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.

 

Client Spotlight: A.C. & Moira

You all may recall that I’ve mentioned before I don’t take on wedding dress commissions.  It’s not out of a dislike of weddings (I’ve had two of my own: one with the white dress and all the trimmings and one with just me, my love and my daughter at the justice of the peace).  I merely find that there are others who specialize in nuptial-wear and so really no need for my skills.

And yet, I have found myself once again working on a wedding outfit commission, and like the last one, it is not your familiar white satin and lace affair.

Before we get to that commission, however, I have a long awaited (well at least for me) update on the wedding tux I made for A.C. last December.  As a refresher, A.C. is non-binary, and wanted an outfit for their wedding that was a) fitting to their tastes and style b) included some traditional wedding motifs and c) could be worn to other occasions.  I made them a white satin vest suit with lavender lapels.  Well, A.C. just sent me photos of the ceremony featuring their suit and I must say they look absolutely fantastic.  Behold the glory of wearing whatever the frak you want to your wedding:

I’m am thrilled with how the tux turned out and it made my day to get to see the pictures of the happy day.

Now, let’s turn to the next commission, another wedding outfit, for one of my dearest friends.

I’ve known Moira going on eight years.  I met her at the second convention I ever vended at.  She helped spread the word when I ran a fire sale on custom corsets to raise money to keep my house.  We’ve vended together at various events, we bounce ideas off of each other, and we are supportive of each others’ goals as artists, crafters and women.  So when Moira told me that she was getting married to her long-time partner (another wonderful person I am lucky to call my friend), and asked me if I was interested in making her wedding dress I said yes before she had even told me what she wanted.

This weekend Moira came over and we hashed out some of the details.  Before I get into a break down of what I’ll be making for her, I want to make a slight detour and mention that this is the first time I’ve had a client over since we adopted our cats*.  I learned quickly that cats will: lay down on open patterns you are trying to discuss, attack dangling tape measures when you are taking measurements, and monopolize the attention of your client if they give any indication of liking cats.

On to the dress: Moira brought in several patterns she had picked up for us to discuss.  We narrowed it down to the one she and her groom liked best: McCall’s 7086.   McCall Pattern 7086

As with A.C., Moira wants a dress that she could wear after the ceremony to other functions.  I love the idea of practical wedding wear.  (My dress from my first marriage is sitting in a box in my parents’ home.) I took measurements, set up two future appointments for a tissue fitting and a second fitting afterwards.

Then we discussed fabric.  This was honestly the best part of the whole meeting because when Moira asked if I had any advice on patterns.  “Maybe not stripes or plaids because they would be a nightmare to match with this pattern.”  Anything else? Fair game.  As long as she found a print she loved, I’d work with it.  My reasoning is that one should wear what makes one feel fabulous.  If that’s big prints?  Awesome!  And if anyone makes any noises about how the print resembles furniture, then you sit your fabulous self on that person and smother them because you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

At this point you might be wondering, “Are you going to add pockets to this dress?”  And that’s how I know you are new to this blog.  Of course I will be adding pockets to this dress.  I personally view any pattern that omits pockets to be a design flaw that should have seen the pattern sent back for redrafting.  But fashion rarely makes sense, which is why I and other sewists are here to make up for the mistakes of others.

I’ll update as work on this dress progresses.  I also have a few other commissions that are in various stages of completion which I’ll post on in the coming months.  In the meantime, I’ve got some pockets to insert.


*I realize I didn’t mention this before, but in January I had to put down Trixie. While I am not ready for another dog, the house was feeling empty without a furry presence, and so at the end of April we adopted two cats: Barley and Jake.  We got them from the Humane Haven in Bolingbrook and the house has felt in balance once again.

Client Spotlight: A.C.

As a rule I don’t do wedding attire: either sewing dresses or alterations.  I’ve made an exception in the past because the bride wasn’t looking for your typical wedding gown.  But, there are many sewists that specialize in weddings, and I’d rather leave the bridezilla wrangling to them.  However, when A.C. approached me with a wedding request I immediately agreed.

A.C. is non-binary and wanted to wear a suit for their wedding.  The idea and outfit were too unique to pass up.  I’ve also heard from several trans people about how hard it is to find sewists willing to work with them, which was another reason to say yes to the (non)dress.

We met on a Wednesday for A.C. to hand off the fabric and to discuss the details.  Thanks to the kids being in school I had time to make sure that the house was tidy.  A.C. brought Irish Breakfast Tea and I had my Pandora Celtic station on in the background.  With the exception of Trixie being a brat and insisting she get attention, the meeting was as close to my ideal as possible.  We’d discussed the suit before, so this was more of a chance to make those informal conversations concrete.

McCall's 7952 Vest and Pants Pattern
The pattern in question. Check out how fierce the one in white is.

The pattern A.C. provided is an out of print McCall’s vest and pants pattern.  They decided on a white matte satin material, with a shiny, very light satin for the collar contrast.  A.C. wants to have an outfit that is special for the wedding, but also one they can wear later, to other occasions.  I’m a big fan of this idea.  I did the whole dropping a few hundred on a wedding dress that has sat in storage since the big day, and I regret it.

Despite the “non-traditional” aspect of their wedding ensemble, there was a lot of discussion of the usual nuptial trappings.  One of the things we talked about was making a pocket square from the contrast material for A.C.’s groom to wear.  Before they left, I had measurements, the pattern, and materials; and I had scheduled the work for the month of October.

We also chatted about their work on a Pearl cosplay.

Ultimately, this is what I like: making clothes for people who can’t find what they want off the rack.  The work is never boring, challenging sometimes, but never boring.  I’ll post an update later this month with pictures of the finished outfit.