A competition win, Downton Abbey, the Sewing Bee and a super cool party

A competition win, Downton Abbey, the Sewing Bee and a super cool party

I recently won something!  As a person who hasn’t won a raffle since I was 6 years of age this was an exciting development and might finally encourage me to buy a lottery ticket.  My prize was two tickets to a birthday party.  Fatale Events, a super cool Irish events company were celebrating their 10th birthday with a big party.  The first part was a screening of the 1970’s film Cabaret which was followed by dancing until the wee hours of the morning.  The dress code was in the period of the film (early 1930s).

Like Cinderella, I had nothing to wear and, as the Fairy Godmother is away on extended holidays, it was time to don the thinking cap and start creating.  To be perfectly honest I have been going through a really dry period creatively so I was glad of the challenge.

So it was time to head online to check out the fashions of the time.  The brief stipulated “flapper”.  Now, I will readily admit that I am no spring chicken so the gorgeous pieces I saw online would have to be toned down a bit.  Think Downton Abbey, now visualise somewhere between Cora and Violet Crawley (though to be fair,  maybe closer to Cora!).  Anyway the fashions of the time were a bit ‘matchy matchy’ which made the job a lot easier.  Flapper dresses were unstructured, sometimes with a fuller skirt.  I visualised a longer style, a bit above the ankle.

Next, a pattern.  There was no time to source a vintage one (which would have needed adjusting anyway).  I found an unstructured dress in one of my books from an early series of The Great British Sewing Bee.

Recommended fabric for this dress was silk but since this was a ‘costume’ I was ready to break rules.  As an aside, I sometimes design and make for the stage.   I felt that I could do a hacking job on this pattern so the first step was to trace it.  A bit of a challenge as, while the book offers lots of great patterns, they are all drawn on a few pages rather than individually.

I measured to just the top of my legs and made this the cut off point on the pattern as I was going to add a full skirt.  Once I traced the pattern from the book, I adjusted the front to form a deep V shape and drew a corresponding V pattern piece.  I also made the corresponding adjustments to the neck facings.

Then, having calculated my fabric requirements I headed off to make the purchase.  I chose a stretch velour because it was cheap and this dress was a one-wear costume.  The colours were chosen to tie in with a gorgeous jewelled appliqué that I bought a number of years ago.  They were also colours which fitted in with the period represented by the dress.

Then it was time to get cutting, making sure that all pieces were laid in the same direction. (The velour is like velvet in that it is different shades depending on the direction it is viewed from).

Once the bodice was cut out I sewed the two fronts together and then top stitched the seam.  I used a zigzag stitch on the seams throughout.  Then I got to work on the V front.  I was a bit nervous as this was my first godet but it worked, even though I was working with stretch material!

I then sewed the back together and also topstitched it.  The pattern top had a yoke and, as I don’t believe in making life easy for myself, I decided to insert a co-ordinating piping in the front and back shoulder seams using the gold fabric.   I felt that this would add stability to a stretchy fabric.   I cut the strips on the grain where there was no stretch and prepared the piping by sewing cord into the strips.  Then I attached to the yoke.

I then sewed the yoke to the main bodice.  Next, I added a light interlining to the neck facing and attached it to the bodice. I then cut two strips of the gold material and added it to the sleeve area to give some colour balance to the bodice.  At this point I sewed the front to the back and hemmed the sleeves.

Once this was done I was able to decide on the length I wanted the dress to be.  So, having measured this and allowing for seam and hem, I cut two widths of the green fabric which I sewed together.  I then decided to hem it before sewing it on to the bodice as I reckoned that there was enough fabric to negate any slight deviation that might occur in the hem length (plus the dress was going to be worn in a dark club).  I then gathered it having divided the skirt into four sections so that I could control the gathers a bit better when attaching the skirt to the bodice.

Once that was completed, I sewed the appliqué onto the front.  This was a bit of a challenge to get straight but I got there in the end.


And here it is!

The dress felt great on but I was missing accessories.  So I felted a hat.  I called upon my youngest son, Cian to pick out merino wool fibre colours which would blend with the dress.  He did not disappoint.  I made a cloche hat, then added two bands of the green and gold velour to pull the outfit together.

I had made a bag some time ago in a mustard colour Corriedale fibre which finished off this ‘matchy  matchy’ theme.


I popped on my brown buckled shoes, feeling very pleased that, despite not wearing them too often, I had decided to keep them rather than send them to a charity shop.

The night was tremendous and great fun.  Happy birthday Film Fatale!  I wish you many more years of cool events and spreading happiness.  Thanks for a great evening!

32 thoughts on “A competition win, Downton Abbey, the Sewing Bee and a super cool party

  1. Such a beautiful dress, hat and bag! You must have felt very glamorous on the night.

    Lovely photos – it was just like watching the pattern challenge in the Sewing Bee whilst reading your post! Very cleverly done Helene.

    1. Thanks Lyn. Patrick and Esme would have kicked me off the program – it took so long to make lol! (and of course there’s no bow.

      Speaking of the Sewing Bee, looking forward to tonight’s final. I expect it will be close – they are all such talented sewists!

    2. We’ll have to wait until Saturday to watch the Sewing Bee final. They took it off this evening, presumably because Wimbledon was on. Boo!

    3. Yes Ann. I had it on to record and got the tennis instead. I was all cozied up ready to view. Then a notice came up on the telly to turn on BBC2 so I just missed the intro. It was great viewing. I won’t say who won in case you are living in a bubble and haven’t been told. lol

  2. Beautiful job Helene – but why no picture of you in full costume? I was dying to see what you looked like. Each item is perfect and they all go together so well. There should have been a prize for the best dressed – I’m sure you’d have been in with a chance of another win.
    Your tailor’s dummy looks interesting. Is it the sort you can pin into and drape fabric on or a display dummy?

    1. Totally camera shy Ann! Thanks for your kind comments. I did have a number of people approach me on the night (and in the bathrooms!) It was great fun altogether.

      I think I sourced that particular dummy from Germany. It has a polystyrene body which is covered in a bodysuit. It’s a full torso and stands on metal legs on a wooden base. I sometimes make burlesque costumes so it is very handy for draping etc. The torso size is a bit Barbarella in shape – I have not met any woman with this particular body shape. That said, it is handy.

  3. Helene, his was a whole enterprise! I love it so much. The dress is fun and cute, the hat is such a great add-on and the bag is the cherry on top of the whole “cake-ensemble” 😀 Well done!
    Congratulations on winning the raffle and I’m happy you had a good time 🙂

    1. Thanks Leonor. The event organisers are magical. I have attended a few of her soirees (pre-covid) and one word ‘sumptuous’! I think you would really enjoy. Feminine, fun and major attention to detail.

      The dress is destined for the dressing up box. Half sorry I did not make it in a more classy fabric but it possibly would have ended up in the same spot. It was great to get back to making a costume. It is a while since I made burlesque costumes and part of me misses not making them. (Financially they don’t pay, emotionally they do 😉 ).

  4. Wow a very successful period outfit, so beautifully done. The felt hat and purse are timeless!

    1. Thank you so much. While the dress is slowly finding its way into the dress up box, I will definitely wear the hat and use the bag.

  5. Wow, I am really impressed. The outfit is gorgeous and your sewing skills top mine by a mile 😂

    I too would have loved to see you all dressed up. I bet you were beautiful.

    I hope that the dress will make another appearance as it deserves more than one outing.

  6. Thanks Ruth. It’s a funny thing, seeing Cabaret after all those years. I really didn’t ‘get it’ first time around. Probably too naïve. It is a real masterpiece and Liza – well what words can properly describe her as an actor and singer.

    Pre-pandemic the events company used to organise a huge Gatsby event. It was incredible. Just like the Gatsby Mansion. I will be buying tickets if it ever comes back. A chance to get ‘dolled up’ again!

  7. Wow! Congrats on winning that ticket and on making such a terrific outfit for the party. It sounds like the evening was a lot of fun. I can see your ensemble coming back out of the dressing up box if they put on another Gatsby event…fingers crossed!

    1. Thanks Karen, it was good fun.
      A number of years ago myself, hubby and two friends headed to another one of their events, a masquerade ball. It was held in a fabulous venue (they always pick these very carefully – exquisite Georgian buildings etc) and the entertainment was stunning. Us 4 were the elder lemons of the group but it didn’t matter because we were all masked up. I hope we can return to these and the Gatsby nights again. The owner of the events company is just so creative and talented (and a lovely person too).

    2. I didn’t think you were. But it would be great fun if we could do it.

  8. Congratulations on winning such a fun prize. the dress is wonderful and so are the accessories. Your sewing skills are fab. I bet you were stunning in it. I wish we got the sewing bee here or a Canadian version of it. We have a Canadian version of the cook off show.

    1. Thanks Ann. It was fun to hack the pattern even though it took a good bit of brain power (I am a bit out of practice).
      Yes, The Sewing Bee is super – it’s surprising that it has not been syndicated – it is one of those programmes that would travel well. The judges are a perfect fit too. The chemistry is great between them and they do a good kind job. All the sewists are very talented so it’s very hard to see people leave. I would take the sewing bee over a cook off every day!

    1. Thank you so much. All great fun to make and the project kept me out of mischief!

    1. Thank you so much Karen. My Mum taught me to sew when I was around 6 years old. I really should do more. I tend to buy fabrics with the best of intentions then not want to cut into them. It’s silly, I know. I will have to outgrow it!

    1. Thank you so much Marie. It kept me out of mischief for a while lol

  9. Helene,
    I know I am very late posting. Congratulations on winning the drawing – and I feel your ensemble would be perfect for an episode of DA. Kiddos for getting it all thought out, made and put together so quickly! You now have a lovely costume and a wonderful story to go along with it.


    1. Thanks a million Capi. Always delighted to see a comment and it’s never late, just kind of folk to stop by.

      I loved that series and the two films. Great acting and a great story. I would happily have been one of the extras in the background lol.

  10. Extremely late to the party….
    We’ll done, you must have been thrilled at winning such a fab prize.
    Your ensemble is just brilliant & kudos to you for creating/manipulating your dress from the basic pattern & also for stitching such stretchy (walking) fabric that usually has a mind of it’s own.
    Next we will see you on GBSB
    Totally disappointed not to see a photo of you all dressed up though 😟

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