At the end of this month I get to go with my husband to a military ball. I spent a lot of time looking for a formal dress and failed dismally. After working the fashion industry, I know how much it REALLY costs to make clothes and I'm sad to say that the markup on formal dresses is outlandish. I didn't want to spend more than $200, and every dress I looked at was made of cheap fabric and horrible workmanship. I finally gave up and decided it was time to dust off the sewing machine.
My sewing skills are nowhere near as good as my mom's, but as long as the pattern wasn't too complicated I figured I could handle it. After searching and searching through all the major pattern catalogs I decided on New Look 6401, View A. I love gowns that lace up the back, and with only a few princess seams and gathers on the bodice it didn't look too difficult for me to make. For fabric, I had a hard time deciding what I wanted. I wandered around Joann for a long time. Satin wrinkles like crazy and isn't always flattering. Taffeta would be too stiff for this kind of design. I wanted something drapey that wasn't so slippery it would make me pull my hair out. Then I passed by a section of brocade and stopped in my tracks. Among the Asian inspired patterns was a beautiful floral pattern of silver with yellow and grey flowers. That was it for me!!
I already knew I wanted to alter the bodice to cover up more of the chest area. With a pencil I traced the bodice piece onto a scrap of interfacing. Then I pinned it onto my dress form (which is pretty darn close to being my size), being careful to take the seam allowances into account. Then I re-drew the neckline into a surplice, therefore making the fronts cross over and raising the lowest point of the neckline. I outlined my new pattern piece in felt tip pen, being sure to transfer all the original notches and marked points and adding in my own notch at center front.
I was ready to sew my practice dress. I didn't add in the lining or zipper or even finish all the edges. I just wanted to get an idea on the fit. In about 3 hours I cut and sewed my funny looking practice dress made of scrap fabric. The neckline gaped open a bit but the rest fit fine. I fixed the neckline issue by taking off half an inch of length at the shoulders (thank you sloping shoulders!) and dropping the lowest point of the armhole by half an inch. Now the neckline fits smoothly across the bust. Here is me looking rather silly in my practice dress. I made it short because I figured there wouldn't be any fit issues with the lower part of the skirt. And oh yeah, I did a great job of sewing the right side of the bodice to the wrong side of the skirt. I almost ripped it out, but then figured if I needed to take in the waist or hips the seams were right there ready to pin. Oh well.