The Italian Dress

So remember how I said deadlines are my norm state of getting things done? Past me knew that despite having several weekends, and time in between this dress was going to be a challenge to finish. So the weekend before should be enough?

Trust me I hate past me.

Most of my garb is in the early period, with the exception of 2 pieces I have made all of it to date. Most of it is rectangles with tricky triangles. Simple, you can knock it together in a night if needed. Add a bit of flashy trim some beads and good to go.

This, well, this was different.

I need to state first off that The Honorable Lady Isabelle de Calais is the only reason this dress got done.

She was kind enough to help rip the fabric to the right size for my underdress and then trace over her bodice pattern for me. I had the chance to wear and look at her dresses and she gave me some construction advice. She also has posted several dress diaries of making her own garments.

So I set off to make this dress happen.


I had this half started. But like most things with gussets, I had been putting it off. Gussets are the devil, useful but man alive getting them set right usually ends in ripping them out a few times.

This came together surprisingly better than normal. I managed on the first round to get them in right!! The biggest challenge was getting the depth of the cut to match the sleeve I had placed in.

I also think I need to hem up the sleeves a bit. Of course, I also need to secure the neckline better. I love the little ruffle edge I had done. So I may just get a gathering foot and regather it. Then sew it down with upholstery thread to help hold it in place.

The Dress

Step one was the bodice. I thankfully did a mockup, the front came up a bit too large and I had to take it in. I wish I had taken it in more as it came to closed not the cute V I wanted.

I also added a 5/8th seam allowance. In retrospect, I could have gone smaller. I am fairly confident in my sewing seams and I ended up cutting the under layers down to get it to fit. My straps also came out too big, and I think I can make them WAAAAY smaller.

Once I was mostly happy with the mock-up I cut the under layers out. Here Isabelle had suggested wool felt paired with heavy cloth. I had black duck cloth on hand and managed to find some 100% wool felt back on Black Friday. I had to purchase some lightweight boning to re-enforce the front.

She had pad-stitched hers together. Feeling the time crunch I used the machine with a zig-zag and feather-like stitch. I also shoved the boning into a channel along the front. I only had to run back to the store once when I realized that I was 9″ too short to get two 12 inch pieces.

I then cut out the fashion fabric, again only a 5/8th seam allowance.

At this point, I realized I need to figure out how I am going to get my fashion fabric on this without a stitching line. Thus started all 8 episodes of the Witchers worth of hand sewing. I really really kicked my self I needed WAAAAAY more than 5/8th to get it stitched on right. Once it was all on I added a quick cotton lining to cover the wool and some of the raw edge from the fashion fabric.

Twill tape on the inside edge that was stitched down to make the lacing space. I was running off theory at this point, ladder lacing was a bit foggy so I copied what I had seen Isabelle do.

The skirt was probably the most intimidating part. Carriage pleating is a method I had never done. I had read a good number of blogs watched a few tutorials but it all boiled down to wing it! You’ll be fine!

I made a quick mockup, then called my sister and consulted with her and her roommate. Math is not my strong point, She came up with 7 yards based on math and my measurements. Her roommate said you can wing this go for it!

I normally use tops 4 yards of fabric.

7 yards in one piece not ever the whole garment, just the skirt.


I re-mathed.

5 yards, I could wing it with 5 yards.

The thing with carriage pleating is it is a hand-sewn affair. So I started a season of the Great British Baking Show and marked out my 1-inch sewing marks and got to work.

From there I put the right sides together on the bodice and skirt and started to fudge it together. I probably should have pinned. Hindsight.

I put it up to hang out until I could get some help with the hem.

The hem was tricky, the front and back are different lengths. Remember that V? Yeah, it messed with me. Again winged it, and then put the ultimate cheating mode and hemmed with a rolled hem on the serger.

At this point it was wearable. I called it good.

Next time

Honestly, there was a moment this was going to be a stand-alone garment. A one-off, never to be seen again….But after a day of waltzing around, I felt very very very pretty. So mayhap 2.0 will appear. Probably a washable one for wearing with kiddo.

I do need to fix the underarms, they are a touch off. The shoulder straps need to be smaller and I need to make a pair of sleeves.

The lacing needs help. It pulls funky in the front. I also need better lacing I grabbed bias tape as it was all I had and I think it didn’t help the pulling.

The pleating needs help. But I think I just need to move the pleating up some. I also need a purse or opening for pockets. I had a moment of panic on where I could stash stuff.

I did like the wool interlining, it kept me at a nice temp all day.

I loved the silk veil. it was pretty fluffy and so so light. I need to remove some lipstick but worst case I will dye it and buy a new bigger white one.

Overall: I did it. I am proud I got it done. And more important I think I can do it again. Not this week but mayhap when A&S starts up again.

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