Thursday 12 March 2015

The Antheia Maxi Dress

I've had my eye on this gorgeous jersey at Tessuti Fabrics for something like three years. It's such a soft and beautiful viscose jersey with a really vibrant print. But it's also a wide fabric, 1.5 metres, and I didn't want to buy it unless I had an idea that would properly make use of the print. So mostly when I visited Tessuti I'd just look at it, pat it, and then move on. But when it was discounted at their post-Christmas sale, I decided to just go ahead and finally buy a metre and a half of it, hoping I'd work out what the fabric wanted to be when I got it home. And this is what the fabric decided it wanted to be.

I obviously decided this fabric had to be a maxi dress to make full use of the print - and I'm luckily just tall enough that it doesn't drag completely on the ground, as long as I wear the right shoes and hold up the skirt when going up stairs/steep hills. I had been thinking of putting a band at the empire line, but then while playing around with the fabric draped on my dressmaker's dummy Ilse-Jane, I tried out wrapping the dress to the front or back from the side seams, and it started to look pretty good. So I cut the fabric in half and did some more playing around with pinning until I finalised on this design. In fact, this dress involved no cutting apart from dividing my piece of fabric in half. Other than that, it is just two rectangles sewn together.

So the way I put this together was very much trial and error, translating the idea in my head when wrapping fabric around Ilse-Jane into a proper dress. I first had to work out the basics of how the dress would go together, then see if it would actually be wearable, then start sewing. So I put pins at the shoulders, pins under the arms, and pins from the waist down along the side seams. I left it unpinned between the underarm pins and the waist, so that I could then pull the edges of the back piece to the front and the front piece to the back to make it fitted at the waist. I tried it on (very carefully!) with all the pins just to check that it would look alright which luckily it did - and I didn't stab myself with all the pins! woohoo! - and then sewed up the side seams to a little below the waist, the shoulder seams, and about 10cm under the arms. I possibly could have sewn it a little higher on the side seams, but wanted to make sure I had enough room left to do the waist without having to do any unpicking.

Given the way the waistline is done, either the front will be stitched higher or the back will. I wasn't sure at first which I would choose, so I did a lot of pinning one first (higher) and then the other and comparin how they looked. I decided on having the front higher (stitching it first), as it then sits nicely at the empire line with slightly triangular folds under the bust. The back sitting lower also allows the skirt to have more of a flow from the sides and below. To finish off and keep the wraps staying where they should the front and back are stitched into place at the centre with a few hand stitches. I decided against machine stitches because I didn't want them to be visible. Finally I finished all the hem edges, and left the top edges as open sleeves, which I thought suited the style of the rest of the dress. Overall, this ended up being a very easy dress to make once I worked out what to do with the fabric. I'm generally not a huge fan of maxi dresses because they can be cumbersome, but I'm glad I made an exception for this one.

Finally, I should explain the name. When I came up with this idea, I thought it had a bit of an Ancient Greece/mythology feel about it - or at least Ancient Greece via the 1930s and Hollywood. So I wanted to give it a name that reflected that influence. And the best way to do that? Look up Greek mythology on Wikipedia and find the goddess of flowers, whose name was Antheia. Hence, this dress is the Antheia.

And it got a great first outing, too - seeing a concert at the zoo. Each year Taronga Zoo in Sydney has a series of 'Twilight at Taronga' concerts in lat Summer/early Autumn. Last Friday, Conor Oberst (one of my favourite performers) was playing. It was a beautifully warm and sunny evening, so I decided the Antheia should join in the occasion. Plus, it let me get this stereotypically Sydney shot: on a ferry, on the harbour, with the bridge behind.

 So I'm very glad I finally decided to buy this fabric I'd loved for years. And in using this wrapped/folded style, the full print is still being shown off all the way down the dress.


  1. DAZZLING. and amazing that you origami'd it up!

    1. Thanks! The gorgeous fabric definitely helps it look great.