Alania Sheeley

Seamstress specializing in custom clothing, teaching, alterations and re-design.

The Little Black Dress…does it have to be black?

In the Victorian and Edwardian eras, black dresses were worn as a symbol of mourning.  If a significant death had occurred, it was not uncommon for the period of mourning to be at least two years.  Up until 1993, women of the Royal Family only wore black during a period of mourning.  In 1993, however, Princess Diana attended an evening function dress in a LBD, and the former rules disappeared. 

It has often been said that when you wear a black dress, you are never inappropriate or out of style.  However, what do you do if black isn’t your best color?  Not all of us look as stunning in black as Audrey Hepburn, Eva Longoria or Sophia Loren.  So, should we forego having a LBD in our closet?  Absolutely not!  There are no written rules that say the dress has to be solid black.  There are no written rules saying our favorite “go to” dress has to be black.  Think of the “LBD” as a concept.  The style should be classic with simple detailing.  This allows you to choose the accessories according to the event you are attending.

If you really want your classic dress to be black, but it isn’t your most flattering color, think about incorporating a great color from your color palette into the design.  If you really want to get noticed in the crowd, think completely out of the box and choose a different color.  Did you know that 70%-80% of all clothing sold in the USA is black?  Why blend into the crowd, when you can stand apart? 

Remember, fashion designers are selling fashion – their fashion!!!  Fashion goes out of style, but a classic dress will stand the test of time.  

Is it time to add this timeless classic to your wardrobe?  Give me a call, or drop me an email and I will help you decide on a style that flatters your figure, pick out a fabric that spans the seasons and a color that makes you glow.  Not sure what your best colors are?  I can help you with that as well.

Foundation Garments, are they really necessary…

In a single word “yes”.  If you want your clothes to have the perfect fit, you have to wear the correct foundation garments.  Formal gowns have to be properly supported, each with there own special requirements.  Your day-to-day wardrobe requires a properly fitting bra.  If you want to create a smooth silhouette you might need to consider seamless briefs, a body shaper, or a slip (yes, they are still available). 

When considering what to purchase, think about the look you are trying to achieve and your personal fitting issues – we all have them!  While your foundations do not need to be  uncomfortable, they do need to provide support.  You also want to buy the best quality possible so they will retain their shape and not stretch out the first time you wear them.  If you haven’t been properly measured for a bra by an experienced bra fitter, put this on the top of your “to do” list.

The Simple Strapless Dress–not really….

Lately several inquiries have come my way to make a “simple strapless dress”.  Last fall, my husband and I attended a wedding where the attendants wore strapless dresses–that didn’t fit.  My husband looked at me and said “they keep pulling their dresses up”.  I have heard several men say they “hate those strapless dresses that all the girls keep pulling up”. 

To the untrained eye, a strapless dress looks “simple”.  They don’t have a neckline, shoulder area or sleeves that need to be fitted.  This style is one of the most difficult silhouettes to construct and wear.  It is what you don’t see that makes these dresses hang correctly and a pleasure to wear.  The most luxurious and well-planned garment cannot succeed without the proper inner structure.  Strength must be built into the bodice that creates a smooth torso; supports the figure; enhances posture; flatters the wearer; and supports the weight and style of the skirt.  All of this works together providing a garment that is without distorion; stays wrinkle-free; and allows a reasonable range of movement.

While a tight bodice goes a long way in supporting a heavy gown, further inner support is usually needed.  If you rely only on a tight bodice, you will be disappointed with the end result.  If the bodice is too tight, the wearer will have a “muffin top” spilling over the top of her dress–not a flattering look, even for those with perfect figures.  Also, if the fashion fabric has any stretch properties (i.e., lycra, spandex, etc.), the garment will begin to “grow” while it is being worn; resulting in that ineviable “pulling up” of the dress.

The first step in creating any garment that fits properly is to make a muslin; which, is a test garment.  This provides an opportunity to fine-tune the fit, add or modify details, and adjust the garment’s proportions to the wearer’s figure.  This step alone can consist of several fittings and design changes.  These changes are then transferred into the construction of the garment.

Boning and the waistline stay are a strapless dress’s engineering tools; working together to counteract the force of gravity.  They are needed because the female body widens both above and below the waistline.  A sagging bodice is generally the result poor construction and fit that is compounded by the weight of the skirt pulling the whole gown downward.  Adequate boning, firm underlining and a secure waistline stay will shape the top edge of the bodice, guarantee a more comfortable fit, and result in a more flattering dress.  Eliminating any of these elements will compromise the success of the garment.  Keep in mind, the more you have up front, the more support you will need.

Boning is sewn into the under construction of the dress bodice to prevent horizontal wrinkles and support the garment.  The amount of boning used varies with the weight of the dress or gown, and the placement is planned during the muslin phase of the garment.  The security that boning gives far outweighs its presence.  The boned bodice stands on the stay, and the skirt hangs from the stay.

Adding a waistline stay ensures a better-fitting and more comfortable dress.  It acts as an anchor that can’t be pulled off-center, because it is placed at your waist–the smallest part between your shoulders and hips.  A stay can also ease the strain at the zipper on close-fitting garments, support the weight of a dress’s full or heavy skirt and control the way a dress hangs, which creates a smoother line on your figure.

Strapless dresses are very much “in Vogue” today and can be dressed up or down, depending on the event.  They can also be worn more than once if planned correctly.  Attendants in weddings incur significant costs; one, of which, is their dress.  If a strapless dress is the desired style, why not think about using fabric and style that can be transferred into a dress that can later be worn for another special occasion.  This can often be accomplished by merely shortening the dress.

Number One Mistake Made by Most Women

This is something we have probably all done in our life-time. We buy, and wear, the wrong color; especially up around our face. It is true, everyone can wear black! However, not everyone can wear it up around their neck and face.

If you don’t know your color category and best styles, invest in a professional color analysis and personal style consultation. The dollars invested will pay off in the long run. No longer will you look in your closet and say, “what was I thinking?”  

And, for those of you that think you can’t wear red: more than likely you can. You just have to know what shades of red work for you, not against you.

Ready-to-Wear Sizing vs. Pattern Sizing

When selecting a pattern, please don’t be alarmed when you discover that the “vanity” sizing of today’s ready-to-wear is different. Pattern companies work off of a sizing block, and it doesn’t change from one garment to another. More than likely, your pattern size will be larger. But, no need to worry — no one will know except you and your seamstress. Besides, your custom-made garment will fit you much better and you will be the envy of all your friends.

Pattern Sizing

Did you know that all patterns printed by the “Big Four” (Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick & Vogue) companies are not adjusted for cup size? Regardless of your pattern size, the bust area of their patterns only accommodates a B cup. Special adjustments must be made to the pattern before cutting the fabric to allow for any other cup size.