Finished the shantung muslin! The back pleats and train, as I said, had to be done in a gray fabric since I ran out of the lovely buttercream. On the whole, it's looking quite good.
Luckily we had a sunny day up here in Tacoma, recently, so I was able to get some shots in more natural light. Looks like the photo got a bit washed out. I'm like a vampire photographer–not used to shooting in the sun.
The skirt is a little bit twisted on the mannequin, so unfortunately the pleating looks uneven at the hips. It's not really, though (thank goodness!). I love the bust on this dress. Here's a close-up:
The under bust is collapsing a bit here because it doesn't fit the model. My dress dummy wears a very comfy Calvin Klein bra for her fittings, but it just doesn't quite work with this dress. Still, you can see the released pleats here quite nicely. Much better than on the original, I think. I'm really hoping they turn out this well in the final silk shantung, which is a bit stiffer than the polyester I used as a muslin. Fingers crossed. The silk is so stiff that I might not even need to underline it with silk organza, but we'll see–I don't want the seam allowances to show through and I think they probably will unless I underline it. Especially for the photos–it's always tricky to tell how a fabric will photograph with a flash.
Here are some details from the front of the skirt. The front skirt has a big fold that helps the skirt curve around into the side skirt panels. The pattern piece for the skirt panel basically looks a bit like a kick pleat on back of a pencil skirt–the front skirt panel has an overlap extension. I simply sewed the side skirt panel to the extension, trimmed the seam allowance, and then flipped it to the wrong side. This forms a natural fold on the front of the skirt and also handily hides the seam where it is joined to the side skirt. Here's a detail of where the two seams join. You can see the seam allowance showing through the fabric of the front skirt just to the left of where they join. You won't be able to see that on the final version because the whole dress will be underlined with silk organza.
Here I've flipped the seam back out so you can see the extension:
Very simple and quite a pretty effect on the final skirt, I think.
Last by not least, here's the back.
I decided to go with a lapped zipper that I pick-stitched in. I was initially going to do an invisible zip, but I want to have decorative buttons down the back and this way I'll be able to sew them onto the lap. The buttons will go all the way down to the point where the skirt meets the back (the point is just pinned together right now, which is why the pleats look a little wonky). I have to adjust a few pleats to make sure they line up (particularly the bottom one), but on the whole they hit the mark pretty perfectly. And most of the meeting points will be covered up by the buttons.
I'm also considering just eliminating the final pleat and extending the bottom edge downward so that there is a sharper diagonal there. We'll see. I'm going to play around with it a bit more to see which is more flattering. Right now the angle of the final pleat mimics the angle of the skirt seam, which I like.
There is some wrinkling in the back pleats, so I'm going to have to work that out in the final version. Luckily, the back pleats are on the bias, so I should be able to smooth them out fairly easily. My only worry is that the sections are quite wide, so I'm not sure I'll be able to eliminate the wrinkling entirely at my waist. I played around with narrower pleats (approximately double the number), but it looks a bit fussy. I have the pattern piece, though, if I want it. We'll see how it goes with the silk. I hate to waste the fabric, but that's why I bought a lot of extra! Luckily, I think some of the wrinkling will be harder to see on the white, as well (er, that's what I keep telling myself, anyway).
I was so fortunate that over my Spring Break my mother was able to come up and help me with the back pleating! She spent a week up here helping me finish up the muslin, and it would have been impossible to get the pleating right without her. It was so lovely to be able to share the time with her and sew my wedding dress together. This dress won't be as perfect as if I had bought it from a company, but frankly I'm just not too worried about that. I'll be getting the exact dress I wanted, and my mother and I will be able to laugh and reminisce about our week together, listening to audio books and drafting up pattern pieces for my wedding dress. I'm so lucky to have shared that with her.