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This archived content is from Mary Wilkins’ sewing and quilting message board “Sew What’s New,” which was retired in August 2007. It is being provided by “Sew What’s Up,” which serves as the new home for many members of “Sew What’s New.”
From: ChristineU
Date: 02-17-2006, 10:12 PM (1 of 8)
Hello--I'm new to the forum, and I'm really happy to have found it!

I'm making a dress for an actor to wear in a play, and I'm not that experienced a sewer. The dress has to be worn by a man but still look good, which is why it has to be custom (thanks, Tennessee Williams). I found a really inexpensive fabric that I thought seemed right for the character and time period (1962), but duh, when I got home I realized that it's very thin, and more suited to a lining than outer dress fabric. I still think it's pretty, though--could I add some weight to it by lining it with something else? Would white muslin be a usable choice (since I have it laying around), or would that be too heavy? (The kind I have is the thin cheapo stuff.) I read somewhere else on the forum that batiste can be good for lining, but it's hard to find around here. The main fabric is some kind of thin polyester satiny thing, with a pattern of small flowers. I got a lot of it, so I could attach two pieces of the same together, but I'm not sure that wouldn't be weird, as a pale version of the pattern would show through. Also, it's very slippery.

Another question--I think the dress might look pretty with a chiffon overlay. (It might be too ambitious of me to try that, but I'd still like to learn about it.) Do you add it by cutting out the chiffon pieces and sewing them at the same time as the main garment, or do you make it separately?

I may end up giving on this stuff, and getting new fabric, but I'm not quite ready to throw in the towel yet!

Thanks for your help!
User: ChristineU
Member since: 02-17-2006
Total posts: 3
From: Sancin
Date: 02-18-2006, 05:04 AM (2 of 8)
Welcome to Sew News Christine - I sure you will enjoy it here and get the help you need. There are a lot of talented sewers here. I am not necessarily one of them but I do sew.

It has been a very long time since I did any costume sewing. First thing I would consider would be how much movement will the actor be making - is the male accostomed to moving in dresses - ensure it is loose enough.
Re: weight of fabric. Are you concerned that the the fabric will be too translucent or too light weight to hang properly or that the fabric will tear?
Fabric can not usually be seen through on a stage unless there is light is behind the actor. Check out the script and director. Consider how long the dress will be worn and how many times it will be worn. Cheap usually is used for short term plays. Two pieces of fabric would work for lining but consider lightweight unbleached or cheap cotton or the muslin that you have if it allows dress to hang properly? The advantage of cotton is it's absorbtive factor. I have also acted and it is darn hot under lights, to say nothing of anxiety.
Re chiffon - attach or use the easiest way for you, even if it involves a separate piece put on with elastic over dress. Chiffon can be difficult to handle when sewing. Would a fine netting work? Consider the distance the dress will be seen from. Consider if the dress has to be changed in a hurry at any time during the play.

Good luck - let us know how you make out.
*~*~*~* Nancy*~*~*~* " I try to take one day at a time - but sometimes several days attack me at once."
User: Sancin
Member since: 02-13-2005
Total posts: 895
From: ChristineU
Date: 02-18-2006, 05:27 AM (3 of 8)
Dear Nancy:

Thank you so much for your comments! I decided that the muslin I have would make the fabric hang a little too stiffly (the director specifically wanted "swirliness"), so I am using two pieces of the fabric and letting the pattern show through "artistically". It actually looks okay. I have cut out all the main pieces and have just finished sewing half of the thing together--it doesn't look too bad. Luckily, the show will only have about 7 performances.

Thank you for the tip about the chiffon overlay! I like the idea of making a separate thing and dropping it over. I may run out of time, so perhaps I will just make a little chiffon capelet thing for the shoulders. Your netting suggestion is great--I will definitely consider it, too. I am copying a 1960's dress that has lace at the top, but the pattern of my material doesn't quite seem right for lace--I think netting may be better for it. The dress I'm using for a model is actually not my favorite form of 1962 fashion, but it was the only style that seemed to flatter the actor's male form. (Unfortunately, the color wasn't right, which is why I'm up at 2 am making a new dress instead of using the one we have.) I was really surprised at how differently the dresses we tried fit a man. They're just not like us, are they? ;)

I will let you know how it goes. Thanks for your interest & help!

User: ChristineU
Member since: 02-17-2006
Total posts: 3
From: ChristineU
Date: 02-18-2006, 05:29 AM (4 of 8)
In answer to your question, the fabric was too see-through! All underwear would have been on vivid display--it's an "intimate" theater (i.e., really small). But there's such a thing as too intimate...

User: ChristineU
Member since: 02-17-2006
Total posts: 3
From: DorothyL
Date: 02-18-2006, 08:21 AM (5 of 8)
But there's such a thing as too intimate...

especially when it's a man in a dress!
User: DorothyL
Member since: 12-09-2002
Total posts: 3883
From: paroper
Date: 02-19-2006, 08:22 PM (6 of 8)
Chiffon is terrible to work with, esp if you don't have a lot of experience because it crawls and moves when you are cutting and sewing. It drapes beautifully but is very limp and has little body. I would recommend something called Twinkle organza. Unlike chiffon, it has a little body and a little sparkle in the fabric (hence the name)...not like glitter, more like just enough to give it snap, is easier to sew and could be about half the price of chiffon. It is usually polyester and readily available in many colors. During the 50's and 60's many fabrics were cotton and cotton organza and see-though fabrics which you are seeing a lot in the fabric stores right now were very "in" in sleeves and collars and often skirt overlays. Sometimes dresses had sheer tops with linings much like a camisole underneath. Most of the fabrics were natural. (We didn't have polyester yet).

Bernina 200e, Artista V5 Designer Plus, Explorations, Magic Box, Bernina 2000DE & 335 Bernette Serger, Bernina 1530 Sewing Machine, Bernina 1300 DC Overlock (with coverstitch)
User: paroper
Member since: 02-03-2004
Total posts: 3775
From: AndreaSews
Date: 02-20-2006, 12:09 AM (7 of 8)
You know, if it's a little too sheer, but you want to preserve the movement, just have him wear a store-bought, or borrowed, slip. Women do it all the time.
User: AndreaSews
Member since: 02-18-2005
Total posts: 1007
From: MaryW
Date: 02-20-2006, 07:06 AM (8 of 8)
Christine, you really have your work cut out for you. Welcome to Sew Whats New and please, let us know how the costume works out.
owner/editor of Sew Whats New
User: MaryW
Member since: 06-23-2005
Total posts: 2542
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