FO: My Sugar Skull Secret Dress

This weekend I made a shirt dress.

I started out with the intention of making a shirt, but I know myself well enough now to realise that a straightforward straight-up-and-down man’s shirt does not suit me: I need more shape.

My first choice, a 1960’s Woman’s Weekly pattern, was far too big and the darts were about two inches too high. I could have re-drafted it, but I also had doubts about the collar, which looked as if it had to be gathered to the back neck – mmmm, stylish!

Lisette Portfolio involved too many check-matching decisions, which I could have resolved by the careful use of a contrasting plain … but I didn’t have anything suitable in the stash.

A New Look pattern included too much shaping to cope with matching those checks.

So I sat down with my knitting for three rows of thinking.

Then I realised I was wearing the answer: Darling Ranges! As I knitted, the whole project fell together perfectly in my head: I would use the pewter buttons I salvaged from an childhood skirt of The Girl’s, and I would add some embroidery – ooh yes, embroidery! It would have a definite prairie dress vibe and I would wear it with my jeans or cowboy boots or both. Sorted.

So I made my dress. I used my redrafted bodice piece and remembered to add extra length to the back bodice to account for my front dart adjustment. And I made a pretty good go of matching my checks, despite the skirt appearing slightly asymmetrical at the front – it is perfect at the back!

By this point it was 4pm on Sunday. So I settled down on the sofa to embroider a pocket to sew onto the skirt section. The dinner was in the slow cooker, so I had all the time in the world.

Then FL woke up. “What’s that you’re doing?” Embroidering a pocket. “But what is it?” It is a Mexican sugar skull, celebrating the Day of The Dead. “A… what? But what’s that got to do with you?” Um… it’s about celebrating life and death and the art of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo and I went to an exhibition once (Hayward Gallery, 1988) and it had calla lilies and huge murals and… “Yes, but what has that to do with YOU?”

FL disappeared into his newspaper. He is good at that. A little later, there was a herrumph and then
“I don’t particularly care for your embroidery.”

So I put it away and served dinner.

I have made my dress, but I am not sure that it is finished. This is not the first time FL has accused me of cultural misappropriation: my tattoo-embroidered pillowcases got the same cold shoulder. He won’t outright say: “Don’t get a tattoo or wear religious / symbolic jewellery” but it is part of the same thought continuum. And FL’s disapproval is hard to live with – just ask my children!

So I might have to do what any rebellious teenager would do: turn my patch pocket inside out, and hide the embroidery on the inside. It will still be there. I will know it’s there. But FL doesn’t have to look at it. Shazzam!

Psychologists would have a field day.

Pattern:  Darling Ranges dress by Megan Nielsen, re-drafted to fit (details in this post.)

Fabric:  Less than 2 metres of cotton check from Edinburgh Fabrics, originally bought to make a tablecloth.  There was a fat quarter missing from the length as The Girl used it to make a make-up bag.

Other:  9 pewter buttons scavenged from an old skirt, thread, white bias binding from stash, a “Half Agony Half Hope” label, assorted embroidery threads from stash.  Embroidery pattern from Embroidered Effects.