And Now For Something Fun……

….and inspiring and empowering and back to what I love.  Now this started out very sad and ended very, well and fun, so the fun applies to the end, not the beginning!

Recently – like a couple of weeks ago, I finished a garment for a client.  I don’t normally post that sort of thing here, but the event has passed and she has worn her garment in great joy and success.

This client came to me saying she had a cancer diagnosis about 6 months before her son was to be married and had to have a double mastectomy and didn’t know what to do about her dress.  Her friends all told her I was the best.  I’d never met her before and really don’t take too many clients these days.   That’s the joy of having done this for 40 years, I get to interview my clients while they interview me and if I don’t like the project, then I will simply tell them that I can’t get the fabric or some other excuse.  But this client was special.  She had a particular situation that I had not ever worked with before and she wanted to look pretty.  I wasn’t going to have to talk her into looking pretty, she wanted to look pretty.  You have no idea how many times I have to reverse my clients’ minds on that factor alone.  Why?  Because they’ve been trained into thinking that clothes only look pretty on Cara Delevingne types and not on most regular people. After all everyone else has the same problem.  FYI:  That’s about 3% of the population.  That means the normal or regular shaped folks are the other 97% of the population.

And no one is designing for them.

But  aside from that, her figure has been rudely and horribly assaulted, which doesn’t even include her self-image or how she feels about how pretty she can possibly be.  She came to me, boobless and still swollen from her surgery in other places in her body.  Pretty much a fashion and emotional disaster.

What a fabulously rich problem this was going to be, and I couldn’t wait to do her.  No interview was necessary, once she told me her body condition I said yes.

So I went through the normal pre-fitting steps designing what we want, and found the fabric, which was really easy this time.  Then the under lining fabric was sold out from under us – dangit!!!!  I had to go through and try and find it, but couldn’t.  So I got in my car and trekked to my local major metro area to search all over there for the fabric to do this.  Found it!!!!

So we started the fittings.  She’s gone to the breast cancer shop at her hospital where she had the surgery and they fit her for fake boobs which cost $1,000 a piece (I thought this was outrageous and suspiciously felt like this shop was making use of a person who was already in shock having received a scare of a death sentence, and then – because you survive – the shop was going to stick it to them cause it’s the only thing available.  But alas, it is what it is!

So what I wanted to do was a neoprene undergarment to hold her together the way I wanted, but be stretchy and comfy.  She tries it on to see how it looks.  I explained that this was a tight-fitting garment and wouldn’t show.  She started crying.  She said she hadn’t really looked at herself since her surgery.  She used to be a swimmer and had a really nice figure and ever since her cancer her figure had gone to pot.  I immediately took the garment off and said, no worries, next fitting date, and gave her a hug.  I’ve had cancer before and know it’s scarier than sh*t.  So we schedule another fitting and she tells me she’s going to put on her big-girl pants and not cry.  I told her – that’s not a problem for me because she won’t believe how beautiful she’ll be!  She’s like – well okay, snif, snif….if you say so!!!

Ha!!! She has no idea what’s to come.

We go through the rest of the fittings and I’m telling her not to worry that this will be really fabulous – sort of like “her” coming out only not overshadow the bride and groom.  At this point, the mother of the bride hasn’t made up her mind what she’s going to wear, and I said, never mind that if she’s going to pick something up at the last minute, we shouldn’t have to worry about her first then you.  The truth is that the MOB is most likely having a horrible time trying to find something for her figure and she has both her original boobs!!! And that’s what’s causing the hang up in her getting a dress!

Well, we finish – I didn’t really document the process only because I really plan on writing about it.  But she was crying and no it wasn’t over how bad she looked, but how good she looked.  Here are some photos of that.

OK – I want to protect my client’s privacy, but here we are.  This is a black netting with 3 different shades of gold sequins – light, medium and really deep gold colors in a feathery design.  If I would have left this alone, then there would most likely be some telltale lumps and bumps that would have shown, so I took some lace that was beaded on a nude netting that was absolutely gorgeous on top of this black netting sequin fabric.  And under this, we had the neoprene nude lining – if you want to call it that.  It was really a form piece but very stretchy.

This meets all the points I wanted and I talk about all the time with my students.

  • Start at the top – the shoulders hit on the shoulder.  Remember if this doesn’t fit right, it doesn’t get any better going down, at the best, it stays the same, but because the shoulders don’t fit, that means (that close to the face) that the rest of it isn’t going to help the unfitted shoulders.  Does that help put this in perspective?  Good.  Because fit your shoulders to your shoulders and actually if things go awry down below, it won’t be nearly as bad as if the shoulders were not fitted.  I like to put this shoulder line right where the fall-off part of your bra strap is.  It’s that spot where one more bit off the shoulder and the bra strap falls.  This falls in line almost always with the side silhouette.  Like this:

 
OK – what’s important to note here is the shape that starts at the shoulder.  Without that good start, you can not set up the shape that needs to happen below that.

  • Shaping around the bust.  For this client this was everything.  And I didn’t take these photos to really show this look, but this will have to do – I’m posting one just below here that shows this even better.  But here’s a good idea of what I’m trying to accomplish.  Here’s the bottom line: no matter how broad or not broad your shoulders are;  no matter how small or big your bust is;  no matter how large or no waist your body is; and no matter how big or small your hips are, your bust sticks out and then comes in (even if your bust is a smaller girth than your waist and hips), there is an “in” under your bust.  You can use this to give you the illusion of a waist.  That’s what’s going on here.  The great way to do this is with an FBA.  These little gems are like my secret arsenal for shaping around the bust.  Not only that but they take out that bulky fabric that always seems to be going on under the armhole and hide the side silhouette that is all about giving this shape a clean fit – a CLEAN fit – not a skin tight fit.
  • Shaping at the hem.  Giving a small flare to the hem, which means making it larger  in girth than the hip area, means that the dress will flow and move well, but when she stands still it will stand straight from her body…..this will be great when she’s walking down the aisle and dancing – because she will fell so good in this dress that she will want to dance!  this is easy to do by adding godets which is a cheaters way to make the hem larger at the bottom.  The other way takes gobs of fabric and I couldn’t put my hands on that much fabric for this garment, so used godets, which are perfectly acceptable.

 

Here’s another view….more on the back, but this shows the line in front and how well it is shaped around the bust, even though her tummy measurement and hip measurement were larger than her bust.  It can be done and this shows how the illusion can happen.

 

  • Lastly.  Let’s face it.  Everyone in town and particularly at the wedding will have known that she had a double mastectomy and even though they will be (and have in the past) very supportive and nurturing to her, they are going to gander at her bust.  It’s a given.  So what can we do to give more attention to the face and not the bust.  That’s the main reason I did the large beading around the neckline.  Only this wasn’t beading – this was Elie Saab type beading….encrusted type beading!  This is wow stuff and suddenly, the bling brings all the attention to the neck and face and before you know it, guests walk away thinking – Oh, I meant to check out her bust to see if I could see anything different!   THAT was my goal.  Here shows just how encrusted this actually was.  I told her she really didn’t need to wear jewelry except for some killer earrings.  I had some that worked and loaned them to her.  I hope she used them cause they worked great.

 

This is really three basic steps – shoulder, bust and hem.  That’s it.  But what a difference these three little details make for this dress.  Adding the bling around the neck was an extra  uumph that had a purpose but also made the dress extra special.

This is an example of the cut out on another garment.  This garment was featured in last month’s newsletter which you can access if you are a member.  This is a fascinating, easy and very effective technique, instead of cutting this out by hand which is fraught with all sorts of problems, there’s an easier technique.  This is what I used for my MOG dress when cutting out the beaded lace for her neckline.

I also applied this to the sleeves (which is hard to see – again I didn’t document this dress very well), and to the back, with a special technique.  As many of you may have noticed Pippa Middleton got married and her dress was “built” looking as if there were no seams leading to How in the world did they do that question.  Here’s how the back looked and look closely to find the zipper seam.

If you look very very closely you can see where the beaded lace is overlapping the seam, and at the bottom is the invisible zipper, but around the neckline, there is no seam.  Actually what happens here is that when I started cutting and putting on the beaded lace, I didn’t cut it on the seam, but cut it so that the design would overlap on the other side, and used those really cool clear plastic snaps to keep in place.  These snaps really don’t do anything other than keep something in place – they aren’t sturdy enough to use for secure purposes, just for placement only.

 

Lastly, if you look at the back view again, it drags slightly in back.  I like doing this as the front is usually about 3/4″ shorter than the floor, allowing the air to come in front and is captured by the lower hem in back, adding (with the godets) to the sashay factor.

This dress looked like a lot of work and yes there’s a lot of hand work involved which is timely, but that doesn’t take a whole lot of knowledge.  The knowledge is involved in the fitting and in the comfort of the dress.  My two most fun moments were at the end when we had the final fitting and she kept saying, “You know you were telling me what you were going to do and I didn’t really understand, but now that I see it, I really understand and it’s way more than I thought it was going to be,” and the moment when she sat down, as she would in the church during the ceremony and at the dinner at the reception.  She commented, “This is so comfortable.  It’s so easy to wear!”  Those are my two goals – she has to look pretty and be comfy.

This my dear friends is what sewing is all about for me.  This is what I want you all to know, believe and learn – that your garments can be pretty AND comfy!!!!

How do you start?  By wanting it.  If you want it, you will get it!  My client wanted a beautiful gown for her son’s wedding, and she got it!

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