In 2017, my friend Kaitlyn and I collaborated to make her dress for our school’s semiformal dance- she designed it and painted on it, I drafted a pattern and made it. That was undoubtedly one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, and last year, we decided to do it again.
This is the dress Kaitlyn designed. As soon as she showed it to me, I started contemplating how I would go about making it. I decided that it would be easiest to make the sleeves a separate piece from the dress itself. Therefore, the outfit consists of a sleeveless dress and a shrug that’s basically just two raglan sleeves joined with green fabric bands. I reused the pattern from her dress last year, which was a short-sleeved dress with a tiered circle skirt. I used the longest skirt pattern piece, and extended the bodice. By the way, it’s slightly hard to tell in the pictures, but I definitely didn’t accidentally cut the bodice too short and have to sew on an extra band of fabric to make it long enough. Haha. I would never do something like that. At least it’s not too noticeable…
The shrug was trickier than the dress. I had to sew the bands on in such a way that there were no raw edges and it didn’t get stretched out of shape, which required many, many pins, and some hand stitching.
The sleeve Kaitlyn designed is really cool! I was apprehensive about the leaf cutouts, but the technique I used worked well. I had Kaitlyn draw on the sleeve piece with a white quilting pencil where she wanted the cutouts. I then used a tight zigzag to go around each leaf shape, placing a piece of tear-away stabilizer under each cutout before I sewed. Then I very carefully tore away the stabilizer and cut out the inside of the leaves. After that I attached the bands, Kaitlyn tried the shrug and the dress on, I marked the sleeve and shirt hems, and then I finished the hem, arm holes, sleeve hem, and neckline. For the arm holes and neckline, I turned them under and topstitched with a twin needle. I was afraid it might distort the neckline, but it worked great!
As a finishing touch, Kaitlyn painted a vine around the leaves. Was I nervous about letting her paint on the entirely finished shrug? Actually, no. Last year I was definitely apprehensive about letting her paint the dress, but I needn’t have worried. She did an excellent job (but I have to say that because she’ll read this), and I trusted her entirely with this year’s dress.
I love how this dress turned out. It was so fun to work with Kaitlyn on this, and, while the project came with all the usual stresses of a big sewing project, the result was totally worth it.