A Peekaboo Bamboo Dress [I AM APHRODITE pattern].

I made this dress a few months ago and had shared it on my instagram, it was probably the most labour-intensive project for me. As part of Minerva.com ‘s Maker Team/Blogger Network, I received this fabric as a gift and wrote a review for them in exchange. All views and ideas are of my own. As for this post you’re reading on my personal blog, it is just for the purpose of jotting down notes and to documenting this dress that I’ve made, since I have got way too many photos of the (often boring) construction process that can’t all be included in the Minerva post, which is more result-orientated. (The post is not yet on their website).

  • Pattern: I AM APHRODITE pattern from I AM PATTERN company. I made the view with the hollow back.
  • Size made: Sizes EU36-46 included. I made size 36.
  • Pattern pieces: 7 pieces for backless view. 8 pieces in total in the envelope.
  • Fabric used:
    • Dress fabric: “Panda Retreat” Lady McElroy stretch cotton twill [97% cotton, 3% spandex], 56 inches width, 2m length, gifted by Minerva.com.
    • Applique: two colourways of the same design, purchased from Etsy (just search “bamboo patch applique” or similar).
  • New Techniques used:
    • Adding and layering appliques to a “frame” of fabric, without any backing material.
    • Sewing neck facing in the round
    • Constructing a “window” in a garment.
  • Modifications:
    • Lengthened sleeves by 15cm.
    • Narrowed the sleeves (free-hand drawing on pattern).
    • I understitched the neck facing and hand sewed it to the bodice/neck (pattern instructs topstitching).
    • Reduced the sides, flaring from underarm to tip. At the waist the intake is about 7cm.

 

A little background about the initial concept of this dress. It all started with I AM PATTERN company’s “I AM APHRODITE” pattern. The back window/panel caught my eye instantly, and I have seen lovely versions circulating on the internet and instagram. Some people placed a panel print in the space, some left it bare, some put lace there – all beautiful. So it gave me an idea to put an applique there.

 

I AM APHRODITE pattern, part of the I AM A GODDESS collection, from the I AM PATTERN company.

 

I made the backless view. The link to the pattern, and the image is from  HERE.

 

The other view is the contrast back panel view. Image from the company website HERE.

 

And browsing through the list of selected fabrics from Minerva from which I could choose to make my project, I fell in love with the Panda stretch cotton twill. I love teal and the panda print is cute. What if I put some bamboo leaves in the back window? So I searched on Etsy and I was not disappointed. I saw 2 colourways of this bamboo design. Then the idea came to me that I can layer the pieces and give it depth, plus amplifying the 3D effect of the leaves.

 

Fabric gifted by Minerva.com ; Appliques purchased from Etsy.

 

For the backless view, there are 7 pattern pieces.

 

The neck facing is continuous circumferentially; I like that the facing is drafted in such a way that at the back (upper part in the picture), the seam allowances are sewn into the top stitching of the back side panels, and thus keeps it in place and makes a neat finish.

 

The back “window” is constructed by sewing the 4 individual pieces at right angles to each other, forming a rectangle of negative space.

 

I wanted to give the dress some shape, as the fabric I used was stiffer than what the pattern recommended. This is how I narrowed the sides. I made the dress up as is, knowing there will be more ease than I needed; Then I pinched and pinned in roughly how much I wanted to reduce. I hand stitched to baste, starting from underarm, curving in at the waist and flaring back out towards the hip, and re-sewed the sides with the machines.

 

Now the fun part – designing the placement and adding the appliques. I used the darker applique as the base. I trimmed off unwanted parts, laid it on the back “window”, and very importantly, made sure there are enough ANCHOR POINTS so the applique would stay up and not flop down when the dress is worn. So every leaf you see that touches the “window frame” of the dress fabric, I have hand sewn the applique to the fabric using tiny stitches. This is required because there is no backing fabric or mesh to hold the applique where the middle is completely hollow. Note that at this point, the birds flopped down when I held up the dress; there was nothing supporting them from behind and gravity takes effect.

 

I cut pieces from the lighter colour applique and added to the base layer (dark colour) applique. I made sure some of the leaves were on top, and some were on the bottom of the darker colour applique. This creates some depth and texture. Also note that I have now placed some light coloured leaves behind those birds, supporting them. They no longer flop down when the dress is being held up or worn.

 

Final look. Where the light coloured leaves meet the dark coloured ones (as they are from 2 separate appliques), they have been hand-sewn together from the wrong side to hold them together. I also made sure some of the leaves overlapped the “window frame”, looking as if the bamboo plant originate from the bottom of the frame and leaves are coming out in different directions.

 

Front view. I like the 3/4 sleeve look with a shift dress, so I lengthened them by 15cm.

 

When cutting the fabric, I tried to place the pandas away from the bust apex and groin area.

 

Side back view. I love the panda fabric and sometimes wonder if the bamboo appliques make the dress look too busy/cluttered.

 

Side view. A softer fabric may be more flattering for this pattern, but I chose a heavier fabric (heavy stretch cotton twill which almost behaved like duck/drill/canvas) because I needed the stiffness of the fabric to hold up the applique, and maintain the shape of the “window frame” and keep the slight stretch/tension in the applique so the picture can be seen clearly. I imagine that if I had used a lightweight fabric, it would drape while being worn,and the applique would be wavy and just look like a bunched-up mass of green at the back of the dress.

 

Back view. Granted, the applique(s) are only held together by those anchor points around the “frame”, which are just tiny stitches and not very strong. While wearing this dress, I wouldn’t cross my arms too vigorously or reach forwards too far/suddenly as that places stress on the anchor points and may pop a few of them loose!

 

Details.

 

 

The panda fabric is so nice, I especially love the teal colour. It looks different in various lighting too.

 

I was both delighted and relieved when I finished making this dress. The hand stitching had been laborious and taxing on my eyes and wrists and my back (back posture…I had to hold the pieces really close to be able to see fine details). But worth it? Yes, I think it is! It is the first time I tried this technique (stitching applique to a window in a fabric, layering to create 3D effect) and it came out very similar to how I imagined it in the first place, which is always a really, really good feeling.

By the way, if you want a heart-shaped window, I AM PATTERN has that too (the “I AM Cherie-Cherie” pattern from the “I AM in love” collection). How cute is that!!!

The link to the pattern is HERE.

 

It’s been a long post – thank you so much for reading!

 


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