Four Weddings and A Funeral 

Well, and one dinner date on my 27th birthday. Those are all the occasions for which I have worn this dress. My one “good” dress, for all the serious stuff in life. When you dress like a grown up. The black silk one I spent forever making. The first dress I made from a pattern I designed and drafted on my own. 

I will confess first of all that, being a dress I made in 2004, it kinda (definitely) doesn’t fit these days. I’m only pretending that it’s zipped up in these photos, and my arm is raised to keep it propped up on my shoulder. For those of you familiar with my posts, it has crossed over to the snug fitting territory of being a “stand up kind of dress.”  Sigh… 

So allow me now to catch you up, dear reader, with the reason I even pulled it out of my closet (where it lives full time in the back with everything else I never wear but can’t part with). Yet again I am busily participating in another social media event for the month of July, this one being #vintagepledge. I have not actually made the pledge for the year, but I did get inspired to participate in Daily Photo Fun on Instagram.

I got on board when I started to see the daily pics from contributors cropping up in my feed. They inspired me to see if I could come up with posts matching each theme. I had my doubts but it has been so much fun and I have only come up short once in the first 9 days.

Today’s theme for Day 9 is “1940’s.” Mine is not strictly vintage, but certainly rooted in that decade. 

During the last couple of years before I got up the nerve to move to New York, I completed a certification program at Salt Lake Community College in Fashion Design. That program is now a fully accredited design curriculum, but at the time it did not officially credit toward earning a degree. Ok, so technically it didn’t, but intellectually and spiritually it has everything to do with how I got where I am today. Venerable institution that is the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, I can’t really credit my subsequent time there as the foundation of everything I have learned about designing, draping and drafting the clothes I’ve designed. 
There are many teachers one encounters in life that we should pay thanks to, but in this case it’s dear Louise Pascoe who I owe every credit to. She is one of the rare teachers in my life who actually taught me how to think, not just a person who (also very capably) showed me a process to follow.

So it was that I found myself being taught by Louise at SLCC. In her class one semester she brought in a very vintage textbook on drafting patterns for dressmaking. I think I would very much like to find a copy of it on ebay or similar. It was full of pattern diagrams for creating design details that are so unique in this day and age, and at that stage in my learning, they were fascinating in complexity. I was really obsessed with all the sleeve details in the book. With good reason since you are lucky to find a sleeve of any kind on most of today’s dresses, much less an interesting one. 

Here is my original illustration for the dress:

 In the finished version I decided I didn’t need any extra gathers in the yoke seam above the bust, and I wound up not having fully functioning cuffs for lack of patience and sewing chops at the time. If the fit were not suffering from the passage of time, I would get credit for the built up neckline and the shaping in the skirt… c’est la vie! 


Here is an up close shot of the shortcut I took with the cuff. I basically just sewed the overlap down and removed what was a small tab for the button. It’s interesting in that the cuff is not applied; it s cut all in one from the sleeve.

I still have the final pattern in addition to the dress. So here I can show what that looks like flat:

I have a lot of thoughts about making a new version of this. I never wore it unless I had somwhere important to go. I kind of got over that feeling about my clothes – nothing is too fancy to wear if you feel good. I think that’s kind of the inverse of people who feel fine in baggy shorts and flip flops for every setting. I think it would be worth the effort, in the recent words of my good friend River, “That’s because you are fancy, Ashlee. Fancy as f***!”

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4 thoughts on “Four Weddings and A Funeral 

  1. What an ingenious sleeve design! I love the neckline detail too. And you drafted this yourself? Impressive! So what’s stopping you? Go for it – make it again! Thanks for sharing your history… intriguing. I’d love to go to a design school some day. In the mean time I stumble around stitching things together and admiring people like you! BTW – I share your ‘fancy’ spirit. I’m always the one others think may be just a little overdressed. Casual dresses are my answer to shorts and t’s!

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    • Thank you! It’s really remarkable how much information and support is available among social media nowadays, compared to 10-15 years ago when I started design school. I honestly believe a self taught seamstress these days can easily acquire a working knowledge equivalent to most design school curriculums. Plus the experience and knowledge shared in the blogosphere about fitting from women working on their own clothes is unparalleled. In the industry everything is based on standard models to reflect an average set of measurements. Every woman who has been in a dressing room knows this is inadequate, but the degree to which that mind set effects the thought process in all aspects of design in RTW retail is unfortunate. Thank you for enjoying my blog post and letting me know your thoughts. 🙂

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  2. I too love your dress. The design and the reality of it on you. I also agree that it should be made again for you. It looks really good on you.
    I’m curious as to the book you mentioned. Was it by chance Harriet Pepin’s one?

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    • Thank you so much for your compliments! I don’t recall the title, author or publisher. I like to think my photographic memory would help confirm if I ever saw it again!

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