I just finished making this summer's first handmade dress and I couldn't be more excited to share it with you! Some of you might remember this dress I made last summer and my story about first making dresses in high school and then again in college. This summer I decided I would carve out a few weeks to take a couple of textile classes and to subsequently make my own dress/es. I was committed to making one without a pattern and hopeful I'd make 3-4 before the summer's end. So far, so good.
I'm delving into this current interest in sustainable fashion and, more specifically, looking to see how artists are making their own clothing as a form of creative expression, anti-factory DIY activity, or as a form of reclaiming handmade garments (or all of the above). Last weekend I attend the natural dye workshop with Permacouture and this weekend I attended a dressmaking workshop with Sonya Philip of the project, 100 Acts of Sewing. If you aren't familiar with Sonya's project then I highly recommend you scoot over to her websites. It's such a thoughtful and exciting project. Hooray, Sonya!
Sparked by the recent disasters of the garment factories in Bangladesh, an interview on NPR with the author Elizabeth Cline of the book Overdressed, and this response from Natalie Chanin regarding the need for slow fashion--I am inspired to reengage with that college-aged version of myself and commit to making some of my own clothing.
Or make more of my own clothing. Or to push myself to learn more about the fashion industry, sustainable ways of engaging with fashion, and thereby making more of my own clothing. And reaffirming my commitment to mend, patch, alter, upcycle, and/or buy used whenever possible. This is far from a manifesto but somewhere in the beginnings of what I imagine to be a bigger creative project. The messy beginnings, where all inspirations are conceived.
With last summer's dress I tackled inseam pockets and a button-down top. This summer's dress included three challenges: First, I wanted to incorporate some of this gorgeous fabric I acquired from my friends at Feral Childe. I found this beautiful orange, olive, and turquoise remnant at their studio sale and was lucky enough to bring it home for my own dressmaking. Featuring this scrap of fabric required far more color blocking and thinking about the placement of pattern than I had imaged.
But it was good--I was pushed outside of my comfort zone and that's where the learning happens. Secondly, I wanted to improve last year's inseam pockets. I wanted these pockets to be bigger and higher and better placed. And third, I knew I wanted to work with linen and that required a skirt lining as the gray linen is transparent in light. (Trust me, If I could have avoided building a skirt lining then I would have.)
So, I built the skirt lining not once, but twice, because when working without an existing pattern you have to accept mistakes as part of the process--the first one was too short and too tight. So I dyed the skirt lining with onionskin not once, but twice. "This is good practice" I kept repeating to myself, but I did have to walk away from the sewing machine several times often punctuated by groans and grumbles.
The results? Look closely and you can see the very subtle peach/ amber/ earthy-orange color from the onionskin. I also embroidered the top of the dress in attempts to examine the ideas in the book, Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets, and Philosophers. I love that book and wanted to push myself to incorporate some of its thinking around imperfection and design.
For now, I'm happy to add another handmade dress to my fledgling collection.