If you watch fashion shows like Project Runway or America’s Next Top Model long enough, you tend to want to get a little creative. You watch these shows thinking, “I wish I could make cool stuff like that!” or “I wish I could strut my stuff on the runway!”
With enough ambition, you can absolutely make those dreams come true. As a fan of Project Runway, I tune in every week to see Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn introduce new challenges to the contestants, some a little … unconventional. Sometimes the contestants have to make full outfits out of trash or car parts or plastic CDs — things you wouldn’t dare see as sewing materials. These episodes tend to be my favorite because they are so random and challenging, That’s why I decided to pursue my own “unconventional challenge.”
I decided to make an evening gown out of a used curtain.
I found the fabric at one of my favorite places — the thrift store. I was browsing around for pants and skirts one day when something black and gold caught my eye from the linens section. I wandered over and fell in love with a three-yard essence of shimmering beauty. What I saw in that single curtain was a dark elegant lady, like Tamora from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. For the pattern, I used McCall’s #M6893 which comes in misses’ and plus size versions.
It took a bit of mapping to make sure all the sewing patterns fit on the material. I felt like I was putting together a life-sized puzzle. Once I got the pieces just right, I went to work snipping and pinning away. I actually made a major mistake during this process as I had started to cut one of the skirt parts too short. And of course it was on the folded edge! Oh no! Luckily, I caught myself before I had ruined the whole thing and would later come up with a little “magic” to fix the gaping hole my dress would have.
The challenge was getting the parts to “sit” right.
As this material was meant to drape long and flowing from a window, the translucent black fabric crinkled unnaturally with age here and there, but a little smoothing and patience made it more “workable.”
The next challenge was working with thin material. I ended up making a “base” out of a silken shirt to mount the curtain fabric on (just like Project Runway when the contestants were allowed to use thin basic dress shapes as templates for their work). The dress was half-way finished — it had a silhouette, at least. I then had to figure out how to cover the hole I had made under the bodice. I thought, “How can I give this silhouette more body while covering this hole?” And then it hit me: Create a new layer above the part where the hole was made! I instantly went to work taking the leftover material and sewing up a brand new panel to place in the middle.
I originally intended to wrap the whole thing around the dress but saw how the ends flowed like dragonfly wings against the sides of the dress and saw how elegant it looked. It added more body, like I had hoped, filling out the silhouette of the dress perfectly. All I had to do was make a few finishing touches, and I had a dress.