The Grey Lady, Part XIII: Finished!

Here it is, the final outfit in action at Misti-Con 2015! I’m very happy with how it turned out– it’s always nice when something looks almost exactly as you’d pictured it (even if it did take a lot of alteration to get that way). Sure, there are a few tiny differences, but the costume was very well-received and I had a lot of fun wearing it. Definitely worth making, though if I attend the convention in 2017 I am definitely bringing more costumes with me– got to keep up with all the amazing fans there!

GL rocks

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The Grey Lady, Part XII: Hemming and Trim

Once all of the structural elements of the dress were done with all the seams finished, I finally hemmed it. The first step was putting it on the dress form and doing a preliminary pinning, but then I put it on myself and had my husband adjust the height of the hem so it actually worked for me (not making the same mistake I did with the bodice here). I trimmed the extra fabric and used the seam binding to bind the raw edge of the hem, then used that edge to machine-hem the dress with a blind stitch. The video below explains it fairly well.

You don’t really need a blind hem foot to do this– just keep a close watch on where your stitches are landing relative to the folded edge. Especially with a more textured fabric, it won’t matter if your stitches are a little bigger than expected.

GL hem

So I’ve got the main dress done, but I wanted to add a little something to embellish it at the neckline. I wasn’t about to do any hand-embroidery or beading in my limited timeframe, so I looked for some nice appliques instead. I looked at a lot of different types, including venise lace, soutache, and even sari trim, but eventually I decided on some silver embroidered appliques in a vaguely floral pattern. They’re not too shiny and not too ornate, so they embellish without overpowering.

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The Grey Lady, Part XI: Accessories

While I’m waiting to finish up the dress, I’ll need to acquire some accessories.

I’d always planned to have a belt on this dress, but while the sewing pattern had an option for a fabric sash it just looked kind of boring. I wanted to find something made of metal or thin chains– kind of a veiled reference to the traditional “ghost = chained to the earth a la Jacob Marley” thing. A little searching online revealed that what I really wanted was a “concho belt,” traditionally worn in the Southwest and made up of silver medallions. The one I bought arrived looking pretty shiny, but I painted on some black acrylic paint, waited for it to dry a bit, then wiped most of it off with a paper towel– the paint stayed in the cracks (hard to see in the picture below) and gave it a nice antiqued feel.

GL belt

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The Grey Lady, Part X: Sleeves

So, I know that the “proper” way to get the sleeve-puff look is to sew a separate chemise and allow it to puff through openings in the oversleeve. I’m not going to do that. Instead, blatantly borrowing from numerous online tutorials on constructing sleeves for “Merida” costumes, I’ve constructed the puff and non-puff sections of the sleeves separately, and sewn them in a column to form the sleeve.

To draft the sleeve pattern, I took the basic straight sleeve and marked where I wanted my puffs to be. Then I cut along the lines and re-drew each piece, adding in seam allowances. The elbow puff is tapered at the inside elbow joint so it won’t bunch when I bend my arm. Similarly, the shoulder puff is cut right at the section of the sleeve under the armpit to avoid bunching.

GL sleeve drawn pattern

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The Grey Lady, Part IX: Bindings, Facings, and Topstitching

Okay, so remember how I went to all the trouble of picking out lavender lining fabric and cutting all my pattern pieces out of it before moving on to my embroidered fabric? I honestly did intend to do a lining at that point, but after trying the dress on I realized that the inside really wasn’t all that scratchy after all. Plus, as the weather has warmed up I’ve realized that it’s going to be awfully hot at the end of May, and I won’t really want another layer of non-breathable fabric next to my skin to hold the sweat in. So I’ve decided to skip the lining. I’m going to put in a neckline facing to finish that edge, and since the inner seams will now be exposed (at least from the inside) I’m binding them with Hug Snug, a rayon seam binding that will finish the edges and prevent them from fraying.

First up is the seam binding. While more experienced sewers may be able to simply iron it in half and sew both sides at once, I opted to go with the more cautious method and first stitched one side of the binding to one side of the seam allowance, then turned it over and did the other side. It took FOREVER, but it made the inside of the dress look infinitely better than it did before.

GL seam binding

Once those were done I finalized the neckline of my dress, then traced it out on paper to draft a pattern for the facing pieces. I made the facing out of material from the gores (interfaced with lightweight iron-on interfacing), and then sewed it, right sides together, to the neckline. Then I flipped it over and understitched it to keep it lying flat.

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The Grey Lady, Part VIII: Fixing the Bodice

Once my back closures were finished I eagerly tried on the dress, figuring I’d swan around in it for a while and gloat over how well it had gone so far. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, and I blame it squarely on my dress form. Or rather, on the fact that my dress form isn’t shaped quite the same way I am. Because while the dress bodice looks fine on the form, with all the seams in the right places, it does not fit all that well on me.

Sure, it fits in terms of circumference, but the seams are just awkwardly placed. Princess seams are supposed to be flattering, which is usually accomplished by curving the seams in a bit at the waist to suggest an hourglass shape. Here, the princess seams aren’t quite far enough apart over the bust and they don’t narrow much at the waist, so they make my whole torso look kind of barrel-shaped. The curve of the bust is also very shallow and doesn’t have much definition, exacerbating the “barrel” issue.

Annoyingly, I’d already clipped the curves of the seam allowance before I realized this (my fault for not paying closer attention when I’d tried it on in the past), so I couldn’t just re-do the seams and make them further apart at the top to balance things out. Nor could I just make the seams closer together at the bottom, because that made the whole bodice look weird.

GL front before

I thought long and hard about whether it was worth fixing, particularly given my limited fabric supply, but decided in the end that it was necessary.

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The Grey Lady, Part VII: Invisible Zipper and Lacing

For the back closure I’m opting for an invisible zipper instead of a regular one, since I feel like having a bulky zipper underneath lacing would just look weird. To install it, I used a Universal Invisible Zipper Foot and followed one of the many tutorials online to install the 22″ zipper. Sorry, not going to do a step-by-step accounting here, this tutorial explains it much more clearly than I could.

Suffice it to say that the process was surprisingly easy, though my Universal Foot fell apart more than once, so I’m not a huge fan of the plastic bits. Also, at a few points on my zipper I actually ended up sewing too close to the zipper teeth, preventing it from zipping up, and had to unpick and re-sew those sections. I thought the foot was supposed to keep things at the perfect distance? If I were going to make a habit of using invisible zippers I’d probably just buy a real metal foot designed to fit my machine.

Once the zipper was installed, it was time to do the lacing. I admit that despite my plans to put in the lacing loops before sewing the dress together, I forgot all about it and inadvertently sewed up the back seams on my first sewing pass. But it did help me get a feel for what the finished dress would look like, so it wasn’t all bad. Anyway, I ripped out the back side seams from the neck to the hip at the point where the gores are inserted, then started making the loops.

I didn’t want to use ribbon to make them (not sturdy enough), so I ordered some double-fold 1/4″ bias tape in “Oyster.” Unfortunately, while the single-fold tape in my local store was labelled “Oyster” and looked like the perfect color (a light gray), my tape it arrived looking completely different (a light tan). It turns out the tape at the store was mislabeled. I eventually discovered that the correct color name was “Shadow,” but that they apparently don’t make double-fold tape in that color, so I ended up buying the single-fold and ironing it in half before stitching it closed. Then I cut it into 2 1/2″ lengths, folded them into loops, and basted them into the unpicked side back seams before re-sewing everything on the machine. I used eight loops on each side, and they were spaced 1 1/2″ apart.

GL basted loops

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