Tana Frock: chevron, ombre dyed, summer dress

11:34 AM

My niece graduated high school in May and as a little gift I made her a dress.
She’s beautiful, fun, and tall…she’s the only girl on my husban'ds side of the family taller than me, she’s 6’ and I’m 5’10”.

So I had this design in my head for a dress that is an adult version of all the other chevron dresses I’ve sewn recently:

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inspiration graph
I was thinking of a 1950s silhouette with a circle skirt and higher boat neckline, pretty much the rainbow dress but grown up without all the colors.
The style seemed young, so I thought it would be a great summer dress for an 18 year old just heading to real life and college.
I wish I could have had her to model the dress, but we live far apart and it got mailed to her…so it’s just me.  I think it would look a lot better on a fit teenager than myself.
I added a few accessories in the gift for Tana, some high cork heels, a mustard belt, and orange filigree earrings.
This photo is probably the best example of the actual color of the dress.
With all the structured piecing going on in the bodice, I chose to go with a neutral in the grayish slate blue. 
Not very bright and summery, but I figure she could style it with fun, bright accessories.
With the higher neckline, I cut the skirt to be just above the knee.  
A little more flirty than what I wear, as my kids view my skirts as a tent they should crawl under and everyone would definitely see my undies in a skirt this short and full…but hopefully for a young, beautiful girl it will be cute and fun to wear.

The back has an invisible zipper and the chevron repeats to mirror the front.
The ombre effect with the dark waist and the angles of the pieced chevron was really flattering I thought.
I’m totally sucking in my gut here, but if you had a trim waist, I think this would be a really form flattering design for most body types.
I don’t have a full tutorial, but here are a few of the steps in case you’re interested to try a similar design or use the piecing/ dying techniques.
So to figure out how all these angled chevron strips could work together in a uniform way and still bend over boobs was a challenge in my head.  The two little girls dresses I’d sewn before didn’t have this element of design as little girls are flat chested and the bodice front was pieced as one flat panel.  So as I was figuring out all the technical ways to create each section, I luckily remembered a tutorial from my friend Kristin {skirt as top} on piecing a bodice using freezer paper.  So I took the bodice pattern from a dress I’d made, and adjusted a few things, but cut it out of freezer paper.  I was then able to draw my chevron strips in the freezer paper and cut each piece out, iron it on my white cotton, then carefully cut out each strip adding seam allowances.

You can see all the freezer paper pieces ironed on for the front bodice, including seam allowances around each piece and the 5/8” center front seam along the fold.
This is the best representation of how the boob darts were factored in to each strip of the chevron pattern.
1 box Rit pearl gray + 1/2 cap full of Rit liquid royal blue + 1/4 tsp liquid Rit black in 4 qt water
and the recommended 1 T liquid laundry detergent + 1 c. salt for any cotton dye bath
I knew I’d be dying each piece, so I needed to use a natural fiber that would accept dye.  I considered linen for it’s light, cool, aspects in the summer heat, but decided what a pain linen would be as it wrinkles so easily and stretches/ distorts through out each use.
So I ended up going with a satin cotton that was 97% cotton and 3% spandex.  This gave the fabric some stretch to help in being a fitted dress, and the 97% cotton made it a high natural content to dye well.

SKIRT:  The skirt was a circle skirt and I dip dyed it for the ombre effect.  I didn’t want to go too dramatic and go from dark charcoal to a white hem.  So I felt the hem of the dress was obviously an ombre, but on the subtle side, ending in the mid-light tones.
BODICE:  To dye the bodice, I first safety pinned the four pieces (2 front, 2 back) that would need to be the same color.  Then I labeled each bundle with a fabric scrap and wrote the color order in marker.  So the very top was “white” and I just numbered each bundle down to the darkest at the waist.  This helped me dye each strip color shade all together, and to compare to the shades above and below.  The turquoise dress I made for Ellie had the majority of the dress on the light side and ending with the saturated color.  I wanted to go the opposite direction with this one and have the majority of the dress in the darker shades with just touches of the lightest.  I actually dyed this dress prior to making Ellie’s and this is my tip:
I started with the lightest here and felt some of the higher or lighter shades got too dark too fast in the dye bath and so I’d say start with your darkest pieces, then move to the lighter so you have more control in the color graduation of each individual layer.
To sew the bodice together, I stitched and serged the seams to prevent fraying and just try to clean up the inside.
Because it’s meant to be a summer sun dress, I chose not to line it and add another hot layer.
You can see here on the inside of the bodice how the front and back darts lined up with the individual pieces to make the smooth chevron lines that ended up not being broken up or misaligned.
So I hope Tana likes it, and hope it fits as I was totally guessing her measurements and it was such a fun dress to design and watch come to life.
Much more complicated design with the bodice piecing than I have ever done.

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  1. Wow. It looks amazing. Stunning. So much thought and effort went into this dress. It looks fantastic. Thank you for sharing your tips, tricks and hints!

  2. This looks amazing! I think you need one for yourself, too. Any chance on sharing the source/maker for the cork heels?

  3. Gorgeous Jessica, the design by nature would flatter any figure, and the fact that you made it ombre - I love it! Well done, great present!

  4. she has such a great aunt! Thanks for sharing this with me!

  5. Wow. What an incredible dress. I love how the colors all work together, and the diagonal lines of the chevron details are so figure-flattering.

  6. this is amazing! -- I also think it's incredibly flattering and slimming, what with the lines of the bodice and the ombre effect-- (not that you need the help, I"m just thinking for myself!)

  7. Wow, truly a couture dress by the time you're done. Thanks for the tip about freezer paper piecing for the bodice. Something I would have never thought of doing.

    I wore a circle skirt to church yesterday and both of my kids absolutely thought it was a tent for them to play in too, so I had to laugh at your comment.

    ps. you don't look too bad in it either. :)

  8. another WOW
    very lucky niece and obviously well loved.

  9. That is amazing, it looks like a lot of work but it came out really well. Great job!

  10. I don't want to be rude, but I really wanted to tell you to shut up (ok, in my head, I actually did). When I first looked at the dress (pictures first, words later!), my first thought was "Wow, that's looks so gorgeous on her!" And yup, I knew it was you, before you showed the pics of you with a head.

    It's a lovely dress, and I think it looked wonderful on you and will look great on your niece.

  11. oh it's sooo beautiful and you look like you channeled your ballerina past while posing - gorgeous!

    thanks for the link up, too! i'm so glad that piecing technique worked for you. :)

  12. You must be such a good aunt! Very cute dress!

  13. good grief! this dress is amazing! and it looks really complicated. You do amazing work. When you said the dress was for your niece, and then I scrolled down and saw you modeling the dress, the first thing I thought was "omg, her niece looks EXACTLY like her!!!" lol!

    I love the color of the dress. It's the perfect canvas to accessorize in color.

  14. Wow Jess-- really pretty. And, you could totally rock that dress!

  15. This is awesome, you've put so much love and effort into it, she'll love it for sure!


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