Easter is my favorite holiday. Even more than Christmas or Thanksgiving, I find it a hopeful holiday----a reminder that second chances are possible, that spring comes after winter, that warmth and light come back after darkness, and that death is part of the cycle of life and rebirth and renewal that all things go through. I love Easter hymns, and reading about Christ, and pondering the challenges of trying to practice faith and be genuine in my heart.
When I can, I enjoy making a new Easter dress to make going to church and family dinner feel even more festive. This year I decided to go back to an old favorite pattern: 1970s-era Simplicity 5497, which I have made once before. I like the fit of my original striped dress, which I wear often, and have been meaning to make a new version. When I started thinking of what I wanted to make for Easter, I thought immediately of that pattern, with a few changes. This time I made the short puffed sleeves, and I tried doing a little pattern drafting by tracing out the collar pieces and taking out 2 inches of width to make a much narrower peter pan collar. I was hoping to get a slight 1930s look, with the raised waist, puffed sleeves, delicate little round collar, and lovely floral pattern. I'm not sure I quite succeeded in evoking that decade, but I'm pleased with the look nonetheless.
Let's talk about the fabric! I found this beautiful sheet at the thrift store a few months ago and thought that it is the best floral sheet that I've ever found. I love the print, the green striped border, and the names of the flowers. It evokes a botanical garden to me, or a herbarium. It was a little sheer, though, so I was careful to underline the bodice with a white cotton sheet (also thrifted) which I also used to make the cuffs and collar. I cut the skirt of my dress long enough to reach my ankles, and used the green border as a ready-made hem, since I wanted to incorporate it into my dress design. To keep things neat, I sewed a scrap of bias tape into the seam where the skirt meets the bodice, then folded it up and tacked it to the interlining layer by hand, so it hid the raw edges of the trimmed skirt seam. I always stitch a second time around the arm-holes before I trim them as well, for extra strength in an area that gets a lot of wear. The zipper was also stitched in by hand, and the facings at the neck were folded and stitched along the edge of the zipper tape, to keep things neat inside.
One problem with using thrifted sheets is that sometimes they are not quite on grain, as I found out when I cut my cuffs out thinking the grain line was matched to the edge of the fabric only to find that they warped and twisted slightly when I interfaced them and folded them to sew onto the dress. It's not something that shows up when I'm wearing it, only on the hanger, so I think I will just have to live with it. It's one of those things that's difficult to tell ahead of time. Another little problem that I faced was that when I drafted the collar to be smaller, the points stuck out in the back on either side of the zipper and didn't want to lay flat against the dress. That problem had a simple solution: I just tacked down the edges of the collar by hand. They won't fold over a sweater anymore, but they lay flat.
I'm wearing my dress with a homemade white crochet shawl from last year, a gold brooch shaped like a little bouquet of violets that Mr Rat gave me two Valentine's Days ago, and my trusty old clogs. Even though the trees are finally blooming, there has still been a chill in the air until just the last few days. And now suddenly we are close to 80 degrees, and a short sleeved dress will be just right.
Happy Easter to all of you, no matter what faith you practice! I hope that today brings peace to your heart and wonder for the beauty of this brief season.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.