How I Created The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress {The Flora Modiste Sewing Projects}

The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress Sewing Project Featured Image

And introducing: The sewing project from hell, the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress. And no. I am not exaggerating when I say that this was the actual sewing project from actual hell. It is, without a doubt, the most advanced & difficult sewing project I have ever worked on.

Not only here on The Flora Modiste, but in my entire life. But let's start from the beginning.

The inspiration for the Michele is based off of a FW18 Vince. dress that I saw while my husband & I were walking to the Apple store to get our iPhone batteries replaced. We were just walking along talking, and I saw this dress in the window display and literally stopped in my tracks.

And let me tell you: This does not happen often. Despite my love for fashion and beautiful clothing, I am usually able to walk through a mall without stopping. I make a conscious effort NOT to shop at malls, for the most part.

So it's pretty rare for a piece to literally make me stop walking and stare. And this dress had me. The particular piece in the window display was the Chevron Pleated Dress in Vintage Rose.

And it's an absolutely gorgeous piece.

The pleating pattern on the dress is unlike anything I have ever seen before.

It's almost like a tiered chevron pattern from the waist up, with big & bold protruding pleats from the waist down. The basic shape is that of a loose fitting sheath dress, with a high-low hem.

(Ready to learn how to sew chevron style pleats like on the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress? It is NOT easy, so make sure to grab your printable, step-by-step sewing tutorial below!)The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress: Learn How To Create Chevron Pleats The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress Sewing Project Garment Details

It basically ticks off every single thing that I love about a beautiful dress:

  1. A loose fitting, but still flattering fit. (Exemplified with those long, vertical pleats.)
  2. A midi-maxi length hem. (Always my fav, as you can tell here, here, & here.)
  3. Complicated, unusual construction details. (i.e. The insane chevron pleating pattern.)

So yah. The dress had me. And the thought that came in to my head instantly: I'm going to make that dress.

Now, mind you. This was at the BEGINNING of October. And I thought I had plenty of time to get this beautiful dress drafted, pleated, and sewn so that it would fit into my regular sewing & blogging schedule. I knew it was going to be a bit of a challenge, since I had never seen anything like it before.

But I felt like I was READY for a challenge.

I hadn't sewn a really difficult project in a while. (Probably since I was at FIDM, TBH.)

And I'm always talking to you guys about the benefits of learning how to sew. One of them being that you can teach yourself how to make those expensive dresses you fall in love with for a fraction of the cost.

(Ready to learn how to sew chevron style pleats like on the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress? It is NOT easy, so make sure to grab your printable, step-by-step sewing tutorial below!)The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress: Learn How To Create Chevron Pleats The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress Sewing Project Front Pleats

The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress Sewing Project Pleats Close Up

Oh, and the overall shape of the dress was really pretty simple. Just a basic sheath, so once I finished the pleating I could sew the thing up in an afternoon. Right? HA. HAHAHAHA.

If I didn't cry (multiple times) during the process of putting this dress together, have a mini meltdown, and set my blogging schedule back almost 3 weeks, it WOULD really be funny. Because what normal person honestly believes that they could draft, pleat, & sew something THIS complicated in a single week? #psycho

But I digress. Just minutes ago, I finished up with all of the final touches for the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress.

And I have mixed feelings about the project.

A huge part of me wishes I had never seen the dress, because I have literally worked on nothing else the last 3 weeks. Which is incredibly frustrating in itself, because I pride myself in getting a post out every single week, and keeping up with a valuable, consistent schedule.

But on the other hand.. I tackled (& completed, although it isn't perfect) an insanely complicated & advanced sewing project. I completed a project & figured out a pleating technique that wasn't in a SINGLE ONE of my sewing or pattern drafting books from FIDM.

(Ready to learn how to sew chevron style pleats like on the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress? It is NOT easy, so make sure to grab your printable, step-by-step sewing tutorial below!)The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress: Learn How To Create Chevron Pleats The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress Sewing Project Front View

And believe me--I pulled out ALL of my books from school. That's also another reason why I had initially decided to tackle this project. I figured that OF COURSE there was going to be a method on how to create this kind of chevron pleating pattern. Right?

Between all of my school books, I have 4 different sewing books and 2 pattern drafting books. And not a single book contained ANY information on how to create this type of pleating pattern.

Which, honestly, looking back.. Should have been my red flag to run the hell away from this project.

But nevertheless, I continued on.

I drafted up the overall shape of the dress, which was the easy part. I then drew on each individual pleat, creating that chevron-like pattern with each ascending & descending pleat. Slightly more challenging to figure out the shapes & lengths, but not too bad.

The difficult part (one, among many) was figuring out how to actually press the individual pleats that make up the chevron pattern. This in itself took about a day.. And don't worry--Next week's post will be ALL about how to create that chevron pleated pattern.

(Although I really wouldn't recommend attempting it unless you have immense amounts of patience. And time. Lots & lots & lots of time.)

But anyways.. I ended up figuring out how to create the chevron pattern with the pleats. And I think it is just so incredibly beautiful how the upper pleats ascend & descend.. It's almost like a waterfall. And then the long, flowing pleats to the floor just look so incredibly elegant.

(Ready to learn how to sew chevron style pleats like on the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress? It is NOT easy, so make sure to grab your printable, step-by-step sewing tutorial below!)The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress: Learn How To Create Chevron Pleats The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress Sewing Project Construction Details

As I mentioned above, I figured that once the pleating was completed, it would be pretty easy to sew the dress together. Again, so wrong. Aside from the pleating, a few things that made sewing up the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress particularly complicated:

  1. The dress lining: Not in itself too complicated, but combined with the factors below, also not easy. (BTW, we already have a sewing tutorial up on how to sew a dress lining. Check it out!)
  2. The center back invisible zipper: Again, CB zippers aren't too hard. And invisible zippers are cake. But combine a CB zipper, an invisible zipper, and NO center back seam.. SO COMPLICATED. For some unknown reason, I had thought sewing a CB invisible zipper without a seam would be like sewing an invisible zipper with a seam.. Makes absolutely zero sense looking back on it now, but that's how I started to sew it. Which resulted in it being irreversibly wrong. If you look closely (or not so closely, really) you can see my mistake that I really wasn't able to fix, but had to patch up.
  3. Hand sewn hem: Again, not hard in itself. But because of how wide the hem is, so incredibly time consuming. (BTW: We have two different hand stitching tutorials up on the blog. Check out both Part One & Part Two!)
  4. Side pockets: This was my own little addition to the dress. The original didn't have pockets, but I flat out refuse to sew a dress (or skirt, or anything really) without pockets. So I had to add those in. (And, you guessed it: We also have a sewing tutorial on how to sew inseam pockets. Check it out!)

Sooo yah. Not easy. And not to mention that since I had SO much trouble sewing in the zipper, a lot of the pleating (About 5 hours per side, so 10+ hours worth of work) I had done a week earlier needed to be repressed.

(Ready to learn how to sew chevron style pleats like on the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress? It is NOT easy, so make sure to grab your printable, step-by-step sewing tutorial below!)The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress: Learn How To Create Chevron Pleats The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress Sewing Project Side View

The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress Sewing Project Back View

And I think you're starting to get why this truly is the sewing project from hell. I also think that I made the mistake of not getting a stiff enough fabric. In our post on the Emma Skirt (& corresponding sewing tutorial on how to sew knife pleats) I went over how the best fabric to work with is an incredibly crisp, stiff fabric. It simply holds the pleats better, for longer.

And I think that the fabric I chose is too soft and too much of a blend. Which is why it didn't hold the pleating as well as I would have liked while sewing up the rest of the dress. And TBH, at certain angles, it's hard to even see the 10+ hours of pleating that went in to the dress in the first place.

The fabric is actually almost like a knit.. It's definitely a woven fabric, but has a bit of stretch like a knit. So I'm actually not 100% sure what it is. But I liked the weight & color, and for some reason I figured that it would work. SO. Lesson: If you are going to be working with a chevron pleating pattern..

Make sure to buy a STIFF, CRISP FABRIC.

You will be so. much. happier.

Seriously learned oh so many lessons with this project, it's kind of insane. And now, for the namesake of the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress.

(Ready to learn how to sew chevron style pleats like on the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress? It is NOT easy, so make sure to grab your printable, step-by-step sewing tutorial below!)The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress: Learn How To Create Chevron Pleats The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress Sewing Project Front Sweater

Most of the sewing projects over the last year have been named after my favorite characters from my favorite books. Books are a MAJOR source of joy & inspiration for me. Like, big.

But with this project, I wanted to go a different route and name it after a different type of inspiration of mine: Costume design.

I feel like costume design isn't something most people think about when they are watching a movie or a TV show. (Unless the costumes are insanely extravagant or complicated in some way.)

But I ALWAYS notice it.

I notice if they cut a garment a particular way, or if there is an unusual shape or seam line. It's pretty incredibly what some costume designers can come up with and physically create.

And, to me, one of the great costume designers of our time is Michele Clapton. Most famously known as the head costume designer for Game of Thrones. One of the reasons I wanted to name this sewing project after Michele was actually because this dress reminded me of one of Dany's dresses in seasons 4/5.

The pleated dress was underneath a turquoise tunic with a round keyhole in the front--But the lower half of the dress reminded me SO much of this project. And I always absolutely loved that costume of Dany's. (You may also remember I'm kind of in love with Dany/Emilia Clark, and have named a few projects after her as well.)

(Ready to learn how to sew chevron style pleats like on the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress? It is NOT easy, so make sure to grab your printable, step-by-step sewing tutorial below!)The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress: Learn How To Create Chevron Pleats The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress Sewing Project 3/4 View

I also just find Michele Clapton to be a fascinating designer. She is the head costume designer on the biggest show in the world, and she never fails to create absolutely beautiful pieces. Every piece looks like it belongs in that world, yet every piece also molds perfectly with each individual character.

And from a designing standpoint, I think that's absolutely incredible.

I don't feel like anything is ever over the top, which is incredibly easy to do with costume design. It's so easy to think that since Game of Thrones is a fantasy show, that the costumes should be fantastical and otherworldly. But she didn't go that route with the show, and I am SO glad.

As a working designer, seamstress, & pattern maker, I find Michele Clapton to be an inspiration. She is someone to aspire to in an industry that so often values what is on the surface, rather than the thought, detail, and effort that goes into well made clothing. And for such a complicated sewing project from hell that I spent WEEKS on..

I think that's a pretty worthy namesake. The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress Sewing Project Front Mid Pleats

So. Worth it? I'm honestly not sure. Part of me wishes I had just spent the $365 and bought the dress that I loved so much. But part of me knows that I should be proud that I was able to complete such an incredibly challenging project.

Even though I'm really not all that happy with it. And even though I had multiple (at least 5, I lost count) cry fests over this dress, a mini meltdown, and lost 3 weeks worth of work.. I did it. I saw an expensive, beautiful dress that I had no idea how to make, and I made it.

Granted, it's not perfect. That zipper in the back made this dress irreversibly imperfect. But I know that if I made the dress a second time, I would nail it. Now mind you, there isn't a chance in hell I'm making this dress again. Ever. Part of me doesn't even want to wear it because I feel like it was sown (sewn) with my own tears. (Quite literally.)

BUT I DID IT.

Which is a huge message that I want to impress upon you guys. I considered just scrapping this entire project because I felt so defeated and overwhelmed. But something just kept me going. And that's actually something I might write a separate post about--Would you guys be interested in that? Let me know your thoughts below!

(Ready to learn how to sew chevron style pleats like on the Michele Chevron Pleated Dress? It is NOT easy, so make sure to grab your printable, step-by-step sewing tutorial below!)The Michele Chevron Pleated Dress: Learn How To Create Chevron Pleats

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