June is always one of my favorite months, I absolutely love and adore the super hot and humid weather we get in this area during our summers (people think I am weird, I know, lol). But with that said, I cannot stand wearing anything clingy or not breathable during the summer months. (I will wear poly in summer, but it has to be in a very loose garment!)
When I realized that Fabric Mart had some gorgeous printed silk double georgettes (my favorite right now!) on their website a while back, I knew immediately that I wanted to make something in one of them for a summer sundress. I also realized that since it was sheer, I would need an underlining of some sort, and since they had a lightweight cotton voile in a complementary color available (this is a good choice, too), I made sure to grab some of that, as well, so that the dress could be super lightweight and still opaque enough to wear without a slip (eww, slips in summer, talk about clingy!).
I had to settle in on a pattern choice, so I focused on patterns that were sundresses, but also made to be sewn with a lightweight set of fabrics like voiles and georgettes. I saw that I had Simplicity 1059 in my stash, a reprint of a 1969 dress with a center front and back seam, and with a v-neck and a shoulder pleat detail. It listed lightweight fabrics as suitable fabrics, so I knew I would be fine. It also seemed to flow away from the body, so the garment wouldn't cling. Perfect!
Above you see my silk double georgette, a daisy printed designer fabric that was available for a hot minute and then gone. They still have some available in other prints, and if you love the feel of lightweight fabrics, and are ready to put in some work, definitely pick them up. I am absolutely thrilled with my end result. Worth all the energy expended.
The cutting process was time consuming. It took quite a while to lay out the fabric on my gridded cutting mat. Once I had accomplished the smoothing of the grain, etc., I still had to pin the fabric to the mat in order to keep it from shifting (you can also use weighted items to hold the fabric down). Once I had pinned the fabric, I then pinned the pattern pieces onto the fabric. Some people recommend a single layer layout, but I double folded the fabric very carefully, and the grain stayed, so I could do a traditional pattern layout and cutting. (But remember, I really took a LONG time laying and smoothing my fabric out--probably close to forty minutes.)
The front pieces stayed on grain, but I knew that if I wanted the pieces to stay stable, and I wanted to mark the pleats and other markings, I would need to underline it as soon as possible.
As soon as I was done cutting the georgette, I cut the voile using the same pieces (that took far less time, thankfully). I then placed the silk georgette on top of the voile, and on the floor, I hand sewed the two together using a long running stitch in a bright red thread (I wanted to see the thread after). I then made marks on the voile in a red marker so I could use them when sewing later.
I have read that some people use silk georgette on its own without an underlining, as they don't want to lose the super drapey feel, but I can only imagine how difficult it is to control it and mark it on its own. I know it's possible, as I have seen the results, but I felt like my garment is still pretty drapey even with the voile underlining and facings, etc.
These markings were super helpful, and made the sewing accurate. The underlining kept the georgette "behaving," and I was able to sew it up by using a straight stitch plate and a straight stitch foot. Nothing caught, and the seams are very secure.
The inside shows how much went into making sure that my time and energy were not wasted. I absolutely HAD to make french seams as the georgette was super-ravelly. I seamed wrong sides together a 1/4" and then place the right sides together and seamed a further 3/8". The seams are very nice and I know they will last forever.
I knew I couldn't french seam the neckline or the armscye, so I stay-stitched those to keep them in good shape, and then carefully applied the facings that came with the pattern (I prefer facings to bias binding, so was happy to see those pattern pieces). I clipped and cut where needed, and after understitching, I pressed the facings to the inside of the garment, and handstitched the facings to the garment where needed to keep them from flipping out. The armscye needed handstitching the whole length on the outside, but the neckline only needed it in a few places. I may eventually handstitch the whole neckline facing, but for now it is fine.
The handstitching, btw, is sewn to the underlining, and not the georgette, so its function is invisible from the outside.
The one problem I ran into was in the creation of the v-neck with the facing. I find many pattern companies poorly explain how to attach these to the neckline, and this pattern was no exception. I made it work in the end, but I would prefer a cleaner finish. I will continue to seek out better explanations, and hopefully the next time I attempt a v-neck, I will have one in my library of sewing knowledge. (Fortunately I prefer other neckline finishes to the v-neck!)
The hem was a bit of a mess once the dress was sewn up, so I chose to hang the garment on my dress form and find a common length and sew a bias hem facing to the line I found. I sewed the hem facing on, serged the excess off from below the sewn line, and then pressed the hem facing up. After that, I hand sewed the facing to the underlining, so that it wouldn't show through on the opposite side (like I had done with the facings).
Out of all the things I added to the structure of this dress, this was the one that changed the garment most. It actually helps the hemline stand away from the body a bit, which I personally find pleasing, and which I believe suits the silhouette nicely. If you are not a fan of this, definitely steer away from this hem treatment. Another great hem treatment for this kind of garment is a rolled hem, which I think would keep the "floaty" feel around more.
Here's the garment right side out. It looks a bit plain sitting on the hanger, but the subtle shaping and details really shine on the body once worn. I chose to use the size 10 at the shoulder, bust, and waistline, and graded out to a size 12 at the hips/hem. Though I am a size 14 or 16 in my hips, with this more a-line style, I can get away with grading out to a smaller size. The shoulders/armscye were a touch tight on me, but I have square shoulders and neglected to do a square shoulder adjustment (I forgot every once in a while, especially with sleeveless designs, where I need the movement ease less). Next time I will add a 1/4" to my shoulders at the outer bit.
The pleating looks odd if you stare at it too long, but since I rarely find that darted patterns work for my small/flat bustline, I prefer this treatment to that one. I think on a solid color, this would be a more appreciated feature.
On another note, isn't that fabric sublime? I feel like I am wearing air when I have it on, it is that wispy feeling. The colors are so pretty, too, and the print reminds me of both Van Gogh and some of those 90s babydoll dress prints I used to love when I was a young girl.
From the side, belted. The pattern includes a belt design to it, and if I could stomach working with the georgette for a couple more hours, I will make it, but once I was done with the dress and its many hours of work, I decided a store bought belt was more than fine (plus, I have two that match, this pink one and the sage one in the first photo).
The belt does hitch the dress up a bit, but the hem allowance is quite generous, so if you are taller, you should still be able to hem it to a place where even if the belt is worn, you won't be adding extra skin exposure to the equation.
The belt is meant to be worn at the empire line. I did belt it lower, and it looked fine, but it lost its retro look when done that way. I think the self belt would look especially pretty belted there, which is why I hope I get the desire to make the self belt soon. :-)
From the back and unbelted. If you look closely you can see that I did not add a zip here. I chose to leave it out because the dress slipped on just fine over my head and my upper body. If you have a larger upper body, you may want to add the zip.
Finally a casual shot! I do plan to wear the dress all dressed up with the belt and heeled sandals, but this way felt so comfortable, I know I will wear it like this too. It is a super sweet look, either way. Very feminine and just retro enough. :-) So glad I was able to give silk georgette a go with this pretty pattern.
Let me know if you have worked with this kind of fabric before and what you did with it! I have a few yards of other designs laying around, and would love to be inspired!
~Dina, My Superfluities.