Party Time! Excellent! {Sewing the Lirika Matoshi Strawberry Dress}

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Look at this, a blog post! It’s a Christmas miracle! I thought I should document this one though, because it’s a big one. You know the dress, right? Have a squiz here. Like the rest of the world, I was pretty enamored when I first spotted it about 6 months or so ago. So dreamy, so twirly, so much of a distraction in a pandemic. A pandemic that barely affected my life personally, by the way. I’m aware of what an extreme privilege that is and that’s why I was able to dream about a frivolous dress. Of course I was going to make my own version but in fabric a bit more me. A bit darker but still with something happy to brighten it up. I searched for embroidered tulles on ebay and stumbled across this daisy one. Perfect. It came in a few pastel colours, which was tempting, but the black drew me in the most and I knew it would be so much easier to colour match with plain tulle. Sorted.

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In total, I used 5m of daisy tulle and around 8m of plain black bridal tulle. Total cost of about $100, but I did grab the plain black tulle at 40% off when Spotlight had one of their sales. I also used about 2m of black cotton lawn for the lining. Of course, after that I became paralysed with fear over where to start, despite watching a couple of youtube videos where other sewists had made their own versions of the dress. Plus, you know – work and stuff. But last week, as my best friend’s 40th birthday party edged closer and the Christmas party invites started to roll in, I threw caution into the wind and started cutting.  Because there’s nothing like crushing yourself under a bit of time pressure, right? Right.

I started with the skirt. Half circle skirt out of lawn for the lining. Easy. Then came a bit of tulle maths. My black tulle was 300cm wide and my daisy tulle was 150cm wide. Was it better to just gather 300cm wide panels of plain tulle onto the lining or would I be better joining two panels so I get 600cm of width in total? Hm. Six metres of skirt seems excessive. Famous last words. I used 5 layers of 300cm wide black tulle and then two layers of 300cm (two panels joined with a french seam) wide daisy tulle on top, stitching each one separately to the skirt lining. I pinned it together, tried it on and was very disappointed. It didn’t feel anywhere near wide enough at the hem. No twirl factor. Waaaahhhhhhh. Should I unpick or forge ahead? I knew in my heart of hearts that I had to unpick all those hours of gathering and sewing. But I wanted to love it and I couldn’t love it if the skirt wasn’t right. It was also super puffy. And we all know I love puffy. But it was far bulkier than the original dress. And so I got to work in front of the tv later that night, unpicking black thread on black fabric. It only ended up taking just over an hour.

I then got started again, sewing panels together so the total width was 600cm. It was so much better. Heaps of twirl. I ended up with only two layers of black tulle and one of daisy tulle. I think it’s perfect, I definitely wouldn’t want any more layers. I measured and cut the skirt to even out all the layers and got to work on the ruffle. Ah, the ruffle. Two times the hem should be a good measurement for the ruffle, right? That’s 12m of ruffle. Uh, no. Not even close. I ended up with 3 x 12m sections before it looked ruffley enough. Yes, that’s right friends. Good maths-ing. That’s 36m of gathered tulle. It took a very long time but I was pretty happy with the end result. Phew. And the skirt was the easy part, how the hell will I tackle the bodice?

Ok. The original is very low. Gorgeous, but braless isn’t something that would really work for my bust without some kind of internal structure to hoist everything into place. So a not as plunging neckline for me, but still low enough to keep the vibe of the original. McCalls 6833 was the first that sprung to mind – it had the low neckline but with the underbust band in a good position to sew the ties on to. I adjusted it slightly, dropping the centre fronts of the ‘cup’ pieces by 3cm and taking the same off the underbust piece. That was simple and worked really well. It was at this point that I had also intended to do an FBA, as I’d made the pattern a couple of times and could do with the bit of extra space – but I kind of got carried away and forgot. It’s not the end of the world, but that underbust seam does sit a bit higher on me that I’d like.

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After zooming in on every pixel of the original dress, it looked to have a few layers of tulle in it, with that beautiful gathered layer over the bust and centre front of the waist. So I cut: a bodice in cotton lawn, a bodice in black tulle and a bodice in daisy tulle. Easy right? Then I slashed and spread the bodice pieces only where I wanted the gathering to sit and cut those pieces out of daisy tulle. Unfortunately though, they were sitting king of puffy and pathetically, rather than those full pleats you see on the original. Ok. More fabric then. I literally cut two rectangles of fabric, gathered and pinned them onto the bodice using my mannequin (which I seriously never use, but was very necessary for this step). It was my first time doing anything so freehand like that but it worked really freaking well. I stitched it in place at the shoulders and waistline and then tacked it down in a few places by hand to make sure it didn’t move. Tulle doesn’t fray, so there was no need to worry about finishing raw edges on anything, I just turned it under. There’s a video in my instagram highlights if you’re keen to see the process.

It looked just how I wanted it to and I was thrilled! It was all downhill after that really – neckline ruffle, puffy sleeves (two layers of black tulle and four layers of daisy tulle, finished with more ruffles and elastic), ties made from satin, with the bust ones stitched down. Then a zipper and I finished off the lining by hand sewing it at the waist seam. I did have trouble with the waist tie once it was on – I’m very high waisted and the tie wanted to jump above the waist seam all the time. I have noticed this happens with the original dress too, so it’s not just me. Since the photos were taken, I’ve shortened the dress at the waist and added a waist stay from grosgrain ribbon. That has really helped because the skirt is very heavy.

All in all, it was a huge learning process and took more hours than I thought. Probably about 12 in total. I love it. I wore it to the party even though it was super excessive and now I just want to wear it everywhere all the time. I feel like a princess in it. I’ve gained a fair bit of weight over the last 12 months or so, but this dress makes me forget all of those insecurities. There’s something about tackling a big, scary project that makes you come out on the other side feeling 10 feet tall.

My thoughts on knock offs:

Making your own version of something for yourself, citing the original source – ok.

To then go on and sell it to other people, not ok.