You guys, as beautiful as this dress turned out, I definitely needed some distance before I could bring myself to write about it. Since transitioning, Charlotte has found sourcing well-fitting clothes a stressful challenge, especially the smart/fitted variety. Even when shopping tall ranges she struggles to get the length in the bodice and skirt that she needs, as well as enough width across the back.
With a number of weddings to attend this year I took pity upon her and naively volunteered to make her a couple of dresses. All I can say is thank feck I started the first dress a month before the first wedding. It took the best part of three weekends to complete, one of which was the long Easter break, and a staggering SEVEN muslins!
I started off by grading up The Mortmain, which worked fairly well with a nice fit across the back, but armhole issues meant Charlotte couldn't move her arms. I took some length out of the waist and added it through the armhole, but that backfired with movement restricted even further. In a frustrated frenzy I decided it would be quicker to just draft a bodice from scratch and dug out my copy of Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear by Winifred Aldrich. Turns out if your measurements are outside of the average range you're screwed.
My last resort was to rub off a RTW dress that fits Charlotte fairly well and make the necessary tweaks to perfect it. Easier said than done. Again, the back was pretty much spot on from the outset, but I ended up with extra ease in the side boob region. With invaluable hand-holding (via Instagram) from The Thrifty Stitcher I managed to remove the ease with some clever slashing and dart manipulation. But fixing that problem led to annoying fitting issues across the upper chest which I ran out of time to resolve. Not only that, but I also exhausted my limited trouble-shooting and fitting skills.
The whole process made me realise just how limited my drafting/grading knowledge is and how unnaturally it comes to me. Thanks to fantastic advice from so many Instagram friends though, I now have a long reading list and tutorial recommendations before I tackle the next dress!
Aaanyway, despite it all, Charlotte was very grateful for my efforts and over the moon to have a pretty new dress which she reckons is better than any RTW fit she could hope for. It says more about the shortcomings of RTW than my dressmaking skills...haha!
The fabric is this stunning cotton sateen from Mood, handpicked by Charlotte herself and hand-delivered by my mum. The P&P from the US costs an arm an a leg, but I got it sent to my mum (who lives in North Carolina) and she then brought it with her to Cyprus where I met her during a family visit in March.
Do you recognise the skirt? It's a slightly modified By Hand London Elisalex. At Charlotte's request, I altered the side seams so it's less of a tulip shape and more A-line. I was working with the original printed pattern, but I actually think By Hand London have altered the PDF version in a similar way.
I'm obviously biased, but isn't Charlotte a total knockout in this ensemble? She styled it with a cropped navy cardi for the wedding and has seriously good taste in accessories. I loved her ASOS belt so much that I totally stole her style and ordered it in rose gold for myself. I definitely wouldn't enter a 'who wore it better' competition against her though!
Despite the traumatic journey, it was all worth it to see her looking gorgeous and feeling comfortable. The things we do for love, eh?
Let's hope my second attempt goes a bit smoother...