Do you ever get sick of these seemingly perfect makers who create these gorgeous clothes with no problems? Well, have I got a tale for you! This hacked Benning dress is the result of many mistakes, some good luck and some quick thinking. And a little bit of $4 Pinot Noir from Trader Joe’s. As most sewists know, every month Seamwork releases two new sewing patterns. For March, one of the patterns is Benning – a maxi dress with a two-tiered skirt and POCKETS. It’s meant for woven fabrics, especially light, floaty ones. Benning sounded perfect to pair with the multicolored crinkle chiffon fabric that I received from Minerva. I had everything ready – the pattern, the chiffon, the leftover lining fabric from my Heather blazer suit set. There was nothing to do but make the dress. This is where the problems started.
Because I was using leftover lining, I didn’t quite have enough for both tiers of the skirt. “No problem!” I thought. “I’ll just line the bodice, the first skirt tier, and leave the bottom tier as chiffon only.” I also wanted a really full skirt, so I doubled the widths of all the skirt chiffon pieces. Thankfully, this decision saved the whole project. When I tried on the full dress, the skirt looked like some weird cupcake disaster. The combination of the raspberry-colored lining (frosting) on top of the textured chiffon (cupcake liner) was such a bad look. I think part of the problem was the way the gathered lining looked. It was just so, so bad. I stopped, had a glass of red wine, and made a decision. This cupcake monstrosity had to die. I grabbed my fabric shears and just cut the bottom tier off. It already looked better. I trimmed the lining a little bit so it looked less like cupcake frosting and more like a dress lining. Now separated from the normal width lining, the double-width chiffon pieces looked so airy and light. I hemmed the two layers of fabric (chiffon and lining) separately and ended up with a wonderful knee-length dress.
Amidst all this sewing drama, I can’t say enough good things about the chiffon fabric provided by Minerva. Before laundering it, I serged around the edges so they wouldn’t get frayed in the wash. This is a fairly standard step in working with chiffons and I highly recommend it. This chiffon has a mod design and feels so soft and supple against my skin. It’s perfect for any project that you want to twirl around in. I think you can tell by my pictures that I’ve spent probably too much time twirling around in this new dress. Make sure you have the right sized needle to work with fine fabrics such as chiffon.
I learned a lot from this project, mainly that I should probably make a garment as-is before I start hacking away at it. I’ve already picked out fabric to make a Benning dress as intended. I’m looking forward to doing it because the pattern is actually quite fun and quick.