A good friend of mine is getting married this weekend, and a few months back she turned to me and said, ‘so you’re going to wear something you made to my wedding, right?’ I ummed and ahhed for a while over what to make – made some muslins, stroked some fabric – and after moving past the fear of I’ll-look-like-a-bridesmaid/it’s-far-too-fancy, I eventually bit the bullet and went for Marfy 2826. If you can’t look fancy at a wedding, when can you?
Marfy patterns are Italian couture, seam allowance free, no instructions, directions or construction order. They come single sized, pre-cut, and are marked with letters, grainlines, notches and some brief statements in English, Italian, Russian and French. You can find an image for some patterns on BMV; Marfy’s website; in the annual catalogs; or by emailing Marfy directly. Those pictures are important, because they hold details that are easy to overlook. But Marfy’s don’t have to be all that tricky to sew! Definitely, you should know what order of operations clothing construction follows (and start with easier items i.e. simple dresses). But there is great freedom in deciding if you want a) seams turned under b) seams fully lined c) seams bound by bias, by machine or hand d) seams rolled, by machine or hand…etc. Marfy is a good introduction into thinking about what your fabric requires. And then there is the web for everything else!
From looking at the picture, we can see the following:
- There is an ‘underdress’, consisting of a strapless bodice and skirt, in the white/blue polka dot fabric;
- There is an ‘overdress’, which is attached at the waistline (slight gathers?), and perhaps side seams, would need to be finished at the boat neckline and edges in a manor appropriate for sheers, and is gathered (and therefore not attached to the side seams) between a bow and the underdress, which then flows into a butt cape. The white/blue polka dot fabric is sheer, has drape, and is easily gathered.
- There is a waistband ribbon, which forms a bow at the CB. This fabric is not as drapey as the overdress.
- There are totally awesome shoes unfortunately not included.
What we can then deduce is the following:
- Chiffon, even with French seams, is not good at taking strain. Therefore that underdress better be able to hold itself up by it’s own merit. (Especially as the overdress is not attached at the back waist – therefore not equally supporting itself).
- Clearly the underdress had some sort of lining/foundational fabrics to it.
So essentially, if you are making this, you are making a strapless dress which just happens to have a gorgeous chiffon overlay.
I started with size 42, the smallest Marfy offer. It is too big for my waist and bust measurements, so I make a muslin, take it in from CF/CB, and then shape from there. I boned it with the plastic rigelene, but found that was too curved for my bust shape, and wasn’t moulding to my body. A less-than-stellar trip to Metro Fabrics in Tempe gained me some spiral steel boning, which I’m hoping will prove a better option. Once the bodice fit, I could attach the skirt and begin to play.
I played with length, ribbon placement and thickness and attaching the skirt to bodice via gathers or pleats. Once that was decided (slightly above knee with a 2-4” hem facing; ribbon looked good, but had some wrinkling issues to contend with; and 3 pleats in skirt), I transferred any changes to the pattern, and cut my fabric. That was a high tension evening! The CDC did NOT want to play easy to lay flat and on grain. (Nor did it rip). The skirt is 1 piece, cut on the fold. Once finally cut, it could be hand basted to the underlining, and then all markings thread traced in. I spent a day doing this, basting in pleats and the CB zip seam, and then hung the skirt to allow the bias to settle. The skirt looks amazing on: HURRAH (and phew)!!!!
I was holding the skirt together to take this shot, hence the waist seam is far lower than it will be. But I love the look of this skirt – the pleats work perfectly, and it is my new favourite skirt pattern!
I then moved back to the muslin, playing with the chiffon overlay and it’s proportions. I’d very much recommend having the strapless dress not able to move (and ideally a waist stay inserted) so that you can accurately judge the length aspect of the overlay whilst the dress supports it. That’s currently where I am at – decision making time. Marfy very typically like to cover parts of the shoulder on a 30* from vertical (extending away from the body). It is flattering, but be aware it can restrict movement if using heavier fabrics! Once that decision is made, I will be able to cut my chiffon, and move onto finishing the edges. (The silk thread I needed arrived; unfortunately, I may have to mix two colours to get the right look). Then I should double check the ribbon placement, construction and mark as necessary, and then I can cut my bodice and get along with attaching it all together.
This is where I currently am at with the overlay muslin. I’m still unsure about the pleats into the waist seam (they will be covered by a ribbon) – they look bulky and unpleasing, but chiffon is quite soft and malleable so it may be irrelevant. The width is something I’m still not sure on. It just seams to fall off my shoulders, so perhaps more will come off.
At every step I am taking photos, and taking my time to make decisions. I will go running, and think about each step until an answer (or obstacle) comes to me. I have been stalking all my favourite couture inspirations (the blog A Challenging Sew, Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture book/CD and her Craftsy class; sewing forums, and the web in general) for ideas and things to consider. It is amazing how much a Marfy will put you in the position of ‘designer’, vs blindly following a Big4 pattern.
Lastly, the star of the show: the fabric. I bought this silk crepe de chine from Sago Fabrics in Cabramatta AGES ago. (They still have it in stock, also in an orange/pink colourway). It’s has silvery base which means it’s annoyingly impossible to match to a lining. Seriously, I have taken a swatch of this fabric across Sydney, Melbourne and the USA, and not even in Mood NYC could we find a match! (If you do ever find something though, let me know. I’d love some long gloves). The answer came when I was researching underlinings (because how else would I get a deep hem?). I wasn’t keen to line silk CDC with silk CDC; the internet said silk charmeuse would be too heavy for the lightweight fabric; but perhaps cotton batiste would work? And I had some soft, thin cotton batiste in my stash which I knew sewed well. Underneath the CDC, it turned to an opaque white, and made the greens, purples and blues stand out. It also draped nicely – what more could you want?
The blue shot silk chiffon (Van Hung Fabrics, Cabramatta) was also a long-time decision. For a long time, I thought that in the picture, there were two matching fabrics, one of which was chiffon. But I couldn’t exactly colour match, and all teal chiffons I found were too overwhelming on the fabric. In hindsight, a deep chiffon on all of the dress would have competed with the floral CDC. Once I saw the picture for what it was, I could reapproach the decision as there was now less of it, wouldn’t overwhelm the dress.
So clearly there are quite a few decisions to go, and the accompanying work. But I’m looking forward to it and can’t wait for the end result.