Monday, 11 July 2016

The Peacocks made me do it.

There is nothing like making the most outrageously garish dress to make you want to shout from the rooftops. I live in England so opportunities to actually wear the dress in question are severely limited by the weather and lack of occasion. Therefore, the internet will have to be my stage. Failing that, my bewildered neighbours as I glide around the living-room doing the housework in her! 

So here I am, finally. A little corner of the internet for my giddy ramblings about my love affair with needle and thread.

I should probably introduce myself. My name is Vicki, but I also have been know to respond to Vic, LouLou, Snackpack, Midge, and Big Vic. I live in Bath in a lovely little flat with my fella with gammon shaped ears (they are what did it for me). He deserves a special mention here, and not just for the dress photography. He has supported me at every turn during this journey. From helping me pick out my first ever iron (seriously - I used to think life was too short - PAH!), to surprising me with all of my sewing machines!

This is me 3 years ago picking out the iron of my dreams.
Just look at that ordinary wardrobe - JEANS FOR GOODNESS SAKE.

I started to sew around three years ago like a lot of other ladies during my PhD. So many scientists sew! It all began on my great Grandmother’s hand cranking Singer.

Here she is.....

I was organising my friend's hen do, and I decided to make some little hen gift bags and garters. These were soon followed by a Hen dress (it literally had hens all over it!) and a sash for the beautiful bride-to-be. I COULD NOT STOP MYSELF. A HEN DRESS.

From there on I was an unstoppable sewing force. I worked the Singer hard for six months, before, after a week apart, my chap surprised me with a fully electronic one. I wailed like a Banshee. Seriously, it was like Kirsten Bell being surprised with a sloth all over again. This trait we share - if below a four or above an eight on the emotional scale, we wail. This wail was worth at least a ten.

My love affair with African wax cotton began early. I was bored with the colour and fit of dresses available on the high street. African wax seemed to offer the perfect solution - ALL THE COLOUR. It was the perfect fabric to begin with, easy to handle and it pressed like a dream (yes Mum, this is the alien Vic).

The first dress I ever made for myself. A By Hand London Elisalex.
These girls can definitely take credit for teaching me to sew.

If you follow me on Instagram you will see there have been many MANY dresses since. I graduated from my PhD last week, and I am taking some time out to develop my little business here in Bath. I sell on Etsy and have a bespoke commission based business more locally (website in development - eeeeppp!)


Things have stepped up a gear since I learnt how to draft from scratch. A skill that has brought unmeasurable excitement (wail inducing). I did a course at Bath Fashion College a couple of months ago, and I am SO glad I did. It was the first time I had encountered any formal training and been in a room with so many people that shared my passion for sewing. I can now make dresses to specific client's measurements, and it is so much fun! Being able to deliver exactly what is in a customer's head without the restraint of a pattern is just amazing.

Anyway, back to the driving force behind this post. Seeing as I cannot wait any longer: HERE SHE IS!

I had been tinkering with my bodice block for a while, getting the fit right and playing around with the design. My lovely Pa came back with this jaw-dropping fabric from a wine festival in Bordeaux, and it quickly jumped the to-be-sewed queue. I wanted a fairly simple design to show case the ridiculously gorgeous fabric, so it absolutely had to be a maxi dress. I played around with the idea of bust pleats on my block and made up a toile.

The By Hand London Anna dress was the inspiration here. This pattern only has two bust pleats interrupting the print - such a great canvas for a large print. I wanted to create something even simpler so I went just for one. For the skirt I liked the idea of mirroring the bust detail, so opted for these beautiful box pleats. African wax cotton has such a beautiful weight and structure that it is just calling for design details like these. Even though you can't see the bust details on the dress, I LOVE the shape the box pleats give the skirt.

Print placement was key - I wanted the birds to run down the skirt getting larger towards the bottom. I was careful to get the print running down the front and back, with a sizeable bird on both sides of the bodice (probably compensating for being anything but a sizeable bird). I pattern matched across the zip and back seam (look at those beautiful, wholesome birds running down the back!).

I lined the bodice in this gorgeous striped cotton lawn that I bought during my first ever online fabric order from Fabric Godmother three years ago! Trying to kid myself that this is an everyday dress, I went for stripy contrast side seam pockets too. I used french seams and a hong-kong seam finish to the zip seam using bias binding made from the stripy lining fabric.

Lining from:

I'm not entirely satisfied with the length of the zip I inserted. I was stupidly impatient and only had a 16'' invisible zip in my stash. I sewed it in regardless, thinking I could pull the dress over my head. In reality, this is not as easy as I thought and it requires a second set of hands. I also over estimated the length of my stumpy pins so had to put a rather large hem on the dress which meant losing the bottom peacock's feet. Still, no biggy, just not quite how I'd first envisaged it. Besides, I might grow into it.

I will leave you with some pretty gratuitously moody shots... just 'cause I can, and I made it!

Thank you for reading if you've made it this far, and I hope you will come back for more. I better be off, I'm reaching for the red lippy and this dress in search of a rooftop. I've got some shouting to do.


  1. Lovely dress! I really enjoy following you on Instagram, so am very pleased to see you started a blog!

  2. Gorgeous dress - loved reading about the making of it. I too love African Wax Fabric - think you've been so skilled in the way you've placed that fabulous print. Also love the lining and the detailing round pockets and zip. Fabulous all of it - definitely deserving of the best scarlet lippy!

  3. Can't wait to copy you! A muslin of the Anna bodice is at the top of my list.

  4. Can't wait to copy you! A muslin of the Anna bodice is at the top of my list.

  5. Clever gal - loving it all - the blog, the dress, the great lining and the pictures. Look forward to more......

  6. Looking forward to hearing more about your dressmaking adventures after finding you on Instagram recently.

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  8. The dress is so beautiful! It totally deserves being presented on a blog... ;-) Loved reading your blog post, looking forward to the next!

  9. OH MY this is AMAZING! My sister has just given me a whole pile of Ankara fabric and I was nervous of cutting into it but your Instagram feed has given me confidence! I'm happy to see you've started a blog!!

    1. You can do it Victoria! Looking forward to seeing what you make!