China Lace Dresses

27 Oct

I had a stack of China related posts ready to write while I was there. But, then things got c-r-a-z-y.  One thing I wanted to talk about were the custom clothes I had made in China. I had two suits, four shirts made, but I was really excited about these lace dresses.

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As you may recall, I spotted these laces while in China at the Silk Bund Spinning Market. I paid about$15 usd a yard for them and was feeling a little taken to the cleaners. But, I felt better after spotting the same lace in white in Xiamen and they were asking double the price before negotiating. I felt especially good after coming back from China and finding these laces at A Fabric Place for $85 to $110 a yard.

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Anywhoo, I decided I wanted to have dresses made rather than sew them myself when I got home. I went online and picked these two styles for inspiration.

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Dolce and Gabbana ($3,500)

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Second view of DG dress

I’ve never really sewn with lace before and wasn’t all that amped to try anytime soon. So, going to a tailor to have them made in China would also be part of the experience. I also decided to wait until Xiamen instead of Shanghai because of the prices. I knew the labor costs would be half since Xiamen isn’t saturated with Westerners having clothes made.

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In Xiamen one of our guides, found a brother, sister and mom  who worked out of their home. I showed them the dresses on my iPad and from the September editions of Vogue magazine. They took my measurements and got to work.

Essentially, there is no pattern. They marked my hip, waist and bust measurements right on the fabric.

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From there, they draft, again, on the fabric.

If you can imagine, they had appliqued the neckline lace. Something, I just would not have the patience to do.

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I went in for about two fittings on the three dresses and here are the results. I had the cream and purple made into the Valentino cap sleeve style. I asked for a side zipper because I didn’t want to ruin the lines of the lace.

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I always knew I wanted to wear the cream dress for our rehearsal / welcome dinner. And, Liz looked so cute in the purple version, that she wore it that night too.

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Now, on me the cream lace dress is about four inches too long. It would be better just above my knee. The purple proportions are fine.

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I’m not tall (or thin) enough to get away with this middy look.

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I thought about hacking some off the bottom and reapplying the lace. But, I’m not going to do that.

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And, I think it looks prettier with the lace detail (unlike above where it’s turned under). I’m also not going to cut it at the waist, shorten from there, and sew it back. It’s just not in me.

Anywho, Liz wore the purple version that night and looked smashing.

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I haven’t gotten to wear the red one yet. Man, red takes terrible pictures.  We just finalized details for a post-wedding party his parents are hosting. I thought about wearing it then, but it seems a little fancy for a Sunday afternoon gig.

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Overall, I am thrilled with the dresses. They are really beautifully made and I wouldn’t have gotten around to sewing them any time soon. Plus, it was an experience having someone else interpret your idea of a dress. I think being a sewist myself made me super patient with the process. I also knew I needed to give them photos of what I wanted and NOT deviate. Between the language barrier and time, not having a photo is the way to get what you don’t want.

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My interpreter this year, Ashley (below)  was fascinated by the whole process. But, she too could not understand why I would want to get dresses made when there are H&M and other stores all over China. I also got to bore her pants of with wedding details. Weddings are BIG business in China. Since I was always online ordering stuff for the wedding, she was my one woman focus group.

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What is different this year, is she didn’t think I paid too much. Three years ago, my interpreters thought my custom clothes were expensive. But, the economy in China has changed since then and this didn’t seem too high to her.

I’ll post about the suits and shirts another time, I think this post is long enough!

Altering A Bra

18 Oct

Everyone, thank you for the support, prayers and congratulations. My heart is full. I haven’t been sewing (except for my veil). In fact, I’ve loaned my Babylock serger to Trena while hers is being serviced. I currently have no place to sew as my sewing room is in the process of relocating from the basement to the former guest bedroom. And, this new husband is still moving in. My kingdom for a clear space in my house!!

I don’t want to bore your pants off with wedding stuff.  I realize  wedding planning is  kind of only interesting to the person who got married and their mother. So, here’s a sort of sewing related but wedding related post :-)  I thought I’d show a quick post on the alterations I needed for my corset

My dress had a crazy low back.  I was partly sold on this dress because I thought it made my butt look pretty good and me skinny. Well, slimmer. If you order in the store it can take 8 – 12 weeks. Online, two days.

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It was also also super low in the front. You can see the store bra peeking on the right. And serious (for me) cleavage! Also, the DB bra was a band size too big and the cups one size too small. I look like I have flapjacks in there. Imagine the clerk trying to tell me I could just sew in some cups and skip a bra. Umm, no.


I decided to go to Bare Necessities in Baltimore County to buy a low back bridal bra ($70). But, it still wasn’t low enough at the front OR the back. Color me surprised when the consultant told me they could alter my bra.

So, I took this dress with me to my friend Liliya (who gifted my dress alterations and had it ready in a seriously fast ONE WEEK). She marked up my new bra with pins. The store needed to remove five (!!) rows of hook and eye! I dropped off the bra and came back a week before the wedding.

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In addition, the front cups needed to be shortened another 3/4 of an inch.

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And, since the support from the back band would be reduced, I needed darts at the side to make the corset snug up against me.

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When I got back to Bare Essentials to try on the bra, I was thrilled to find that Kelly in alterations was a blog reader! She reminded me about her comment on an old post and I totally remembered. Who knew good lingerie stores do alterations!?!

She did a ROCK STAR job on this bra!!!  You can’t even tell it’s been sliced and diced. Here’s me trying on the altered version in the store. I was feeling supa cute after three weeks of strict Dukan Dieting. Yes, I became a bridal dieter and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. My breath was terrible, I was irritable and I had dreams of cold glasses of reisling. I was so very sick of tofu and fish. Like, I can’t even look at fish right now without shuddering. But, I dropped the weight and felt GREAT on my wedding day.  I have since resumed my life of fried food, cheese, wine and carbohydrates.

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I can’t recommend to you enough the power of a good bra. The right fit enhanced my curves and is super comfortable even with all the boning from top to bottom. Plus, I can wear this bra with other dresses I’ve avoided in the past because I didn’t have a law back bra! Oh, I also have lots of lingerie inspiration from my two visits to Bare Necessities.

Oh, I am mad at myself for buying this $28 nonsense, because I am a #sucker.  I didn’t even wear it. But, I was in the bridal daze and somehow, it seemed a reasonable amount of money for a 1/4 yard of stretch lace.

Final thought, complaints on wedding dress sizing. <rant> I wish people would get over the number. I bought a size 14 dress. Which, conveniently coordinates with my sewing pattern size. I didn’t bat an eye. Yet, all over wedding message boards people complain about Bridal Sizing and how everything is smaller. No, it’s not. It’s just a number people! Get the size that fits instead of complaining about the number. The number is just a guideline to get you into something that might be close to fitting. It’s NOT “bridal sizing”.  It’s the pattern size. And, it’s the pattern size because most of the dresses are made-to-order. And, it’s just a number. What size is it? It’s YOUR size. Also, amazing how everyone is willing and expects to get alteration on a wedding dress to fit. But, complain about how other clothes fit in the store and how they are ‘cut funny’ when they don’t fit one individual’s body. They fit somebody correctly (the fit model). I wish more people realized clothes weren’t made for YOU. And, alterations became an expected expense to have clothes that fit well. </rant>

It Was Kind of Perfect

16 Oct


Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pass-A-Grille Beach, Tampa Bay, Florida

Snapshots on our ‘wedsite‘. Photographer Facebook sneak peak.   Details, later :-)

The Final Countdown

11 Oct

My friends, I bought my wedding dress. From David’s Bridal. Yes. Davids. Bridal.

I had a specific style of dress in mind to make. — if I was going to make a dress. I wanted to go with a 1960s silhouette. I’d pinned a bunch of dresses and patterns

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and general inspiration around this era well before I was officially engaged.



I’d also gone to David’s Bridal with a friend to get a sense of the sillouette I wanted. I like this dress. I thought it was slimming, but I was going to make my own dress.

Well, two days after official engagement, my mother, the Colonel, my best friend, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That’s why I was in Florida before China. I found out on Monday evening and flew to Florida on Tuesday morning. The prognosis is… really really terrible.  And, it’s why I have had very little to say the last month.

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So, Jordan and I decided to get married sooner rather than later. We originally were thinking August / October 2014.  But, I just can’t get married without my mom there.  So, I ordered the dress online and it arrived two days later.  I will never, ever make fun of David’s Bridal again.

In the meantime, I am accepting and encouraging all prayers aimed at my mom. Because, at this point, it will take a miracle.


30 Sep

First big adjustment: I had to move all my fabric out of the basement (10 32 gallon bins) and into my guest room and study.

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Why? Because 1.) Apparently, I have to live with my intended once we get married. So, I have ceded my back basement fabric storage to a squat rack, weights and work out equipment. ::tears::  Also, I’m converting from oil to gas and needed to get my fabric out of the work area.

My front basement will no longer be my sewing room either. For some reason, it’s important that we have a clear and organized space to have company over and watch TV with friends.

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My guestroom (Above) will become the sewing room. And, hopefully, I can get some fabric back in the back basement now that there is no longer and oil tank and 20 year old fridge taking up space.

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The central air installation will make it all worth it! Yes. That’s right. After ten years, I am putting in central air. The fiance has bad allergies and asthma so my moldy window units weren’t going to cut it. Also, I figured this was a good way to keep peace in the summer.

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I do not love living in a construction zone. What do people do with bigger projects like kitchens and baths??

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I started some wedding stuff! I made my veil over the weekend. Lace edged, single layer, finger tip length. Three dollar investment. The one I wanted was $300 in the store! Ba-nanas.

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This weekend we went to a wedding in upstate New York (Westchester County). I’d never been to a wedding with a full mass before so that was really interesting. I’m wearing my officiant dress from last October. I love this dress!! It was such a pleasant surprise to pull it out and see how good it looked! I haven’t worn it since the wedding last year.

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The wedding was on the grounds of a camp site. It was just like Dirty Dancing. Minus the ethnic and class tension.

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We stayed in these cool yurts. And, I’ve never been so glad for my two sleeping bags in my life. First time I’ve used them in ten years!

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So, that’s my round up. I still have an unblogged dress from a month ago to post. But, I can’t even find my tripod in the mess that is my home :)

Back From China

14 Sep

Hello Everyone!

First, thank you for all the congratulations on my recent engagement!!! We ended up taking a las minute trip over the Labor Day holiday weekend to see my parents in Florida.

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Pass A Grille Beach in St. Pete, FL

Sitting on the lanai, (thank you Debbie Cooke, I had no idea what that thing was called) by the pool, we read every single comment out loud. There was a lot of squealing of delight on my part :-) It was so fun to hear from long time internet friends, real life friends and from those of you who delurked.  I am sincerely overwhelmed and touched by your outpouring of congratulations. Jordan, for sure, knows there is a whole community rooting for us!

Two weeks week ago (the Tuesday after Labor Day), I left for a two-week business trip to Shanghai and Xiamen in China. My colleagues and I were incredibly busy with work meetings and work meals.

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But, I had to get back to the South Bund Spinning Market while in Shanghai.

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Long time readers may remember that the market is mostly for buying custom made clothing.

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For instance, this dress is a knock off of a dress worn by Kate Middleton. Their price, pre-bargining, custom fit, $100.

This Burberry copy was $80

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But, I was focused on buying laces. My plan was to buy fabric in Shanghai and have it sewn in Xiamen. Prior experience told me construction prices would be half.

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These guipere laces are stunning at stall no 398. They are similar to Prada and Versace. And, after bargaining, $15 a yard. I may have overpaid. But, you lose perspective!

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They’ve been turned into three lace dresses (cream, red, and purple), one of which I will wear for my rehearsal dinner.

Here is the cream lace mid construction

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If I lived in China, I would have everything custom made. Period.

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I also bought several meters of each of these laces to make my wedding veil. For 20 yards I spent about $20. I want a finger tip, one layer veil edged in lace. I saw them going for $300 US. That, is bananas. I’ll use the savings for my shoes. The first and last are my top contenders. I will use the second and third to practice.

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I am now back home after 40 hours of travel from Xiamen to Shanghai, Shanghai to Detroit and Detroit to Baltimore and, incredibly jet lagged (hence my 4:00 a.m. posting)

I’ll get the four shirts, two suits and three dresses I had made on the dressform and post some about that process and the food I ate. Oh, China has changed since I went three years ago and I’ll bore you with my thoughts on that too!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Prime Rib

26 Aug

Saturday night I went to dinner at Baltimore’s Prime Rib. We were celebrating our one-year dativersary.  I actually made a dress to wear for this date. But, it’s kind of ‘fallish’ (maple leaves/dark purple) and I never get to wear this dress I had made in China. I’ll have to post my new dress later this week.


I had some sea bass that was so delicious I just about licked my plate. I wanted to take the little potato skins, curl up into a ball and make one a little hammock for me.


And, somehow, between the wine and before dessert, this happened. Better yet, the band was playing one of my favorite sounds, What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong!


Somehow, I’ve beat the stats as a late 30s, college-educated black woman (otherwise known as the group “least likely to marry”) and have found  the love of my life. I don’t know how this happened but I’m thankful :)

We told our parents that night and tried to text and call close friends the next morning. I did a terrible job of that.  Umm, also, my *hand* hurts from stretching out my fingers and staring at my ring. I had to take ibuprofen and use a heat pad last night.

Ohhh!! My secret/private Pinterest board is about to be SUPER public!!

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And, in true modern social media fashion, we are Facebook official. Which, of course, makes it totally real.

Short Report / Blind Hemmer Sample

14 Aug

Hi There!

Just thought I’d post a short report on the warehouse sale of Fashions Unlimited. They’ve downsized quite a bit from my visit two years ago. There were fewer things like zippers by the time we got there Tuesday.  But, I still stocked on on just what I needed. LACE!!

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I bought five yards each of four wider laces in cream (reads pink above), white and black for $1 a yard. The black and one of the whites is almost 10 inches wide and non stretch.  I’ll likely use these the stretch for Fehrtrade’s lacey thong and the non stretch for bras and slips.

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I also bought a narrow trim similar to this for 50 cents a yard. I’m going to start dying my own kits for bras. So, these will be great for years to come.

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I also went totally out of character and got this gold lame stretch. They had several swimsuit and athletic knits. And, lots of swimsuits and bras for sale. This lame would be a terrific little string bikini. But, I am not a gold lame string bikini type. But, that’s not what I’ll be making with it. Probably trim for running gear.  Or a turban. I really don’t know. It was just so shiny!

Not pictured, some red, water resistant fabric. I need a dog-walking cape. When it rains, I’d rather have something easy with a hood to walk Linus in. Also, I can’t promise he won’t get a matching jacket too.

Finally, here’s a look at what my blind hemmer can do. Especially now that I’m getting the hang of it.

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This makes me so happy! The hem of a dress I’d handstitched  two years ago came out. So, I used rayon seam binding and my blind hemmer to stitch it back up. It looks lovely inside and out. You can barely see the thread I used (regular Coats and Clark. Not blind hemmer thread too!). Seriously. Worth every penny.

Black Eyelet in Action

13 Aug

So, I didn’t post photos of myself in the black eyelet dress before because, well. I cannot find my tripod. For real. I have no idea where it is. I also could not tell you the last time I’ve used it since I’ve been low sewing and employing the photography skills of my friend and BF. So, when I was ready to do a photo shoot last week, it was nowhere to be found. At anyrate,  I wore the dress this previous weekend while back in Brooklyn and my cousin took a few shots on my point and shoot.

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I apologize for my wrinkles. This was after sitting for three hours. I have to say, I REALLY like this dress. It’s flattering and sophisticated. It hit just the right notes and I’ll be able to wear it for ages to come.

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One of my sleeves is a little off grain. They fall a bit differently. The eyelet is a nice way to elevate the dress too.

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I have this Danielle Nicole bag in two colors. I love it. Vegan and less than $100 dollars. Below, I borrowed my aunt’s pearls which set off nicely against the black.

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In other news, I got to see my cousins again plus some. One flew in from Australia and another from Florida. And, thanks to you, my readers, I got to be all knowledgeable and explain first cousins and first cousins once removed. I also figured out another ‘relative’ that was always around is in fact my third cousin!! In the photo below I’m wearing Burda 5-2009-122 made in Feb. 2012.

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I will also point out that there are about five first cousins  and two first cousins once removed missing here…

A few years ago I was invited to Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s home. It was her immediate family of mom, dad, brother, a few aunts and uncles and their kids. We all fit at ONE table!! I was wondering where all the cousins were, lol. I mean, doesn’t everyone have 20+ cousins? No? Ok. Just checking.

Burda 9-2012-109: Black Eyelet Dress

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I needed a dark / black dress that I hadn’t just been seen in.  I really don’t have a lot of dark clothing. Since I had minimal time to sew, I chose something I’d already traced and worked out my fit issues,  Burda 9-2012-109. I made it first in a blue sweater knit. This time, I sewed it up in a woven black cotton eyelet from my stash.

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Since the dress was going to be SO BORING in solid black, I decided I wanted sleeves with an impact. I stole these awesome flutter sleeves out of the December 2011 Burda.

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These sleeves give both me and the dress life!  I actually wish I could have made the dress this came on (below).

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But, I was 3/4 of a yard short in the only other black fabric I have. Actually, I had to cut two inches off the length of this dress to eek all the parts out of this dress.

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The fit was pretty loose and I ended up taking in the waist by a total of three inches. I’d already worked out my French dart FBA from my knit version. I also added binding to the neck, like the knit version.

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The dress is lined in a rayon lining (breathable for summer). The hemline is done with Snug Hug seam tape and my blind hem. The lining is sewn with my coverstitch using the hemmer/ feller foot from Brother.

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I love it when a plan comes together (and I get to use every single machine in my arsenal). Of course, since this was practically made overnight, now my mom thinks I can make a dress at the drop of a hat! But, this was already worked out and just three pattern pieces and made interesting with the sleeves.

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I’m going to see if I have enough of my pink and cream seersucker to make another.