Ever since I learned how to sew I’ve wanted to attend Zoobilation, our local zoo’s black-tie fundraiser. (I’d always look at the photos from the event in the newspaper and notice how many women were wearing indistinguishable black cocktail dresses. As a person who sews vintage, I’ve always thought I could do better than that.) This year my husband finally scored tickets and I immediately began dreaming up my outfit. The theme this year was ‘Rock Your Orange’ in honor of the brand new orangutan exhibit our zoo has just opened. As it happens I look terrible in orange, so I decided to make a blue dress and accessorize it with orange.
I had a dickens of a time finding the right fabric (thank goodness for generous return policies) but I finally found a cobalt blue taffeta at JoAnn’s that I liked. It’s got just enough sheen to be formal but not tacky, and the heavier weight gives it a nice swish. (Ten dollars a yard but I bought it with a coupon, of course!) Surprisingly I didn’t have a pattern I wanted to use already in my stash, but I’ve been eyeing Retro Butterick 6018, circa 1952, ever since it came out. I actually think the pattern illustrations are kind of ‘meh’ but the pattern has really nice lines, especially View ‘A’ with the dramatic wide lapels and pointy sleeve cuffs. Incidentally, the line drawings are kind of misleading -
There is, in fact, a center seam in both the skirt front and skirt back, making the skirt eight pieces instead of six. On the front of the dress the center skirt seam lines up with that seam/faux button opening on the bodice, a touch I really appreciate, I should probably drop Butterick a line and see if they want to fix the misleading illustration.
Anyway, the construction of the dress itself was pretty uneventful until it came time to attach the skirt and the bodice. I found that the skirt side back panels were about 3/4″ too wide, meaning they wouldn’t match up flush with the bodice (and the skirt seams are supposed to match up with the bodice darts, naturally). At first I tried easing it in but that looked horrible. So then I undid the top 6″ or so of those skirt seams and re-did them with an adjusted seam allowance so everything would fit together nicely. Fortunately I had serged the raw edges of the pattern pieces individually before assembling (normally I sew and then serge) or I would have had a ravelly nightmare on my hands. It only took an extra hour or so, I just wish the pattern had worked right on the first try. This was also my first time doing covered buttons – I thought they’d be a fiddly nightmare but I got a kit from Hobby Lobby but they were really easy and – dare I say it – fun.
Enough talking: Pictures! I look a little weird here because I’m looking down at my 9 year old son who was holding the camera (I do have a neck, I promise). At least it’s not my usual bathroom mirror selfie.
With the husband. He got an orange tie and a new dress shirt with French cuffs for the occasion (mmm, I love French cuffs). Like anyone was looking at HIM.
I accessorized with a Malco Modes crinoline in a shade of orange that’s even more obnoxious than it looks here. (Obnoxious being a compliment when it’s coming from me.) Funny how their picture shows a petticoat that’s nearly ankle length and on me it comes just past my knees. I think I must have freakishly long legs or something. Also, my shoes don’t show up in any of the pictures but they are like my favorite shoes ever: Nina Crystah pumps, don’t they just scream 1950s? (Best part is I got them on eBay for just $15!) I couldn’t find any blue or orange shoes that I liked, so I went with an iridescent metallic which picked up the gaudy hues of my ensemble. And the low heel was practical for all the walking we had to do.
My dress was a huge hit among the thousands of well-dressed people at the zoo! I got a ton of compliments. Probably my favorite five words in the English language are “Thank you; I made it.” One lady even said my dress was the best outfit of the night! Here are some candids so you can see it in action. With an actual orangutan (he was sprawled out lazily on the ground but seemed interested in my crazy orange petticoat):
Roller coaster selfie (oh yeah, we rode the zoo coaster in our fancy clothes. It was awesome.) Also, you can see here that I really don’t know how to apply false eyelashes. I probably should have practiced more.
And this is my husband’s favorite shot of the night. We took a break on the playground that is very explicitly intended for kids age 5 and under, but it was an adults-only event. Tons of restaurants from around Indianapolis had booths set up with small portions of food and drinks (all of which was included in the cost of admission). Even the famous St. Elmo’s Shrimp Cocktail. I think I was eating a fancy bread pudding here – we looked at the map later and realized we tried something like 30 samples! Yum! Also you can see here that I accessorized my hair with an orange silk flower the size of a grapefruit, because why on earth not?!
All in all, I am VERY pleased with how my dress came out – it’s exactly what I was picturing when I first found out about the orange theme. I’m already plotting to wear it again to other events – maybe I can drag the hubby to the symphony? And I’m glad I’ve only got about another five years before I get to start making prom dresses for my girls.