Monday, June 24, 2013

FO: My Sugar Skull Secret Dress

This weekend I made a shirt dress.

I started out with the intention of making a shirt, but I know myself well enough now to realise that a straightforward straight-up-and-down man’s shirt does not suit me: I need more shape.

My first choice, a 1960’s Woman’s Weekly pattern, was far too big and the darts were about two inches too high. I could have re-drafted it, but I also had doubts about the collar, which looked as if it had to be gathered to the back neck – mmmm, stylish!

Lisette Portfolio involved too many check-matching decisions, which I could have resolved by the careful use of a contrasting plain … but I didn’t have anything suitable in the stash.

A New Look pattern included too much shaping to cope with matching those checks.

So I sat down with my knitting for three rows of thinking.

Then I realised I was wearing the answer: Darling Ranges! As I knitted, the whole project fell together perfectly in my head: I would use the pewter buttons I salvaged from an childhood skirt of The Girl’s, and I would add some embroidery – ooh yes, embroidery! It would have a definite prairie dress vibe and I would wear it with my jeans or cowboy boots or both. Sorted.

So I made my dress. I used my redrafted bodice piece and remembered to add extra length to the back bodice to account for my front dart adjustment. And I made a pretty good go of matching my checks, despite the skirt appearing slightly asymmetrical at the front – it is perfect at the back!

By this point it was 4pm on Sunday. So I settled down on the sofa to embroider a pocket to sew onto the skirt section. The dinner was in the slow cooker, so I had all the time in the world.

Then FL woke up. “What’s that you’re doing?” Embroidering a pocket. “But what is it?” It is a Mexican sugar skull, celebrating the Day of The Dead. “A… what? But what’s that got to do with you?” Um… it’s about celebrating life and death and the art of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and I went to an exhibition once (Hayward Gallery, 1988) and it had calla lilies and huge murals and… “Yes, but what has that to do with YOU?”

FL disappeared into his newspaper. He is good at that. A little later, there was a herrumph and then
“I don’t particularly care for your embroidery.”

So I put it away and served dinner.

I have made my dress, but I am not sure that it is finished. This is not the first time FL has accused me of cultural misappropriation: my tattoo-embroidered pillowcases got the same cold shoulder. He won’t outright say: “Don’t get a tattoo or wear religious / symbolic jewellery” but it is part of the same thought continuum. And FL’s disapproval is hard to live with - just ask my children!

So I might have to do what any rebellious teenager would do: turn my patch pocket inside out, and hide the embroidery on the inside. It will still be there. I will know it’s there. But FL doesn’t have to look at it. Shazzam!

Psychologists would have a field day.

Pattern:  Darling Ranges dress by Megan Nielsen, re-drafted to fit (details in this post.)

Fabric:  Less than 2 metres of cotton check from Edinburgh Fabrics, originally bought to make a tablecloth.  There was a fat quarter missing from the length as The Girl used it to make a make-up bag.

Other:  9 pewter buttons scavenged from an old skirt, thread, white bias binding from stash, a "Half Agony Half Hope" label, assorted embroidery threads from stash.  Embroidery pattern from Embroidered Effects.


Sarah said...

I love your new dress and the embroidery! I would definitely turn the embroidery to the inside of the pocket. Psychiatrists be damned! Ha ha!

Donna Hensley said...

That is a gorgeous dress, very inspiring! I have to say I love sugar skulls and I'm neither Catholic nor Latina. I embroidered several of them on tea towels last year. :)

christinelaennec said...

I adore this dress. It is very pioneering in spirit - I have a photograph of my great-Granny standing in her farmyard with a very similar garment on (Shasta County, California ca. 1910). She probably didn't have any sugar skulls embroidered inside or outside the pockets - but she was rebellious enough that she would have done the same, given the opportunity.

The photo is in black and white, but who knows, maybe the dress was actually a colourful tartan?

Those are beautiful buttons as well. I say, enjoy it and please yourself.

pennylibrarian said...

Love the dress and the embroidery!

Judith said...

What a funny FL you have - Love the dress, but I have never seen nor heard of a sugar skull before - guess I learnt something new today...J

Maria said...

Sometimes Frida is hard to explain to others :) The dress is really nice...very pioneer in style. comfortable and lovely :) m.

Mela R. said...

Your photos are so magical. I totally want to be where you are, even though I know it's cloudy and cold. That says a lot :)

Love the new dress!

MaryinTN said...

I love it! Yep, secret pockets do work. Nice job on matching up the checks and I love the embroidery.

Scruffybadger said...

I was so excited to see you've made another Darling Ranges! And in checks it's absolutely perfect. I personally like your tangential embroidery, and encourage you to wear it anyway you can!

Joan said...

Wear the pocket proudly. Lovely dress... much better than your original plan!

Emma said...

I think this dress is my favourite of all the things that you have made! I love it!
Don't hide the embroidery! You wouldn't want to deprive FL of something to herrumph about. ;0)

Kirsty said...

I just love this. Great fabric - it looks perfect on you. .. and yes, I agree, wear the pocket proudly.

Alex said...

Love the dress!

unlabelled clothes said...

I think your dress is lovely and the embroidery too. I think I understand where FL is coming from. It's like when I see people with Chinese writing tattoos & they don't appear to be East Asian - I find it a bit incongruous - but at the same time I find it interesting & wonder what their story is.

Joy said...

Love it! The plaid is perfect for it. The embroidery is fun. It's not like a tattoo - it will not be will you permanently!

Linda C said...

This probably is a really weird idea--but do you think seeing the skull might have set up some sort of train of thought or reference in FL's mind, relating the skull to his health and wondering if the skull is some sort of subliminal wish or reference to the future. Maybe I am too exposed to that sort of thought---I am not trying to be hurtful or mean or weird. I just heard that sort of reasoning too much, I guess.


Nicki said...

Well I love the dress, embroidery and all! I have a particular fondness for Mexican sugar sculls. The colours of the plaid are lovely.

annanic said...

I love it! The plaid is perfect and my Darling Ranges dresses continue to be constant favorites. As for the sugar skulls, I'm a big fan of Day of the Dead symbols. The entire ideology fascinates me and the imagery is definitely inspiring. I think they're beautiful, inside or out of the pocket.

acharmofmagpies said...

I love what you've done with this check, as someone said above its gloriously pioneering. I think the embroidery is beautiful, good luck deciding how to wear it.

Ms Goodenough said...

Weird. As I continue your blog (started at the beginning a little while ago) I feel I may be a stalker. Just this morning realising that I have a whole day to myself next week have considered a 2 hour start embroidery course. I was umming and ahhing and now I've seen this I can just get straight on and do it. Thank you! Hope to catch you up in the present tense soon.