on failure

7 February 2011

I thought it might be time to talk about failure.

Some weeks ago we thought we might have a picnic one Sunday evening. I don’t know about you, but I associate very retro images with the word ‘picnic’ – something like the picnic scene in Mad Men. So I decided that if we were going on a picnic, I needed a full Betty-Draper-style skirt.

By coincidence, Kris had posted a link to what looked like the perfect full skirt, and it looked so easy to sew – two rectangles, some gathers, a zip, you’re done. I also had a fabric stashed that would take the retro theme even further – Hawaian print in dirty greens and blacks with bits of tan. Obviously everything was coming together for me to cut the perfect retro dash at my picnic.

:: oh dear…

You’ve already guessed where this is going, haven’t you? The skirt was an utter failure. I’m not posting a picture of me wearing it because it would set my body image self esteem back a year or two, it was that bad. But you might be able to guess from the picture above that it came out all wrong – drapey where it should have been stiff, full and heavy around the waist, not full enough around the hips. To top it off, the zip I used wouldn’t stay closed – it would slide open every time I moved.

But failures are for learning from, yes? So here’s what I learnt from the Skirt of Fail.

  1. I cannot imagine a fabric into being something it is not. The fabric I chose was the perfect print. But not the perfect farbic. It was drapey and soft. It was never going to stand out stiff and crisp the way the skirt should have. I think I knew this at the start, because I tried to correct for it by adding an underskirt or black cheesecloth – forgetting that cheesecloth was going to drape as well, and creating a result which was think and bunchy but still drapey.
  2. Icannot imagine my body into being a shape it is not. I love the full-skirted new-look look. Love it. But it is very hard to make it work on me. While I’ve got the small waist, it sits between a short body and larger hips and I’m not very tall. I need exactly the right full skirt, that flares out below the hips and doesn’t sit too high on the waist. The Skirt of Fail flared out from the waist, and it was full and thick over the hips, so my waist disappeared, my hips were two sizes larger, and I looked about 6″ shorter to boot.
  3. If something is cheap, there’s usually a reason why. The zip for the skirt came from a batch I picked up at Reverse Garbage a few years ago, 10 for a dollar. There’s a reason they’d been sent for recycling: they’re broken. None of them will stay shut.
  4. This technique for gathering fabric is FANTASTIC, and I will never ever go back to the way I used to do it (the traditional way, pulling the bobbin thread).

    :: the only good bit

  5. I now know how to do an external zip. As you can see above, I did the zip so that all the zipper tape is on the outside of the garment – I got the idea from the dress you can see in this blog entry (which, by the way, is an example of a full skirt that I CAN wear). I really like this look, so I hope to be able to use it again soon.
  6. I can have a perfectly fun time on a picnic even without a retro skirt. To go a-picnicking, I wore the dress in the picture below – it’s one I made in 2005. It’s faded now, but I still really like it. Probably because it’s made from a suitable fabric, it suits my body shape, and the zip was brand new, so it stays zipped up.

5 Responses to “on failure”

  1. Nichola said

    What a pity your skirt didn’t work out. The fabric is lovely!
    Could you wear a petticoat underneath to give it the fullness?

  2. WithaQ said

    I too use that method of gathering. However, I replace the thick cotton thread with dental floss – the waxed floss moves so well and does not catch as you gather.

  3. Lola said

    I tried to make a full skirt with the suggested fabric and instead of being full and lovely it was heavy and unwearable. I’ve moved on to circle skirts – they give the fullness in the skirt but they look slimmer over the tummy!

    The floss idea is amazing! Definitely going to try it!

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