FO: Christmas Party Dress

In an effort to live up to the name I’ve chosen for this blog, I’m finally bringing out something pretty to share! This is my last finished project from 2016, photographed after the first (and very likely only) snow of the winter. Although the temperatures were hovering around freezing, the fresh powder was too pretty to pass up. And since we’ve had almost exclusively damp, grey days since, it was worth enduring 15 shivering minutes to capture these photos in a rare moment of natural light.

Let’s rewind to the beginning of December, when my company holds a Christmas party for all of the staff. They rent a small ballroom at the local university and, as our office is decidedly business casual throughout the rest of the year, many people take it as an opportunity to dress up. Last year I played it easy and safe and wore a dress that I had purchased last-minute to wear to a November wedding, but this year I really wanted to express myself by making my own dress.

I had it in my head that I wanted a swingy, buffet-friendly silhouette in a festive gold. For the pattern I picked New Look 6469 View A. My original plan for the fabric was something more champagne-colored and sparkly that I had seen while browsing JoAnn’s website, but sadly, my local store barely had enough on the bolt to make a placemat, and I’m not sure it would have been weighty enough for this look anyway—too much cling and not enough drape, you know?

I was in a bind, however, because I was shopping a week before the party and didn’t have time to look elsewhere or order anything online. Like Camille, I settled for a crushed velvet instead, and also like Camille, I harbored serious doubts about the success of this project. Imagine me standing in the aisles of JoAnn, frantically Googling “crushed velvet dress” and trying to find examples that did NOT trigger flashbacks to teen movies from the 90s. (My Date with the President’s Daughter, anyone?) I took a gamble and decided that if the project was a total failure, I still had the dress I’d worn the year before, as well as a couple of older dresses hanging in my closet that would work in a pinch.

Armed with pattern, fabric, and the impetus of a swiftly-approaching deadline, the entire thing came together over five carefully scheduled nights:

  1. Press the tissue and roughly cut out the pattern pieces
  2. Trace off the pattern and make adjustments
  3. Cut fabric
  4. Sew together body, sleeves, and collar
  5. Hem (and re-sew the collar, which was unplanned)

I cut a size 8 based on the finished bust measurement. The only adjustment I made to the flat pattern was to omit the back zipper and cut the back as one piece, since the fabric is a moderately stretchy knit. I basted everything together on my sewing machine using a zigzag stitch, then serged everything with a light tan thread that blends nicely with the underside of the fabric. I’d like to reach a point where I can assemble + finish knit garments in one pass on the serger, but I don’t have a good feel for it yet, so I’ve settled for doing construction in two steps to try to ensure the seams stay lined up properly.

After sewing everything up, I realized that the collar is drafted quite high and snug; I could barely pull the dress over my head and felt like I was being strangled once I did. I forewent any serious modifications to the neckline—because it would have no doubt involved cutting a new collar, which I didn’t have time for—and settled instead on serging around the neckline a second time, cutting off the previously serged edge. This had the effect shortening the height of the collar and widening the opening all the way around, which loosened the stranglehold somewhat. It’s still not the most comfortable thing in the world, but I was able to tolerate it for the few hours I was at the party.

I like that the sleeves have darts to help the shoulders lie smoothly, but I think the armhole is cut a bit too deep for me, or else the raglan seams aren’t quite the right shape for my torso, because I feel like the dress hikes up too much when I lift my arms up or forward. It’s certainly not enough to be indecent, but it’s something I’d want to tweak if I use this pattern again.

The sleeves are also annoyingly just too short, more of a bracelet length than a true full-length sleeve. It’s possible they only seem that way because of the aforementioned armhole depth and/or raglan shaping issues, but it’s worth considering, especially since I’m only 5’2″ and never have a problem with things being short.

The sleeve and dress hems are serged, folded under, and top-stitched down using a light golden yellow thread. Hand-stitching the hems probably would have had a nicer, subtler effect, but I didn’t leave myself enough time for that, and I don’t think the overall look is spoilt because of it.

Despite my fears, the dress garnered nothing but compliments all night, and it was plenty comfy for mingling, munching, and absolutely crushing at Texas Hold’Em. It’s also gained me a bit of a reputation around the office as someone who makes things, something I hope to cultivate with future garments more suited to day-to-day wear. With any luck, I’ll be able to coax a few sewists or would-be sewists out of hiding. 😉

2 comments on “FO: Christmas Party Dress

  1. Camille says:

    Hahaha I did the same thing with the googling in the store!
    I love love love your dress, the fabric drapes really well and looks super expensive, and the color works great too! Who would have known that crushed velvet was such a great fabric?

  2. Caitlyn says:

    Aww, thanks! “Great” still feels like a bit of an overstatement when it comes to the quality, but taking a chance on this made me realize that a fabric that seems hopeless at first blush might just need the right pattern to bring out its potential.

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