Posted on Monday the 20th March 2017 by Wrong Doll
Looking for some affirmation ...
I made this 1970's Vintage Style Apron Dress Simplicity Sewing Pattern way back in January, in the aftermath of George Michael's death. Since the news, I had been on a self-imposed retreat, immersing myself down a Google rabbit hole filled with interviews and songs from his back catalogue. I can't remember a time when I've felt so affected by the death of someone I don't know. Celebrity pretty much leaves me cold – I see objects much more deserving of my attention closer to home. And it's not like I was a particularly big fan of his music at the time – it was the wall of my sister's half of the bedroom which was adorned with that quiff during the Wham years.
I think the moment when George fully got my attention was on the hour long Parkinson's special, prompted by his infamous public outing in a Los Angeles toilet. What struck me was not the specifics of the case but how human he appeared and how unashamed. As someone who had struggled in the past with shame regarding aspects of my own health, I was beguiled and fascinated how he managed to reframe the whole experience and celebrated his propensity for alfresco coupling in the anthemic song 'Outside'.
After my 80's icon bingeathon, I was in need of light relief and I decided to have a crack at the apron dress. My penchant for the asymmetrical, usually turns what should be a simple sew into a laborious endeavour. So this Simplicity pattern lured me with simple lines and uncomplicated features which screamed QUICK WIN. Unusually I stayed faithful to the stylings on the pattern envelope, as I've long wanted to realise an understated Muji aesthetic. On it's first outing, my friend said it looked like I was on lunch break from a cool lifestyle store – boom.
Fabric choice was easy and I plumped for a couple of metres of Indigo Blue Denim Fabric from Minerva. I'd intended to cut on a size 14 based on my bust measurement. However, I'd been sent the smaller pattern and as I'd successfully been making tent dresses for a whole year based on an inaccurate smaller bust measurement, I figured the 12 would be fine. Which it was. This is the perfect confidence boosting pattern which illuded me as a sewing novice. It took me less than a day to complete, which for me is absolutely unheard of. And it wasn't a day of painstakingly tracing pattern piece after piece or pouring over scant and seemingly incomprehensible instructions.
No – this was a joyful day of cutting, stitching and singing along to Jamiroquai's Emergency on Planet Earth at full volume. I'd intended to top-stitch this dress to the max and bought a lovely golden hue to highlight the pocket and seaming features. But every time I reached for the thread, a wave or resistance came. As a fledgling seamstress, it's always exciting when you are presented with an opportunity to employ techniques you've learnt. And on my first few denims I top stitched with wild abandon ... simply because I could. But as I examined this lovely soft unstructured fabric, I felt compelled to let the simplicity of a few basic ingredients shine. There's a reason people are drawn to the Japanese stylings I thought and it's a lack of whistles and bells for the sake of it.
I used the edge foot – which I'd dug out specially for the aforementioned top-stitch party – to sew on the pocket. And because of the distance between the needle and the edge, it stands a bit proud. At first sight I was aghast but then another joy giving track came on and I reframed it as a structured feature. I do intend to experiment further with this foot in future to see if the needle position can be altered (if anyone out there has a Janome and the knowledge, it would be much appreciated). The only deviation from the pattern was to sew a line down the pocket, splitting it in two so it can house some sewing essentials, like my beloved Hancock's Cloth Makers. Oh and I got a bit clever when I attached the neck tie to the bodice and stitched in the ditch instead of next to the previous seam. I know – it's hardly 'stop the press' but it was a significant, worthy of note, thinking for myself moment.
My mood remained exuberant throughout most of the sew. I had a temporary wobble when I realised that the stay stitching at 1.3cm around the back curved edges – as prescribed by the pattern – was visible after sewing the 1cm seam. But when I say visible, I'm talking with a magnifying glass so I got over that pretty swiftly. I did get in a bit of a head spin when it came to finishing the hem around the facing. At the time I was adamant that the instructions in both word and picture were insufficient but in retrospect I might have to concede that it was down to my idiosyncratic learning style. A style which sometimes means I struggle to learn unless I'm following a real life person both visually and kinetically.
That being said, I would have welcomed more detail on finishing the side seams before sewing them together and the diagonal cuts required to get a neat finish on the neck and back tie ends. I'm only mentioning these details as I'm heralding this as the perfect beginners project and a paucity of information almost caught me out. But I'm nit picking – this make was pure, unadulterated fun and the pattern and fabric were a dream team. In honour of Andrew and George, I'll be referring to it as my Wham dress and homage to celebrity in its most human form.