The song has been done to death, but the sentiment remains. I see the wisdom of having an LBD (= little black dress) in my wardrobe, but I don’t really like the standard version. I hate anything tight and the prospect of having to either wear stockings or spray on a fake tan isn’t exactly thrilling either. On top of that I refuse to torture my long suffering feet with a pair of high heels. They have an important job to do and should be treated with respect. With another wedding to go to, what to wear was a conundrum. As just another guest there was no call to pull out all the stops as there is when being the MOB or MOG, but you still want to look nicely turned out and feel comfortable in your skin, especially when you are likely to meet a lot of extended family who haven’t seen you for years.
On my last trip to Germany I had picked up a sinfully expensive silk charmeuse print in one of their wonderful fabric markets, which seemed just the thing. But the charmeuse proved to be spectacularly uncooperative, and needed a pattern as simple as possible. Just straightening the cut edges was a bun fight, with the silk slithering all over the place and every touch distorting the grain. Grain? What grain? You can’t see it and just trying to lay the fabric down flat and straight was close to impossible. Every breath of air made it move and even the selvages were not a lot of help, they were firmer than the rest of it, but still slithered as they pleased. The actual cutting would be no problem with a brand new, super sharp circular blade, but which way the grain would go in the end product would be a total stab in the dark.
So I wanted something simple, one of the floaty toppers that are so current at the moment. I was thinking of the Tessuti Zoe, minus the straight hem which I am not keen on because I think a straight line across my hips is not as flattering as a concave one. So I cut a neck opening into the silk and bound it with a bias strip made from a scrap of linen. The linen is a reasonable colour match and gives the silk edge some much needed support. As it is folded to the inside it can’t be seen.
The result was a silk poncho with a nice sloping hem line, that moved and draped beautifully. I was quite happy with it until I saw the photos. Oh dear, too shapeless around the upper body, especially the bust. The silhouette needed some definition or it would just look make me look fatter than I am. Maybe not as bad when you can see the silk ripple and move, but definitely not flattering in the stills. So as much as I am trying to move on from the Tessuti fave top because I have already made it a gazillion times, it seemed like a tempting solution, especially given the difficult nature of the fabric and the fact that I was now running out of time.
The cut in sides of the fave top did improve the look, and I chalked up a win. Only to discover that the silk was just a bit too sheer to wear comfortably without a layer underneath. I live in cotton tank tops under my tunics, but in this case I wanted something more dressy, so I would have the option of taking off the topper and be cooler in something sleeveless underneath. Never mind that my arms are a bit chubby these days, it is a spectacularly hot and humid summer in Sydney and silk is a great insulator. I didn’t want to end up dissolved in a puddle of sweat.
The piece of black silk I was intending to use for the pants part of the outfit was happily enough for a tank top as well, but this was when things took an unexpected turn. There was not only enough for a tank top, but actually for quite a long sleeveless tunic. The ensemble made a nice version of an LBD. Bonus!
So I wore the printed silk fave top for the wedding ceremony, which was mid morning while it was still relatively cool. As things hotted up over lunch I took it off and wore my LBD pantsuit, or whatever you want to call it. I think this will be very handy outfit for all sorts of dressy occasions in the future. Because it is so plain it will be easy to vary it enough with a shawl or jacket/evening coat or floaty top, so it will look different every time, and these will give a bit of camouflage to my upper arms as well. Win-win, I’d say. No stockings or fake tan required on my legs either, and no heels. I was perfectly comfortable in flat sandals with a little bit of bling.
For a patterns I used the Tina Givens Phoebe pants again, although without the side panel, adding width to the main pattern pieces accordingly and shifting the crotch upwards. I also tampered with the front crotch curve and raised the back waist. With all those alterations there is really nothing much left of the original pattern other than the ankle cuffs, and you could just as easily use any wide pants pattern with an elastic waist that fits. But I store my downloaded taped patterns flat on top of a cupboard, and find it easier to use a small number of patterns and make appropriate changes, than to have a huge stack of pattern pieces and needing to find and extricate a different pattern for each project.
The tunic pattern is the Tessuti Lily linen dress, again one of my TNTs sewn up many times with every conceivable variation. This time I cut it across the grain like the pants, and therefore put the pattern piece on the fabric sideways. It was longer than the 90cm wide fabric and where the fabric finished at the selvage, that was the hem, literally. The selvage is of course straight, and because this hem is not curved the sides of the tunic have a dropped point, which happily makes them quite trendy. I did fold the width of the selvage to the inside for a simple narrow hem, mostly to help tidy up the points. I also always cut the back of the Lily with a CB seam, which saves oodles of fabric and gives a nice vertical line.
All three of the patterns used for this outfit are downloadable and inexpensive. I have used them over and over, and hope you have as much success with them as I have had.
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