Grand Finale

Have I mentioned Tyo is graduating high school this year?

I’m not usually an anxious parent. I didn’t agonize over sending my babies to daycare, or cry at the first day of kindergarten.

But this one is really getting to me. It feels like my job as a parent is almost done.

I know it’s not, really. Heck, if she has her way, Tyo might not move out for another ten years. But in a few more months she’ll be officially, legally, an adult. The world opens up, and it’s freaking terrifying. Before, there was always a next time, always a do-over. The do-overs are done.

Mind. Blown.

Also she asked me to make her grad dress.

Ok so maybe not so much asked as assumed.

It was also a wise choice, as I can’t afford the $800 dress she fell in love with at the fancy dress shop—but we can put her favourite elements into the dress that we make. Well, some of them. Not all that insane beadwork.

After some dizzying trying on at one of the fancier local dress shops, not to mention some heavy-duty pinteresting, and a bunch of style sketching that didn’t seem to catch her imagination, I finally got Tyo to just come to the fabric store where I work and pick fabric. The much more limited local selection really helped her focus and narrow down what she wanted, and I think we were both really excited by what she ended up going for: navy, a short satin under-dress with a long, full, removable lace skirt over top.

We settled on McCall’s M7281, as a contemporary pattern with the right lines, despite the not-very-inspiring envelope.

The Under-Dress

And despite my fears, the muslin process went quite well. Her measurements put her in the size 10 for bust and waist, size 14 for hips. Grown into the pear shape we have been predicting for her! And the sizing was true enough with only minor taking in. We initially muslined the straight skirt—she wanted a slightly flared skirt, but not as full as the one that came with the pattern. I planned to follow Gertie’s old tutorial for converting a pencil skirt style into a gently flared skirt.

So in the end I made minor tweaks to the bodice, some more major ones to the skirt (mostly to do with hip curve), and converted it from the straight original shape to the cute little flared skirt above.

Which makes it approximately the same shape as every other cute little dress she owns.

Did I mention we included pockets?

Apparently this feature is causing quite a bit of jealousy among her classmates.

The one thing she REALLY loved from her favourite of the store dresses (up above) was a corset-laced back.

It took a bit of mental rehearsing, but I eventually managed something not too dissimilar.

The dress has an inner corselet made of ticking, with metal boning. I used the original straight skirt pieces to draft a princess-seamed, hip-length pattern for it.

My biggest screw-up is that I didn’t choose to underline my bodice fabric. I thought with the dark fabric and corselet it wouldn’t be necessary. But the bodice could definitely have used a bit more support and smoothness in the outer layer. However, it’s not bothering Tyo, so please don’t point it out to her.

After some consultation, we added halter straps. They’re not, strictly speaking, functional, as the boning holds the bodice up just fine, but they definitely make her more comfortable—and they’re pretty. This crêpe back satin makes lovely soft bows. And yes, I forgot to attach them before sewing on the lining so I had to rip and insert.

The overskirt:

Once the base dress was nearly done I started on the lace over skirt.

Tyo was really excited by the idea of having the lace skirt removable. I’m trying really hard not to tell her how much this reminds me of the Teen Sweetheart Skipper doll I had in the 80s with the removable overskirt that could be worn three different ways.

Man I loved that doll. I think she perished in the Great Barbie Massacre of 2003, when I thought it would be a good idea to give the three-year-old Tyo all my old barbies. All of the heads were broken off within two weeks.

Anyway, Skipper aside, I was kind of dreading making the overskirt. The design plan was simple—gather the lace onto a straight waistband, close with hooks and cover the join with a bow. In practice, I was really dreading gathering all that lace.

I shouldn’t have been so worried. I used the zig-zag-over-heavy-thread method, which is interesting in mesh because the zig-zag basically shrinks around the centre thread into a fine line, and then it does very little shifting around on its own when you gather it. Also the fine mesh isn’t as bulky as most things, so even with something like four mètres of lace gathered onto a 26″ band it was remarkably well-behaved.

the waistband is just an interfaced rectangle I gathered the netting on to. We discussed adding another layer of tulle for poof but she says she likes it as is. The waistband closes with some skirt hooks and then a soft, droopy bow covers the attachment. We will have to cut slits in the overskirt so she can access the pockets. Also I’m pretty sure at some point during the night she’ll wear it as a cape.

The lace:

ok, I’m giving this its own section because I’m freakin proud of myself.

Tyo had one other request, which was to add a bit of lace to the hem of the short skirt’s lining, to make the basic dress a little less plain. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough of the wide lace to cut off 1.5m for the lining, and while we did have a sizable piece cut off from the upper selvedge of the lace, it had only a rudimentary, ugly really, scalloped edge.

Fortunately, I was feeling obsessive on a Saturday night, and set to work messing around with the space piece, some wash away stabilizer, and my machine’s fancy stitches.

Some key points:

  1. a hoop was useful but not essential, which is good because constantly repositioning it would’ve taken forever
  2. It works better to NOT work along the edge of your fabric. Much easier to guide things down the middle. Fortunately my remnant of lace was about twice as wide as I needed it to be.
  3. Baste your stabilizer in place, and then draw the outline of your scallop right on the stabilizer.

This took kinda forever, but was also weirdly fun, and saved me buying 1.5 more mètres of fancy 60″ wide lace just to use the bottom 3″ of it.

So this kid, though

This is done as another shop project, so we had to get to it early so it could go on display. It does feel good to have it done, though, as long as she doesn’t lose weight in the next three months. It also feels good to see how happy she is with it.

And now we can tackle the hard part—finding the right shoes!



Filed under Sewing

28 responses to “Grand Finale

  1. Mary

    Gorgeous dress! I remember the grad dress/ prom dress shopping; I wasn’t anywhere near confident enough in my sewing skills then to even attempt to sew “the” dress (which turned out to be the iconic white Marilyn Munroe frock—but I did sew a silk sash & clutch in my dd’s favourite shade of blue/teal to go with it.)
    Your job is nowhere near done (says the mom of the 29 yo, 6 weeks away from having her first baby). The relationship from here on changes, but it’s nice to watch all your parenting come to fruition in the metamorphosis of that little baby girl into the woman she will be. Enjoy it.
    (Sorry…got a little long winded.)

    • My brain knows it’s not done—I just can’t shake the feeling 😂. Watching them grow and take on new things has always been my favourite part of parenting.

  2. Wow! I’m impressed, this dress is gorgeous, 1000 times more beautiful than the pattern envelope and Pockets! I love that you added pockets. I think this is way cooler than the $800 dress by far.

  3. I remember this well with my own daughter. A drafted pattern based on three different designs she had seen in shops but only liked one thing about said dress. I foolishly told her that I would pay for everything she wore that night – she has a part time job so did have money of her own – but I ended up providing some ridiculously priced perfume and some expensive make-up! And very expensive shoes. The night before her prom, she went to the local shop, slipped on some mud and sprained her ankle badly. So the morning of the big day we were at the mall finding shoes which would fit on her foot.

  4. Wonderful! You are so talented and Tyo is so very lucky.

  5. gilliancrafts

    That’s a beautiful dress! She looks really proud, and it suits her personality well. I saw that lace in shop the other day and thought, “I think that’s the grad dress lace!” I”m in total awe of how you made that scallop hem – wow!!!

  6. Pam O'Connor

    The last picture says it all. She looks so happy, beautiful, and proud. 18 and wearing couture to her big event courtesy of Mom. 👏👏👏👏

  7. Beth (SunnyGal Studio)

    that is so pretty! love the blue color and the lace overskirt is a clever option. she looks fantastic. lovely project and the your hem is clever.

  8. PsychicSewerKathleen

    Beautiful and SO cool 🙂 She looks thrilled with it – total bonus is that not a single person at her grad will have anything remotely similar. Love your scalloped hem and the colour on her is just perfect.

  9. What a fab job you have done! This dress really suits her and I love how it has options, she’ll never get bored wearing this dress! Long, short, with pockets, even a cape (PS: we need photos of that!)

  10. Gorgeous! Perfect! What more can I say!

  11. Oh, T! This turned out lovely! Your daughter is going to be the belle of the ball, as they [used to] say. 🙂

  12. The fit is gorgeous but that overskirt!!! SWOON!!!!!! I love it so much! So, so much! Nice call on creating a border!

    Like you, I never had much of an emotional response to kid-milestones. But now both of my kids are “over 18” and it’s just WEIRD!!!! 😀

  13. Making your own lace, I’m in awe. Your daughter looks so happy with her dress. I wish you luck with the shoe search 🙂

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  15. I am missing the gene that cares about milestones (though I can be nostalgic and I’m no stone!). Miranda’s going to grad this year too and I’m feeling strange. Part of it is that I don’t know where she’s going yet (neither does she) and we’re both really anxious about having some closure. Also, I want her to stay home for another year (never in a zillion years thought I’d ever say that) and I’m not sure she’s into that.

  16. What a beautiful dress and clearly perfect for Tyo. I love all the details that contribute to a fantastic FO that fits so well and comfortably.

    I’m amazed that she’s graduating, it seems not that long ago your girls were still little.

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