Client Spotlight: Justine

I am lucky in that I get to work with so many lovely clients. Justine is a friend from my LARP days, and an honest-to-goodness mermaid. And I mean mermaid in the old-fashioned way; the kind that would sink your ship while painting her nails.

Peter Pan Mermaid
Actual footage of Justine.

I’ve made a few pieces for Justine over the years, including two corsets and a bustle.  She approached me a couple of months ago about making her some dresses for an upcoming vacation.  Her specifications were: skater dress with a ballerina neckline and pockets out of knit fabric.

We started with the pattern.  I first considered the Simplicity 8396, but it is for woven fabrics, not knit.  In my search I came across this review of the Kitschy Coo’s Lady Skater pattern.  The review convinced me that this pattern was just what I needed.

Next was fabric.  Justine provided me with two “must have” choices from Spoonflower, and then a list of other choices from JoAnn Fabrics and told me to choose one for a total of three dresses.

The Kitschy Coo pattern is as easy to put together as advertised, however it doesn’t give you much margin of error. I learned this quickly when I cut out the first dress and found myself without a large enough section to cut the front and back bodice pieces. It was my fault for not laying everything out ahead of time, a mistake born from overconfidence.

I dealt with that mistake by redrafting the two pieces. I added princess seams to the front and added a center back seam to the back, which allowed me to use the fabric left after cutting out the skirt and other parts. I made sure that when the new pieces were basted together they matched the size of the original bodice piece. I also reinforced all the seams.

These changes led to a slight complication when the dress was finished. There was an ugly gap at the back. A quick pin and seam fixed that.

Fixing a gap in the center back
The gap. The pin. The finished fix. The tacking in the neckline keeps the ends of the facing flat.

The other alteration I made was to the neckline. Justine wanted it just a little wider. This involved not only adjusting the bodice pieces at the neck, but also making sure the facing was the right length.

Despite figuring out the issue of laying out the pattern, the other two dresses had their own challenges. The fabric for both was a one way design, which meant making sure I was placing the pieces in a way that the designs looked good when sewn together. This isn’t a major issue, it just means slowing down and taking care. The whole project was a needed reminder that even seasoned pros need to remember the basics when working.

Adding the pockets meant altering the sewing instructions as well. Instead of one long seam from arm hole to skirt edge, I had to sew the top and bottom separately and then sew them together. If I had been using just my regular sewing machine, Kenny, I could have done the continuous side seam. But with my serger, Sergei, that wasn’t an option. This didn’t affect the look or fit of the dress in any way.

The most important part of all of this is that I created three dresses that fit Justine’s specifications. She has worn them several times since I made them last Summer and gets compliments wherever she goes.

Three dresses for a mermaid.
The finished dresses. Check out that pattern matching on the typewriter one.