I always like to make myself a birthday outfit if I can. It’s fun to do and gives me an excuse to make something special! Last year I made a new swimsuit for a spa day I had booked. This year, with the lifted COVID restrictions, I wanted to make a fancy outfit for a nice dinner!
I was super inspired by Danish designer Cecilie Bahnsen – she makes the most beautiful voluminous gathered dresses that I absolutely adore. They’re a bit out of my price range so I thought I’d make a dress inspired by her instead!
This was my main inspiration picture!
I got a gorgeous viscose jacquard from Liberty in one of their sales in the beginning of the summer. It was still expensive despite the 25% discount but I thought it was special enough to treat myself! It’s the first time I’ve splurged on a Liberty fabric so I was super excited to get into this project!
Considering the shape I wanted to achieve for the dress, I figured I’d just draft something myself. The only fitted area was a small section across the bust and the rest was just tiers of gathered fabric.
I made a simple top with a single bust dart into the side seam and super skinny straps. I made a toile to check the fit and from their I could calculate how much fabric width I’d want to gather.
My fabric choice was super soft and drapey which was absolutely lovely but not really ideal for the style of dress. If you look at Cecilie Bahnsen dresses, they’re mostly made of stiffer fabrics, cloqués, poplins etc. To achieve the volume I was looking for i knew I’d have to go big with the fathers!
I opted to use a double width gather for the first tier. For the second tier, I used four full widths of the fabric (which was 1.4m wide) so the final skirt hem was almost 6 metres in total!
For some extra volume, I used a piece of silk organza cut to 15cm wide and 1.6m long and gathered to be sewn together with the gather top tier to the bodice – basically as a poofy lining to give it some extra lift!
I had gotten distracted looking at so many of the designer’s beautiful dresses, that when it came to decide on the length of the tiers I got a bit confused and opted to a slightly longer first tier than I had originally planned. I’m not sure if I like it and unfortunately because of where I’ve placed the side seam pockets it’s not the easiest fix if it want to shorten it.
I still love this dress (which is a good thing considering how much the fabric was!). Hopefully I’ll have plenty of opportunities to wear it again!