Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Seaweed Velvet Dress

We have maybe three weeks of cold weather left, if we’re lucky. It usually starts warming up in mid-February, and we see 90 degrees in March. So it was time to get to work on the velvet while I still have an opportunity to wear it.
This fabric has had me in a state of paralysis for some time. It looks like blue-green seaweed waving under the silvery water. The pile is silver or gray over a green base. I liked it so much I didn’t want to use it! But sitting in the closet wasn’t doing it any good (although I did store it properly – hung with the selvedge clipped to a hanger) and I convinced myself that such a visually elaborate fabric could work with a simple pattern.

green base/silver pile

This velvet was unmarked as to fiber content, so I did a few tests. I had a suspicion it might be acetate, and sure enough it dissolved into a gray slurry in a little bit of acetone nail polish remover. It’s probably a blend with something like nylon, so I used the low heat setting on my iron.

My dress “pattern” is really a composite of several shapes from different patterns. This was my general idea:

left: from Piperlime, here and here; right: from Shopbop, here and here

I wanted a simple round neck, long sleeves, and no waist band. I started with a straight dress pattern for stretch knits and cut it large to accommodate this non-stretch fabric. Later, I decided it was too loose, and added a back zipper to allow for a bit of fitting at the waist. I made the skirt long and flared for ease of walking. At this point I saw that I could have used any one of a dozen patterns for long dresses with flared skirts and back zippers. I’m just not good at going straight from point A to point B without lengthy detours of discovery.

I bound the neck with a bias strip of the velvet. I love how the angle of the crush pattern makes it look like it’s twisted around. I could never have gotten that effect if I did it on purpose!

I finished the seams with tape so that I wouldn’t have to worry about shedding all over myself and the furniture. I had just used up the last of a light mint green on the shoulders and sleeves when my order of vintage rayon binding in “bayleaf” arrived from Mattiecakes. It was a perfect color for this dress, and I had enough to do the side seams and hem.

And here is the finished product. The fabric changes color from dark gray with inside light (left) to reflective silver and green in natural light (right).

So, what do we think? Modern and interesting? Time traveler from the 70s? Ready for the Renaissance Faire?



  1. Modern and interesting! Perhaps inspired by the 70s, but in a good way, as all the best fashion does.
    I love it; you are so good at whipping up the perfect creation!
    xo, Anita

  2. Really cool That velvet dress, special style. Love it.