28 + A Thu Sis Original DIY, The B-DAY Dress
It's been a goal of mine for a long time to make my own clothes, so this year I decided to make it happen. I like starting off with a big bang so in true Thumy fashion, I jumped in, head first, and decided on making a dress for my birthday. Not a simple top or tee, but a whole a$$ dress. It was a challenge, for sure. B-days are important to me. The older I get, the more my birthdays stress me out, the same anxiety of never doing enough, or working too much and not having enough fun, etc. So, I always make sure to plan the most fun time I can have every b-day, down to the outfit. When I'm having fun, I focus less on the negatives. It's been a tradition of mine to wear red for every birthday, in my culture it's a good luck color, and if I remember correctly, I've been doing it every year since I turned 25. So this year, I bought a sewing machine, learned how to sew some basic stitches, watched a ton of youtube videos, and made an all red ensemble I was proud to turn 28 in.
Some of my challenges: I made this dress TWICE. The first time I panicked and rushed through it because I realized on a Sunday night that the mesh I bought was clinging to itself, almost like cotton candy, and that it wouldn't drape correctly. I put the thing on, and if you were lucky enough to see the before dress pics, I looked like I was going to the prom. It was bulby and not very attractive for my body type. For the sake of time, I was like SURE, I will just wear it for the photos. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized there was no way in hell I was going to run around the streets of New York in it. A good call because we ended up seeing Solange, and I couldn't have her seeing me in that mess. So, I went out and bought more mesh. The key is to make sure that your mesh drapes, that it's heavy enough that gravity has a pull on it. I've heard it's called "power" mesh, but please don't quote me! Just make sure it doesn't clump or cling and stick. Otherwise, it's not the mesh you're looking for. The type of mesh to avoid is called tule, I believe, which is the same material you can find on a ballerina tutu. To test, clump it all together in your hand and see if the material slides off itself. You're looking for it not to cling!!
I am quite lucky to live literally 2 blocks away from a textile discount outlet store. That's where I purchased my first round of mesh. At 20 yards, for 20 bucks, it was a score. Sadly, it wasn't what I could use and since the outlet was closed by the time I get off work during the weekdays and I was running out of time, I had to turn to Jo-Ann's. One thing about Jo-Ann's: please do not, for the love of all that is good, ever purchase anything in the store without checking for a coupon. They have an app and it's practically free money. Download it. I found a 50% off code when I went, which knocked my 20 dollars per yard, 4 yard purchase from 40 down to 22ish dollars. Again, make sure it's the right mesh. If you can't decide, ask someone! Find two different looking meshes and hold them next to each other. Which is "heavier" and drapes? I know, it's hard, since mesh is made of holes. So, it can be a weird question of "isn't all mesh thin?" Trust me, there's a difference. Lol.
+ 3 yards of mesh, 4 yards in case if mess ups
+ 2 yards of lining material
+ Masking Tape
+ Fabric Scissors
+ All purpose thread
+ Elastic thread
My second dress ended up being two pieces, which I quickly realized was just going to be a thing because it's mesh and it's holey, so there was no way around it unless I wanted to be seen in public in my underwear. After narrowing down the number of pieces in your outfit, you should start on making a pattern of the shapes, i.e. the sleeves, skirt, top etc., out of brown kraft paper. I purchased a tube of brown kraft wrapping paper from Target, and it worked pretty well. I've included a link above to a youtuber I really love, With Wendy. Her videos were incredibly helpful. If your clothes fit you well, they should be a perfect indicator of how much fabric you need for each piece.
Cutting mesh is hard without it sliding and puckering, especially when cutting identical pieces, like the two pieces of the front sleeve or the two pieces of the back sleeve. One of my tips is to fold your fabric in half, so you can have two layers for your two identical sleeve pieces, and then "draw" with your tape around the kraft paper pattern where you need to cut. After you've got the masking tape laid down, push pins right through the tape and into all the layers of fabric. It's really easy to pull off when you're done, so feel free to use pressure. Normally, I'd trace the pattern in white tailor's chalk but with all the holes in the mesh, the chalk wouldn't stick, and I couldn't tell how much I needed to cut. The tape was helpful, because it held the pins together, and acted as a visual guide and you could cut directly into the tape, so the cutting process was much smoother than having the mesh slip and slide everywhere. Once you've got allllll the pieces cut, for both the dress and the inside lining dress, you're ready to sew things together. I chose to make my inside piece shorter than the outer piece, so you can see a little leg.
Check out the videos I used above to learn a little on techniques like shirring that I used for the sleeves and how to sew mesh material in general. The sleeves and slit are my favorite things about the dress. It's tricky at first, but take your time! The last thing I made was an apron in seventh grade, so I was definitely rusty. I sewed my arm holes shut, TWICE, when I was rushing. Creating this bday dress was incredibly hard, but so, so rewarding. I encourage everyone to try and make their own clothes. Sewing machines aren't cheap, and I'm very lucky I was able to begin investing in one this year. Chicago has classes at Lillstreet Art Center for sewing that you can check out. Also, the amount of info that you can learn about sewing on the internet is practically free. The truth is most companies only make clothes for one type of body and don't take into consideration any variables like curves and length. But also, making a thing that is unique and then being able to rock it makes me feel incredible! I've already made another mesh cardigan thing and will share my thoughts on that soon. I'm excited to make more things and share the lewks with you soon!!!