice was pretty straightforward because of those princess seams. It also helped that most of my fitting problems stem from excess length between the shoulder and bust which obviously isn't an issue with this design! The boned, strapless style meant I was going to need fabric with a bit more structure for the bodice pieces. I therefore chose to use the crepe de chine as underlining in this area and added a cotton batiste lining with silk organza interfacing. I didn't want to the halter strap to be too rigid or too weak so I used the chiffon, crepe and batiste for strength but no organza here. I cut a size 10 of both the bodice and skirt and used 2 yards of the chiffon, 2.5 yards of the narrower crepe de chine and just 0.5 yards of both the batiste and organza.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

Silk organza was used a lot throughout this dress. Stabilising is key when using fabrics this delicate for a fitted dress. I stitched selvedge strips of organza to the seam allowances where I was going to insert the zip (in place of the fusible interfacing I usually use) and stitched bias strips of it into the seam allowance along the neckline instead of stay tape as I thought even a narrow twill tape would be too bulky.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

I used this fabric covered boning from Mood Fabrics which I will admit I was a little apprehensive about ordering as it was such a bargain for a whole roll! However, it turned out to be absolutely perfect for this particular project as both narrow and lightweight meaning that it would not put too much stress on the delicate silk nor show a ridge through to the outer side. The plastic bone can be removed from the casing which is different to similar products I've bought here in the UK before. It makes it much easier to work with as when sewing the seams across each end you can push the boning away slightly and not risk breaking your needle by catching the end. I really like the boning that comes pre-covered as I could just sew it straight onto the wrong side of the batiste lining once it was assembled, aligning it over each seam line.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

I've been reading Claire Shaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques recently and it got me fired up to try out some more involved techniques to make the most of the delicate chiffon. Don't get me wrong, I still started each step pretty terrified about what I was about to encounter but I was up for the challenge! One of the main things I took from her book was how to add a petersham waist stay. Even with these super fine fabrics that full skirt is surprisingly weighty and I didn't want it to distort the shape of the bodice or add stress to the delicate fabrics.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

I used french seams on both layers of the skirt. I expected these to be quite frustrating in the chiffon but both fabrics responded well to pressing so I managed to achieve a neat and smooth result. I wish I'd been a bit more aggressive in trimming down the allowance of the first seam so that the completed seam was narrower and more delicate in appearance but it's not a major issue, just something to remember next time! The bodice seams are all enclosed within the lining so I chose just to pink these to reduce some of the bulk and risk of fraying.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

I hand basted each of the bodice layers together (chiffon to crepe and organza to batiste) and used very little steam throughout as I know the loose weave of chiffon means it has a tendency to shrink and stretch. I used a brand new size 60 sharps needle in my machine, made sure not to back tack when sewing with the chiffon on it's own and kept hold of the thread tails when starting off a line to stitching to prevent. All this really worked to help prevent snags, knots or fabric getting 'eaten' by the machine. I did a lot of research into sewing with lightweight silks and noticed many people recommended not to use pins at all. With these shifty fabrics I knew I wanted to use A LOT of pins to keep everything in place so I simply made sure to use silk pins and keep them within the seam allowances. I used a combination of pins and weights when cutting and (although a rotary cutter seems to be the preferred cutting implement for silk I had some huge pattern pieces for that skirt) I used shears, cutting everything out in a single layer on carpet which helped prevent pieces shifting off grain.

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

I feel like I could ramble on for hours about the construction and different techniques I used but I'll stop this from becoming the longest post in history and be back later in the week with some more detailed insights! All in all I'm really proud of this dress and certainly won't shy away from working with chiffon or lightweight silks again. It's very time consuming and requires some patience but I really enjoy a challenging project like this. The process was a mixture of ups and downs (the downs namely being slipstitching the lining down at the waist and that hem...argh!) but most aspects actually came together better than expected and with surprisingly infrequent use of the unpicker!

Diary of a Chain Stitcher: Mood Fabrics Oscar de la Renta Silk Chiffon Dress

44 comments:

  1. fiona, this is just stunning. GORGEOUS, delicate, brilliant! without bringing down the mood, because he seemed very level headed on the subject of passing, it's also a fitting tribute to mr de la renta. you look beautiful!!

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    1. Thanks so much Marcy, I'm pretty super duper proud of this one! And as it has turned out as such an accidentally well timed tribute I'm really pleased I could do justice to the stunning fabric

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  2. What a beautiful dress on you - I hope you have somewhere lovely to go to show it off.

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    1. Thank you! Luckily I'm in the midst of lots of friends getting married...they just might have to put up with seeing me in the same dress at every single one!

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  3. beautiful fiona. look forward to reading all the details (you know we can never get too much sewing detail!)

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    1. Thanks Jo, I'm glad you are interested in hearing more about it, I love reading posts about all the nitty gritty of putting a complicated garment together!

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  4. Ah this is so pretty and what amazing skills! What a great tribute to Oscar too!

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    1. Thanks Zoe! I'm really pleased with how my sewing skills have come on during this project

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  5. Amazing work of art, and you look stunning in it!

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    1. Thank you! I'm so proud of it I almost don't want to wear it...almost!

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  6. Gorgeous!! You managed the tricky fabric like a genius!

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    1. I didn't feel like much of a genius when I was doing it but I am incredibly pleased with the result and feel a lot more confident about working with silk now.

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  7. Fiona, this is absolutely stunning! And you have incorporated so many tricky techniques into it, I am super super impressed! Every time I read one of your posts, you seem to have learnt another handful of new techniques - I am so in awe of how your sewing has developed over the last couple of years :) you inspire me to want to try awesome things too xx

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    1. O thank you so much for that lovely comment, it really means a lot! Learning new techniques and making more complicated garments is one of the main things that I love about sewing - alongside hearing that I am inspiring other bloggers! I'm itching to try out some more tricky stuff even just after finishing this!

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  8. Wow such a beautiful dress! And you put so much effort and thought into the making, I wish I would do the same. Do you have an occasion to wear this dress?

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    1. I've got plenty of weddings coming up which fingers crossed it will be perfect for! I love the planning and preparing of a project almost as much as making or wearing it!

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  9. Wonderful work Fiona - I hope you have many party opportunities to show it off!

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    1. Thanks Michelle, if I run out of occasions to wear it I'll definitely be creating some!

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  10. This dress is absolutely stunning! And the technique! Bravo! I think Mr. de la Renta would have approved :)

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    1. O thanks Sally, that's such a lovely thing to say! Making this has actually made me appreciate so much more what a genius that man was, the things he did with chiffon and silk...incredible!

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  11. I can't get over this dress! It's too good!

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    1. Thanks so much Sonja! I was kind of dreading working with the chiffon but I enjoyed it so much I almost want to start it all over again!

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  12. Well done!
    I'm so impressed with all the effort and planning and thought you've put into this dress, and it's just beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Elisabeth. I really like to mix my projects up between quick and simple makes and some really challenging intricate ones, it means I really enjoy the change of each of them!

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  13. Stunning and your construction is really impressive! This dress deserves a really special place to go!

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    1. Thanks Mags! I shall endeavour to go to many special places in it!

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  14. beautiful dress and construction!! please post more details of the bodice construction, would love to see it!

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    1. I absolutely will do! I'm never sure how much detail to go into about the construction but I love hearing about every single little aspect so I'm going to go for it in a separate post!

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  15. Beautifully made! All your careful planning and sewing really paid off with this gorgeous fabric! The style you chose is perfect for this fabric and a perfect tribute to Mr. de la Renta. =)

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    1. Thanks Brooke. I waited on making a firm decision on the pattern until I had the fabric in my hands. When I saw how it moved and draped I knew I was making the right move with this style!

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  16. This is gorgeous, as are you! This dress needs a special night out, and I hope you insist upon it. You have a great sense of style. I love everything you make.

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    1. Thanks so much! I often feel like my sense of style isn't very defined, I just pick fabrics that grab my attention and make whatever springs to mind, so it's lovely to hear that someone really likes my projects as a whole!

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  17. That is beautiful - so well made. Great techniques with a tricky fabric. Well done!

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    1. Thank you, I'm really proud of it and could have made this post about four times as long with photos and details of every single step. I really enjoyed every single part

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  18. This is so beautiful! And I love all the construction details. Well done!

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    1. Thanks Nicole! More info about the construction coming soon!

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  19. This is absolutely gorgeous! I'm so impressed with your sewing all the time, and especially knowing how recently you learned to sew—it's truly amazing! Definitely inspirational to someone who has been sewing for years but not really progressing much with it.

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    1. Thanks so much Sara, I just love trying out new techniques and trying to replicate particular details that inspire me! I hope you get the chance to try out something new!

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  20. So so beautiful. Amazing dress, Fiona xxx

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    1. Thanks Janene, I'm really proud of it! It helps that that chiffon is absolutely stunning!

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  21. Sorry for the belated comment. This is just stunning. Absolutely gorgeous.

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    1. Belated comments are more than welcome Evie! It's really nice to look back! Thanks so much

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  22. So so beautiful. Amazing dress. I just love your design.

    Silk Chiffon Fabric NYC

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I love hearing from readers of my blog so please feel free to leave a comment letting me know what you thought about this post/make! Any hints or tips to improve my sewing are always much appreciated too!