Bodycon & braiding
It’s been quite a few years since I got all frocked up in a DIY dress for the Spring Racing Carnival … and I have no plans to do it this year either (unless someone’s thinking of hosting me in one of the super fancy marquees, in which case helloooo!). But I’ve done kind of the next best thing by getting frocked up in a DIY dress for the official launch of the Caulfield Cup Carnival.
Admittedly, I didn’t make this dress from scratch, I bought it from an opshop for $5 or so about four years ago. It’s by Cue, for anyone who’s interested in labels (for overseas readers, Cue is an Australian high street brand that is nearly 50 years old and is well known for being relatively fashion forward and good quality). There was nothing wrong with it as such, but it was pretty plain and very formfitting: not a combination I usually favour. Here’s what it looked like when I bought it. For some reason my butt isn’t a problem but it makes my head look big, haha…!
Since buying this dress I’ve had various ideas about how to alter it, including adding ruffles to make it less revealing, but I finally hit on using braid to add texture and visual interest. (I’ve done this before but it was about seven years ago, and despite much trawling, can’t seem to find the post about it, although it’s been fun going back through my archives! Anyway, you can see a bit of that original dress in this Instagram post.)
Although it’s quite effective as a means to transform a garment, adding braid is definitely not for beginners, at least not when the garment in question is made from stretch fabric. To achieve a neat finish I had to pin the braid to the dress while wearing it, because if I’d pinned it to the fabric flat, it would have been all wrong once I actually put the dress on. If I’d had a dressmaking mannequin, I would have avoided a lot of sticking pins in myself and twisting body parts further than they should go, but at least I got a bit of a yoga workout while positioning the braid.
I didn’t buy the braid specifically for this project; as usual I was just making things up from the stuff in my stash, so only had a limited length of braid to work with. To make sure the braid detail turned out symmetrically, I placed the centre of the length of the braid over the centre front seam of the dress, just above the cleavagey bit. This doubled as a way to create just a little bit more coverage over the chest area. Then I stood in front of the mirror for ages pinning the braid to create the illusion of a nipped-in waist before trailing it down the sides of the skirt section.
I tacked the braid onto the dress by hand rather than using the sewing machine because stretching the fabric and holding the braid in place was difficult enough without having to worry about getting bits of the braid stuck in the sewing machine foot!
As for the rest of the outfit? There’s kind of a marine theme happening inspired by the blue and green in the dress. My friend Marianne had just had a cleanout and was parting with some vintage pieces including this hat which I took home to give another friend – but when paired with a green scarf, it was the perfect match for the colours in the dress. My starfish earrings were from a cheapo shop ages ago (I painted over them with glittery nail polish), I made my necklace from coral and chain, my (barely visible) bag was from an opshop and my heels are from Komehyo – I estimate I spent $40 at the most on this outfit.
I’m undecided as to whether I should add a bit more embellishment to the dress. A few strategically placed greenish ruffles might just take it to the next level (and make it wearable for occasions other than spring racing). What do you think? Any ideas?