Urban Forest dress

The Theme
This week’s Sew Weekly theme was Spanish Harlem. There was a fair amount of confusion over on the Sew Weekly community for this one. (I was very much one of the confused ones!) Luckily a couple of the girls pointed us in the right direction, and I went hunting up some ideas.

I made myself a pinboard on Pinterest, with my challenge inspirations. Black, red and roses feature quite a lot, as it turns out.

The Facts

  • Fabric: 2m of stretch cotton blend, a gift from my friend Gill, and 2 metres of pink lining, around $4 a metre
  • Pattern: Home Journal 9058
  • Year: 1950’s
  • Notions: 40cm invisible zip, around $4 on half-price sale
  • Time to complete: 5 hours
  • Will I wear it? Absolutely, I am in love with this dress!
  • Total cost: around $12

The Story
After I’d gotten some tips about the theme, and gone digging for inspiration, my first thoughts on Spanish Harlem style were black, red, large floral designs, sexy-vintage-street styles.

To which I thought – why not make some bright red 1950’s short shorts (or 1970’s) and a cute black or white top to go with them?

Then the reality of the fact it’s still October and no where near shorts weather sunk in. I think I live in a perpetual summer in my mind – I always want to make summery stuff, and really, I only get to wear it in it’s true summery state around 2 months out of every year. 3 if I’m lucky and/or go on holiday overseas. Note to self – must make more warm things.

So I ditched the idea of the shorts. And went hunting through my stash for something else – ideally something black, with a large red floral (preferably roses) print on it. Guess what? Nothing like that exists in my stash. Or if it does, I didn’t manage to unearth it. The closest I had was a lovely white-with-black-floral-design stretch cotton my friend Gillian gave me recently (thanks, Gill!). And luckily, I had just enough to make a wiggle dress out of it! To me, this seems Spanish Harlem – black and white and floral and wiggle dress – kinda vintage sexy and bold, right? (It was only after I’d started that Mena put up the note about Spanish Harlem being colourfull. Oh well, I’m doing it my way anyway!)

The Pattern
So, it turns out this Home Journal pattern had never been used before – it was still in it’s factory folds. (Either that, or the last person to use it was very super fantastically good at refolding patterns. In which case, I want to know their secrets.) I felt a little bad unfolding it, but thankfully it was an unmarked pattern. Which mean, it was pre-cut – yay! (I’ve found myself getting lazy – so many of my vintage patterns are already cut out that whenever I encounter a non-cut-out pattern, new or vintage, I find myself putting it aside to trace later. Oops. Must have a massive tracing session one of these days….)

I made a couple of small alterations to the pattern – it was a bust size too large (but perfect everywhere else) so I took it in at the bust. I also dropped the armsycthes by around 1cm (as I often find sleeveless vintage dresses are too tight under the arm for me) and lengthened the shoulder straps by nearly 1cm on either side. However, I completely forgot to do a small bust adjustment – luckily the fit isn’t too bad, but next time I’ll remember that part! I also changed how I finished the arm holes – instead of turning the binding completely to the inside and slip-stitching, which would have made it too bulky at the seams, I folded it in half and stitched-in-the-ditch, so I have bias edges on the arm holes. Which I think turned out quite well and adds a little bit of interest at the arms.

This pattern came together wonderfully – it was a dream to sew, and fits fantastically. It’s totally going to be a go-to pattern!

Since the fabric was white (and therefore a bit see-through, as white fabrics tend to be), I choose to line the dress completely. I’m totally going to be doing this more in future – it makes it feel so much more luxurious to put on, and really makes me smile! Yay for lining! (Bright pink lining too – which makes me smile even more and even fits in with my spring colour palette.)

The Photos
Even though it was a lovely sunny spring day here, due to a variety of reasons we didn’t get the photos taken until it was dark. Oops. Steve decided that the ‘Urban Forest’ wind sculpture in Kilbirnie would be a good backdrop, as it’s bright primary colours and would be a contrast to the black-and-white of the dress. So off we trekked, and I got to pretend I wasn’t freezing while Steve did his photographer act and lay on the ground getting photos of me with part of the sculpture behind me. Want a better idea of how cold it was and the real size of the sculpture (which is around 3 times my height)? Here you go (and I was still very very cold even with the coat on – when oh when will summer arrive?!?):

The Name
Why ‘Urban Forest’ dress? I got the idea from the sculpture several of the photos were taken beside. The name seemed quite appropriate – after all, Harlem is right in urban New York, and Spanish styles are often floral, which brings to mind things like forests. The floral design on the dress is cherry blossoms, which grow on a tree, which can be in a forest. So yeah, I stole the name from the sculpture. I admit it.

The Verdict
I think I am in love with this dress. In fact, it may be my favourite Sew Weekly creation ever. It fits like a dream, can be worn on it’s own or jazzed up with pretty much any colour I can think of (like the red I accessorised it with for the photos), will be able to be worn all year round (yay for merino tops that fit under dresses), and feels fantastic to wear. I’m also pretty proud of the construction – it looks pretty darn good on the inside, too. My sewing has been improving lots with this challenges. I likes it.

16 responses to “Urban Forest dress

  1. Charlotte Tilley

    What a great dress Kat and what fab photos – I think your interpretation of the theme is bang on, that dress is gorgeous x

    • Thanks Charlotte! I felt a little odd about the fabric choice when Mena posted about it being all about colour – one of the few times I don’t choose to do colour naturally, go figure! I’m glad I kept my original choice for the theme, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Really beautiful dress. I esp. love that black and white photo.

  3. Kat I love your dress and agree, it is perfect. The lining did it for me, that little extra touch. It’s a perfect cut with a lovely neckline. As always I love the photos and the sight seeing you take your viewers on, thank you!

    • Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚ (I’ll pass the photos compliment onto Steve, since he’s the one who got to lie on the footpath at night taking photos, haha!)

  4. Kat, this is such a lovely dress. Gorgeous fabric and a lovely shape. And most importantly of all, you look fabulous in it! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m like you – I adore surprise linings. I can’t think of anything I’ve ever lined in the expected colour, actually……

  5. Forgot to mention the lining!!! I love a surprise colour lining xx

  6. LOVE!!! Awesome with the red accessories and also love the black and white photo ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks lady. Turns out it goes well with purple as well (I wore it to work today with purple – I have a feeling you would approve. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  7. Chicky Chickita

    I have to say I really Love the fabric ! such a pretty dress

  8. Oh, Kat! I adore your dress! The neckline and style are perfect on you, and I love the addition of the red belt. I think this is one of my favorite things you’ve made, especially because I can tell how happy you are with it. Well done, my friend!

    • Thanks Meg! Yeah, I’m pretty stoked with it, I think largely because I took the extra effort to fully line it, it makes it so lovely to wear. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Pingback: Looking forward, looking back (a.k.a. 2011 and 2012) | Modern Vintage Cupcakes

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