In 2020 and 2021, I noticed that milkmaid dresses and tops (characterised by puffed sleeves and broad necklines) were in style. I was drawn to how the voluminous sleeves gave the illusion of broader shoulders and a slimmer waist. This worked for me as my shoulders are narrow. I also liked when pieces had square necklines as they elongated the neck and also gave the appearance of wider shoulders.
I wanted to get a few for myself. In physical and online shops, I was hesitant to buy items in this style because they mostly either had low-cut necklines or bare backs and skirts that were too short for my liking.
In the midst of my search, I was reminded of a friend who once shared with me pictures of her friend who made her own clothes. This inspired me to try making the dress I had in mind, on my own.
The Tools: YouTube Tutorials
I found a Vietnamese YouTuber – Jess Dang who gives detailed video tutorials on dress making and headed to Chinatown to buy fabric for my dress. My grandma’s old sewing machine – which needed to be serviced for this project – was a great help.
I used a tutorial from a YouTube video to make the bodice (Making Puff sleeves Selkie dress) and another tutorial for the skirt from another YouTube video (DIY Vintage Wrap Dress from scratch).
In my excitement I dove right into this project with no experience in clothes-making or using a sewing machine. Hence, there were many lessons and a lot of troubleshooting do. Some lessons learnt along the way:
- Accurate measurements are the foundation stones. Don’t rush this step.
- Don’t freestyle anything, especially the invisible zipper (I thought that attaching it to the back of my dress was intuitive but the result was far from “invisible”. Haha)
- I can reduce the amount of fabric in the skirt after attaching it to the bodice, by putting pins along the inside of the skirt, sewing along the pins, cutting away the extra cloth and closing raw hem.
This dress took me 4 days to complete.
I was very happy with the result and excited about making an outfit with my own hands. “Imagine the future possibilities!” I thought “no longer are my selections limited to clothing that is commercially available”, and decided to do a second piece, also in the milkmaid style. This one had a floral design with shorter sleeves, a rounder neckline and was maxi length.
The Art of Alteration
Aside from the dresses, I have altered some second hand pieces that I found in thrift shops. This leopard print dress was not flattering on me, so I decided to cut the skirt to knee length, and used the extra material to sew sleeves on. Now it can be worn as a top or a mid length dress. This outfit cost $10.
I thrifted this skirt for $5, as I was drawn to the shape and deep blue colour. It initially had an inner lining which made it too tight around my hips. It was rewarding how the small alteration could transform the comfort of the skirt.
Note from the Editor: Well done Rose. Dressmaking is a way of channeling one’s creativity and you certainly have a lot of creativity.
Posted by Chayo, HomSkil Editor 1, 9 January 2022