Sunday, January 20, 2013

Yeah, Jack. I know you fell asleep on top of her in Paris. In Paris, FRANCE.

Hi everyone! It's Sunday morning (just about) and I'm chilling in bed, watching the snow falling outside and listening to a CD called Trad Dads, Dirty Boppers and Free Fusioners and it's all pretty sweet. Every so often, a snow day is good for the soul.

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post with suggestions for good weepy films. In the end, after a relaxing working at home day on Friday, I started to feel a lot less tense. But I'll keep that list in mind anyhow. I'm an emotional gal, that'll come in handy one of these days I'm sure.

I haven't done any sewing this weekend - or indeed, much of anything past drinking cava and watching DVDs - but I did manage to finally get some photographs of my latest finished garment, my Bernie Dexter knockoff dress. For those of you asleep at the back, here is the dress in question, ably modelled by Bernie herself:

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Bernie Dexter Parisian Cafe picnic dress

As I explained previously, I have been after this dress for a while after falling hard for my Jessica dress. Still, £120 for a cotton dress is definitely out of my budgetary comfort zone! I had a wee bit of extra money around Christmas due to a generous gift and I did briefly consider just treating myself to it, even though it wasn't on sale. After all, I paid full price for my Bettie Page Captain dress, and I have never regretted that. Common sense prevailed, though. I knew I'd love the dress, but I wouldn't £120 love it. Does that make sense? I knew also I'd get more enjoyment out of making it than buying it, so there was that too.

I bought 3 metres of Michael Miller Paris Ville fabric from Frumble. That sounds like a lot for this dress and I did end up buying a bit too much, but I was being cautious. Rather than the print running horizontally from selvedge to selvedge, as you'd usually expect with a fabric like this, it runs vertically so the whole thing needed to be cut crosswise. I just want to say a quick word here about Frumble, too. It turned out that there was a slight issue with my order - there was 3m of fabric in stock, but part of it had been cut so it wasn't a continuous 3m length. I got a lovely detailed email from the owners, describing exactly what the fabric was like and offering me a refund if the order wasn't suitable. I went ahead anyway because I knew I'd have enough, but I was really impressed by the detailed email - lots of other companies would just cancel the order without giving you the opportunity to decide for yourself. I've shopped with Frumble before and I definitely will again!

Coming so soon after the Honolulu Baby dress, I knew exactly what I was doing with this dress and it came together in just a few hours. I made a few small changes - the skirt is slightly longer, and I shortened the straps considerably. I also ignored the directions for attaching the straps and the lining and did it my own way - which is to say, the ends of the straps are all sandwiched between the lining and the shell so it's much neater! I hemmed by hand as usual, and was able to use the detail of the print to give the hem a pretty border, too. 

The Nana dress 
The Nana dress

As the snow forced me indoors for photos, I thought I'd take advantage of the warmth and privacy and experiment a bit. I'm no Bernie Dexter, here's another pin-up attempt! I decided I didn't want to keep calling this dress a knock-off, so went with the Paris theme and called her Nana, after the eponymous heroine of Emile Zola's 1880 novel. SPOILER, but Nana herself meets a tragic end, dying of smallpox. But still, I love the Rougon-Macquart novels. Zola is straight-up one of my favourite writers, so it seemed fitting to name a Parisian-themed garment in his honour.

Anyway, there are some differences between my dress and the Bernie Dexter dress. For one thing, the Bernie Dexter dress has the bodice constructed in four pieces - the front of the dress has two pieces, which you might be able to see if you squint. I didn't do that because I didn't want to break up the lovely pattern:

The Nana dress bodice view

This picture of the bodice doesn't really do it justice - I hate having my photo taken up close so I'm hunched over a bit, causing a wrinkle underneath the bust that isn't there when I am standing up! I wanted to include it though so you could see that the pattern isn't broken up by an additional seam.

I lined the bodice with some pale pink polka dot cotton because why not. Secret polka dots are still polka dots:

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As you can see, I didn't line the skirt because I'll probably mostly wear this with a petticoat, so it seemed easier not to. Hemming the dress was really easy because of the way the pattern is composed. I made the pink paving stones the border of the dress and turned the hem up accordingly, and catch-stitched it by hand. This is one of those details that makes a garment look hand-made, I think, but I love the way it looks. I haven't had a close look at the Bernie Dexter original, but my Bernie Dexter dress has a very narrow, machine-stitched hem. It's fine, but I think this is much nicer:

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Hem detail

With this make, I meant to move the straps in a bit at the back to cover my bra straps and I totally forgot! Again, as with the Honolulu Baby dress, this isn't much of a problem because in reality I will mostly be wearing this with a cardigan, or with a strapless bra. Or with those bra-trap things! The bra I was wearing in these photos has cream straps with sage-green at the back so it looks fine from the front but is more noticeable in the back view. Ah well.

The Nana dress - back view 
So this is what it's come to, Roisin. Putting pictures of your bra on the internet. YOU STAY CLASSY, MULDOON.

Still, even with that very minor flaw, I am 100% delighted with this dress. Like, really. I know I would have loved the Bernie Dexter dress if I had bought it, but I wouldn't have loved it as much as this. I wouldn't have felt inspired to do this, for example:

The Nana dress

That's right. I am wearing a beret. SO FRENCH. I had to pose with a Zola novel and although I do have a copy of Nana, I bought this copy of La Bete Humaine from a bouquiniste somewhere along the Seine the first time Nic and I went to Paris together, in 2008. La Bete Humaine is one of my favourite of Zola's novels, and although I don't read French well enough to read this, it does have Jean Gabin on the cover. So it's a stunt book, but fuck it. It has Jean Gabin on the cover, that's good enough for me.

The Nana dress - so French! 
I also posed with a Laduree carrier bag that's a souvenir from our visit in 2010, but I looked way too derpy, so here's another one with Jean.

It's definitely too cold to wear this just now, but I am super excited about wearing it in Paris in April. I don't care that it will make me look like a twatty tourist, I really don't. It's a lovely, comfortable and cute sundress, perfect for holidays. And the people on the dress are bloody fabulous...

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Here are a couple of well-dressed Parisiennes. I like to think they're looking at the Eiffel Tower and agreeing that "it was tolerable before, but with the light show at night it's now hideous, just hideous."


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This woman has dyed her poodle to match her dress, which makes me think more of The Capitol in The Hunger Games than of Paris.

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Paris is for lovers. Not sure the man in the hat agrees.

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This is totally going to be me in April

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I love this bit. It reminds me of our last night in Paris in 2012, sitting outside the Cafe Saint Jean on the Rue des Abbesses, listening to a jazz manouche band playing and drinking red wine.

So, my own 'make this look' turned out pretty well. Including the cost of the pattern, which I have halved because I used it twice, this dress cost £45 to make. It took about 6 hours in total. So that's still not cheap, and I can understand to some extent why the Bernie Dexter equivalent costs £120. That's still a considerable saving, though, especially when you consider that the 6 hours of sewing were 6 hours when I wasn't shopping! (ha ha joking, but not really). Yay to doing it for yourself!

The Nana dress 
Can I put a jumper on now?

Now I'm off to scout out what other awesome repro dresses could be recreated by my own fair hands!