09 December, 2014

LBD refashion and a comment on sizing

I have one Little Black Dress.  Just the one.   Does anyone need more than one?  I surely can't answer that - I've made do with just this one forever.  The dress code at Canadian universities runs more to jeans than cocktail dresses even for the professorial lot, so I never felt the need for more than one. More on point, I've had this LBD for so long, its life with me is to be counted in decades, not years. While not exactly a starving student when I acquired it, it was pretty close.  So this frock and I have a history.

This LBD is definitely not anyone's couture item. It's a pretty basic RTW garment:  polyester crepe, acetate lining. Still, it's pretty nice:   fully lined, with an illusion mesh upper bodice, an empire waistline, great waist to hip shaping, and the neckline, armscyes, back zipper, and the empire seam are finished with satin ribbon for some visual interest.  And it fits me!  Yes, still, or I might say again.... since there were on and off periods during those two decades when it just wouldn't slide over my hips.   Right now, the fit is bang on:  I've been shrinking.

But my little frock is starting to show its age.  A spot on one hip has developed a serious patch of snagged threads, I think from a rough-edged purse or some such.   Plus, consequent to my sewing endeavours, I've become more discerning in what I'd like to wear.  So, great fit notwithstanding, it was time for an update. 

Still, I just wasn't willing to let it go.  It was as close as you can get to a made for me frock.  Therefore, rather than ditching it and starting from scratch, I decided on a little experiment:  an eyecatching overlay!

If you look at the big online fashion stores, you'll see there are tons of lace frocks out there right now. Just do an image search for  lace cocktail dress, sleeveless. Looking at these, and keeping in mind local availability, I had a little brain wave:  why not overlay a lace on my goode olde standebye?  My result might then look somewhat like these:

Bearing in mind that my LBD was, well, obviously black, I wanted a colour that would look good on that background.  Local fabric availability included red, magenta, peppermint green, bright blue, and navy.   I crossed out the nonstarters for you - I won't be caught dead in magenta lace. But red, well, yes, I like red.  It's one of my all time favourite colours. 

And red always looks great with black and on black:

....even when the red is orange:  

But... but.  A couple of days I was struck by a comment on this very demure long sleeved red frock: 

"this is the couture version of the ugly Christmas sweater".  OUCH.  I didn't think it was THAT bad. Call me weak willed, call me sensitive, yet I decided that maybe, just maybe, red would be too bright for me.  Also, the red lace at the local store somehow lacked textural detail. Honestly. 

So I went with this look: midnight navy on black.  The navy lace I found has a fabulous raised texture, and it comes off as pretty subtle: clearly not all black during the day, yet mocking a true LBD under evening lights.  

I sprang for one meter of the navy lace:  nine bucks! (Canadian $ - only eight to my southern friends). 

To create the lace overlay, I plonked me olde LBDe onto the table and traced its sections. I combined the upper illusion mesh and lower bodice into one piece, converting the pieced shaping to bust darts at the front, so ultimately there are only four pieces:  upper front, lower front, upper back, lower back.  All except upper back are shaped with darts.

On the basis of those, I machine sewed and serge finished the lace overlay.  Then I hand sewed the overlay to the dress, folding over at neckline, armscyes and hem, and stay stitching along the back zipper and empire waist seam.  The hand sewing took most of the time, so the exercise took nearly all day, but I was done before dark.

The next day, I added matching blue satin ribbon to the empire seam.  

And that's it!  Out of one meter of poly/acetate stretch lace, I have a new, quite current and stylish navy-on-black riff on an LBD:  

In closing, I want to poke fun make a gentle comment about garment and pattern sizing.  
My old LBD?  Beecher's Brook, size 4. 
My most recent jacket:  Style Arc, size 8, reduced by about 1" on each side seam, so really a 6/8.  
My Big Four patterns:  normally I start with 12, but more and more 10 seems to be a better starting point. 
My Burda/BurdaStyle patterns:  generally a 38.

Wouldn't it be oh so nice if the RTW manufacturers and the various pattern makers all decided to use the same number for the same body measurements?  Right. Dream on. 


  1. What a great idea! And it looks terrific!

  2. Beautiful! A great save to your old favorite. What an accomplishment to still be fitting into the same dress that you wore as a starving student!

  3. Gorgeous dress!! and greta job on the fit

  4. Love the dress! I was always afraid an entire dress made out of lace would be too much...and never dared to do it. You have now given me some wonderful ideas! thanks!