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And The Bride Wore… A Jumpsuit

"If you can’t handle me at my worst, you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best." I’m no longer convinced that it was really Marilyn Monroe who uttered this famous line which launched a thousand memes; I now attribute it to this Fabric. From the second this satin-back crepe came slinking out of its Special Delivery envelope, I was smitten but suspicious it spelled trouble.

After creating a complete garment with it, I feel both justified for falling in love with it so hard and vindicated for my suspicions. This fabric commands respect and special handling. It flows and drapes like a chiffon, but with more weight, plus the choice of the matt crepe side or the soft sheen of the satin side. Like chiffon though, it frays. A lot. And that glorious extra weightiness means extra fraying, especially on horizontal seams, such as at the waist, from which that weight hangs. It’s a woven fabric with a slippery warp and weft so any edge not cut on the bias will fray half an inch without you so much as breathing on it.

Handling it at its worst

Please don’t let this put you off because when you understand what you’re dealing with, there are several ways of getting around the fraying problem so you can handle this at its worst:

  1. Use a wider seam allowance than you’re used to. For a half-inch girl like me, this took a bit of adjustment (mentally, not to my machine). Even the standard five-eights of an inch will probably be too little. I recommend leaving at least an inch.

  2. Cut pieces as you need them and stitch them straight away. A pile of unsewn pattern pieces will fray while you’re not looking (ask me how I know).

  3. Overlock EVERYTHING. You can’t leave a raw edge raw for long after it’s been cut. If there are edges you’re not joining to anything until later, such as where you’ll be inserting a zip or turning up a hem, overlock each individual layer.

  4. Consider the sliiiightest zigzag stitch rather than a straight stitch (or both), especially on edges not cut on the bias.

  5. On seams that take more strain, such as those horizontal ones I talked about earlier or horizontal seams of a skin-tight pattern, you’ll need to call for, literally, reinforcements. A lightweight iron-on interfacing is ideal as it strengthens the seam itself and fuses all the pesky fibres into position. Alternatively (or in addition), stitch some skinny twill tape or ribbon (for a straight seam) or bias tape (for a curvier line) on one side of the seam as you go so the thread has something sturdier to cling to.

  6. Consider which you want as the right side of the fabric. Both the crepe and the smooth sides are gorgeous but it’s easier to sew with the crepe sides together (so having the satin side on show in the final garment) because they don’t slide around against each other like two slippery satin sides.

  7. Use your skinniest pins and avoid unpicking if you can.

  8. Keep a nail file handy. This fabric catches snags easily and pulls.

  9. There’s always a commercial solution, such as FrayStop, if you want to throw money at the problem and have time and patience to wait for it to dry.

The bridal jumpsuit

I’m working on a bridal range for shows next year and I’ve used this fabric here to create a bridal jumpsuit (not all brides want a dress). I drafted the pattern pieces from my own block but Minerva has commercial patterns like this one if you’d rather not DIY.

The lining and outer layer pieces are rather different as I wanted to bone the bodice lining seams for a structured, flattering, hold-you-in fit while leaving the top layer looser to work its dreamy, drapey magic and accommodate some box pleats to boot. I can never resist a box pleat and this has eight, opening over the bust apex and centre of each leg at the waistline front and back. I can also never resist a pocket and there’s one on the opposite side to the invisible zip.

I added the dusty pink and green embroidery because bridalwear doesn’t have to be exclusively white/ivory and beaded the motifs on the front. I still can’t decide whether I prefer beaded or plain – feel free to leave a comment with your preference.

I used the same embroidery design I embellished a veil with previously and was tempted to refashion the veil into a sewn-in cape along the back neckline. Ultimately, I didn’t have the heart to slice through several weeks’ embroidery work (and colourful language).

At its best

If the list of handling tips feels like a lot to consider, trust me when I say it’s all totally worth it. This fabric is utterly BEAUTIFUL. It’s definitely got the quality and hang for special garments and isn’t see-through as it’s a medium-weight fabric. It’s still light enough to swish and sway and follow the body’s every move and skims over structural features, such as the bones in the bodice, without clinging to them.

It doesn’t create lots of bulk when pleated and lets pleats flow out rather than holding them in stiffly pressed rigid lines. It looks light but is still weighty enough to work like a heavier satin in formalwear.

It’s also a doddle to cut as, unlike other very drapey fabrics such as chiffon or jersey, it doesn’t warp and twist in seemingly impossible ways as you try to lay it flat to cut it or pin it to your pattern pieces. This also means that it takes embellishment easily as it won’t distort as you pull it taught into an embroidery frame or with lots of beading (both of which I threw at the waist sections). It’s a steal at £7.99 per metre.

And did I mention it’s completely bloody gorgeous?

Thanks for reading,

Holly @wowsersinyourtrousers

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