Sunday, 18 August 2013

Blue Velvet

I've been away this weekend, on a residential Middle Eastern dance course with friends. As with most of these events, there was a party on the Saturday night, so of course I needed a new dress.

This was the perfect excuse to make something from a fabulous blue and gold devoré velvet which I bought last year from the fabric department of Bombay Stores in Bradford. Well worth a visit if you are ever in the area, but be prepared to be there for some time; there are lots of lovely things to drool over.

The burnt-out areas on this fabric are quite large, which makes it fairly see-through. Apologies for the very blurred photograph, but it does give an idea of just how sheer the material is.

Wall, curtain and window clearly visible through the fabric

The dress would definitely need a lining, but what colour would be best? Dark or light?

To find out, I draped one side of my dress form with a dark blue silky fabric from my stash. I didn't have any suitable yellow/gold fabric, so I improvised with some cream coloured lining with yellow chiffon over it.

Ready for testing

Then I draped the fabric over the top.

From a distance, there wasn't much difference. Close up, the lighter side showed up the blue velvet swirls more clearly, but the gold threads running through the backing fabric were lost. They showed up more clearly over the darker side.

I decided I preferred the effect of the dark lining. (This also had the advantage of using up more stash fabric!)

The main part of the dress is just a simple shift shape, with side slits, bust darts and some shaping in the side seams. I made this part up first in the lining fabric, which also acted as a test piece for making the dress itself. The sleeves were drafted with a flatter than usual sleeve head to allow more arm movement: something I often do for Middle Eastern dance clothes, especially if they are made from non-stretch fabric. I also moved the sleeve seam from underarm to the front, to allow the lower part of the sleeve to fall free in a similar style to this illustration.

Ghawazee dancers, David Roberts, 1842

I didn't have enough fabric to match the front and back pieces at the side seams, but I did manage to cut the pieces out so that the pattern is symmetrical. Then I made up the dress the same way as the the lining, and set the sleeves in. The lining was then attached to the dress around the neck and along the side slits.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I only started drafting the pattern for the dress on Monday evening, and late Monday evening at that. As a result, by the time we set off on Friday morning there was still some work to do.

The course was held at Haileybury School in Hertfordshire, and much of the hand sewing to finish the dress was done in the commonroom in the breaks between workshops (where the photograph below was taken). I even found time to make a matching hairband from a remnant to complete the outfit.

The finished dress

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