Friday, 17 January 2014

Becowled in blue velvet

Woohoo - party dress!!  And she's a winner!

Completed in the nick of time on December 24th, you could say I'm posting this rather late. I prefer to look at it as a festively-flavoured antidote to the grey that has since descended. What grey? Oh sorry, you must live in the southern hemisphere. (Are you enjoying your 40° heatwave?) Personally, I'm hoping that complaints about the weather & darkness don't get old any time soon, because from where I'm sitting they've got plenty of mileage left.

Anyway, do you want to see it? Of course you do!

Seriously, what fabric does midwinter festivities better than velvet? None, that's what. It shimmers like a party all by itself, it's warm, and it both looks and feels downright luxurious. And what's even better than classic velvet, for the time-pressed home seamstress who wants to get dressed up to eat a big dinner? Yes, you guessed it. Stretch velvet. Stretch velvet, and the Lady Skater. And while we're at it, let's throw on a Renfrew cowl!

Innards first, mmkay?

To mash the cowl on, I measured the Lady Skater neckline (I made the size 4) and the Renfrew cowl pattern piece, and then traced the cowl size that matched the length of the neckline. The necklines aren't the same shape so I just pinned them together all the way round, without stretching as you would for the neckband, and it worked fine.

The Lady Skater pattern itself has been reviewed by so many bloggers already, I'm not going to go into that much detail. Basically, everything they say is true: the instructions are super clear for beginners and advanced bad*sses alike, and result in a sturdily constructed dress which, thanks to some miracle of bodice drafting, fits like a dream without even having to think about bust adjustments.

You might have spotted that I stabilised the waist seam with clear elastic. Here it is in close up:

The three different lines of stitching are where I zigzagged the elastic to the bodice seam allowance, then sewed the seam with the lightning stitch, then finished it off with the serger. This is how I did all the seams (there's only elastic at the waist and shoulders), having apparently taken to heart Steph C's sewing instructions that sergers are NOT for garment construction (I believe she feels strongly about this :-). The result feels great to wear - solid, neat and like it'll last. For a dress in cheap dancewear fabric - which cost far less than an equivalent garment would have in H&M - this is a win, and enough to convert me to careful construction techniques permanently. It didn't even take that much longer to sew, really. And for those who might be wondering, the velvet was easy to handle - with right sides together, it just stuck to itself and didn't slip around at all. The only thing I'm unhappy with is my smooth but untidy hem - I took the skirt up at the last minute, and the rush job shows. User error, nothing to do with the fabric or the pattern!

Now, on to the wearing. As I say, many bloggers have testified to this dress's brilliance, and they're not wrong. There's just something about the design of it - you put it on and look instantly fabulous. It's incredibly flattering, especially for something so comfortable. So a cosy velvet version was perfect wearing for dressed-up family fun and food over the holidays.

However. This is where I complain for proper about GREY.  Because - despite or more likely because of the all-round festiveness going on at the time - I have not a single photo of me in this dress on any of the occasions I wore it. Which means that the only photos I can show you were taken in the cold light of early-January - and it ain't the pretty party that this dress deserves.  So, please. Look at these glowing pictures of pre-Christmas Brussels - big trees, a ferris wheel, spiced cookies, an ice rink and, inevitably, the Mannekin Pis dressed up as St Nicholas - and just hold that cosy little thought before you scroll down to the big reveal...


Hmm. Not so much Bitchy Resting Face as Bitchy Duck Face. Which I'm not sure is better (I'm pretty sure it's not). Let's try the garden.

The garden with wind where I almost froze my t*ts off.  At least here the hair and skirt blowing around give an overall impression of, I don't know, maybe I am smiling instead of scowling (but which one is it??)

Ugh winter.

Still, this dress totally cheers me up and not just because it's a comfortable, flattering, velvet party dress with a built in scarf. It's also a little piece of international sewing serendipity: as I was making it, I discovered that Heather B. and Janet were simultaneously sewing becowled blue dresses for their Christmas partywear too. Sewcialist high five for the blue cowlgirls!


  1. Lovely! ! Looks so cozy. Thanks for thinking of us heatwave inflicted souls although the cool change has just arrived. Horray!

  2. Love it. And love those pics of the Market - in fact, those are great pictures! I do appreciate being shown the inside of a garment. I've never sewn with velvet but I have a few things on my bucket list...where did yo buy your velvet?

  3. I've been really loving your posts lately. Great writing and Jo, this is a fab dress. I bet you were the best dressed at all your Christmas parties! I love the cowl. It's just perfect.

  4. I *love* it with the purple tights! Excellent Lady Skater, so glad you like the pattern :)

  5. Thanks Kirtsy, what a kind comment! For some reason I've just been enjoying writing more recently, I guess perhaps it shows. My parties mostly just involved staying at home and boozing with the folks, but it was nice to wear velvet for it :-)

  6. How could I not?? :-) I've already made another and cut out a third. Thank you!

  7. I got it at Berger near Gare du Midi:
    Do you know it? They're really good for cheap/well-priced fabric and have a surprisingly large range of stuff. The shop doesn't look like much but it's a real treasure trove. And the pictures all came out so nice because I accidentally set my new camera on "miniaturise" - I'm a bit of a luddite with the fancy settings, but these ones turned out better for it!

  8. Thank you! Yes, 40° is way too hot for me too - the cooler temps must be a relief!

  9. Ooh, la la!! I love velvet and in this deep blue it looks so rich. Great dress, I really like the drapey cowl collar.

  10. Ooooh velvent - nice (though you're right, I wouldn't want to be wearing in our 40c heatwave today)! I'd like to learn how to attach the elastic to the waistband/shoulder seams to make the garment stronger...if you have a tutorial link (or something) I'd be grateful. I can quite wrap my head around how to do it (I also have no serger).


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