Missing My Mississippi Avenue Dress
Updated: Nov 2, 2020
When I say "missing" I don't mean that my Mississippi Avenue Dress is lost, but I am describing the feeling of "missing its presence" and not spending enough quality time with it. So I took it out from its forgotten place in the closet, and wore it 2 days in a row.
I should wear it more because I love the empire waistline, the shoulder ties and the 3 front panels of the A-line skirt which give the dress a slimming effect. Designed by Sew House Seven, it's extremely comfortable to wear and it's really pretty and sweet. The pattern also comes with the option of making it into a top; and as a dress, to have the hem line stop above or below the knee.
This pattern is rated for beginners, and that was one of the main reasons I bought it more than 2 years ago. A good friend gifted me this lovely fabric - a brownish/greyish cotton richly embroidered with a pearly/ecru plethora of flowers. I was searching for a beginner pattern for a dress that would match the fabric. It required only 2 metres for the midi-length version, and that was the right amount of fabric that I had. So it was a perfect fit. The dress is rated for beginners because it doesn't require installing any zippers or buttons for any closures. The empire waistline is cinched in with elastic, and the neckline is wide enough to just pull the dress over the head to put it on.
Sizes for this pattern come in 0-20, and I sewed up a size 2 according to body measurements. It fits well, but in the future I may size up to 4 for more ease.
The most challenging skill required in making this dress is inserting bias binding to close up the neckline and the armholes. At that time, I approached sewing armed with very little know-how. My sewing resume at that point included a gathered skirt made at 12 years old at Home Economics class, and a few years of work/study in the costume departments at the theatre programs at university. Work/sturdy students were relegated to very basic skills, and most of the time I was hand-sewing miles of hems in a corner. I covertly ogled at the elaborate construction of corsets and custom-made tailored suits magically formed in front of my eyes.
From a distance, I fell in love then with this craft even though I didn't fully understand all the technical terms that I heard being thrown around by the teachers and students of the costume departments. I had experience putting in bias binding on hems, but I didn't really understand what bias binding was. So when I was sewing up my Mississippi Ave. Dress, I still didn't fully know how bias binding worked, or more specifically, I didn't question what "bias" meant. I simply assumed it was a cute name for a piece of ribbon that was "prejudiced" or "favoured". Little did I know that it literally meant "cut on the bias", or cut on the diagonal line of the fabric. Back then, I had no clue that cutting fabric at different angles changes how it moves, stretches and drapes.
Ignorance is bliss when you cut out bias binding on the grain-line, insert it into the garment (remaining unenlightened), struggle (daftly but valiantly) with the installation because the binding wasn't conforming to curves, finish (miraculously), and wear said garment with immense (but foolish) pride. It was my good luck that the edges that I had to bind were not so curvy that I couldn't manage the task with not-cut-on-bias bias binding. But you can see the puckering around the neckline and armhole as a result of that mistake. The funniest thing is that it didn't even dawn on me that I made this mistake until I was doing something unrelated like stirring a pot of soup ... maybe 6 months later. Hilarious when I think about it now, but painful when the realisation hit. After that I was quite embarrassed to wear the dress because I was imagining people sneering at me for not knowing what bias binding was.
But now, in the two days that I've worn it in a row, I wear it as an amulet. It is my talisman that is accompanying me on my new journey in to the world of sashiko stitching, where I find I am again a beginner. This dress is a lucky charm that welcomes all failures as part of the learning process. As with all new things that I embark on, I pretty much just dove into this endeavour without much know-how or training or instruction. This is the beauty of Youtube videos where one can literally do anything from watching someone else do it. I am probably making mistakes that I don't realise I'm doing but who really cares? I am ignorant, happy and excited.
Besides most of learning comes with the act of doing. Just start doing. Allow the hands to work. Expressions of the heart come mainly through the work of the hands. Let the hands do the work, and the rest will follow.
So my Mississippi Avenue Dress can also be renamed my "Start-It-Up" Dress. "Just-Do-It" Dress sounds good as well, but that maxim has already been copyrighted.
I will end with a detail of the dress that I like best. The v-shaped neckline is mirrored by the v-shaped top of the centre front panel, which gives an added geometric interest to the dress. It is lovely. And it makes it extra fitting that I wear this dress while stitching up geometric designs on garments.