This dress has a lot of tears. I don’t mean tears as in torn or ripped, or tears from ripping out seams in frustration – I mean tears of sadness, real wet ones!
I cut this dress in the days after the Pike River tragedy which recently shook our little nation, and listening to talkback radio at the time was quite emotional, being full of tributes to the 29 men who died in the underground coal mine. Especially emotional when one woman rang in with her story of her father who died in a coal mine many years ago when she was only eight, and she mentioned how proud she was to be a coal miner’s daughter. Then they played the song of that name…..and well, soppy me, guess the rest!
So this is my coal-miner’s daughter dress, in appropriately coloured coal black poplin, with a few inherent tears from the day it was cut.
But I’m determined this dress is not going to be a sad number – for me this pattern is quite fun and frivolous, being my first tip-toe into fifties-full-skirtedness (but you can see I am not quite brave enough for the underskirt yet, lol!).
Although I will remember the Pike River 29 every time I put it on, my real hope is that some of the fun I see in this dress will transfer to the families as they recover from the tragedy, and help them to rediscover fun and happiness in their lives again.
The pattern is Simplicity 3039, dated 1959, and is a shirtdress style with a full skirt. This is the first time I have made such a full skirt for myself, so it is a bit of an experiment in safe-but-boring-black. I always thought having a big-ish high hip that the extra bulk was not a good idea, however this pattern has tucks on the skirt rather than gathers, so I thought I’d give it a try. I especially liked how the tucks were arranged in little clusters of four – so cute to look at, but let me tell you they are a nightmare to get accurate!
After an age of arranging the tucks, I finally went to attach the skirt to the bodice, but it did not fit! The instructions call for the skirt to be eased onto the bodice a lot, which I obediently did. But I am not happy with it – it just adds bulk and detracts from the effect of the tucks. I might go back and redo it, but haven’t as yet, and will I ever? Dunno – I can be a real perfectionist, but real slapdash when it comes to sewing for myself!!
Covering it up with a ribbon suits my mentality right now, and I might order some red grosgrain especially for this purpose..
I did a few alterations to the bodice – shortened it, narrowed the back, upsized the waist. I keep forgetting to document this process, and promise to try and remember next time. Now I have photographed the finished dress I can see a ‘lovely’ drag line from shoulder to bust, and maybe I should have added to the front shoulder as I am quite prominent here. Oh well, if I keep moving no-one will notice…
The fabric is a cotton/elastane poplin, so to stabilise the waistline and prevent it stretching I inserted some pretty striped grosgrain. Here is a link to Tasia’s tutorial that tells you everything you need to know! On my dress the waistline had stretched and hung down at the front and back due to the weight of the skirt, and once I cut and inserted the grosgrain to the pattern measurement, it returned to its correct place.
For the record, the hem took me three hours to handsew! On the poplin I had to be so careful picking up the stitches for it not to show. But I did it one sunny afternoon out on the patio alongside my Mum doing her embroidery, so it was quite fun and leisurely, and I felt my glass of chardonnay afterwards was extremely well deserved!