Well, I've had a wonderful two days virtually locked away in my studio, only surfacing for the occasional fuel break - No.1 Son has even been making sure my G&T levels didn't drop below a critical level!

What have I been so immersed in?

This year's dress for Ascot - Vogue 1108 by Bellville Sassoon.

It has been BRILLIANT getting my teeth into a proper Couture make again.

Don't get me wrong though, I love quick and easy dressmaking projects but, once in a while it's just fantastic to challenge myself with something a bit more meaty, so to speak.

Vogue classify this as an 'Average' make in terms of difficulty, and I agree - I have made much more complicated dresses than this.

I love the labels that come with each designer pattern for you to sew into the garment:)

This bundle of fabric arrived from Minerva Crafts - several different types of fabric in a glorious shade of Fuschia: -

There was Bengaline fabric for the main body of the dress, organza for interfacing, lining and habotai for the foundation layer and, yes, that is boning you see sat on top of the lot!

Let me tell you now that there are over SIXTY pieces of fabric holding this dress together and only FIVE are visible from the outside!

That is a hell of a lot of construction hidden inside and I used up two entire 100m reels of thread in the process!

I love a good puzzle and this pattern had a few to solve, such as all those pleats on the left front:

I won't take you through much of the process because that would take up more space that any blog post should do - I'll just whizz through the main bits.

First, you make the pleats and darts in the front and back sections.

Next, you make the foundation which is the middle bit of the dress sandwiched between the outer dress and the lining.

It consists of a lining layer, fully interfaced, which has the boning sewn to it.

The instructions called for covered boning in its own casing but I made my own using normal boning and some offcuts of habotai.

Voilà!

This is the inside showing the boning in place....

....and this is what it looks like from the right side.

Very nice.

It's almost a shame that all this beautiful work will be completely hidden from view:)

The foundation sections are then sewn to the body of the dress....

....and the front is stitched to the back at the side seams, leaving an opening for the zip.

Now, I have never used a dedicated foot to insert invisible zips, I learned to sew them using a normal zipper foot and don't find it an issue.

I don't know if you can see, but I open the zip up and sew really close to the teeth in the same way a specialized foot would do.

There, pretty invisible, wouldn't you agree?

The zip needed shortening which is just a case of sewing a new stopper from thread and cutting off the excess below.

Now, onto the lining.

Of course, all the way through we're sewing princess seams - isn't it a little bit of magic when you fit the fabric around the curve? Like fitting a square peg into a round hole, it doesn't seem possible at first.

A few clips to the stay-stitching and job done!

Lining completed.

The lining is slipped over the dress and foundation and sewn right sides together around the neckline and armhole edges.

The bow, which is stiffened with organza, was made and secured in place amongst the pleats.

The hem was faced with organza and turned up with herringbone stitch.

The lining was slip stitched to the hem, leaving a folded pleat as ease.

Looking at the inside when finished, you'd have no idea of what it's hiding underneath!

The quality of the fabrics is amazing - the bengaline handles beautifully and has a discreet watermark to it.

The polyester habotai was chosen as an alternative to china silk for the foundation and looks and feels superb - such a shame it's hidden!

This dress does not photograph well on the hanger - all those pleats only sit properly on a real body.

Oops - better press the hemline before Ascot!

So, what will I accessorize with?

I made two jackets for Ascot last year  - this is the other one (see last year's post).

The boning means I shouldn't have to wear a bra but, looking at this photo I definitely do. My bust is too heavy and is dragging the front down causing it to gape - a strapless bra will do the trick.

So this is me, all ready for Ladies Day on Thursday and there's just one more thing left to do.....

.... get my French manicure redone - it's all stained from handling all that pink fabric!!

And here's a couple of pics from the day!