Dress Diary: Mardi Gras Italian – Mistakes were made

Sorry it’s been a while – war got crazy, my husband’s grandmother passed away in the middle of it, and I’ve been trapped in the whirlwind of all the stuff that has to get done for the end of the reign. Coronation is in four days, and one of my best friends is being elevated to the Order of the Pelican at it…and she was announced three days ago. Wow. Coronation is fancy anyway, but now that there’s a good chance I’ll be processing in for the Elevation, I’d better make sure to look my best! That means fixing some things on the purple Italian gown. Forgive my super special bed head hair and mirror shots.

Bad Italian 1

Wearing it at war was frustrating and kind of disappointing. I beat myself up for being a bad costumer because I made a couple of errors in construction that are messing with the fit. For one, I forgot to leave a slit in the waistband where the dress laces, so it’s pretty snug and hard to get in and out of. Another problem is the sleeves. They’re so silky and long that they just wind up bagging weirdly and hanging too low on the arm. I think I made it about half an hour in them before I untied them and tossed them back into the tent. The plan is to add more ties and lacing rings for securing them on the upper arm. Maybe a few box pleats to take up extra length if it won’t ruin the look of the ribbon stripes…

The last thing is that I changed the way I assemble the bodices on these to make the shoulder straps lie better.¬†Previously, they were the last thing to be sewn and had to be done by hand, turning their edges in on themselves, inserting one into the other. It has a lot of extra fabric bulk in there, and I don’t like the way it looks to so clearly have the straps nested. Now, I sew them together early on, they look perfect, and the fiddly bit of final hand-sewing gets to happen in a more discrete spot against the ribs. However, I haven’t adjusted my pattern any to see if the new construction method changed anything. I didn’t even think to do it.

Bad Italian 2

The result is a dress that fits well through the lower part of the torso, then gaps and sags through the top half. Tying on sleeves pulls the shoulders right off and down the arm. The nice, rounded bustline that’s a hallmark of these gowns is lost in a boxy mess of extra fabric. The back is just as bad as the front. I hadn’t made time to put on the whole ensemble before we left, and I was so sad to spend the afternoon constantly trying to tug and adjust the thing into submission.

I spent some time looking at costuming blogs with Italian dress diaries and tutorials, desperately hoping to see some brilliant explanation of what I did wrong, how to draft a bodice pattern more correctly, or even just a post on how to fix what went wrong on your rushed novice sewing job.

I found none of those things. What I did see is that these people whose work I so admire make a lot of mistakes, just like me. Mistakes in fitting are an unavoidable part of sewing, and a necessary part of advancing your skills. These other costumers put on the sad dress, play with it and pin stuff until it looks right, fix it, and fix the pattern. What makes them better is their perseverance. I’m stubborn. I can persevere. I was even prepared to totally disassemble this thing to make minor improvements if it would help everything that comes after fit like a dream.

Turned out all I had to do was take a couple of inches out of the shoulder! ¬†It seemed too simple to work, but taking that in seemed like a good way to get a clearer picture of the kind of armscye reshaping I was sure was going to have to be done. I was shocked to see the difference such a small adjustment made! I’m glad this is an easy fix that makes a monster difference. The waistband will not be an easy fix…

Fixed Italian

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