Dress Diary: Mardi Gras Italian – Sleeves and Details


I wanted to do a lot more with this dress than I’ve been able to in the time before war. Some of it will get done down the line. Some might get done before we turn the house over to the friend doing dog sitting on Friday night. Who knows? I really want a cool shoulder detail. So many of the gowns have them, and I never seem to pull it off.

What I have pulled off are really lazy lacing rings on the cheap. These sturdy little white plastic rings. I have no idea what they’re for, but they were in the sewing section, and I have been tacking them down as fast as I can while we’ve watched the new season of House of Cards. This dress is side lacing, and it’s taken a little less than one pack. I usually do eyelets, but never, ever again on synthetic fabrics. Yuck. Hopefully, these will work out well. To lace it up, I’ve made a purple cord on my lucet with very thin nylon cord. The nylon satin ribbon lace on my gold Italian dress is far sturdier than the one I braided from silk needlepoint thread for my green linen Italian. In retrospect, I have no idea why I didn’t just grab some ribbon and be done with it… *sigh*

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I already have some sleeves made that I threw together before last year’s Known World Scribal and Heraldic Symposium. They’re gold polysilk from the dress I made for that, lined in completely obnoxious red Chinese brocade I bought to line sleeves with. The pattern I made them with has proved problematic. I made it and made it WAY too big because I was having one of those days where I’m convinced that I am much larger than I am and added about 4″ too much room in the bicep. This was the perfect chance to do something with them that made taking in the extra room a decorative feature and made them special.


I’ve put an inverted box pleat up the center length. The pleat is relatively narrow at the wrist and gets much wider as it goes up. They still won’t be tight, but I think they’ll be a much better fit overall. (Here I am at the symposium in my gold dress, and the sleeves are nothing special. After this, I ripped off the shoulder poufs so the dress can be worn with a loose coat in black cherry silk over it.)

While Italian is forgiving, I would like the sleeves to actually add some panache to the outfit instead of being sad and droopy. I’m not in possession of dainty little arms and get scared of fancy sleeves doing some horrible body morphing thing that make people say, “OH MY LORD. Until Peeps put on those sleeves, after all those hours of handwork, I had not realized how fat her arms are! But now that’s all I’ll ever see when I look at her!” That’s really dumb because beautiful work is always beautiful, and I am delighted by all sorts of bodies in costume. And amazing costuming is much more likely to showcase someone’s loveliness than it is to detract from it. BUT I DIGRESS.

Velvet ribbon is a deficit in this country’s craft stores, as I’m sure you are well aware. I wanted GREEN! and GOLD! for Mardi Gras. Big, fat strips of green and rich golden velvet. The best I found was skinny strips of moss green velveteen ribbon, and in small quantities. It’s the best I’m going to do. Not even Amazon could save me. Velvet sort of demands hand-sewing to look right anyway, and the thinly flocked stuff I found has not inspired confidence in it looking presentable if I run machine stitching down it.

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Attaching the velvet ribbons to the sleeves has been an adventure. I did the first four with this careful, tiny stitch where I passed the long part of the thread back and forth between the two sleeve fabrics so as to not do anything to compromise the other side. It was SO. DANG. SLOW. y’all. And kind of lumpy and wrinkly. Part of that is the nature of cheap, cheap velveteen crafting ribbon that you have been forced to scour multiple Hobby Lobby stores to obtain enough of. The other part is that I was being all kinds of precious with something that I should acknowledge is a rushed salvage job on some sad sleeves using inferior materials.

On my way out of town to go to San Angelo for a last-minute sewing weekend, I stopped at Hobby Lobby to look for more pearls to sew on and stumbled onto a giant display of fabric glues. I forgot about gluing fabric. One of them is even called “OK To Wash” to make it even easier for me. Sold. The rest of this sleeve action has gone a heck of a lot faster now! Sadly, the glue is visible when dry if you accidentally squish a little out onto your fabric. I’m trying to not be bothered by this and am moving on with life. Now let’s hope I get busy tonight and finish slapping the velvet on the last sleeve tonight since it has to dry for 8 hours (gah!) and needs a teeny bit of hand finishing at each little area to tack down the pleats.

EDIT – I lost the glue at some point and had no option but to try machine stitching it down. Turns out I’m a total doofus. Machine stitching was the most subtle, quickest method. *FACEPALM* I’m such a special darling sometimes. Maybe one day, before I spend a dozen hours on something by hand, I might remember to actually TEST the attachment methods and not just assume that the most time consuming will be the best.

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