Wild Blue Yonder

Hello again! It’s been a little quiet around here, but that’s because I have been pretty swamped trying to finish my latest ambitious project… my new party dress!

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The idea for this project came, as so many great ideas do, at the last minute. You see, my big brother both graduated from college last week and commissioned as an officer in the Air Force. The commissioning was a big deal, and formal dress. Now it’s true that I could have reached into my closet and pulled out a couple of options that would have fit, including dresses that were handmade, but I decided I wanted to make something new. Commissioning has a special place in my heart, because my brother was able to complete something that I tried to do, but couldn’t finish (I did three years of ROTC, but medical issues prevented me from continuing from there.) So I wanted to make something special.

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The other reason I decided to dive in was that I had just borrowed the book The Party Dress: How to Sew the Best Dress in the Room by Mary Adams from the library. A lot of the book discusses ideas or design process by the author, but the last section discusses how to make your own party dress based on a few different design options provided by the author (all of them were princess-seamed bodices with circle skirts). One of the design options available included an organza overlay skirt, and Mary Adams also discusses a few ways to make contrast panels interesting in the front bodice. So I sketched up a few options and went to work.

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I nicknamed this dress the “deep blue sea” dress, although “wild blue yonder” is appropriate for the occasion as that’s part of the Air Force song. In addition to all the blue (I really wanted a dress to match my new blue shoes), you can see the underwater influence in the front panel. I machine-embroidered a few wavy lines of seaweed and yes, some octopus arms to add some interest and give the impression of an ocean. (My jewelry is thematically fitting as well—I borrowed it from my mom, it’s made with black volcanic rock from Hawai’i.) The embroidery was done on dark blue satin and then overlaid with blue organza. The rest of the bodice was made only in the dark satin, as well as the underskirt, while the overskirt is also organza. The two different layers create an intriguing color effect. Mary Adams showed a lot of different ways an organza overlayer can be used for color effects, and I definitely want to experiment with other options in the future. The two different skirts also created a fun way of movement in the final product. And they’re circle skirts, so they’re perfect for twirling!

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(I, however, am not perfect for making twirling expressions.)

The really fantastic thing about this dress is that it fits perfectly. Because I was able to control the construction process from beginning to end, I could make a dress that doesn’t need to be hiked up over the course of the night, and doesn’t give me concerns about falling down and revealing anything it shouldn’t. That’s a big relief! The dress stayed exactly put no matter which way I twirled, sat, or bent. Now I can’t say I could have created this effect on my own before I started—I had some great advice from Mary Adams, tutorials on the internet, and a friend with a lot of expertise who was willing to give me advice.

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Next week I’ll talk more about the design and construction process for this dress. My main complaint to people as I was creating this was “this is a feat of engineering, not a dress!” so I’ll go more into detail about what it takes to hold this thing together and make it stay up.

Oh, and in case there was any doubt—I did get this done on time, even though it was a little closer to the wire than I’d hoped! I did the last hem on the day of the event, in fact. But it worked out, just in time for me to watch my big brother become one of the Air Force’s newest lieutenants.

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