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Oy.  Hello again.  Well, 2012 was kind of a bust for sewing and blogging, huh?  Since last I posted, I think I completed three sewing projects, one of which was a dress for my niece’s first birthday (Ugh, she didn’t even say thank you!  What is point of sewing for people who aren’t old enough to verbally express gratitude and indebtedness??) and another of which was a hat for my mother (who, I will grudgingly admit, did say thank you.) Seriously, what a shitty, shitty 2012 track record. No time to sew is somewhat excusable, but no time for selfishness… well that’s just shameful.

The third project I managed to complete is the lovely vintage pattern Butterick 9927, a lovely early 60’s cocktail dress with a boat neck, short kimono sleeves, and a tulip skirt with deep box pleats. I sewed this up about a month ago but hadn’t gotten around posting about it until now. I had purchased this pattern more than a year ago off of Etsy and stashed it away with my vintage evening gown pattern hoard. I don’t have a picture of my copy of the pattern so here’s one from the Vintage Patterns wiki:


After such a long sewing drought this dress may seem a rather impractical choice, but as it turns out, it did fill a rather critical gap in my wardrobe:


And lest you be fooled by the Christmas tree, no, this is not a poorly chosen Christmas party dress, but rather the dress that I made for the ceremony in which I assumed legal ownership of my wonderful Dan. This is the only full-length shot I have of the dress, and that attention whore of a tree just happened to photo bomb the shot. Look at it, creeping up behind us, trying to steal my thunder! And before you accuse the Selfish Seamstress of being anti-Christmas, let me just say that the menorah and kinara also wanted to grab the spotlight from me.


I made the dress on something of a whim. Six days before I was scheduled to take legal possession of Dan, it occurred to me that I didn’t have a dress appropriate for the occasion. I had bought a pale blue vintage chiffon dress from the 1950s off of eBay a few weeks earlier, and was disappointed to find that the dress although beautiful, just didn’t work on me.  Every time I put it on and looked in the mirror, I felt like mutton dressed as embryo. Also the embryo was wearing someone else’s nightgown in a shade of blue that didn’t flatter the embryo’s skin tone and with a cut that created the illusion of oddly wide embryo hips. So just a few days shy of the wedding, I decided that I’d put my rusty sewing skills to the test. I dug madly through my pattern stash and unearthed Butterick 9927. I decided that with its short sleeves and modest boat neck, it would be very fitting for our super tiny, super informal winter morning (no spaghetti straps, thank you very much!) wedding at the New York City Marriage Bureau just a few days before Christmas. Interesting fact: although this is commonly referred to as getting married at “City Hall”, the Marriage Bureau is actually in a different building at the Office of the City Clerk:

IMGP0327-LMy little nephew loved hugging the puffy skirt of the dress- he was hugging me around the knees all day. He’s too young to know that YOU DO NOT HUG THE SELFISH SEAMSTRESS EVER.

Another fun fact- inside the Office of the City Clerk there is a giant photograph of City Hall in front of which you can take photos of yourselves so it looks like you got married at City Hall:



Okay, but enough about the boring wedding stuff and onto the important sewing details! After deciding that having a dress to wear would be a good idea, I made a quick trip to the ridiculously overpriced only-game-in-town fabric store, picked up ivory silk shantung for the dress and some stiff cotton organdy for underlining, and sat down for 12 intense hours of sewing.

I had to do a couple of iterations of bodice muslins because my pattern is for a 32″ bust, and Selfish is perhaps 29″ on a good day. I’m pretty sure I took out more than 3″ of extra room too. It turned out that it wasn’t so easy to resize because with this kind of kimono sleeve, if you make significant changes to the bust, it has weird effects on the angle of the sleeve, and can create some strange resulting bubbles of fabric right in front of the shoulder.  I pondered this for a long time and ultimately managed to get a decent fit through trial and error, though it’s still not obvious to me what the “correct” way of doing this fit alteration would be.

The pattern calls for skirt “stiffening” and I’m not sure what stiffening is (was?) and how it differs from interfacing. I hadn’t run across the term before but from the pattern instructions, it seemed like it was intended to be used in the same fashion as interfacing. The cotton organdy was perfect and gave the skirt plenty of shape and volume. I did tuck a not-too-poofy vintage petticoat underneath anyway, as the tulip skirt with this pattern can gape in the front. The organdy also really helped to define and shape the box pleats, one of my favorite features of the dress:


The pattern calls for a facing at the neckline, but I opted to line the bodice instead using some remnants of nude Bemberg I had from another project. Considering the New York winter weather, I figured an extra layer of fabric would be a good idea. Also, although this was a quickie project for a low-key event, somehow leaving a bodice unlined with exposed seam allowances on the inside seemed to be setting the bar pretty low even for an informal wedding dress. Although the pattern didn’t call for it, I underlined the bodice with the organdy too to give it a little more body.  Here’s a good view of the boat neckline, another thing I love about this pattern:


In this picture, Dan is about to feed me cake. Although it may appear that we are engaging in a wedding-specific ritural, that’s not actually what’s going on here. This is actually a daily service that Dan is expected to provide for me.  I don’t think I’ve lifted my own cake fork for the last 5 years. Usually I just yell, “DAN, CAKE!” while lying on the couch and he whips one up and feeds it to me. It’s awesome. The last two pictures are from the tiny reception we had with our families and I think the dress worked well for this also, even though it was in the evening. I could have gone with something a little more splashy and bare I suppose, but two dresses for such a casual, small affair seemed like overkill.

In the end, I loved my simple, hastily executed dress (and our simple, hastily executed wedding!) The pattern and cut were perfect for the occasion, I loved the crumply, rustling shantung bolstered with stiff organdy, and most of all, it was comfortable!

We’ll see if 2013 brings more time for sewing. I already picked up leaf green silk georgette and matching leaf green silk chiffon while in New York to make yet another wedding dress, this time for my sister who is getting married in the summer! And before you readers tsk tsk at me for taking on yet another S.W.A.G. project, let me point out that it’s a fair trade, considering what my sister just made for me:


Screen shot 2013-01-11 at 15.05.46

Three gorgeous tiers of chocolate buttermilk cake with mocha buttercream, decorated with handmade sugar snowflakes, no two alike. It was honestly the best cake that I have ever tasted. It was so beautiful that I couldn’t stand to look while cutting it!


Happy 2013, everyone- I hope you get plenty of selfish sewing time for yourselves!  (Actually, I hope I get plenty of selfish sewing time for myself- who cares what you get! Hahahah!)

Oh my goodness! Dear readers, thank you for your outpouring of warmth and congratulations over my recent engagement-inducing puppetmastery of Dan via sewing. Hopefully Dan will not realize how he has been manipulated into matrimonial subservience until it is much too late. And I am so very happy to receive all of your warm wishes and words, I can’t even express it. The Selfish Seamstress is at a loss for words. All I can say is, thank you, June, Cidell, Bernadette, Koritsimou, lunatepetal, Amber, Amanda S., Rachel, Daci, Hashi, sa, Auntie Allyn, Brooke, Jan, jen, Elizabeth, sandoz18, Karen, Rachelle, Karin, Kathleen, nettie, Colleen P., Sewing Sue, Tasia, Belly, a peppermint penguin, Christy, Rachel, Debi, Shelley, Leigh, Susan Davis, MakingTime, wendy, Claudine, CGCouture, HollyS, Nikole, Katie, Trisha, Meredith P,  NT, Dora, Peter, wan-nabe, Cindy, Angie, Megan, Lee, meli88a, Trena, LindaC, reilly, Beangirl, Susan, Margaret, bookishbella, Len, Angela, Tracy, Uta, Nancy K, Debbie Cook, earthanddust, Karin (the Mrs.), Alison, Stephanie, Crystal, CarmencitaB, girdtmom, Stef, JillyB, Jenny, D, Venus de Hilo, Isaspacey, Plummy, Kim, Lee-Ann Galway, Vicki, Samina, Eloise, Janice, Paula Lemos, BeckyMc, Sue Prichard, beth, Silvia, Sherry, Daisy, Sue, Karen, Stephanie, Jessica, becky, Elly, Remnant, yazmins, dana, yoshimi, Shirley, Joanna, Ann’s Fashion Studio, Vivienne, Jean S, AllisonC, AlewivesGirl, Amy, Nikki, Victoria Baylor, Noile, A Sewn Wardrobe, AmyG, Reethi, Karen, Andrea, Whitney, Jennifer Susannah (the other one), Lise, Vicky, Jane, Henriette, Shannon, jenny, seemane, Becky, Renee, Vicky@coffeeandmilkies, Laurie, Sara, Erin, Benny the Bunny, Melissa, Pattie, line3arossa, Sarah M., various Anonymous commenters, well-wishing lurkers, and anyone else I might have missed. I would hug you all personally if I could! And this coming from the Selfish Seamstress, who has NEVER hugged anyone in her entire life except her cat.

Just a thing or two about the ring since there were so many comments about how interesting and unusual it is. Don’t worry, I am not becoming one of those engaged people who blabs and blabs about her ring.  Just this once. Dan picked the ring out from a company called greenKarat, which sells ethically and environmentally conscious jewelry, relying on recycled materials and conflict-free stones. The ring itself is made from reclaimed platinum and set with a lab created emerald (i.e. not mined.) I adore it, not least of all because he put so much thought into finding a ring that I would love to wear and that works well with our values. I’ve never been much of a jewelry person and would probably not have minded if the ring had come from a cereal box, as long as it was from Dan, so the simplicity of it suits me well. Not that I’m against big fancy engagement rings in general- I’m always thrilled when friends of mine who really know how to appreciate a giant rock get the ring of their dreams. Such a gem would be wasted on me though. Had Dan presented The Selfish Seamstress with such a ring, her unappreciative and ungrateful response would most likely have been something like, “Seriously?  What were you thinking? We could have put all that money towards our retirement!”** Anyway, check out greenKarat if you’re on the market for some new (old) sparkly stuff.

As for the dress, I do plan to make my own, but before you get your hearts all a-flutter, I should burst your bubble by making the disclaimer that we intend to have a very simple, very casual wedding. (We’re hoping for a simple Jewish ceremony followed by a big backyard barbecue with Filipino food, but it’s all still barely in the planning stages and neither of us seems to have access to a big backyard.) I apologize to those of you who were hoping for a fairy tale wedding gown sewing blog saga, complete with tutorials on how to construct a cathedral train or hand bead Alençon lace with individual Swarovski crystals, but right now my dream dress comes down just past my knee and is made of plain white cotton voile.  The Selfish Seamstress intends to be a dull bride, indeed! Don’t worry though- there may be a fun tulle underskirt hidden somewhere. (Probably under the skirt.)

Of course, I’m looking to all the usual sources for inspiration, like Audrey in Funny Face:

And Grace.  No, not that Grace Kelly wedding dress, but this other one from High Society:

I’m not planning on copying either of these wholesale (definitely can’t pull off those balloon sleeves), but I do hope to capture something of their flavor. Not thinking too hard about it just yet though :)

As for the bridesmaids, my sisters have already been informed that they can wear whatever they want, new or from their closets, matching not required. (Do I even have to state that I will not be sewing dresses for them?) And my other attendant will probably be a guy, which means boring clothes. Leave it to the Selfish Seamstress to suck all the fun and pomp out of a wedding, right??

** “our retirement” is the phrase the Selfish Seamstress would have used in this situation, but in her head what she really would mean is “my Bernina 830.”

About this blog

The Selfish Seamstress loves to design and sew garments, but only if she gets to keep them. I'm Elaine, known in the online sewing world as elainemay, and welcome to my selfish sewing blog.

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