Dressing for a Canadian Spring

Especially pertinent this year, amiright!?

Anyway, a few years ago I came up with a method to help with the end-of-winter-everything-is-grey/brown-and-gross blahs.  As soon as March arrives I start wanting colours, pretty colours!  Spring fashions start arriving in the stores at that time, but there’s no way you can wear them without contracting hypothermia because it’s likely still below zero temps and there’s still snow on the ground (and at least one more good winter storm on the way during March, even when it’s not a polar vortex year).  The stuff in stores doesn’t matter to me much since I mostly don’t buy clothes anymore – it just makes me laugh to see spring and summer dresses in shop windows when there’s still lots of snow on the ground, lol.

Spring/summer patterns and fabrics start coming out at this time too.  It does make sense since it usually takes more time (and often planning) for spring/summer sewing than buying clothes, but I want something spring-y to wear in March/April!

My solution? Sewing clothes for “Canadian” spring.  Basically, this means making winter-weight clothes in spring colours!  I kind of can’t believe that no clothing line/brand has hit on this idea for Canada and other “climates of extremes”.

I also try to include making pieces that are transitional, such as fully winter colour clothes that are neutral enough to be combined with spring-coloured pieces and clothes that may not be heavy enough for deep winter weather, but work for that period transitioning between cold and mild (ie April – most years, not so much this one).

I don’t have a huge Canadian Spring wardrobe yet as I find the necessary materials tricky to source.  I like best to use woollens, and acquiring them in pretty spring colours doesn’t happen too often for me as I exist in a constant state of “I’m not really supposed to buy fabric” and only pick up pieces as I happen across them and feel I can’t live without them.

So, I’m adding to this segment of my wardrobe bit by bit each year and thought I’d show you the types of pieces I’ve got so far.

It really all started with these two skirts:

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Jimminy Crispies! There’s a Charles James Gown in my living room!!

It’s finished! It’s finished!  Okay – so, technically it was finished almost 3 weeks ago.  Since I had another Garrison Ball gown to finish afterwards (for a friend), I’m pretty behind on blogging about this.  Oh well.

Before I get to the final reveal I’m going to take you through the bodice finishing, I’m really happy with how cleanly it turned out.

Oh, and if this is your first time seeing this project, you can go here for a list of the in-progress posts – if you’re interested.

I had one image of the bodice interior to go by, and tried to get it as close as I could (though I do wish I’d had pink silk satin, how pretty would that have been!)

Evening dress, Tree, 1957 (detail view of bodice interior). Silk taffeta by Charles James. Known as the 'Tree' gown, numerous versions of this dress were created in various colors between 1955-1958. Continue reading

Tree Progress: Bodice and Upper Skirt Covering – aka: Very Scary Part!

Draping is not something I have a lot of experience with.  So choosing a style to reproduce where one of the main features is a lot of draped tucks to create a very sculptural look was not a decision that was good for my stress levels.  This part was far more intimidating than any of the hard-core foundation work that came before.  I think a lot of my trepidation came from when I was working on my wedding dress.  I spent at least 3 months trying to make a one-shoulder draped and ruched bodice work and just couldn’t.  Ultimately I scrapped it and went for a much simpler design – ironically, it was taken from another Charles James gown!  Aha…ha….ha.

I was scared to start this, so I put it off as long as possible.  As part of procrastinating against the inevitable I decided to do a really nice finish to the upper edge of the bodice that would never been seen once it was finished.  Unfortunately, I only remembered to take pictures after the dress was back on Maddy and ready for muslining the bodice covering.  Putting the dress on Maddy and taking it off her again had got to the point of being pretty labour-intensive, so exterior photo of this only. Sorry!  There was only a 1/4″ seam allowance for the bodic upper edge; what I decided to do was sew a length of narrow double fold bias tape around it, turn it to the inside and hand-stitch it to the bodice foundation interior.  This did have the practical advantage of adding more substance to that edge so it would hold-up better when it came time to fold all the pleated fabric of the bodice covering over it.  At least it seems logical to me that it would.

NB: the shoulder straps are not sewn to the bodice front here, just pinned.  And no, you’re not seeing that wrong, they are not showing identical fabrics…..

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