I met the delightful Helen of Valentine & Stitch through Sleeve Fest, and I just love her aesthetic. Her easy styling with little French touches are two of the things I think are really special about her patterns. You’ve seen me in Cassandra now, and here is Helen in her dresses for The Day and Night Dress Challenge! Thanks so much for joining us today, Helen
Coffee with Tiffany and cocktails with Vogue: sewing serendipity for the Day and Night Dress Challenge
Thanks so much to Elizabeth for hosting this challenge, and for having me here on her blog today! I’m Helen from Valentine & Stitch, and I’m excited to share my completed Day and Night Challenge dresses with you:
But every dress has a story, right?
Regular readers of my blog will know that I love the Swedish designer Jenny Hellström, particularly her Ballerina top. In addition to her six individual patterns, Jenny also has a book called Urban Wardrobe, but it was only available in Swedish. I speak no Swedish, so thought it would be forever beyond my reach. Then I found out it had been translated into French, which is my second language! There was no reflection, patience, or second thought: I ordered it instantly. And that’s what came through my door just before I replied to Elizabeth’s message inviting me to be part of the blogging team for this challenge.
There are so many lovely patterns in there, but the Tiffany dress in particular caught my eye, as it is designed to be adapted from casual to formal depending on the fabric choices. Then once Elizabeth launched all the details of the challenge I realised we could use DIFFERENT PATTERNS for the day dress and the night dress (I had first thought it must be the same pattern for both dresses), and I had seen this fabulous dress Kathryn Brenne designed for Vogue but I had no occasion to make it for…
So basically, fate/destiny/supreme happy coincidence was smiling upon me for this challenge. Sometimes you’ve just got to believe in serendipity, don’t you? And here’s how my serendipitous sewing panned out…
The day dress: Tiffany by Jenny Hellström
A big thing you need to know about me is that comfort is EVERYTHING. I will never sacrifice comfort for style. And in fact, Jenny’s mantra is that “life is too short to be uncomfortable”: she writes in her foreword that “elegance does not come from rhinestones and high heels. Elegance comes from the way you look at things, the way you hold yourself, your attitude”. Cue major punching of air with fists! I always find that I hold myself too consciously in overly fitted dresses. I like something with a bit of ease, not necessarily to hide my shape but to skim over it rather than outline it. So the Tiffany dress with its soft lines is, well, PERFECT. I ordered this navy floral rayon jersey from Finch Fabrics, and I loved it instantly when it arrived at my door.
Tiffany is supposed to be very low-cut and worn with a vest or slip underneath. Since I had enough fabric left, I sewed up a little camisole we’re designing for our forthcoming lingerie set, but in the end the identical fabric under the dress meant the dress neckline just sort of disappeared. However, I just happened to have set aside for the charity shop a seven-year-old RTW silk dress that came with a detachable navy slip (and, being me, hadn’t yet got round to taking it away – I told you destiny was smiling on me!) so it now has a new purpose in life!
You can see here that the feature neckline of the dress gets lost with the matching camisole, and also the neckline of the cami is a little too high for the dress.
But fear not, my camisole was not made in vain. Firstly, it looks great with jeans:
And secondly, the finishing of the neck and arms with lingerie elastic gave me an idea to add a little flourish to the dress too! The neckline and sleeves are supposed to be finished with a simple hem, but I was slightly concerned that the floaty rayon might gape a little too much and be constantly falling down, which would go against the “comfort” factor if I was constantly hoiking up a sleeve. So I decided to finish it with navy lingerie elastic to make sure it sat well and stayed put.
I chose an elastic with only a very narrow decorative edge so that it wasn’t too much, and I like the look of it and the neat finish on the inside BUT… I should have stretched out the elastic more. I didn’t want to alter the neckline by cinching it in, since it was only supposed to be finished with a hem, but this drapey fabric would actually have benefitted from being pulled in a little.
Laid out flat, you can see that the neckline is stretched out a bit on the crossover side, (the side that has the fabric weighing it down; the other side is just that small piece attached to the faux wrap).
As for the bottom hem, I used hem tape to stabilise the rayon, and it really helped avoid the tunnelling that can happen when you hem a delicate fabric with a coverstitch or twin needle.
I cannot get enough of this product, and will be found evangelising about it for a long time to come!
So despite the fact that I’d do the neckline a little differently next time (maybe I should have used the hem tape there too…) I’m really happy with this dress. And although in reality I usually wear jeans and a sweater to the coffee shop, one day I may just surprise the staff and show up in this!
Evening dress: Vogue 9268
And so on to my evening dress. I just loved the style lines of this dress – it looked floaty and dreamy and elegant and special… everything I drool over but rarely get to wear. I was intrigued by what looked like a circle skirt as part of the dress – it’s not a separate pattern piece joined at the waist (i.e. not bodice and skirt, as you might expect), but rather two pieces joined with a centre seam, so the join is vertical rather than horizontal.
I’m a fan of anything that doesn’t cut me off at the waist as my torso is ridiculously short. However, I never wear a full skirt because my hips are so high (thank you, short torso), so you might wonder why I chose this dress… call it a moment of madness, but it was a folly that paid off, as it has achieved the impossible: a full skirt that makes me feel elegant.
Although I would have loved to make this dress in a sumptuous fabric, I know I don’t have an occasion coming up where I could wear something so fancy. I made a resolution this year that I would sew more mindfully, with the hope that everything I make is loved and gets worn, so I decided to sew this dress in a cotton jersey from Girl Charlee UK. My one concession was to it being black (basically my instant “make it formal” formula!)
The instructions were clear and concise: there’s quite a bit of stabilising to do in the seams, which makes sense as there is a lot of fabric for the dress to carry. But once you’ve done those finicky bits, it’s a very straightforward sew.
I sewed version A – short sleeves and shorter length. As you can see from the photos, it looks almost full length on me (I’m 5’6”/ 168cm) so I’m glad I went for this rather than the longer version. After taking out my standard 5/8” from the bodice, the main thing I did differently was to insert the sleeves on the flat rather than on the round – this is just my preferred method for sewing with knit fabrics, and after reading the instructions there didn’t seem to be any reason why it wouldn’t work. There were two other small additions I made : firstly, I used shoulder tape rather than elastic to stabilise the shoulder seams. I like how I can enclose shoulder tape WITHIN the seam, so it strengthens without being at all visible.
Secondly (try to look surprised), I used hem tape rather than interfacing to stabilise the hem. This was mainly to make my life easier – rather than cutting long and narrow strips of interfacing, hem tape is already the right width and just needs snipping off at the right length. Anything to help out when working with such a massive hem… Oh that hem… it’s a big old hem… I used the hem tape all the way round rather than just at the centre, and it meant I could just press up the hem without pinning, then sew in place. So it stabilised AND made the process easier – what’s not to love?! (OK, no more mentions of hem tape, I promise).
This dress is so effortlessly elegant! It’s truly one of those “princess for a day” styles that make you feel like you just stepped out of daily life and into the pages of a magazine. I don’t have many formal occasions but the style really is timeless and so I expect this will be my staple formal piece for many years to come! And if ever I get invited somewhere fancy, you can bet your boots I’ll be making this in velvet.
The true test of a garment for me is “would I make this again?” and for both of these patterns I give a loud, resounding YES! I probably wouldn’t have sewn either of them without the prompt of this challenge, so I am grateful to Elizabeth for inviting me to be part of it, and to all of you for reading. Thanks so much for having me!
Keep watching here on Elizabeth Made This and on YouTube between now and February 28th for more amazing dresses from this wonderful global crew of sewing bloggers and vloggers I’ve assembled!
Want to join in the fun yourself?
HOW CAN YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE DAY AND NIGHT DRESS CHALLENGE?
- Sew some dresses!
- Let other people know about it. Use #dayandnightdresschallenge on Twitter and Instagram and follow the Day and Night Dress Challenge Facebook group.
- Keep reading here to find out the latest. Follow Elizabeth Made This on Instagram andFacebook.
- Post a picture of your day look (coffee) and your night look (cocktail) to Instagram to enter yourself. Don’t forget to tag me @elizabethmadethis and use the #dayandnightdresschallenge.
- Grab a graphic and post it on your site and/or repost on Instagram: