You see, I was going to be the Fairy Godmother at the Soroptomist Princess Tea - a fundraiser we do where girls dress like princesses, have tea and cookies, create sparkly crafts, etc. The Fairy Godmother reads princess stories to them and leads the Princess Parade.
I volunteered to do it way back in November because, well... have you met me?
Anyhoo, the club owns a very nice costume that looks like the FGM from Cinderella, who obviously did not have any boobs. It fit great except across the chest where it cut off my ability to breathe; honestly, my diaphragm couldn't move.
The logical answer?
Make another costume, of course, because you know I am such a great seamstress.
Yes, I am so untalented with a needle that I was afraid to just add a little fabric for breathing room to the top of the professional costume because I was sure I would ruin it, but create a gown from scratch? NO PROBS.
It had to be long, pretty, a bit matronly and not look like a princess.
I found a great sparkly silver sweater set at Goodwill that was way too big so the matronly part was covered. Plus I figured I could just make a skirt instead of the whole gown.
After a long time in Joanne Fabrics I found lining on sale and decided on lavender because 1) I love purple, 2) purple is royal, and 3) there are no Princesses that wear lavender.
How much do you need? inquired the helpful cutting lady.
Four, no five yards.
Maybe five and a half.
Let's see how much is on the bolt, was my brilliant, well-informed answer.
Easily twice as much as I needed
When you buy fabric off of a bolt it is folded in half; when I unfolded my piece at home it turns out that it was about the same width as my height. I was planning on using the selvage edge as my hem anyway (cut me some slack all of you sewers out there who just gasped; the dress was for three hours with six-year olds and I have never made any clothes from scratch) so to avoid more cutting I revise my design from a skirt back to a full gown.
I like how the words my design make it sound like I had any idea of what I was doing. In fact, I had done it as a geometry problem: I need it to be this circumference for a few inches under my arms, then this circumference across my breasts, then this circumference for the length of the rest of my torso, then my waist and then my hips. I decided how large of a circle I wanted it to be around me at the floor (or the poofiness as I was calling it in my head). Then it was just connecting all of the circles with lines.
[it totally made sense in my head. I explained it twice to my mom who used to design and sketch dresses when she was a teenager. She was dubious at best]
After giving the fabric a quick iron I assembled my tailoring tools:
pins, measuring tape, Sharpie and hammer
"Measure twice, cut once" applies to fabric as well as wood so I was very careful to pin and mark the fabric so that I would only have to make one seam: basically it was just a somewhat modified, graduating cylinder transitioning to a cone. (I wonder if there is a name for that shape)
Pinning all along the seam before cutting the fabric was the most time consuming part.
My straight pins were MIA so safety pins had to do the job. With the cardigan I figured I could just pin the top so the pins ran along the cut line, but where I was going to have run the skirt through the sewing machine I pinned across the line as Jean Kake taught me.
Hands down the scariest part was cutting the fabric.
You can't uncut something, people.
With my Grandma Craig's fabric scissors in hand I took a deep breath and just did it.
Jean -the Quilted Cupcake master herself- had given me a sewing machine and shown me how to thread and run it since Home Ec was a zillion years ago. Frankly, I was terrible in sewing back then, ironing the side of my hand and running the needle over my finger, but I did great with Jean.
In fact I took all of these pictures during the process because I wanted her to see that I used the knowledge and machine she gave me.
One tiny problem: the machine would not bring up the bobbin thread.
I threaded the needle several times, took out the needle and reset it, tried the thread from the back and the front, took out the bobbin and reset it several times, all to no avail. Everything looked right over and over again, but every time I used the wheel to lower the needle no bobbin thread came up with the needle thread.
I spent about 25 minutes trying to get it to work until finally I snapped and yelled at the machine, Oh yeah? You think you can twart me? Defeat me? I am a tool user, you stupid machine. I will make this @#$%^ dress even if I have to staple the whole thing together.
So I did.
Ever stapled a floor length, pooffy skirt? I don't recommend it.Tea time arrived and I donned my totally jerry-rigged gown: skirt stapled, bodice tucked and pinned around my bra and neckline rolled and shaped with a purple flower brooch from 1988.
With my silver wand and a bottle of purple glitter tucked into the sleeves of my sweater, hair curled and pinned with flowers and butterflies and a matching lavender crown I was ready to whip up some magic.
The tea was so fun.
As the Fairy Godmother I ended up emceeing the afternoon, making all of the announcements and such. The book a chose -a great newish book about urban princesses called The Princess of 8th St by Linas Alsenes- went over great with the girls. After pouring tea and assisting with crafts, i taught them how to royal wave (we did screw in the light bulb) and curtsy, which they did on command in the craziest parade/follow the leader I have ever had the pleasure to lead.
Of course everything was done with handfuls of purple glitter thrown in the air, over me, over the girls, everywhere. In fact as I left afterwards to go to work at the Parisian Flea (yes, I went in costume just to see what my boss would say. He about died laughing in the doorway as I put money in the meter and then asked if I brought other clothes with me) I looked down to realize that I was caked with glitter.
|sorry about the gratuitous cleavage; that's my POV,|
not the way it looked to the girls
Maybe with nine months lead time I can actually get a gown sewn for the next tea.
Newspaper coverage of the event here.