Whilst I’ve been on something of a more grown-up, muted, navy-based colour scheme in my sewing lately, this Reglisse dress, my first ever Deer and Doe pattern, is a clear exception. I hereby let my undying love of bright colour out of the box!
What’s more, this little waxed cotton Reglisse is my humble contribution to #tributemonthsewing. I hereby pay tribute to one of my all-time favourite sources of sewing inspiration.
Reglisse: A tribute to Dolly Clackett
Before I started this blog or joined instagram or pinterest, I was old-school. When I needed to check out potential makes, I googled them, trawling through the images. And chances are, I would stumble upon something amazing sewn up by Roisin Muldoon, also known as Dolly Clackett. Her unique dresses, rainbow-spectrum shoe collection, irreverence, obvious intelligence and ability to wear cute little dresses and cardigans even in the coldest of weather left me in awe.
There are a few things that I really admire about Dolly Clackett. I love that she has a totally unique signature style that she sticks to consistently. I feel as though if you knock on her nursing home door when she is 95 years old – she will be there in an immaculately-fitted printed dress – with clogs on! This is really one of the greatest things about sewing. We have the ultimate opportunity to create a totally personal style and Dolly Clackett totally embodies this.
I also love that she is not afraid to talk about things other than sewing on her blog. Brexit, the depressing state of this xenophobic, nationalist, right-leaning world, abortion – nothing is taboo. It is wonderful to see an intelligent woman telling it like she sees it.
Three cheers for feminist sewists!
I, too, sometimes question what I am doing. I wonder whether my love of fashion and sewing is just my own personal manifestation of the sickening consumer culture that is destroying this planet. So I find it refreshing to read a blog from someone who has the courage to talk about the world outside sewing and even to question where a love for sewing fits into this big picture.
On this topic more broadly, when I have those days where I start to question too much the extent of my sewing obsession, I also take solace in the words of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie . She makes a powerful case that questioning an interest in fashion reflects, in part, a societal desire to treat “feminine things” as frivolous and unworthy. Put in other words, there is a feminist case to be made for a sewing/fashion obsession – but, alas, I digress…
Getting back to Dolly Clackett…
Getting back to this dress, it was on Dolly Clackett’s blog that I saw African waxed cotton for the first time ever and was introduced to just how amazing it can look in a circle skirt – like this one – OMG!
And while I know that, strictly speaking, Dolly Clackett is too much of a Queen of the Perfect Fit to go in for a dress with an elasticised waist like this Reglisse dress, I tried to make up for this one little tribute inconsistency by including some yellow clogs in the equation!
Sewing outside the boundaries
As the blog title indicates, this Reglisse dress was my first time working with a pattern from Deer & Doe. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
A fabric as thick and stiff as waxed cotton is way outside the recommended fabrics for this particular pattern. So, I spent most of this project feeling that sense of nervous and excited trepidation because you are sewing “out of bounds”. You know that feeling, when it can only end in either brilliance or disaster!
I decided to leave behind the fabric recommendations for a few reasons. First, I wanted to sew up waxed cotton in tribute to Dolly Clackett. Even though I have since been introduced to the amazing Victoria Wright (or Sew Vee) and her love of African waxed cotton, for me Dolly Clackett will always be the place where I first met this wonderful fabric. Second, I had seen this amazing version of the Reglisse dress by Tasia on Intsagram (@tasiapona). This version inspired me to use the geometric print to do something interesting with the bias-cut bodice. Third, I really love the effect of a circle skirt in waxed cotton. One of my personal all-time favourite makes is my Victory Patterns Ava dress which has a similar effect. So, I decided to forge ahead with waxed cotton at all costs!
This choice did necessitate a few changes to the pattern.
For this Reglisse dress, I cut out a 38 bust, grading to 42 at the hips and waist. According to the size chart, my bust should have been a 40. But since the pattern included a lot of ease to account for the fluidity of the recommended fabrics, I went down a size.
I also decided to forego both neckline options and, instead, fully lined the bodice. In this, I was again inspired by Tasia’s wonderful example. I love the combination of a clean finish with a geometric print. On the shoulders, I used small pleats instead of gathers because my fabric didn’t hold the gathers well. Since my fabric didn’t have any of the lightweight drapey-ness that the pattern envisaged, I also ultimately took in quite a lot around the waist for a more fitted overall effect – at least an inch on either side seam.
This felt kind of like playing with fire for a no-closure dress! I took in as much as I could while still fitting it over my head.
On unrelated changes, I also lengthened the skirt by 1.5 inches because French patterns tend to run on the short side for me (for what it’s worth, I’m 167cm tall).
I also added in-seam pockets because I fall firmly on the pockets-all-the-way side of the great pocket divide.
These adjustments all seemed to do their intended job and I am super happy with how it turned out.
I love that feeling when you have created a truly unique item – something Dolly Clackett must experience with every make!
Other Reglisse nitty gritty
There were a few interesting points in my construction process. The first was that it took me FOREVER to cut this out.
In fact, this was where I made my one major error. After I saw Tasia’s checked version, I was pumped to try to achieve a similar effect. But my fabric already had a diagonal print! So when I cut the bodice pieces on the bias, I just ended up with awful vertical/horizontal lines. In order to get a directional effect, I had to do a lot of cutting off-grain. This also meant that my brain was a bit challenged when it came to detailed pattern matching. I cut out my bodice pieces about 6 times over to get it to look how I had imagined (I used the rejects as my lining!).
Thanks goodness cuts of waxed cotton seem to go on forever! Speaking of which, does anyone know why waxed cotton is sold in pre-cut pieces, rather than from a roll like most other fabrics?
I also used this project as a chance to do an experiment. I’ve always wondered whether you actually get a better result using multiple lines of gathering stitches as opposed to just one. Here is the result:
Personally, I don’t really see much of a difference, so I think this is one sewing shortcut I am happy to stick with. Even if I didn’t actually use any of the gathers in this particular project…
I also had fun playing with selvedges for my Reglisse dress. That bright green jade is just so perfect that I had to emphasise it somehow!
So, how was it for me?
All in all, this was a great project and I definitely want to make this dress again. Next time, I will even try to do Reglisse justice by sewing it in the recommended fabric!
Deer and Doe’s Reglisse dress even taught me some new skills I hadn’t used before, such as shirring using elastic thread (I tested this on scrap but it didn’t work for my fabric so I went with encased elastic). The technique of hemming a circle skirt with bias binding was also ideal for my heavy fabric.
In conclusion, I have colour, I have a spin-worthy skirt, I have clogs and I have had a chance to pay homage to one of my all-time favourite sources of sew-jo. Thank-you Dolly Clacket (and Deer and Doe!).
All in all, one happy little sewist here!