Saturday, 31 August 2013

Completed: Cambie Dress, Take I

First of all, thanks for all the lovely comments on my first post! It's so nice to have people comment who appreciate the sewing as well as the dress. (Although, it's nice to have people compliment your clothing when they have no idea you made it, as well!) It was great to have everyone visit after seeing my post on We Sew Retro, too!

This was my first Cambie Dress, which I made earlier in the summer. The fabric is a cotton voile that was around $8 a metre, I believe, and I lined it with some white cotton voile that cost about $6 a metre, both purchased locally. I didn't want to spend too much on my first version in case it didn't turn out, but overall I'm very happy with it! I started my second version right after finishing the first, and I have a feeling I will make many more (including possibly a silk version for a grad dress? I'm brainstorming).

I cut a straight size 0, even though I could have graded up to a 2 on top. My shoulders are very narrow, so I usually cut out the smallest size on top and then adjust the bust. Although for this pattern, it appears I could have cut a size 2 on top because the straps could be a little wider on top. I might try to make them a little wider on the next version I make. 

I made a muslin and I'm SO glad I did. The pattern is very well-drafted, no doubt about it, but I've never had anything fit without alterations. My shoulders are very sloped, so altering the shoulder seams so that they fit and were in the right spot took a little bit of fiddling. In the end, I just took out the seams and had my mom help me pin them together so the seam would be in the right place (thanks, Mom!), and then adjusted the pieces so that they aligned properly. I also added on an inch to the top of the bodice and shortened the straps, which is why my straps look a little wider at the bottom than they're supposed to. I meant to taper them in a little bit for my second version, because I think I like them a bit better thinner, but I forgot... which reminds me, I should do that soon otherwise I'll forget on my third version, too (which might just be a button-front version... if you haven't seen this tutorial, check it out! It's super cute).

I also had to move the side seams to the back a little, because they didn't sit quite right, and I added on about half an inch on each side of the bodice front, then made the darts bigger. I'm calling this my makeshift FBA, although it might have been easier to attempt a proper one. Oh well! I'm very happy with the fit now. The only thing I would have done differently was sewn the waistband as well when I made my muslin. It ended up being a little too short, and I had to ease the fabric in a bit. I then had to take a 1/4" seam allowance rather than 5/8" when I sewed the zipper, which might have contributed to my zipper problems (keep reading...).

That muslin was definitely worth it!
Other than the waistband issue, the construction was fairly straightforward until the invisible zipper. I've done invisible zippers before and I've never found them any more difficult than a regular zipper... but they definitely aren't as strong. I made a Hollyburn Skirt and put in an invisible zipper, only to have it break after a couple months (a regular zipper is recommended, and that's probably why). Actually, it broke while I was making this dress. I should have realised then...

First of all, I decided that I would be lazy and wouldn't bother with basting or anything beforehand, thinking it would take too much time. Right. Well, this was my first attempt:

Okay, I know it could have been worse. Everyone I showed this to said it was barely noticeable. I could have just gone with it. But... no. Being a perfectionist, I ripped the whole thing out and redid it... twice. It took me three tries to get it right, all because I didn't want to "waste time" and baste. Lesson learned.

Oh, and in the process, my chalk pen exploded all over my dress.

Needless to say, I was feeling a little discouraged by this point, and definitely didn't need any more mishaps. I was so relieved when I finally got the zipper right that I never even took a picture, and jumped right ahead to sewing my lining to it.

I was finally feeling that the project was going well, until...

Definitely not the best picture, but the only one I took.

The FIRST time I tried it on after attaching the lining, the zipper broke. Words cannot express how frustrated I was - mind you, it wasn't that bad at first, I just had to open it up even more to get the dress off. I have since given up on invisible zippers (at least, for anything this fitted). Try as I might, I couldn't fix the zipper and ripped it all out a third time, except this time I had to rip out the lining, too.

However, this turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I had been curious for a while about hand-picked zippers, having seen them pop up on different blogs I follow, so I decided to try one after reading Tasia's tutorial on how to insert one in the Cambie Dress. You basically sew the lining and the main fabric together down the back, and insert the zipper afterwards.

It's not perfect, but it's not bad for a first attempt. It did take a little while, but less time than it took me to repeatedly sew and unpick the invisible zipper. I didn't bother with an invisible one for my second dress and did a hand-picked zipper right away, which turned out a nicer than my first try. Actually, I haven't sewn in a single zipper by machine since making this dress.

The neckline didn't turn out quite as nicely as I expected - it looks more like a curve than a sweetheart. When I sewed this, I was trying to take a slightly bigger seam allowance out of the lining so that it would sit to the inside, but the seam allowance I took on both fabrics ended up being not very consistent. My fault, not the pattern's!

For my second one, I tried understitching the neckline as an alternative to this, which meant I kept the sweetheart shape.

I love the pockets! They sit nicely to the inside of the seam and are completely invisible. And thanks to the full skirt, it never looks like you have anything in them, even if you do!

Most of the photos are taken with a crinoline, although this skirt has quite a bit of volume without. I actually inadvertently took lots of photos that show off the crinoline, because it seemed to poke out the bottom every time I grabbed the skirt. Oh well! I'm happy with how they turned out.

The only other things I would do differently are: 1) adding onto the skirt pieces to allow for a bigger hem allowance, because even with a catchstiched hem I think it's quite visible, especially in photos (I did this on my second dress), 2) adding some understitching to keep the lining to the inside (this, too, I did on my second version), and 3) lowering the armholes just a bit. When I added on an inch to the top of the bodice, I tapered it down so that it would meet the back piece, but not enough. It's a bit high there and rubs a little. I tried fixing this on my second dress, but it's still not perfect. I might have to move where the straps go in and taper it a little more gradually. 

I love the swishiness (is that even a word?) the crinoline gives it! Now I just need to make a circle skirt...
Overall, I love it. There are a couple things that aren't perfect, but this was meant as a trial run of the pattern anyways. I'm really glad I worked through the fiasco with the zipper and made it work.

Without a crinoline

The skirt, as you can see above, has a fair amount of volume without a crinoline. Even though the fabric is simpler, it feels a bit more dramatic than my second version!

Again, without a crinoline. I'll probably wear it more often this way, no matter how much I love the crinoline.
This has been great for summer, especially since this summer has been unusually hot! I also love the the straps and the higher back protect against the sun. The sun and I have a love-hate relationship. As much as I enjoy the summer weather (although I do enjoy rain, too - it's so relaxing), the sun really hates me, so I have to be careful about not exposing too much skin. Spaghetti straps and low backs are not good summer styles for me!

More photos on my Flickr.

I'll leave you with a photo that was taken by accident but I actually really like.


  1. Well done - two lovely dresses, and a great start to blogging! Keep up the good work, and in the meantime, that's another yet pattern I'm going to have to add to my 'wish list'!

    1. Thank you so much! I would definitely recommend the pattern.

  2. Your dress looks great! I like the way you problem solved and perservered

  3. Great job Shannon!! I love the last photo as well, you are so beautiful! The dress suits you well.

  4. Oh, that's such a great dress!! Bravo! xx from Greece, Evi

  5. I realize this was a while back, but I have to ask where you got that crinoline. I know nothing about crinolines - petticoats - but I love this Cambie dress and I think the one you made with this crinoline are perfection together.

    How did you figure out which petticoat to buy for the dress? The reason I ask is that I want to make a vintage-inspired Emery dress too, and I am completely out of my depth as far as trying to buy a crinoline (and that would be online, as well, because I live in the middle of nowhere.)

    Or is "petticoat" even the right term? Are petticoats made out of cotton or silk? Whereas a "crinoline" is something else entirely? See, I know nothing here...lived in boring jeans too many years. Now I'd like to go "girlie" but I am not entirely sure how to go about it.

    Thanks for your help.

    1. This crinoline is actually a vintage one that I got from my aunt (who wore it under her high school graduation dress in 1960!) It just happened to also work perfectly under this dress!

      I'm sorry I can't be a little more helpful, because I don't know of anywhere to look online for them, either. Etsy is probably a good place to look, although they could be a little pricey!

      As for the terms 'crinoline' and 'petticoat', I use them more-or-less interchangeably, although I've always thought of crinolines as being fuller and stiffer, whereas what I call a petticoat is made of softer tulle.

      If you can't find one online, you could always try making one! I believe Sew Chic has a pattern for one, and I've definitely also seen some free tutorials for them online. Good luck! :)