Monday, June 11, 2007


I seem to be having a leopard print... thing. It's really kind of sneaked up on me, I'm not sure how it happened. It started last year when I bought these:

Because, really, every girl needs to pretend she's Zsa Zsa Gabor every now & then.

These are actually hair calf, so they're a little fuzzy, and they have the skinniest, wickedest heels. (Cole-Haan is really good at the stiletto --
my pearl pink peep-toes are also wicked skinny in the heel.) So I love these shoes, they make me giggle. I think they are best worn with something relatively basic, preferably all one color, or something really simple like a black skirt and a white blouse. (And a big, chunky gold necklace. Wheeee!)

And then, last month, I saw this dress in Vogue:

(Anna Molinari, Spring 2007)

It was in a feature with some impossibly tall, skinny model cavorting around Rio with Lapo Elkann. (I can't decide if Lapo intrigues or horrifies me -- whichever it might be, he is very into his clothes and for that, at least, I think he's pretty cool.) I don't know why I was so taken with it, I just was. (To begin with, the model in Vogue looks quite a bit less my-dog-just-died than this tragic little starved Slavic number from the Molinari runway show, who makes me not want to wear anything other than a shroud. God. I get depressed just looking at her, don't you?) I loved the trapeze shape and the open shoulder. I didn't love the super-short length, asymmetrical hem (I frown on asymmetrical hems as a general rule, especially that dreaded 70's holdover, the handkerchief hem), or the over $2000 price tag (!!!), but I just for some inexplicable reason felt like I needed this dress. Not having two grand to toss around (especially since I'm on a No Buy right now) and having some slightly-better-than-rudimentary sewing skills, I decided I was going to make this bad boy myself.

First, I needed to find a pattern. I knew it was unlikely that I was going to find an off-the shoulder pattern, so what I was most concerned about was the trapeze shape of the dress. I found this one and thought it would do:

(New Look 6352)

I found some great, perfect poly/rayon charmeuse animal-print fabric on sale -- that was a stroke of luck, because this dress is very dependent on being the right fabric. The shape is so simple that the material has to be just right to keep it from being a complete yawn.

I knew I'd have to add some length to the sleeves, but that's not hard. This pattern (as with most patterns these days) comes in multiple sizes, so my plan was to cut out the neckline in the largest size on the pattern so that it would be nice & wide. Unfortunately, when I was cutting I kinda lost track of what I was doing & cut the entire dress on the largest size, which resulted in having to take in the side seams a couple of times and having to re-cut and re-set the armholes and sleeves... well, more than once.

(The why of the re-cutting & -setting is important enough to get its own paragraph. Yes, the idea of the dress was to be trapeze-shaped and float easily away from the body. However -- it could not be a tent. The way you get away with a big breezy shape like this without looking like you're wearing something three Bedouins & their camels could sleep under is to make sure that it fits you like mad through the shoulders and bust, and doesn't get all nice & loose until it's past that point. Hear me now & live by this later -- if it doesn't fit you in the shoulders, it doesn't fit you. Period. Trust me.)

Suffice to say it took me much longer to make this dress than it should have, given the simplicity of the pattern. I did add some of my own touches, like several rows of stitching around the neckline & sleeves:

This gives it a little dimension & detail without competing with the pretty busy fabric, and has the bonus of making the neckline a little stiffer so that it stands away from the body a bit. No zipper, no buttons -- pull it on over the head & it's done. Great, easy, floaty summer thing.

So here's the result:

It's also awfully cute with my little red patent skimmers, if I want to wear it with a flat shoe. In the fall, I'm thinking this is going to be darned adorable with a heavier tight and an ankle boot.

End of the day, it set me back less than 20 bucks. This is a very good thing. I do like a good $20 dress.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with it. What do you guys think? I'm feeling like the animal print thing is going to be pretty big for the next couple of seasons, and I like it. How are the rest of you feeling about the Big Meow?

Photos: Style Spy,,

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Anonymous said...

Very pretty! I love the stitching details and you look great in it. The shoes are perfect.

Anonymous said...

it's the 'cat's meow' of course! Wonderful details and great seamstress job!

Anonymous said...

Did you read the Vanity Fair article on Elkann about six months ago? It was really fascinating, and detailed a man that I decided, ultimately, that I don't like. Heh.

It was interesting to read, if only to see how the scandal played out in the eyes of a journalist - the secrets, the locked doors, the people who wouldn't speak out against him.

Anonymous said...

Way back when, in the sixties, my mother cleverly decided to preserve her leopard fake-fur hooded short cape. It's been the base for many a Halloween costume (for me). She also kept a leopard pillbox hat with net veil and a pair of crocodile stiletto pumps. Thanks, Ma.

Anonymous said...

I like it , and with a big or small T-neck in the Autumn it will also look great. What dedication you have to fashion , I would never do all that stitching. No wonder I gave up sewing for myself. I like that so much I want one , think of days that tight jeans or whatever just kill . This is perfect for that. Now give me the zip code I am buying you a treat!!!!

The Spicers said...

Looks great on you! What a flattering neckline, and perfect shoes. Are they Miu Miu?

elke said...

YOU DID AN AWESOME JOB ON THAT! Looks perfect with the shoes! Would look great with the red booties you are eyeing as well!