Client Spotlight: Sarah G.

If I were to have a patron, Sarah would be it.  Over the last year she has commissioned several skirts from me, choosing the most whimsical, geeky, STEMy fabric imaginable.  As a client, she is a joy to work with.  So, when she approached me about creating a Miss Frizzle cosplay, I said yes without hesitation.

What Sarah wanted was simple in it’s vision: a matching skirt and shirt that would look like a dress, with the wide elastic of the skirt acting as a belt.  Being a busty woman, Sarah wanted to avoid the problems she’s had in the past with fitting dresses to her figure.  We talked at length about what kind of shirt would work best for the costume.  Though she was hesitant when I brought up a button down, she said she trusted me to make it work.

I understand her trepidation.  Button down shirts can be difficult for women with large breasts.  Not only is there the button gap issue, but in order to fit a shirt to your bust you often end up with a garment that looks like a tent.  In this case I had the advantage because I would be sewing the shirt from scratch.

Simplicity 9818 Pattern
For an all purpose button down shirt, this pattern is about as easy as they come.

I chose a pattern I already had on hand: Simplicity 9818.  I’d used the pattern before to make a shirt for myself, so I was familiar with the instructions.  The pattern itself stopped two sizes short of Sarah’s measurements.  This is where having multiple copies of a pattern on hand helps.  Using pattern paper I first traced the largest size, then I slid the pattern paper over, matching the markings with the smaller, inner size, and traced the larger size again.  From that pattern I made a muslin to make sure the sizing was correct.

If I were making the shirt for every day wear, I would have added bust darts up from the waist to make it a bit more tailored.  Since it was going to be tucked into the skirt and needed to look like part of the dress, I didn’t.  When she got the costume, she told me she was over the moon with the fit.  For once she had a button down shirt that fit her measurements.  Her trust in me had been well founded.  And it’s responses like that, the feeling of pulling on a piece of clothing that just fits like it is supposed to, that make this job so satisfying.  As someone who got into sewing because I hated going clothes shopping, I love that I can help others in that regard.

Microbes - Lime & Teal by Erin Hayward
I love the retro future design of these microbes.

The fabric Sarah chose, Microbes by Erin Hayward, is what really made this outfit work.  The design is recognizable for what it is, and it has just the right cartoony look to it.  With her wig and plush lizard, Sarah said that people at DragonCon immediately knew who she was.

This is an aspect of cosplay that I really love: going out in a character that other people relate to on a personal level.  To see a beloved character in the flesh, so to speak, to be able to interact with them, get a picture with them, connect with them, even if only for a moment of pretend, is one of those small moments of joy that help offset the horribleness of our current reality.  There are shootings and poverty and people without health care or power and natural disasters and suffering the world over.  Those things need our attention and help.  But we also need to have moments where we can retreat and recharge.  And this one small action, dressing up as Miss Frizzle, had ripple effects.  While I made the costume I felt happiness.  When Sarah dressed up, she felt happiness.  Those who saw her, not only in person, but in pictures posted on the Internet, felt happiness.  That is no small thing.

I’m already working on more skirts for Sarah.  I’ve sewn enough for her that they almost warrant their own post.  For now, I leave you with pictures of Miss Frizzle, out and about at DragonCon.  I hope seeing them brings you a moment or two of happiness.

Miss Frizzle Cosplay
Look at that wig! Look at that lizard!
Miss Frizzle Cosplay
I love the saucy pose!

Client Spotlight: Moira

While sewing, for me, is mostly a commercial pursuit, I have long associated it with love, not money.  I don’t mean that in the sense of I’m not getting rich as a sewist.  I mean that the first sewing I was exposed to were the stuffed animals and doll clothes my grandmother made for me and my cousins.  My mother sews clothes for my children.  My aunts sew quilts for their families.  Sewing has always been an expression of love in my family.  And though the majority of my sewing goes to items for sale, that doesn’t mean I don’t also sew for love.

The dress I made for my friend Moira is no exception.  When she approached me to make her wedding dress, I was so happy and excited to do it.  And though my entry here is listed as “client spotlight” and though Moira paid me, that doesn’t negate the love I put into making her gown.  I wouldn’t be at her nuptials in body, so my joy and well wishes for her and her beau would travel along in the dress.

Frida Esperanza by Alexander Henry
The fabric features cartoon renderings of several of Frida Kahlo’s self portraits.

Moira is an artist of the beautifully macabre.  This of course means she wasn’t looking for a white satin gown for her wedding.  What she came to me with was the idea for a 1960s cocktail dress that she could wear to other events.  We took measurements and she went on the hunt for fabric.  That fabric happened to be a cotton print by Alexander Henry called Frida Esperanza.

My first order of business was to do a tissue fitting.  Moira is a tall, curvy gal which made a couple fittings necessary to make sure everything fit perfectly.  I use the method I learned from the book Fit for Real People which involves pinning the tissue pattern together, trying it on, and marking any changes directly onto the paper.  For Moira we had to take into account that her bust apex was lower than in the pattern, widening the back and waist, and making sure the kimono cut sleeves allowed her ample movement.

After the tissue fitting I put together a muslin.  When you are altering a pattern there are so many adjustments that need to be made, a muslin is the only way to make sure you don’t miss something.  And since Moira had brought me just enough of the fabric to make the dress, I didn’t want to make a mistake that would put me in danger of running out.

Moira's Muslin
I have no clever reason for using two different colors of muslin here. I just grabbed what was closest and had enough yardage from my stash.

The muslin fitting brought to light other fit issues.  I had dropped the bust darts down, and had made the waist darts in the bodice narrower.  I had also added an inch to the center back.  Even so, there was still a large gap at the midsection.  This seems to be a common problem for those of us with larger busts.  Unless we are employing bras that also double as rigging for a sloop, the weight of larger breasts pulls them lower than those of our perkier, smaller busted sisters.  This means that the point of largest width ends up lower than patterns take into account.  By adding the extra inch to the back, I ended up with a gap that overlapped at the neck, but couldn’t close the rest of the way down.

I marked a bunch of notes right onto the fabric as Moira patiently waited, turning right and left, lifting her arms or sitting as I made my notes.  I kept telling her not to suck in, as I wanted the dress to fit her, not try to fit her body to the dress.

Now it was time to commit to cutting out the adjusted pattern from the final fabric.  Even here I had to make some more changes.  The original pattern calls for cutting the front bodice in two pieces and then sewing the center seam together.  Doing that with the print would cause a headache of trying to make sure I didn’t have Franken-Fridas on my friend’s bust.  Instead I cut the bodice on the fold.  Eliminating the center seam gave me a little extra room, too.

I dropped the back waist darts, which gave me the room I needed to make sure the fit was right, and there wasn’t going to be any tightness.  For the extra fabric at the top of the bodice, I put a box pleat in each shoulder.  This kept my center back straight.  Sometimes a tuck or a fold is just what you need to make things fit, then it becomes a design element!

I will be honest that when Moira showed up to pick up the dress I held my breath while I zipped her up into it.  I wanted so very much for the dress to fit like a hug from a friend.  And it did!  She looked so lovely twirling around in my workshop, staid Frida’s looking on in approval.

Moira Wedding Dress

And here is the bride in her dress at her wedding at a mini-golf course / wedding chapel.  I can’t express how much it meant to me that Moira asked me to make her wedding dress.  Again, I never thought I would work on bridal gowns, and I really am not.  Instead, I am adding my love for my friend to her wedding, helping to amplify the happiness of the day.