let's give them something to talk about

Mood Fabrics Printed Rayon Challis | Simplicity 1880

Hello there! My goodness it's almost the end of June.  I can't believe it's taken me so long to photograph this dress and write a blog post about it.  I had been saving it to do a Mood post, but kept pushing it back because I was having trouble getting it photographed. Between battling the weather (rain, rain, and more rain) and camera batteries I thought I'd never get this thing documented! But finally I decided I was going to get a photoshoot done, no matter what the weather, and I'd just have to pretend I'm cute with my umbrella as a prop and the rain was all part of my plan from the start. Spoiler alert: I didn't need the umbrella after all and managed to sneak these photos in during a couple dry moments between passing clouds.  But the insane greenery of the background is proof that, indeed, it's been a rainy June!

Mood Fabrics Printed Rayon Challis | Simplicity 1880

I've shown this dress a few times on my Instagram account. I made it quite awhile ago now, while I was taking my blogging break this past spring. And I've worn it quite a bit also, which is actually kind of nice because I can really give an honest review of how this dress and fabric works for me.

But the inspiration for this dress goes back even further -- to the beginning of the year.  It was such an unusually warm and pleasant winter here, even by Texas standards.  The sun always seemed to be shining and there were long stretches with low humidity and just the most pleasant spring weather you can imagine. Everything seemed to stay green and go on blooming. It was really almost magical. This also coincided with a stretch of time that I was without my trusty steed -- my bike, and so rather than biking the 2 miles to and from work each day, I went by foot.  I've never been a fast walker (or really, fast anything -- one of my husband's earliest nicknames for me was Tortuga Sal) and walking upwards of 4 miles a day brought out the daydreamer in me, big time. And of course I was daydreaming about sewing -- because, obviously.

Mood Fabrics Printed Rayon Challis | Simplicity 1880

Specifically, I was daydreaming about the kind of outfit I wished I was wearing to saunter down sidewalks in a crumbling southern city in the U.S.A., shaded by drooping live oaks and palm trees, heavy hibiscus bushes, oleanders, and fragrant jasmine and gardenia.  It doesn't take much for my brain to meander off to the romantic, the literary, and cinematic, and so I cast my leading lady for the movie in my head.  She was someone who owned few nice dresses, or shoes, or hats, but each item was her dress, or her shoes, or her hat.  The kind of objects that are as much a part of her identity and expression as her eyes, or nose, or hands.  She was effortlessly feminine, and sensual, and she took her time walking across the uneven pavement, relishing the heavy scent of the southern greenery.

Mood Fabrics Printed Rayon Challis | Simplicity 1880

I'd like to say she was me, but really, she was the version of me I aim to be on my most 'put together' days! So really, not me at all! Ha! But this is the magic of clothes, you guys.  I imagined this alternate reality "me" (as seen through a soft focus lens, of course) and I imagined her dress, and her shoes and her hat, and then I made her dress (and found her shoes on Etsy, and her hat from an online store) and when I put it all on, I felt like that character I had created in my mind. This is not to say that I'm using clothes to hide my authentic self, rather that my authentic self likes to play dress-up! It's a fun little game I like to play with myself -- "He he he... they all THINK they're talking to normal Sallie, but what they don't know is they are ACTUALLY talking to Future Sallie!" (Or Desert Sallie, or International Spy Sallie, or Witch Sallie, or...)

Mood Fabrics Printed Rayon Challis | Simplicity 1880

A much simpler way to say all this is that I like to have fun with my clothes, guys, and I think you should too. 

But you're not just here for the inner ramblings of a 30-something woman whose inner world is far more colorful than her reality! So let me tell you about this dress. This is Simplicity 1880 - an OOP pattern, but one that I'm sure many of you have in your stash, if, like me, you bought it way back in 2012 when Sunni did her sewalong of this pattern (so long ago that there aren't even images on her blog posts about it anymore! Yikes! Have I been sewing and blogging that long??) Perhaps, also like me, you haven't pulled it out or thought about it since! Well pull it out again guys, because it's a trooper of a pattern!

The first version of this dress I made was in a purple linen blend and featured the faux-wrap bodice (also, I used to have boobs... awww! Memories...) I loved that dress then, and I still love that dress. It's one I still reach for on the odd occasion. At the time I made that dress I remember being supremely disinterested in this version, the faux-shirtdress variation with notched collar and button-opening that ends at the waist. Funny how things change!

Mood Fabrics Printed Rayon Challis | Simplicity 1880

When I was imagining this dress I had this sort of mish-mash of 40's and 70's styles in my head, but any searching for vintage shirtdress patterns from either of those eras turned up looks that I was definitely not into.  In frustration I rummaged through my pattern stash and turned up this beauty -- with it's released pleats at the waist, gathering at the yoke, cap sleeve, flat collar, and swishy bias skirt it was exactly what I was looking for -- vaguely, but indefinably vintage inspired.  I especially love the skirt on this pattern - it's cut in 4 pieces and just utilizes the bias in the most flattering way. Both this dress and my purple dress have a way of skimming my tummy and hips, making me feel very womanly.  The dress has an invisible zip on the side, for ease of getting on and off, since those buttons only open to the waist.

The fabric is also a major player in my love for this dress. This is the American Beauty, Nightshadow Blue and Tinsel Digital Flowers Printed on a Viscose Woven  from Mood Fabrics online. I love that this floral print is pixelated, making it look like a needlepoint cushion, or cross-stitch sampler.  It's a nice nod to hand craft. It's also kind of grandma-ish, but in a really fun way, and I think it works really well with this pattern.

Mood Fabrics Printed Rayon Challis | Simplicity 1880

This viscose woven is very similar to a rayon challis - lightweight, breathable and drapey.  It also frays easily like rayon challis so any seam that wasn't concealed in the pattern construction was either bound with bias binding (the front facings) or run through the serger (sleeves, waist and skirt seams). 

I agonized a bit over the button choice for this dress. Originally I was planning on covered buttons in self-fabric, but the plethora of covered button kits I thought I had in my stash was a total fantasy.  I made a few attempts to go to the Houston fabric stores -- one of which has an extensive and really fantastic button selection -- to see if I could find something really special, however I kept getting the hours wrong, and after an hour drive I'd show up to find them closed (no no! Not still salty about that wasted gas at all *eye roll*). In the end I only scuttled up the highway a little bit to go to Joann's where I was just going to buy the covered button kits and call it a day, but I came across these dark fuschia and black beauties that were just such a perfect match I would have felt like an idiot not to use them!

Mood Fabrics Printed Rayon Challis | Simplicity 1880

I can report, with full confidence, that I love this dress. I actually reach for this exact look about once a week these days. It also happens to be the kind of dress that, when I'm wearing it, I get a lot of compliments (always a nice confidence boost) -- but not necessarily on the dress itself. More just... on me. And that's a thing I love - when clothes reveal the person who's wearing them, rather than hiding her. And that's the magic that I was talking about earlier.

I'm going to end this post by encouraging you to play a little game of fantasy with your clothes and see how it works out for you! Life is so full of the mundane, and I'm actually very grateful for this, but it's a nice balance when you can find small, personal joys in things like getting dressed.

Happy sewing, and dressing, my friends!


P.S. If you want to see this fabric in action in absolute glorious fashion - go check out Oona's make over on the MSN! I love when this happens -- two sewists working with the same (or similar) fabric and even a similar idea (shirtdresses) and having the outcomes be so different and so uniquely them. This is one of the things I love most about this community!!