Sunday, 4 December 2016

Black linen forever.... | Clothing for Everyday Wear: L back wrap dress

A couple of years ago I did a very unusual thing in splurging on two books of sewing patterns. I've rarely bought any patterns in the last 5 years, but one afternoon I was feeling miserable and needed cheering up, and came across the full selection of Japanese sewing books published in translation at Kinokuniya in Kuala Lumpur. At the time, only a few Japanese titles were commonly available in the UK, and I'd only come across the books online. It was great to be able to browse the books in person, and I was taken by the quirky styling, pretty models, and the overall un-european aesthetic.

My favourite patterns of both books were the ones featured on the front covers. However I soon discovered that  after you're done with all the pretty pictures, the format of the books is not massively user-friendly. I learnt to sew using commercial paper patterns that you cut to size, and am not accustomed to having to trace patterns out myself. Initially I could only bear to trace out smaller separates, not all the pieces of a full dress. In July, over two years after I'd brought the books home to London, I was packing my suitcase for my return trip to Singapore and suddenly decided that then (a week before departing) was the time to make the wrap dress, just in time for my travels.

I spent a while trying to find other people's versions of this dress but only came across one; so I just had to leap in blindly. I had already purchased the fabric, a lightweight black Italian linen from Fabric House on Goldhawk Road, for about £8/m. As a sidenote, I highly recommend this smaller shop. Whilst the selection is not as vast as neighbouring Classic Textiles or A-One Fabrics, Rasheed has very interesting taste, and there is often something special to be found. He is quite game for bargaining, too!

I found the instructions difficult to follow, and ended up omitting the waist tie out of pure confusion. Instead, I sewed a simple tab and button hole, attaching a matching button on the opposite side. I made the inner ties from cotton tape. I like the simple collar band, cut on the straight; it is an extremely Japanese way of finishing a neckline. The three-quarter sleeves and the skirt are the perfect length, however, I did shorten the bodice by 1.5cm as it sat in a very bizarre place on my torso.

Here you can see the fabric a little better (turns out black is really hard to photograph, especially in the dim-but-bright winter sunlight - who knew?!). I'd bought this pretty, oversized daisy trim from Barnett Lawson, waiting alongside the black linen for over a year. But in the end, I left it off. At the ripe old age of 25, I've been finding myself loath to wear anything with a flower on it. It's not that I feel like my youth is over: women of all ages look great in flowers. But I've been feeling uncomfortable in anything too fussy or feminine recently. I hope that I'll get over this at some point, as it's slightly illogical, and renders half of my wardrobe unwearable. Meanwhile, flowers, bows, and most pretty things are out.

The verdict? Whilst arguably austere, this was been quite a successful dress to wear in 35°C heat. I love the look of the back wrap with its deep V, although it does have a tendency to slip off my shoulders. The dress was comfortable and light, perfect for the climates in Hong Kong and Singapore in July and August. Cons: I wouldn't actually recommend sewing a narrow three-quarter length sleeve in linen, as it creases horribly around the elbow. The only other slightly strange thing about this dress is the extremely boxy cut about the waist. Whilst this makes it very comfortable, I can't help suspecting that the waist tie that I omitted would have cinched in the waist and solved this problem. Had I been less rushed about making this dress, I would have altered the pattern for better waist shaping. The dress feels good to wear, but has the tendency to make me look like I've eaten too much nasi lemak.

Whilst it's not quite right for a night out, I'm happy to have made a piece of loungewear that looks better than an old T-shirt and boxer shorts. And it's also good to have made a pattern that's been on my to-sew list for so long - especially having bought the materials so long ago too! It's not quite stash busting, but it feels like it.

I'm not quite sure how we've got to December, and I returned from my trip 4 months ago - already! It's taken me that long to get round to photographing this dress, and it's not at all warm enough to wear as a winter dress, even with layering. But I'm happy that I finally got round to making this dress (and now blogging about it) - just one thing off the endless to-do list that seems to be accelerating towards the end of the year...

Project details:
Linen wrap dress
Pattern: L Back Wrap Dress from Clothing for Everyday Wear
Fabric: lightweight Italian linen from Fabric House on Goldhawk Road, Shepherd's Bush
Haberdashery: upcycled mother of pearl buttons from my stash
Cost: £24 for fabric

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