Or, in which we learn the dangers of falling in love with vintage fabric.
I found this beautiful vintage fabric in an op shop some time ago and have hoarded it ever since; it was one of those that I took out and sighed over, wondering what I could use it for that would do justice to its fabulous brown 70’s bird pattern. There was not a lot of it either, so I had to be sure of myself! No mis-cutting, no slap-dash pattern matching. Eventually I settled on making a dress, a very simple dress from a pattern that fit me well and that had few design features so that the fabric could speak for itself. I used Simplicity 6194, a very plain 1960’s sheath dress with a basic bodice and an a-line skirt. I would wear it out in summer sipping coconut cocktails at the tiki bar or dancing on warm nights, and I could stand in the corner looking fabulous, not saying a word because that fabric would do all the talking for me.
I spent forever arranging the pattern pieces just so, making sure the main feature of the two birds would be centred on the bodice, and that no darts would mess up important parts of the print. I cut carefully and finished each piece neatly before sewing the dress together. I faced it with a sunny yellow quilting fabric so even the inside looked nice. There were a few tears in the fabric, sure, but I cut around them and patched what needed patching.
Then it came to putting in the zip. It went in perfectly, but as I went to press the last bits flat, the fabric tore under my fingers right next to the zipper. I patched them up; they tore again. The fabric was too fragile, too brittle. Having spent long years as a curtain (I imagine), the sun had done its dirty work and weakened the fabric too much. I interfaced next to the zip to stabilise the fabric, but being next to an area of stress meant the mending would not last long. The fabric was old, the pattern was old, and this dress was old before I even got to wear it once!
These photos are probably the only time I will wear it. Perhaps, if the opportunity to stand at a bar in high heels (so I can’t move), in an air-conditioned room (no sweating!) comes up, I’ll put on this dress and have a genteel drink to toast its former curtain-esque glory. More likely, I won’t be able to resist having a dance, and the whole thing will tear right down the back. In that case I will cut it up and re-use the good bits to make something like a lined handbag – I think those brown birds deserve to live a little bit longer, don’t you?