Friday, 18 July 2014

The Grad Dress, Part IV: the Finished Dress!

It's finally starting to sink in that I graduated! I'm still by no means finished with school, but finishing high school is still a big change. And finally, here are the finished photos of my grad dress!



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)
Shoes: Vintage/thrifted
Crinolines: Vintage
Purse: Consignment, borrowed from my mom
Necklace and earrings: Family heirlooms

47 comments:

  1. Congratulations! Your dress looks as stunning as I thought it would. Best of luck with uni next year, it will be sad not having a sewing machine, but knitting sounds good. Do you do much handsewing work? I am moving out next year, and whilst I should be able to take my machine, I doubt there will be much room in my newly-wed's apartment for much stash fabric!

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    1. Thank you! I do a fair bit of handsewing in a lot of my projects (for hems, attaching waistbands, slipstitching in place of topstitching, etc.), but I've never attempted anything done entirely by hand. Maybe I should look into that! Congratulations on your engagement, by the way!

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  2. I just found your blog ( from the Sewaholic blog entry). Comgraulations on graduation from high school and going on to McGill.

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  3. Congratulations on graduating! and good luck with the University. Even if the room is tiny, I would get a machine to sew with in it. There's always a corner... or under a bed for storage and on it to sew. I've done that before, and while it isn't easy, it's better than not sewing! Or, as Kaitlyn suggested, focus on hand-sewing.

    Your graduation dress is gorgeous! I love that it is completely unique, and the skill that went into it is impressive. For seam finishes on your next silk dress, have you seen this? http://cashmerette.blogspot.com/2014/03/tutorial-finish-underlining-and-seams.html It does require a full underlining, but since the underlining can be quite thin and it wraps the edge of the main fabric, there is next to no bulk.

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    1. Thank you! I am definitely considering it, but either way, I'm not planning on taking my machine - I would just find a second-hand machine there. I'm more worried about where I could cut fabric... the hallway, maybe? Or late at night when no one is in the study room? I'll just have to figure it out when I get there!

      Thanks for the link to the tutorial! That looks like a great technique. I'll have to try it sometime!

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  4. Your dress is absolutely BEAUTIFUL. It's great fit, gorgeous work-woman-ship and stylish lines make it stand out a mile (in a very, very good way). I bet you're so proud of it (I would be!!). It's interesting to read your tips for sewing silk - I'm tackling my wedding dress soon and need to get used to sewing silk! A bit nervous!!!

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    1. Thank you so much! I was very proud of it. Good luck with your wedding dress! My biggest piece of advice would be to hand baste everything (silk thread works best). It helps so much!

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  5. Your dress is just gorgeous and your hair is just perfection! I'm glad you had such a good time. It's funny that although we're the same age we're in such different places. I still have another year of school and then I go to uni! It's sad that you won't have space for a sewing machine, I hope that'll resolve itself somehow. :)

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    1. Thank you! I didn't realize that you still had a year of high school to go. I'm sure I'll figure out a way to keep with sewing, or at least knitting, next year.

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  6. Congratulations with graduation! And with new step in university!
    You dress looks pretty nice and interesting.
    Why did you choose Montreal, I thought that in Vancouver there are good universities too, no?

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    1. Thanks! I just wanted to try something new. I don't live close enough to either of the big universities to live at home and go to university, so I would be living on campus anyways. I figured that I might as well try going to a different city, why not?

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    2. Why not, you are right! I just read that UBC or SFU are pretty good too, that why I asked.

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  7. Oh that is a lovely dress! You did a great job with the fit and finishing. With dupioni I've found the best finish is pinked seams with a full lining but with lighter silks I still prefer french seams.

    Most importantly you look radiant and happy!

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    1. Thanks! I did try the french seams on a sample, but most of the seams are curved enough that they wouldn't have worked (and I don't even want to think of how to sew that gusset with them!)

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  8. Congratulations! And welcome to Montréal! I am a Montrealer and I started compiling a fabric/notions stores directory on my blog here : http://igloovert.blogspot.ca/p/fabric-shopping-in-montreal.html. It is a work in progress, I update it regularly...

    We just had a nice Sewing Bloggers Meetup yesterday to visit all the stores in the Chabanel area. It was fun! We are about a dozen that meet a few times a year to go fabric shopping or visit sewing related exhibitions. To use a sewing machine, you could go to Effiloché on St-Hubert, they have knitting sessions and sewing machine available there. They also sell yarns and designer quilting cottons. They also used to have sewing session at La Gallairde on Notre-Dame too, but I am unsure if they still do it.

    Send me an email at cotc03 at hotmail dot com if you want to be informed of the next Montreal meetup :D

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    1. Thanks for the link! That looks like it will be really useful when I get there (and your 'Sewing in Translation' page, too, because there's a lot of sewing terms that I don't know in French). I would love to be a part of the next meetup! I'll send you an email. Thanks for all the information!

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  9. Ah! Great dress and Montréal is a good destination to go study, so congrats on getting in! You will want to read Caroline's blog for sewing related events in Montreal : http://igloovert.blogspot.fr and Vicki if I am right is at McGill http://anothersewingscientist.blogspot.fr she can help you settle in and find your bearings. then there is Shannon http://finishedgarment.ca and the famous Heather : http://closetcasefiles.com
    Hopefully, we'll meet when I go over there (my family lives there) and if you need lodgings or a job, hit me, you never know what I can come up with. Long live!

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    1. Thank you! I've been reading through Caroline's blog, but thanks for the other links! I would love to meet up when you're there, so feel free to send me an email when you're in town!

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  10. Congratulations on graduating high school and heading off to college! I have to tell you that I did take my sewing machine to college with me. Kept it under the desk in my room and my sewing supplies and a little fabric in a storage box under my bed. Just wanted to encourage you that it can be done and that it was great to have it with me. Good luck! The next couple of years are going to be very exciting and hopefully full of wonderful sewing adventures too!

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    1. Thanks! It's good to know that people have sewn through university.

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  11. Hi Shannon! Congrats on the big milestone and the exciting years to come. I got a sewing machine for my high school graduation present, and took it to university with me, like Carolyn. If you don't bring your machine, you can always find one cheaply on Kijiji or Craigslist Montreal. There seem to constantly be Singers for sale almost right out of the box for $50-$100.

    There was a link to your blog on the FB Sewing group this morning, with a call to the Montreal sewing community to make you feel welcome. Well, I see that Caro and Carmen have beaten me to it! ;) Yeah, we had a great meet-up yesterday, which Caroline and I will probably blog about sometime soon. You should definitely join us for our next meet up, but if you'd like to do a bit of shopping at Chabanel or rue St. Hubert sometime before that, you can always contact one of us for a fabric shopping date.

    Carmen was right; I do work at McGill! I'm at the Macdonald Campus, Institute of Parasitology. I do occasionally work at Biochem downtown, where there is a high throughput facility. If you are having any trouble with the McGill system, or the Montreal adjustment in general, you can get in touch with me.

    Felicitations et bienvenue!

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    1. Thanks! That's what I'm thinking I'll do - it would be more expensive to ship my current machine to Montreal than to buy a second-hand one there. I'd love to be part of the next sewing meetup - it sounds like fun! Thanks so much for the welcome, and it's great to meet someone that works at McGill.

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  12. Congratulations on your graduation, and your exquisite dress! It looked amazing, and I love that you wore items that belonged to your mother, aunt and grandmother as well.

    And congrats also on going to McGill! That's where I did both my degrees and I loved McGill and Montreal. Sounds like you have lots to look forward to, so remember to enjoy it all :)

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  13. Just another sewing fan who LOVES your dress. You looked absolutely perfect in your chic creation. Many congratulations and best wishes!!

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  14. Love your dress - it is wonderful. It was really nice to meet you and your mum at Tasia's event.
    Good luck at McGill - I love Montreal!

    Angela W.

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    1. Thank you! It was great to meet you, too!

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  15. You look fabulous, I love the dress the fit is excellent. Congratulations and I'm looking forward to reading about your wonderful new life at Uni. You'll have to sew like a demon in the holidays!

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    1. Thank you! That's the plan - I'll go fabric shopping before coming home for holidays, and then use my sewing machine while I have the chance!

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  16. Your dress is just perfect!!!!!!!! And you look great! Please make sure not to stop sewing during your studies :o)

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    1. Thanks! I'm sure I'll find a way to keep up with sewing!

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  17. Congratulations, on the dress and on graduation! This turned out so splendidly.

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  18. Congratulations!! I love how your dress looked so much different than your friends. :-D

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    1. Thanks! I wanted it to be different than anyone else's, and I think I succeeded!

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  19. Congratulations on graduation! You look absolutely gorgeous! Great job on the dress, love the color, love the style!

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  20. You look beautiful and the dress looks absolutely stunning on you!!!

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  21. It is absolutely beautiful! I really love your dress, you look great in it!

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  22. Oh how absolutely stunning! So classy. Amazing work. I love it!!!

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  23. Your dress is absolutely gorgeous!!! Way more beautiful than anything you could have bought in a store.
    You did a great work, it fits you perfectly and I'm in love with the fabric you used! You're so talented, I'm totally amazed...
    You look just stunning and I wish you all the best in Montreal!

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