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July 11, 2013

Shabby Apple Dare to Design

 One of my favorite clothing websites is hosting a design contest! Shabby Apple has long been the standard for classy, timeless clothing with an emphasis on feminine flair and modest coverage. Every now and then I stop by their site and daydream over the ruffles, lace, princess seams, and belted waists. When I discovered they were holding a contest, I was thrilled and had to enter.  Here are the guidelines that I followed:

This is my entry.

Me at Smith College in my seersucker dress. 
My inspiration was a trip I was planning with a best friend. We were going to Massachusetts write for a week at one of the great, old colleges in the western woods—Emily Dickinson land—and then we were going to follow the salty breeze to the Boston harbor to see if the water was still stained by tea, and then we were going to sail across the bay to the magical Nantucket island and bike along cobblestone streets to the wispy seagrass at the edge of the world. 

Who would think of taking a trip like this without a seersucker dress?! I certainly didn't dare. In my mind's eye, it had to have a square, 1940s neckline, with an almost Navy-esque feel through military buttons—also a 40s fashion statement—yet be light and breezy and playful, like the kind of dress you'd wear to jump on a sailboat on a Sunday afternoon and say "let's go!"

So, here's how it turned out! Some pics are from my trip, so you can see that I actually did wear it at all the places I wanted to, and the dress-dummy pictures are taken in my room back at home.
Excuse the sweater! Boston was breezy that day.

The dress I originally designed started out a lot different from how it ended up. Initially I had a full, gathered skirt on it, the sleeves were puffy, the hem went a few inches below the knee, and, well, it would have been cute if I were in Jr. High or Maria Von Trapp. So I changed it to fit the aspects of my figure that I wanted to help along, not hide. This needed to be a grown-up lady's dress, but with potential to be sweet and playful. I didn't need the puffy sleeves; my shoulders didn't want to look that broad. The full skirt was the next to go. I tore out the gathers, and drew a clean, straight, almost-pencil, A-line skirt that gave some curve to the hips. The pockets stayed. I loved those pockets, though I would say they are an optional part of this design, since it adds a little extra bulk to the front of the dress. These pockets later held ticket stubs, coffee change, seashells, bookmarks... yes, the pockets had to stay on my dress!

See the invisible zipper? Nice try. ;) So, I did not continue the waist accent-piece into the back, because in the front it is wider on one side and is narrow on the other, which would make it look lopsided if I continued it all the way to the center back.

If you look carefully, you can see a little tuck/pleat at the top of the sleeve. I wanted to give the sleeve some fullness without going completely puffed.

These were the perfect buttons! Exactly what I had pictured. Also, you can see the white top stitching in this picture. The top-stitching gives it a polished look.

 The final touch, which really sets the dress apart as an artsy design is the angular waist piece that cuts across the trimmest part of the waist with stripes going diagonally from one side to the other. At the point where the accent piece crosses one of the vertical princess seams, I have more military buttons, similar to the ones at the front neckline of the dress, but bigger. It looks like my accent belt was "buttoned" on. I love the trim, snug feel of the waist (so 40s!), and how the contrary diagonal lines help the dress from being too serious.

In this dress I opened the gates of Smith College and pondered its lofty edifices. In this dress I walked the Freedom Trail in Boston,  leaned over the railing of the Bay to see if the waves were brown with tea, and ate pasta in Boston's Little Italy. In this dress I would have wandered in and out of basket shops on main street Nantucket and buried my toes in the sand, but the locals called the weather "June-uary" and my dress decided it wasn't a sailing breeze.

Now I wear the seersucker dress to business conferences, weddings, church, picnics. Everywhere I go, people ask me where I got my dress and they say it looks like something from an expensive name-brand designer. I love that the classic silhouette of this dress will never go out of style, and can look good on every body type.

The fabric for this dress is cotton seersucker, striped with white and dark grey. I think this dress in light blue striped seersucker or pink striped seersucker would be really fun too! It is fully lined in thin white cotton, so it is very comfortable and airy. Other fabrics this dress would be great in are striped suitings in dark grey, tawny brown, navy, and light grey for more of a business look, or textured-distressed taffeta in a jewel tone for a more formal look. I would also love to create a blouse similar to this design, and a pencil skirt with a high waist that includes the diagonal accent piece.

Thank you for considering my design! I'm excited to see what possibilities await.

—Annie Sechrist

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