Black Tie Suggested - Sewing Required

Black Tie Suggested - Sewing Required - Marcy Tilton Fabrics
Nothing strikes trepidation in my heart like 'special occasion' dressing. Hard to believe that I have closets full of clothes and 3 barns full of fabric, but when the wedding invitation from my niece Marissa arrived, it dawned on me that I had nothing to wear.

Really. Nothing. To. Wear.

Heading to New York a few weeks ago, I shopped for something to buy. Shopped Dover Street Market, Bergdorf Goodman and Barney's. Nieces Madeline and Jessica came along for fun and moral support. In each store, I'd seek out a salesperson and say, 'Look at me., I'm hoping you can help (this figure, this age, this event).....not black, must have sleeves, dressy afternoon wedding. And, by the way, I'm the officiant, so the color is important. Must go with blush. In every store I was directed to another department. At Bergdof's a sympathetic sales person walked me through the entire floor. She understood, but there was nothing right....well, there was a $3000 lace jacket but it was blue and not quite right.


We had a blast looking around, but there was not even one item to try, at any price. The highlight of the day was the discovery of Gene's Cafe at Barney's with a tiny terrace where we consoled ourselves with a fantastic view and a bottle of rose.

The color in the glass is blush...

Jessica and Madeline Tilton, my NYC companions and guides. Jessica had just arrived, is moving here and will live with Madeline in Brooklyn. Madeline guided us to fabulous food and drink all week. She works at The Musket Room, in Greenwich Village where we had an amazing meal, file that tidbit away for your next New York visit. Be sure to reserve and ask for Madeline to serve you.

But I digress.

A fruitless day of shopping deserves a great meal. Madeline lead us to Rebelle, (add that to your NYC list too), where we gloated over the fact that we all sew and dined like royalty.

The next day, Madeline and I got ourselves to MOOD.

Madeline and I are a good team...we found fabric! Here, a silk chiffon from Marc Jacobs.

And 2 hammered silks from Chado Ralph Rucci. I have nothing like this in any of my barns nor in my stash, and I had a slight feeling of unease about the whole thing.

Bought 5 yards of each.

When I got home, I tossed the entire lot into the washer dryer. A good move, the fabrics all got more texture, more dense and relaxed. Gave it all a good press and set about cutting.

Cutting Tips for Sheer and Slippery Fabric

  • Each piece is cut with a layer of paper underneath.
  • The fabric is torn at the edge or a thread pulled so it is on grain.
  • The paper is trimmed so it is perfectly at right angles.
  • The fabric is lined up with the paper to maintain the grain.
  • Use weights to hold the fabric flat. This works better than pinning, more accurate. OK to use a few pins here and there.
  • Cut with a rotary cutter, more accurate than scissors.
  • Cut through all layers.
  • The layer of paper underneath permits moving the pattern piece around to mark it.

The Bad News

After all this, the jacket was very meh. Frumpy. Got it sewn without sleeves, tried on and showed it to Katherine, knowing in my heart it was wrong. All it took was the look in her eyes, she did not need to say a word.

Discouraged, I abandoned it and moved on.

The Good News

My friend Mary Glenn commiserated and sent me a batch of photos for inspiration.

This one caught my eye, and I like the idea of a simple jacket, tunic and soft pants, the kind of thing that is my style, simple, comfortable and feels good to wear.

Started with a tried and true pattern: Vogue 9057

However....the pattern is designed for knits and my fabric is a woven, it has a touch of stretch, but still...

I have a master pattern that I know fits in a knit, so this is what I did, and I was not sure if it would work!

  • Cut it with extra wide side seam allowances,
  • dded a bit extra at center back (maybe 3/4") and kept my fingers crossed.
  • Changed the shape of the front hem, eliminating the angle.
  • Used the shiny side of the blush silk.
  • Bound the neck and armhole edges with bias.
  • Cut the bias binding using paper too, it keeps the strips from moving around and distorting while cutting.

It worked!

The Jacket

Used the same pattern, Vogue 9057. Made a copy and adapted it for a cardigan. See my recent blog on making a cardi for more details.

Working intuitively:

  • Deepened the armhole 1/2"
  • Added 3/4" at center back
  • Raised the back and front neck edges about 1"
  • Using some existing cardigan jackets, pfutzed and guessed at adding at center front. I added too much and ended up trimming and shaping the neck edge as I sewed, and was happy to have the extra to work with.
  • Used the matte side of the blush silk (Thanks, Katherine for that suggestion)
  • Made a faced cuff, using the shiny side for the turn back cuff. You can learn to make this cuff on a knit or a woven in our Craftsy class, The Artful T-Shirt
  • I fitted an pfutzed and tweaked and adjusted as I sewed, adjusting the armhole, the front edge and the hem.
  • The neck finish was the last thing sewn, applied after the hem is hand stitched in place. I used a wide bias, shiny side here, folded under on the back side so it hides the stitching and the thickness of the layers of fabric hold the edge in place.
  • Always cut the bias wider than needed so it can be trimmed evenly when you need to.

The cuff: shiny side out.


The chiffon works as a shawl.

The Pant

The pant is my favorite tried and true, Vogue 9193 and uses a knit for the yoke. See my blog, Easy Peasy Pant for construction details. This was the easiest part of this project.

In spite of the ups and downs, this is my favorite kind of sewing, I love the process of problem solving and working out the design as the pieces evolve. I did make test samples to figure out the width of the bias binding and depth of the hem. Picked up silk thread while in the garment district, that worked perfectly with the silk fabric as did sharp #11 needles. This whole experience made me aware of the need for this kind of dressing and I'll be searching out fabrics that fit this category.

The wedding is September 3, will post photos afterwards, stay tuned! If you have a wedding in your future (or past), would love to see photos of garments you made, whether as a guest or if you have been a mother of the bride/groom, a category of dressing that can cause fits and panic.

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