Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Well Done, Spider Suffragette!

via She's History
In the embarrassingly recent movement for women's suffrage, the suffragettes in the UK and US (and
maybe other places?) would wear ribbons and jewelry in the shades of green, white, and violet.  The initials of the colors, GWV, also stood for "Give Women the Vote", with each color representing a virtue: green for hope, white for purity, and violet for dignity.  You could think of the sashes to bring attention to the cause similar to the modern pink ribbons for breast cancer.*  Probably the best example of this is pop culture is Mrs Banks from Mary Poppins.  She wears the suffragette ribbon while singing Sister Suffragette.

I stumbled across this information by accident one day and thought it would be fun to make a dress in those colors to represent how far we have come and how far we still have to go.  (As the owner of a set of ovaries, I am very interested in women's rights. ) Of course, I wanted to put on my own spooky spin on it, so I was on the prowl for Halloween fabrics in those colors.  During one of their many sales, had spiderweb Happy Haunters (designed by Kelly Mueller for Red Rooster) for super cheap and in the right colors!  (Well, one was beige, but that's close enough).

A note on these pictures: I have no idea why the purple looks so blue in these pictures.  Here is a more accurate representation of the fabric.

The pattern I chose was McCall's 6504, view A.  (For those of you playing along at home, this makes six McCall pattern reviews in a row.)  I felt like the vertical sections showcased the color changes better than anything horizontal would.  If I had wanted that, I could have just made a tiered skirt.  However, I also was slightly concerned that it might make me look like a circus tent.  Only one way to find out. only sells fabric in half yard increments, and each contrast section of the dress calls for 1 1/8 yards of fabric.  (If there is more contrast than main fabric, would each contrast section be the main fabric?)  I went with a yard and a half each of the contrast.  I figured that I would greatly increase the hem and that would use up the majority of the fabric.  Yeah, I didn't read the cutting layout before I ordered the fabric, so I shot myself in the foot.

The patch is in the middle of the green piece
It doesn't say so anywhere on the envelope that this pattern assumes you've got bi-directional fabric, so that vastly economizes the layout.  Of course, mine wasn't.  I discarded plan after plan until I finally realized I was going to either need to order more fabric or I was going to end up with a nasty patch on one of the panels.  I am quite impatient, so I went with the patch route.  I might end it trying to cover it with a spider applique or something.

I had planned to use up the extra fabric by increasing the length by six inches, but that was before cutting layout disaster struck.  The best I could do was two inches.  Better than nothing.

This also meant my back section would be made out of two different fabrics.  (This is what the original pattern called for.)  I HATE it.  It is awful.  But I didn't have any choice.  I guess it doesn't look as bad as I thought it would, but it greatly bothers me.

On top of all of this, I lost the front facing piece.  I tore the house apart looking for it, but it was nowhere to be found.  I traced the sewn together front of the dress to make my own facing pattern.  I used the beige fabric to minimize show-through.  I didn't interface them, because my life has fallen apart and caring about interfacing is too hard for me right now.

I didn't read the directions for attaching the facing, so I messed up the armholes.  After the fact, I realized I probably could have flipped the seam allowance between the dress and the bodice, and then machine-stitched or hand-stitched the armhole shut.  Instead, I flipped it to the inside of the facing and hand-sewed it.

The problems with this dress are my own fault.  I had such high hopes for this, but I am not sure I like it, and I still thinks it looks a bit like a circus tent.

*: The mastermind behind This is Corp Goth and Trystan's Costume Closet, the fabulous Trystan Bass, has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  If you can spare the funds, please consider making a donation to help her out.

UPDATE: Here's the song Sister Suffragette.


  1. Thank you for this post! I learned a lot about suffragettes in the museum of London in may, but I never became aware of this colour-code. For a short moment I was enthusiastic, having bought a 30ies dress in the very shade of violet as Mrs Banks wears in the photo only a few months ago. But a short search in Wikipedia told me, that the 1930ies were so occupied by the things happening in Germany and the whole of Europe, that the suffragette movement in Switzerland functionally stopped. So no GWV-dress for me.^^ (the full right to vote for women in Switzerland was achieved only in 1977!)
    Now to your dress: I like it. In the end you mangaged to sew a really pretty dress, despite all the problems and difficulties. I don't think I would have had the stamina to finish it.
    But I can see what you mean with the circus-tent-effect. Well, somehow it is there, but I was more reminded of some medieval juggler than a tent. And don't interpret that in a negative way! I like it, the colours are great and it has a funny touch by the stripes, but far from being silly. The simple cut does a lot to it, it compensates for the stripes.
    Maybe you should wear it a few times and look if you feel comfortable wearing it. I had a similar problem with a skirt I made from a very colouful fabric. Everyone told me that it looked great, but for me it just didn't work. Maybe with this dress it will be different and you come to like it? I would really hope so, after all the work you've had with it.

    1. I had also heard that women weren't granted full suffrage in Switzerland until relatively recently, though I thought it was even later than 1977. Wikipedia says the last two cantons weren't until 89 and 90:

      I will do what you suggest and wear the dress around the house to see if I feel comfortable in it. I'm just grumpy because I'm very stressed right now, and not sleeping or eating much. It's easier to gripe and complain about a dress than gripe and complain about the things in my life that I can't change.

    2. Yes, some cantons were that late. Unbelieveable. Well, they were really behind the times, or in this case behind the mountains :-)

      I think I know what you mean, searching for something to complain about because you aren't feeling good right now.
      I really hope that things will turn out right and that you will feel better soon!

    3. Thank you for your kind words. I am trying to keep my chin up, but I think it's going to be a long time before things improve.

  2. Once you mentioned circus tent, I can't stop seeing it-- I love the fact it looks like that! But then, I absolutely love the circus...
    But I know that the meaning behind it is far more important.

    I never knew the colors represented so much-- that's quite nice to know.

    1. Well, I'm glad you like my circus tent. I will wear it with pride.

  3. I admire your tenacity in sticking this project out to the end! Sounds like it was a fight from start to finish.

    My camera warps certain shades of purple into a bright blue, too. It's a huge pain for a purple lover like me! I do color-correct in photoshop (otherwise my latest post would have been a disaster).

    Hang in there, and if you need a semi-anonymous ear to listen, feel free to email!

    1. My Photoshop skills aren't that great, and adjusting shades of purple aren't particularly high on my priority list at the moment.

      Thank you for your kind words. I might take you up on that.

  4. If you'd like to make another, I would gladly pay you to create a custom Suffragette frock!

    1. My email address is spookyseamstress AT gmail DOT com. Email me and I'm sure we can work something out.