Runway News

A MODERN DRESSMAKING TALE

Article and images courtesy of Susie Bubble at stylebubble.typepad.com

Who has a dressmaker?  I sure as hell don’t.  Nope, no Hong Kong tailors to whip up knock-off versions of designer pieces (yes they do do that…).  There is the mothership who will mend my clothes and help me out when I’m bawling at the crusty old Singer machine, but dressmaker she is not.  There’s the Greek lady who will alter things when I can’t do it myself for a reasonable price, but even that is undergoing the effects of inflation.   
 
When I wrote about my desire for a ‘softly shameful’ Comme des Garcons cages dress, I knew deep down in my heart that with my limited DIY skills, I’d never be able to muster anything up.  A solution unfurled into an even better solution though.  Faithful commenter Angie Montreal suggested the use of Etsy’s Alchemy, a system whereby people put in a request for ‘I want such and such made…’ and someone replies with bids of ‘I can so make that…’.  Simple, except I hadn’t any experience with this and who knew what sort of people would reply to my bizarro requests, or would they reply at all….
 
 
 Solution… Angie is a skilled designer working full-time in fashion.  She does alchemy requests from time to time and has her own Etsy shop. She has her own boutique slash gallery that has a lot of neat stuff.  As she has been commenting a fair few times, I feel like I sort of know her in that very vague ‘internet’ way… eureka…Angie, PLEASE make my CdG dress happen for me!  I beg of you!
 

 
Funnily enough, soon after my post about the dress, an Alchemy request popped up on Etsy hankering after that same dress in grey jersey and she was only prepare to pay $25 for someone to buy the materials and make this dress for her…. I wasn’t about to try and rip anyone off though.  Angie and I came to a sensible price that was suggested by her and from my perspective it’s a bargain, yet fair to the designer who is working on this in HER OWN TIME and investing effort into sourcing materials and making the dress.
 
So for a month and a bit, we emailed each back and forth, beginning with measurements (no qualms about letting people know those if they’re going be slaving over a dress for you…) and design ideas.  She was very conscientious of the fact that she didn’t want to make a straight off copy of the original design (note, she is a DESIGNER, not a pure dressmaker…) and I was in total agreement.  I merely wanted to take the idea of the caged CdG dress and use different fabrics and give it a more robust shape and so the bust became filled in.  Together, we brainstormed ideas for colours and fabrics.  I was particularly keen on highlighting the lingerie aspect of the design so I suggested using pastel colours and lingerie-inspired fabric to make the dress…

 
I plumped for the pale blue and peach combo…
 

 
It was such an informative collaboration with Angie coming to me with fabric ideas, suggestions and photos of the whole process that it seemed to me that for the first time, I had embarked upon a modern dressmaking mission.  Her trimmings and fabrics warehouse and what she came out of it with…

 
 
The vintage pattern which she used for the bodice of the dress…

 
The final fabric choices… a wonderful baby blue grosgrain ribbon and a delicate peach chiffon…
 
 

 
Whilst she was working on the dress, it was interesting to see the photos of the process of making… miles apart from my sewing machine efforts where threads are tangled and everything looks a right mess…
 


 

 
The thing that I have to be really grateful to Angie for is that whilst she was working on this project for me, she had to deal with moving house, relatives visiting, holding two exhibitions at her shop/gallery,  doing a 100-piece wholesale order, oh and holding down that fulltime job… despite all of that, she took the greatest care, employing historical lingerie techniques that she learnt at university, French hidden seams, making sure those hand-pulled ruffles are perfect and generally ensuring all the details are well done.  When Angie sent me the pictures of the final finished result, I did in fact yelp at my office desk with onlookers giving me quizzical looks….
 
 
 
 
 


 
I was reaching out to the screen to touch it…. in an ape-like manner momentarily thinking I could physically touch things on the computer screen.  Angie promptly popped it in the post and on Wednesday, it came, all tissue paper and ribbon with a bonus Norwegian Wood pin cushion from Angie to ‘apologize’ for taking so long with the dress.  Apologize?!?  What the hell for?!?  Without even trying it on, I knew it was perfect.  The ruffles, the grosgrain, the colours….and in the office toilets, yup, the thing fitted right and now I’m in the process of trying different outfits on with it… much experimentation is needed with something like this…

 
 
This post has been rather sickly hasn’t it?  Oh so positive, oh so lovely, oh so pretty, oh Angie….
Trust me to then cock it up when Angie sent me a follow up email to check I got the dress ok and asked ‘Did you get the other little surprise?’  Was she talking about the pin cushion?  No…. turns out she made a SEPARATE caged skirt Acne SS08 style and tucked it at the bottom of the box as a separate package.  In my excitement and frothy stupidity, I took the dress package out of the box and…. oh dear lord, don’t send me to hell for this… chucked away the box with the skirt inside it…. at the office….the next day, the council had already taken the garbage away and I don’t want to think about what said skirt looks like or what has become of it….
 
Yes, I’m a fooligan…
 
Thank you Angie for upholding a two month-long email conversation with me with the subject line ‘Cagey?’ and once again, I hope I won’t forever be known as ‘The Girl who Chucked Away Your Skirt’…. all I can say is, I’ve found a DIY-collaborator of sorts and I’m a happy customer.