DONE- The Jessica

4 May

I flew out to Boston a few weeks ago to meet Jessica and do first fittings, and then to go fabric shopping with the bride and her mother, who is also a seamstress.  After spending a day scouting both Boston and Cambridge for fabric stores, we went to her parent’s hotel room for another fitting, which you can see below, complete with wrinkles and visible underpants.

Jessica is  basically a living dress form – tall, skinny skinny skinny, and with broad shoulders, just like a clothes hanger. The muslin that I created for her had to be taken in almost 7 inches, but the dress we designed turned out to be perfect for her athletic build.

Because I did all the final construction in one marathon burst of sewing, and because I tend to get both loopy and really creative when I am tired, I put a lot of little touches into Jessica’s dress – There is a tiny piece of my wedding dress sandwiched between layers of antique lace on the underslip (for something old, and for a happy marriage), and the seaming on the inside is finished in blue mattress ticking (for something blue, and because it was such a cool material).

Shantung sash, mattress ticking detail, and the silk underslip

A layer of ruffles was attached to the bottom of both layers of the slip so that she would have more movement and shape at the bottom of the dress, and then the entire slip was washed to get the starch out and hung very carefully to dry.  Around 2 am I found myself sandwiching two layers of silk and a little metal divot  into the button form and hammering the whole thing together while re-watching Lip Service online (a somehow more engrossing Scottish version of the L Word), which again makes me wonder why my downstairs neighbors never complain. Around 3 am, because I am insane, I thought it would be a great idea to re-watch the extended version of Lord of the Rings while starting on the sash.

Done, done, and done

6 weeks of hand-wringing later, we have a dress: reembroidered French lace with a cream silk charmeuse lining and underlining, a 5-panel skirt with godets at the sides and train, a border of appliquéd lace, 11 handmade buttons covering the sipper, and a blue silk shantung sash with bow. These aren’t the best pics, but they’re enough to show that I actually made it. It looks  better than the muslin, though I think the muslin has a kind of devil-may-care charm to it, don’t you? God, I hope it fits.

Update – During the last stop on our epic, three-week tour of the East Coast, the wife and I drove to Washington, DC to have a final fitting with Jessica, who found it hilarious that I watched Lord of the Rings while making her dress. When we arrived in DC I was reminded of why people (including J’s soon-to-be-husband) call it “the swamp” : imagine air so thick that you can almost see it, broken by occasional spells of monsoon-like rain, and you will have a pretty good idea of what DC is like, and why I don’t really miss it.

Check out this button/sash combo. Pretty good for 3 am, hmm?

Anyway, I got to the fitting to find the bride, who is a lovely and down-to-earth person, with her best friend and sister, who are also both lovely, incredibly tiny and pulled-together ladies. I felt my road griminess (three weeks in a car, sleeping on various couches, floors, and La Quinta Inns can really do a number on your looks) even more acutely at that moment, but on to the dress. Fabric has a terrifying tendency to shrink when you sew, and I had given myself maybe 1/4″ of wiggle room in case Jessica needed anything let out. I had also completely enclosed the bodice seam and lapped to zipper to within an inch of its life – in other words, if it didn’t fit, I would be paying for Jessica’s trip to David’s Bridal myself.
We had a very scary moment when the zipper wouldn’t go up, but a little butter and bacon grease (I kid, I kid) and it zipped. Near-perfect – only 4 inches too long and one strap was longer than the other. A simple fix. Now, Jessica, go get married!

Yes! It fits!!!!!!!

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