I used to wear a lot of dresses. But then I had children. My shape changed, my bust got bigger, then smaller, then bigger and then went a little further south. Clothes had to accommodate breastfeeding…for years, it seemed. Even skirts were tricky for a while, as they were lifted, hidden under and dragged on.
But there is nothing nicer in summer than a simple dress and sandals. So here are some recent additions from when the weather was a tad warmer.
This dress is made from some cheap cotton lawn from Darn Cheap Fabrics, such an inspiring name! It is one of those single role, designer excess places. I have no idea where the cotton was grown and processed but probably China. The flimsy cotton was made more substantial with a calico lining for the bodice made of old muslins. You can still see my notes from other dresses scrawled on a piece.
As part of my Costume Changes project, I am exploring fibres new to me, spreading my ecological footprint in a mix of fibres, old and new. And making mistakes. And encountering some discomforting information.
This next frock is made with viscose. For the longest time I thought viscose and rayon were synthetic fibres and steered clear. In fact, they are semi-synthetics, made from plant sources like sugar cane and bamboo but their cellulose is extracted through a chemical process and extruded into fibres. The process was invented in the late 19c as an artifical silk…silk for the masses. They are biodegrable. Sounded OK.
The pattern is the Washi dress from MadeByRae, made in the small size with the cut out. This was my first experience with viscose. It seems to stretch length ways so the neckline hangs lower than I am comfortable. I raised the shoulders but the neckline still seems to be heading down! If I was to use viscose again, I would hang the fabric first before cutting. It feels good on, breathes and has a drape and swing that it just lovely.
Then I did some more research and found out that whilst viscose/rayon is biodegradable, it contributes over half the microplastic fibres in the ocean, its manufacturing process produces significant pollutants and only one method of producing rayon (lyocell method) is considered to have any environmental benefits. So, is it really an alternative to synthetics or cotton? Possibly…but not in a way that leaves me feeling even vaguely comfortable.
My next dress was another washi dress but made in linen from Lithuania via The Drapery. This linen has been presoftened through washing to produce a very drapey handle. Linen production typically takes place on land that is unsuitable for food crops and does not require irrigation or fertiliser. It is more durable than cotton. It is a great replacement for cotton if dressmaking with new fabrics although you need to embrace that wrinkled look.
I cut out the same size as the previous dress and this one fits perfectly! The neckline is modest and has not grown during wearing.
Aside from the elastic casing for the gathered back, my only other modification was to add a Peter Pan style collar to the front neck. It is fixed into the shoulder seams. See how it lifts away from the dress? Next time I make a Peter Pan collar, I will cut the underside slightly smaller so it curves towards the dress as per this great tutorial from Sewaholic. This is a cracker of a dress and layers really well with three quarter length wide leg trousers or tights. This will take me through winter and summer in Melbourne.
In conclusion…I will give linen another go but goodness, secondhand fabrics and repurposing is just a whole lot less fraught really.