Runway-Inspired Two-Piece Dress
I’m not someone who really follows runway fashion, and, prior to this challenge, I had never even heard of the designers I’m drawing inspiration from. But as I looked at many, many photos of runway shows, I kept coming back to Sea‘s spring RTW collection. The collection was split between looks that were tough, dark, and androgynous and looks that were romantic and feminine. I especially liked the looks where the designers used elements that usually look prim and proper and gave them a youthful edge by combining them with modern details like cut-outs and exposed zippers.
I decided to make a traditional cocktail dress and give it a little bit of reverse aging! I wanted to use a fabric that felt classic and maybe even a little old-fashioned, so I selected this black and pink cotton-poly tweed from Mood Fabrics NYC (this carnation pink Marc Jacobs wool tweed is a super cute choice, if you’re looking for something in a similar vein!). It has a very loose weave, and looks like a good choice for a French jacket or something similar.
…Did I mention the fabric has a very loose weave? This makes it drapey and soft, but it was too drapey for my purposes, so I underlined every piece with black cotton shirting, basting the two layers together in the seam allowances and along the dart legs and centers. This made it much easier to handle. Unfortunately, it frayed like the dickens, so I also fused 1/2″ strips of interfacing to the seam allowances to help the fabric stay together. This was a SLOW project!
This fabric is pretty hefty, so by the time I underlined it, things got pretty bulky, so I left off the planned linings altogether! I finished the seam allowances by zigzagging them and then stitching on rayon seam binding and wide ribbon inherited from my mom’s stash.
I knew I wanted to start with a sweet ’60’s vibe, so I used the skirt portion of my vintage McCall’s 5995 pattern. I changed the kick pleat to a slit and drafted a waistband with a finished width of 2″ and a 2″ overlap. I wanted the silhouette to be neat and clean, but not tight, so I was careful to fit the skirt but not go overboard.
I liked the cut-outs in the inspiration photos, but I felt like they’re really ubiquitous right now, so I decided to take the idea a little further and turn the dress into skin-baring separates. I downloaded a crop top pattern, but after a few failed muslins, I abandoned it and decided to draft my own. I stole the neckline from the Deer & Doe Belladone pattern, and fudged my way through a little self-drafting to make the rest. The neckline and armholes are finished with an all-in-one facing, which I didn’t enjoy sewing one bit- I didn’t think through my construction and hand-stitching rapidly-fraying tweed isn’t one of my happiest sewing moments! I even enlisted Man Friend’s steady hands and cool head for some hand-stitching help, and he helped me forge through when I was down to my last nerve! The waist is also finished with a facing, and the separating zipper is covered by an overlap at the center back. I’m not kidding when I say that thinking out how the zipper and facings needed to be installed kept me up at night! I literally laid in bed, unable to sleep, sorting out the construction order and plan of attack on more than one occasion! I didn’t come up with a perfect plan as I still had to do tons of seam-ripping and re-sewing, but everything came together eventually.
I wanted to be really careful with proportions and fit for this outfit since I knew I would feel really uncomfortable and possibly trashy if there was too much skin on show. But I wanted the cropped top to give a youthful edge to the look, like it was the love child of Jackie O and Punky Brewster (makes sense, no?). I feel bold and sassy in this outfit, but still remarkably put together. One thing that worries me, though, is that I’m not 100% certain where I can wear it! Any ideas?
Although it was a challenge to decide on a runway-inspired style and sew it up, it was fun to work in such a different way and to wear something that’s a bit of a departure from my usual style. But what about you guys? Do you draw inspiration from runway looks? Are there any spring trends that you’re excited to try out?