Horses for courses
Way back in 2012, my boyfriend Joel and I found out we'd be attending a wedding in Vancouver. One of Joel's oldest friends, Jay, would be tying the knot the day after we were scheduled to land in Canada. Joel's birthday fell two days before we were due to fly out, so I decided to buy him a tie for the occasion.
I found this lovely second hand Burberry tie online in an Etsy shop called 'Relic Revivals' It features a regal procession of well dressed horses. I thought it would go well with the spotty suit he was wearing, which he picked up at Snooper's Paradise in Brighton.
Naturally I wanted to make an outfit for myself and I started looking for dress patterns. I am not a natural born dress wearer but felt a wedding deserved a special effort.
After a lot of searching online for a modern looking dress that wasn't uber girly, I bought the Hot Patterns 'Deco Vibe Diamond Life Dress' from SewBox.
Then I worried it would be too casual and asked Twitter for some sewing pattern advice. Kathryn from Yes I Like That kindly responded to my cry for help and suggested I look at the Very Purple Person blog, as I have a similar body shape to Novita.
I really liked the look of the Vogue 1288 dress that Novita made, so bought that pattern too.
I was extremely busy in the run up to our trip and had a tight window of time to make my outfit. I scheduled a morning to go fabric shopping, and set off on my bicycle to Walthamstow, promising myself that I would only buy one or two fabrics at most. Needless to say, I failed in a big way, and came back with bags of fabric dangling from my handle bars.
I had set aside two days in which to sew my outfit. As they drew nearer I became increasingly apprehensive. I couldn't settle upon a pattern, or a fabric to use. The last time I wore a dress was probably about five years ago. What if I spent two days making a dress then tried it on and didn't like it?
Eventually I decided my main priority should be to make something in which I felt confident and comfortable, as I would be in a strange place where I knew nobody. I concluded that trousers would really be the best contender for the job. Suddenly I was excited by my fabrics, and I began to have fun thinking of outfit ideas. Trouser suits and repeat patterns were all over the catwalks and I was especially inspired by Prada's Autumn/Winter collection.
This selection of Prada outfits is from Helen Cummins' blog post 'Suit it or boot it.'
I selected the velveteen horse head fabric to make trousers with, and the grey cotton with coats of arms to make a shirt. I had in mind Byzantine-esque costumes, like these:
But perhaps with a nod to something slightly more modern, like Alexander McQueens posthumous collection.
Ultimately, I wanted to feel like this guy, (NB this is Saint George) disco dancing on a horse having just slain a dragon.
I made my trousers using McCall's M5273, which I had used earlier in the year to make a pair of summery fuchsia trousers. Again, I extended them at the top so that they sat on my waist not my hips.
The fabric had no stretch in it, so I made the trousers a little bit bigger than the fuchsia ones, to allow myself room to move (and more importantly, to throw some serious dance moves).
Just before I finished the trousers my trusty sewing machine broke, and I had to finish the waistband using a very old hand powered Singer machine that I had bought at a car boot sale years ago, and has been decorating my shelves ever since.
The machine skipped stitches and sent the fabric skidding off to the side, so the trousers aren't as professionally finished as I had hoped. This also meant that the grey shirt remained an idea rather than a reality. It is now on my list of sewing projects to complete in 2013.
Here are the finished trousers, with my favourite feature, the gold zips I added at the ankles, so that I could taper them into narrow bottoms.
Here is the full outfit.
I decorated it with one of my only pieces of jewellery, a tacky cockerel ring that I got at a vintage fair in Hammersmith.
Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of Me and Joel tearing up the dance floor in our horsey-attire, only this blurry one of us pre-wedding. It was a a really fun wedding, with a relaxed ceremony led by a hippy Justice Of The Peace who had grey hair hanging down to her waist.
We all danced til the wee hours, and one drunk guest told me repeatedly that I was dressed like Isabella Blow, which may or may not be a compliment.
When I decided to make trousers for my wedding outfit the phrase 'horses for courses' crept into my mind. I took it to mean not only 'pick the right person (or in this case, the right garment) for the job', but also, 'stick to what you know.'
However, one thing I have learned from Mary Poppins is that horses are unpredictable and might not necessarily adhere to their planned path. In her case, a fairground horse leaps right off the merry-go-round and gallops through the countryside instead of sticking to an endless orbit.
So, 2013 is going to be the year in which I make and wear a dress.