The History Repeating Dress

This is a tale of facts and fabric, a story woven by the bard and a weaving company somewhere. Sing, oh muse, of the desire of Leah, whose need did not waver although the chasm of time and space, whose taste did not change despite the rotations of sun and moon, despite journeys to and fro, round and about. ‘Tis a tale of fabric revisited, plucked from the obscurity of the past and christened anew in the bright and punishing light of the present.

Basically I found a fabric I had loved and bought and used for something years before and I bought it again because that’s just how I roll. But before I get to that, let’s talk about ancient empires and how I would rate them in terms of competition. I had a recently moment with a close friend of mine, Emily, in which we realized that we are on very different sides of the whole ancient empire debate. You don’t debate about which ancient empire was best? You’re living a half-life! No, but seriously, this is actually something I think about a lot, and Emily does too, and she was shocked and, I must say, a little repulsed that I am pro-Roman. But what can I say? I admire people who can steal wholesale the innovations of others and introduce logistical security for such a large area of the world. Philosophy is great, but so are roads, am I right? Emily, though, is very into Egypt, which makes sense, as the book she wrote on the subject is currently available for pre-sale (buy one today!) and because the Egypt she likes is the Ptolemaic kind, she is, by default, into Greece. GREECE. I mean, sure, art, poetry, music, theater, democracy, philosophy, wine, pottery, sculpture, a million other things, but other than THAT, what did Ancient Greece really do? Am I right? I like the Romans with their aqueducts and their bread and circuses and their totalitarian government. That’s an ancient empire you can TRUST. All roads do lead to Rome, in my HEART. Emily was not amused….

But of course all this is to say, I like ancient history, in general. I’ve rarely met a river-valley civilization I didn’t like. Archeological museums are some of my favorite museums (in addition to…most other museums…) I appreciate modernity with it’s running water (which the Romans had) and modern heating (which the Romans also had) and rights for women (which the Romans, nope, no one ever has that) but sometimes I think I would have been better suited to another age. Or at least would like to visit on a field trip. Why does that technology not exist yet? Where is that funding stream? Am I right? But I digress.

So when I see a fabric that reminds me of something historical, it’s like crack. It’s really hard to get off crack, I hear, and it’s really hard for me not to buy this fabric. Four years ago, I encountered a fabric by Cloud 9 in Philadelphia that reminded me of Greece or Rome, or maybe Rome copying Greece, and I bought it, and I made a skirt and took it with me on a trip to Israel. You can read all about that here. I loved that fabric, but it came to me at a different point in my sewing life, a point at which my skills, while developing, where not what they are now. I still have that skirt, and I wear it, mostly for the fabric. So imagine my surprise and delight when I encountered that same fabric here in New York! Years later, different cities, the same fabric. I looked at it for a long time. I visited. I stopped by to say hello. I told myself I didn’t need more fabric, which is and was true. And then it went on sale. What’s a girl to do?

I bought it. And I made myself a shirt dress. And guys? I flipping love it.

HR 1I have wanted a shirt dress for a long time. I have wanted a good shirt dress PATTERN for a long time. After reading many reviews and admiring the many incarnations over at Dolly Clackett, I decided to break down and buy McCalls 6696, a classic shirt dress with two skirt options. This time, I opted for the full skirt, and boy, I do mean THIS time because I’m making this puppy again. What can I say? I love it.

HR 4As you can see, the fabric is amazing. It’s covered in little pots decorated in what at least to me looks like it’s the archaic style. The construction of the dress isn’t all that difficult, if a little finicky the way a collared shirt is finicky, lots of steps and little pieces. I’ve made enough collared shirts to get the construction, though, so that was easy enough. I love the way the pattern has a waistband piece, I think that’s very flattering.

HR 3Now, there is a slight amount of bust gaping, which, hey, my chest would make a pirate happy with its bounty, so I get that, but I would just adjust my button placement next time to account for that. Otherwise the bodice fits quite well.

HR 6UGH how cute is this fabric? LOOK AT IT! I want all my clothing to look like it’s a copy of a mural from Pompeii or something. Who doesn’t, am I right? (most people?).

The other thing that I find strange, not that the bust thing is strange, that’s pretty normal for me, is the pockets. They are strangely shallow. Who wants a shallow pocket? I would re-draft those for next time.

HR 5Annnnnnd the back. So. There is a lot of fabric in the back. Which is part of the design, but I don’t know, it might just be a smidge too much for me. I like it, in theory, but I think I would just like a little less of it. Thoughts?

HR 2But generally, this dress, I love it. I feel like I got a second chance with a fabric I can’t stop loving, and you know what? Nailed it. NAILED IT! I am happy to repeat history if it turns out this well. In a world of failure, victory is sweet. I learned that from the Romans. Thanks, guys! Watch out for those Huns. They’re a coming.

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8 Comments

Filed under Clothing, McCalls Patterns, Sewing

8 responses to “The History Repeating Dress

  1. Sharmin

    This dress is so cute! You look amazing. I’ve had this on my to sew list for a while now, and you’re reminding me why I should get in it. Also thanks for the pockets heads up.

    I think I agree with you about the Romans, though that’s partly because the Greeks had all sorts of weird math hang ups.

  2. I love it! But I am now a predictable M6696 junkie. But oh man, that fabric! Absolute winner.

    When I made mine, I did end up taking about 1″ out of the centre back at the bottom. I also pleated the bottom instead of gathering it, which really cut down on the floof. It’s still got a fair amount of fabric but I don’t feel like a Merchant ship, trailing my sails behind me. I do need the room up the top, though, for moving my arms and the like, so I left that.

    I’m cautiously pro-rome. Possibly influenced by that sexy book I read at a tender age which was based in rome. Terrible job judging appropriateness there, any librarians involved, although how were they to know. Not that I didn’t read sexy Egyptian books too. Oh, my lost youth, etc. Although I’m feeling a bit sour about that since my conservative uncle declared we should ‘all go back to roman times’, by which he basically meant, only rich white guys can vote, and also they can probably put people to death or something. Perhaps circuses will be involved. I feel like the story of the Roman empire is pretty much the parable of how not-great that went for everyone, but clearly he wasn’t going to stop and ask a Tribune so….

    Basically I just want to hang out with Julius Caeser when he was cool and punk rock. Is that so much to ask?

  3. Annie

    Rome? They were just a bunch of copycats. Plus they were imperialist pigs!! Kind of like Americans, but we’re not allowed to say that out loud, are we? Egyptians were too weird. Mummies, incest, shaved heads and wigs…Maybe Babylon…hmmm. It does have a certain reputation for fun. Probably not all it’s cracked up to be though.

    Your dress is, though. Adorable as always.

    We should all have many friends who would like to debate which ancient civilization was the best. Those are the only kind of friends worth having.

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  5. I just bought this pattern because I have read so many positive reviews of it. Actually I think I bought it once before but can’t find it.
    I love your version, the fabric, everything. And I love the back with the fullness there. What a great dress!

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