Monday, 2 August 2010

Farewell High Street, Hello Goldhawk Road...

"There are two things in the world you never want to let people see how you make 'em: laws and sausages" Episode 4, Season 1. The infinite and unfaltering wisdom of Leo McGarry.

But I'm adding another to the list. You don't want to see how a dress

is made. At least not when its made by an amateur seamstress.

My initial idea for this post was to write about making a dress for my best friend's 21st birthday party. The dress code insists that the female guests wear white dresses, and having lived through the entire process - from brainstorm to mood board, to beautiful embossed lettering on the invitation - I am all too aware of the aesthetic leanings of the host. So my options were to trawl through the rakes of every store from here to the edges of London in search for the perfect nymph-meets-aphrodite-meets-Versace-meets-Herve-Leger with a budget for, well, under £50... OR, I could dust off my old Elna sewing machine, and try to rediscover my dressmaking skills. I used to take Textiles Technology classes, and I absolutely loved them. Between the ages of 11 and 14 I thought I was going to be the next great couturier. Sadly, though, I moved schools and the classes were no longer available. So now, a decade later, would I be able to remember how to stitch pieces of fabric together to create something wearable?

The process was not pretty. I went to the Goldhawk Road for fabric - an area of London so racially diverse that at any given moment you feel you're in Pakistan, India, the East End, and Dubai. English is not the first language on the Goldhawk Road. And with this rich tapestry of ethnicities, comes a vast array of fabrics - everything from zebra-print lycra to... off-white jersey! And that's exactly what I was looking for... I do not wear white dresses. I am not a bride. Also, I am deathly pale. So much so that I practically glow. I'm luminous. So, it had to be a calmer shade of white than white.

Anyway, I have my few meters of fabric – a slightly crème coloured jersey (if all of my clothes could be made from jersey I’d be happy – I love fashion, but I also love comfort!) and four or five meters of poly-chiffon. Being not at all talented at structuring clothing, my aunt suggests I use something pre-existing and properly made to build around, so I buy a slightly scary long-line bra from H&M for twelve bucks.

Then I spend the rest of Saturday afternoon and evening grappling with fabric and stitches, breaking two needles on machine, and stabbing my thumb until it bleeds while I attempt to hand stitch the hems (apparently thimbles aren’t just for Victorian wives and junk collectors).

In the end, somehow, a rather wonderful garment emerged from the piles of jersey and chiffon… I didn’t really have an image in mind of how it would turn out, but I’m feeling proud of myself nonetheless! Obviously, as soon as anyone looks at the engineering of it they realize it’s less Project Runway, and more baby’s first sewing attempt, but as long as it can hold it together through an evening of merriment, then who cares! There is a very real possibility that the whole thing will unravel as soon as I hit the dance floor, but a little risk is what makes life worth living… Right?

Update: Photo! Check it!

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