If you don't want all the construction details, feel free to skip ahead to where the photos start again, where I talk about the event itself.
(If I can find where I saved the photos that I took along the way, I may do a separate post for construction. For now, I'm lumping it in with this post.)
The pattern is Vogue S-4727 from 1956, and the fabric is turquoise silk dupioni from Fabricana. I'd never sewn with silk before, and it really wasn't as challenging as I thought it would be! I did cheat and use steam on certain parts of it, but only after testing several times to make sure that it wouldn't leave water spots.
The only tricky part of sewing with this silk was finishing the seams. I sewed some samples, and every single seam finish that I tried showed through to the right side, except for pinking. So, although it really wasn't the ideal seam finish, I just pinked everything. It frayed a little bit, but not too badly.
I underlined parts of it (the upper back, the underarm gusset, the midsection) with silk organza for stability. It especially made a difference with the darts! The darts pulled apart badly in a sample that I sewed without underlining.
The pattern has underarm gussets, which I'd never sewn before. These ones are actually part of the upper back bodice, and they curve around to the underarm. I was a little terrified to sew them in silk, but with lots of hand basting, they turned out quite well. I feel pretty confident sewing gussets now, after sewing eight of them (two each in my first two muslins, two in my wearable muslin, two in the real thing)!
The hardest part about this dress was the zipper. I asked for your advice on what kind of zipper to use, and the votes where pretty much split evenly between a lapped zipper and an invisible zipper. I've never particularly liked invisible zippers, but after this dress, I learned to avoid them at all costs. On the other hand, the lapped zipper in my wearable muslin really didn't look as nice as I would have liked. In the end, I decided on an invisible one.
I can't remember exactly how I put the zipper in. Whatever I did, though it worked, except that it still didn't want to go around the curve. My solution? I cut two notches in the zipper tape, one on either side, right where the godet starts and the zipper has to curve. It probably wasn't good for the integrity of the zipper, but it worked!
Because I was still worried about the strength of the invisible zipper, I put in a waist stay. There's no waist seam, so I just tacked it to the seam allowances and the underlining, but it worked just fine.
For the hem, I used 2" horsehair braid, and I'm really happy with how it turned out! I was expecting to have to shorten the skirt before hemming, but I tried it on and found that I liked the longer length! I then went ahead and inserted the horsehair braid using Gertie's tutorial, and catchstitched it by hand.
I love the horsehair braid! I wore this with two crinolines (a bigger, itchier one with a subtler, softer one underneath), and the horsehair braid gives it even more volume and weight at the bottom.
That's it for construction details!
As I said, I wore it with two crinolines, both of which were vintage from my aunt. She wore one of them to her high school graduation in 1960!
My shoes are vintage that I bought at a thrift store. I love them! They're all leather, made in Italy, and have a really gorgeous cutout detail on them.
I borrowed the purse from my mom (the same one I used for my grad boat cruise), and the pearl earrings and necklace once belonged to my grandma.
I did my own makeup, although I didn't do much. I did a bit of a cat-eye and wore some super subtle false eyelashes and my favourite lipstick.
My hairdresser did my hair and nails - hair is one thing that I can't do myself! I loved my hairdo, so it was worth it to get it done (although it was quite a challenge to get my dress over my head without wrecking it!). You can't see them in any of these photos, but my nails were dark red.
I really enjoyed the day! Everyone takes the day off school to get ready, and then there's a "red carpet event" in the school gym. Family and non-graduating friends aren't allowed to the banquet, so it's a chance for everyone to see you all dressed up before leaving. All the photos of me walking down the red carpet are super blurry, but you can kind of see it behind me in this photo.
After the red carpet, everyone leaves for the banquet in limos. I didn't particularly want a limo, but they aren't actually that expensive if a bunch of people pitch in, so my friends and I rented one. Here I am in front of it - we were super surprised when it pulled up and it was a Rolls Royce!
We had several other people ask to take a photo with our limo!
Once it cooled off in the evening, I spent some time goofing off in the photo booth with my friends.
After the banquet, there's dry grad, which is put on by the parents at a local recreation centre. It went until 5 in the morning, and there was lots to do - a casino, bouncy castles, another photo booth, entertainers, dancing, food, and lots of prizes. When you enter, you have to check everything (phone, camera, bags) before they let you in, so I don't have any photos from it, but I was too busy to take photos, anyways!
I won a door prize and a raffle basket, too! The door prize was a $50 gift card for a spa and a coupon for a free makeup application, and the raffle basket was full of nail polishes, a gel nail polish starter kit (worth about $100!), and a really nice pearl necklace. I won't use all of it (I don't do my nails much), so I plan on donating most of it to a charity that donates gifts at Christmas. I already gave the makeup coupon to my friend whose grad was after mine.
Overall, it was such a fun day (and night)! I got home and slept for a couple hours, and wasn't even too tired the next day. I'm so glad that I made my dress, and so happy with how it turned out. It was definitely different than anything anyone else had, which was great!
Our valedictory ceremony was about a month later, and that was when I actually felt like I graduated. I'm glad we still had the ceremony, because the end of the year was very abrupt! In BC, the teachers are on strike, so a few days of school were cancelled in the last couple weeks, and all my exams were cancelled, except for my two government exams (not that I'm complaining about that...)
You can't see it under the gown, but I wore my floral Moneta dress to the ceremony! They collect the gowns as you leave the stage, so people usually dress nicely underneath.
Next up, is university! In mid-August, I'll be moving to Montreal - I'm going to McGill and studying science. I'm really excited (and a little nervous) for such a big change!
Unfortunately, I'm leaving my sewing machine behind. It was a second-hand machine and owes me nothing, so it wouldn't be worth it to get it to Montreal. At some point, I think I'll look into buying a second-hand machine there, but in a dorm room, there really isn't enough space. I would love to find a sewing lounge if there is one, similar to Spool of Thread here in Vancouver. Anyone know of something along those lines in Montreal?
If not, well, I guess I'll be knitting lots next year, and going fabric shopping before heading home for Christmas. I'm just getting back into knitting now, after avoiding it for so long because of tendinitis.
Anyway, this post has dragged on way longer than I intended. My grad dress was perfect - not from a sewing perspective (nothing I sew ever is!) - but it was exactly what I wanted. I'm finally done high school, and my life is going to change a lot over the next few months. Be prepared to see some winter sewing pretty soon, as I prepare for life in Montreal!
Oh, and I almost forgot - this dress is the first (or second, if you count my wearable muslin) completed project as part of my vintage pattern pledge! My pledge is to sew at least three garments from vintage or vintage repro patterns before the end of the year. I didn't go for five because my sewing time is so limited during school, and I possibly won't have access to a sewing machine at all after August. But I'm off to a good start!
Other posts about my grad dress:
Part I: Choosing a Pattern
Part II: Muslins 1 and 2
Part III: The Wearable Muslin
Dress: Me-made (Vogue S-4727)
Purse: Consignment, borrowed from my mom
Necklace and earrings: Family heirlooms