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10 Dresses: Maxi Dress

Gee's Blog, Project Space, Alterations and Upcycling, 10 Dresses
2016
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Next on the list, the Maxi dress.
When I think 70’s fashion I instantly think of two things: jumpsuits and maxi dresses. As the swinging 60’s drew to a close and a new subculture began it’s rise, the hems of dresses went from mini to maxi! However, it potentially wasn’t the right time for the maxi dress. As the 70’s drew to a close, the mini length became prominent once more, this time in a skirt. Maxis were also replaced by trousers, jeans and leggings. Fast forward to the 00’s and the maxi dress makes a comeback, with the help of online retailers offering more maxi variations than a twenty-something in the 70’s could have ever dreamed of. And then there’s the growth in social media, where everyone and anyone can share their fashion buys and inspiration. The maxi dress has all bases covered. From the red carpet to graduation, picnic-in-the-park to date night – there is a maxi dress for us all.

Bardot Dress | Slip Dress | Maxi Dress | Shift Dress | Overlay Dress | One Shoulder Dress | Strapless Dress | Long Sleeve Dress | Cold Shoulder Dress | High Neck Dress

Maxi Dress 1
For this dress I used Vogue pattern 8241. I chose to do this dress in sequin fabric. It is a very simple pattern which leans itself well to being used with standout, statement fabric. When sewing with sequins you need plenty of time to prepare the fabric before sewing, as well as plenty of time to clean up after. Lots of people recommend covering your surfaces when sewing or cutting out sequin to aid the clean up process, but in my opinion it’s not really worth it. Sequins will get everywhere when you work with them – there is no way around it. Think of it like glitter. Remember when you used the loose glitter at school/ home to decorate a poster, and for days afterwards you would find speckles of glitter laying about the place? Or sand! After a relaxing time on the beach, sand always wants to come home with you. And it gets into all the places you tried so hard to protect. The best practice when sewing with sequins is to remove the sequins from the seam allowance. This will prevent the sequins breaking your sewing machine needle as well as give you nice smooth seams.

Maxi Dress 2

Materials:
– 2.5m of fabric (I used Sequin)
– 2m of lining
– 3/8″ wide elastic
The pattern also has a belt to pair with the dress that I chose to miss out being that the sequins can speak for themselves. But if I were to make the dress again in a plain fabric I might add the belt to give it a point of difference.
I was fortunate enough to get a beautiful leopard print inspired sequin fabric as a gift (so I’m unsure as to where it came from) but no doubt there will be versions of it out there. The pattern of the fabric is actually horizontal, from selvage to selvage, but I wanted it to go vertically to add length. So cut the fabric through the grain. Similar to cutting on the bias, I had to be careful not to stretch the fabric while cutting to avoid having one side longer than the other.
Because the sequin fabric is printed, I had to pattern match as much as possible to give the illusion of a continuous print. To do this I needed to cut out the pattern pieces individually. First, I traced out the mirror image of the front and back skirt and bodice pattern pieces onto pattern paper. And then I placed the two skirt back pieces onto the fabric to find a faux middle of the pattern (I say faux because I didn’t follow the natural pattern of the fabric so there wasn’t a middle point that it repeated around). Usually the bodice of the dress dictates the lay of pattern pieces but because the print is so big I decided to let the skirt dictate the lay of the dress, as it would be the part of the dress that would have the largest amount of fabric.
Maxi Dress 3
After cutting out the mirror image of the front skirt, I stuck the two pieces together at the centre front that would have otherwise been placed on the fold. I then tried to match the pattern at the sides with the corresponding side of the back skirt. Because I did not follow the natural pattern of the fabric, finding exact matching point was quite difficult so instead I made sure I had a black spot running into another black spot, and that the print started at the same point at the top of the skirt.
Maxi Dress 5
I followed the same logic with the bodices, making sure the waist seam would match as closely as possible and transferred the markings from the pattern using tailors tacks.
Maxi Dress 6
Once all your pattern pieces are cut out, you need to remove all (or as many as possible) of the sequins from the seam allowance. To do this you will need to mark on your seam allowance onto the wrong side if the fabric. I used tailors chalk and my grade and rule to mark the allowances and then I did a long running stitch- by hand- along this line so that I could see where the seam allowance ended when cutting the sequins off.

Find out more about seam allowance in our post about seamless stitching here.

Maxi Dress 7
Maxi Dress 8
To cut the sequins off you will need to lift one edge up from the mesh fabric they are attached to and cut the sequin in half. The other half should fall off either straight away or after you give the dress a shake. Once the sequins have been removed you can begin sewing.
First, stitch the front bodice lining to the front bodice at the neckline and halfway up the armhole seam. You will then need to under-stitch as far as possible.
Maxi Dress 9
Next, attach the two back bodice pieces together at the centre-back seam, leaving it open above the large circle. The back bodice lining pieces will need to be sewn together in the same way. I chose to use a technique used on the previous slip dress for the seams so that I didn’t have to use my overlocker to neaten the edges.
Then, stitch the back bodice lining to the back bodice along the neck and back edges and halfway up the armhole seam. Under-stitch as far as possible. Remember to press your seams. It is possible to iron sequins, though you will need to turn the iron heat setting down low. It is recommended to use the rayon/nylon setting if you have one, and place a piece of greaseproof paper or thin cotton between the iron and the fabric.
Once all front and back bodice seams have been nicely pressed, it’s time to stitch them together. You will need to open out the lining at the sides, pin the bodice front and bodice back together at sides, and pin the lining edges together at the sides. Stitch in one continuous seam and press.
Maxi Dress 10
Turn the lining down and baste the lower raw edges together. Opening out the lining at the shoulders in the same way as the side seams. Pin bodice front and bodice back together, pin lining edges together and stitch in one continuous seam. Press the shoulder seams and slipstitch the opening along the armhole edge.
On to the skirt. Stitch the centre-back seam down to the large circle, then stitch the skirt front to skirt back at sides. Prepare the lining for the skirt in the same way. With wrong sides together, pin the skirt lining to the skirt and baste upper raw edges. With right sides together, stitch the bodice to the skirt to form the waist seam.
Once the waist seam has been sewn, you are ready to form the casing for the elastic. To do this you will need to stitch the waist seam together 5-6mm from the raw edge, leaving an opening to insert the elastic. The pattern instructions say to cut a length of elastic that is your waist measurement plus 2.5cm, but it is up to you on how tight you want the elastic to be. Insert the elastic through the casing, try the dress on and adjust the elastic as needed. Once happy with the length overlap the two ends of the elastic and secure with a zigzag stitch, and then stitch opening closed.
Maxi Dress 11
On to the finishing. Sew the button to the right back opening at marking. Make a thread loop on left back section opposite button, large enough for the button to pass through.
Maxi Dress 12
Because I used sequin fabric I bagged out the hem of the dress, which is different to the pattern instructions. I did this so there wouldn’t be a row of stitches going across the sequins, which would have been tough on my sewing machine needle. After I bagged out the hem I slipstitched the split opening.
Maxi Dress 13
I also chose not to press the hem of this dress, as I like the bubble effect that was created from bagging out the hem. It gives the dress a subtle illusion that the sequins go completely through the dress.
Maxi Dress 14
line break
If you are as much a fan of this dress as I am. Show us your makes on the William Gee Facebook page or on Twitter using the @williamgeeUK handle and #10dresses.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you will stick around for the rest of the series. And I look forward to seeing all your makes!
Until next time.
A

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Andrea is a self-taught seamstress, who started sewing after accepting it would be unlikely she would ever find exactly the outfit she imagined wearing to a party or event. So with steely determination, dedication and a heap of patience she has taught herself to make everything from a jersey tee to a mens tailored blazer. And with her love of fashion and readiness to take on a new challenge, who knows what she will make (or do) next.

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