A Modern Dressmaking Tale

A Modern Dressmaking Tale

Who has a dressmaker?  I sure as hell don’t.  Nope, no Hong Kong tailors to whip up knock-off versions of designer pieces (yes they do do that…).  There is the mothership who will mend my clothes and help me out when I’m bawling at the crusty old Singer machine but dressmaker she is not.  There’s the Greek lady who will alter things when I can’t do it myself for a reasonable price but even that is undergoing the effects of inflation.   

When I wrote about my desire for a ‘softly shameful’ Comme des Garcons cages dress, I knew deep down in my heart that with my limited DIY skills, I’d never be able to muster anything up.  A solution unfurled into an even better solution though.  Faithful commentor Angie Montreal suggested the use of Etsy’s Alchemy, a system wherby people put in a request for ‘I want such and such made…’ and someone replies with bids of ‘I can so make that…’.  Simple, except I hadn’t any experience with this and who knew what sort of people would reply to my bizaaro requests, or would they reply at all….

Solution… Angie is a skilled designer, working full time in fashion.  She does Alchemy requests from time to time and has her own Etsy shop.  She has her own boutique slash gallery that has a lot of neat stuff.  As she has been commenting a fair few times, I feel like I sort of know her in that very vague ‘internet’ way… eureka…Angie, PLEASE make my CdG dress happen for me!  I beg of you!

Funnily enough, soon after my post about the dress, an Alchemy request popped up on Etsy hankering after that same dress in grey jersey and she was only prepare to pay $25 for someone to buy the materials and make this dress for her…. I wasn’t about to try and rip anyone off though.  Angie and I came to a sensible price that was suggested by her and from my perspective it’s bargainous, yet fair to the designer who is working on this in HER OWN TIME and investing effort into sourcing materials and making the dress.

So for a month and a bit, we emailed each back and forth, beginning with measurements (no qualms about letting people know those if they’re gonna be slaving over a dress for you…) and design ideas.  She was very conscientious of the fact that she didn’t want to make a straight off copy of the original design (note, she is a DESIGNER, not a pure dressmaker…) and I was in total agreement.  I merely wanted to take the idea of the caged CdG dress and use different fabrics and give it a more robust shape and so the bust became filled in.  Together, we brainstormed ideas for colours and fabrics.  I was particularly keen on highlighting the lingerie aspect of the design so I suggested using pastel colours and lingerie-inspired fabric to make the dress…


I plumped for the pale blue and peach combo…

It was such an informative collaboration with Angie coming to me with fabric ideas, suggestions and photos of the whole process that it seemed to me that for the first time, I had embarked upon a modern dressmaking mission.  Her trimmings and fabrics warehouse and what she came out of it with…

Susietrims1 Susietrims2

The vintage pattern which she used for the boddice of the dress…


The final fabric choices… a wonderful baby blue grosgrain ribbon and a delicate peach chiffon…


Whilst she was working on the dress, it was interesting to see the photos of the process of making… miles apart from my sewing machine efforts where threads are tangled and everything looks a right mess…



The thing that I have to be really grateful to Angie for is that whilst she was working on this project for me, she had to deal with moving house, relatives visiting, holding two exhibitions at her shop/gallery,  doing a 100-piece wholesale order, oh and holding down that fulltime job… despite all of that, she took the greatest care, employing historical lingerie techniques that she learnt at uni, French hidden seams, making sure those hand-pulled ruffles are perfect and generally ensuring all the ‘deets’ are well done.  When Angie sent me the pics of the final finished result, I did in fact yelp at my office desk with onlookers giving me quizical looks….


Finaldress2 Finaldress3




I was reaching out to the screen to touch it…. in an ape-like manner momentarilhy thinking I could physically touch things on the computer screen.  Angie sharpishly popped it in the post and on Wednesday, it came, all tissue paper and ribbon with a bonus Norwegian Wood pin cushion from Angie to ‘apologise’ for taking so long with the dress.  Apologise?!?  What the hell for?!?  Without even trying it on, I knew it was perfect.  The ruffles, the grosgain, the colours….and in the office toilets, yup, the thing fitted right and now I’m in the process of trying different outfits on with it… much experimentation is needed with something like this…

Angiel1 Angiel2

This post has been rather sickly hasn’t it?  Oh so positive, oh so lovely, oh so pretty, oh Angie….

Trust me to then cock it up when Angie sent me a follow up email to check I got the dress ok and asked ‘Did you get the other little surprise?’  Was she talking about the pin cushion?  No…. turns out she made a SEPARATE caged skirt Acne SS08 style and tucked it at the bottom of the box as a separate package.  In my excitement and frothy stupidity, I took the dress package out of the box and…. oh dear lord, don’t send me to hell for this… chucked away the box with the skirt inside it…. at the office….the next day, the council had already taken the garbage away and I don’t want to think about what said skirt looks like or what has become of it….

Yes, I’m a fooligan…

Thank you Angie for upholding a two month-long email conversation with me with the subject line ‘Cagey?’ and once again, I hope I won’t forever be known as ‘The Girl who Chucked Away Your Skirt’…. all I can say is, I’ve found a DIY-collaborator of sorts and I’m a happy customer… outfit post on its way once I can stop jumping up and down and squealing annoyingly over all the ruffles…

**EDIT** What is this rubbish grey sky we’re getting?  It’s gotten in the way of my oufit post dedicated to this dress…. by ‘on its way’, I therefore mean tomorrow because frankly, any shitty photos doing this dress injustice will make me cry with shame…. 


Leave a comment
  1. ms-mojo-rising

    2008-05-16 at 11:34 AM

    It looks great! really love the fabric choice and the ruffles.
    How great of Angie for helping you out!!

  2. Rowena

    2008-05-16 at 11:49 AM

    Ohhhhhh – mmmmmmmmmm!!!
    And ohhh nooooo! (for the accidental binning)

  3. Sushy_H

    2008-05-16 at 11:51 AM

    That is gorgeous! Angie is one talented designer.

  4. juznie

    2008-05-16 at 11:52 AM

    Wow, so gorgeous… but what a shame about the skirt!

  5. missmilki

    2008-05-16 at 11:59 AM

    Oh no you didn’t! You must be black and blue from kicking yourself! Once, years ago my friend got a Christmas card and threw the envelope onto the fire…it had a ¬£50 note in it…we were about 14 so that was alot of money…needless to say, tears were shed!
    However, you can’t be too sad because that is the most amazing dress! I LOVE seeing the process of the design and making. Its very exciting. Can’t wait to see some outfit photos!

  6. Martin

    2008-05-16 at 12:06 PM

    This entire post was made of win, I love you Susie Bubble! HAHAHA.

  7. poppy lee

    2008-05-16 at 12:11 PM

    wonderful dress and loved reading about the process. i can’t wait to see the outfits. angie is so amazingly talented.
    though nowhere near as bad, i managed to throw an etsy purchase in the bin once too. it was a paraphernalia necklace. thought i’d taken it out of the jiffy and put it in my bag, so threw all the packaging out. turns out the necklace was still inside…. never got it back.
    try not to kick yourself too much about it.

  8. Deborah Jones

    2008-05-16 at 12:16 PM

    It is such a beautiful dress! Whatever you paid it was so worth it to have something so lovely, unique and obviously made with such skill and dedication to getting it right!

  9. kim

    2008-05-16 at 12:19 PM

    Oh nooo, that’s such bad luck! The dress looks really lovely, I look forward to seeing you try out combinations with it 🙂

  10. Francis Girard

    2008-05-16 at 12:19 PM

    its just beautiful but Susie the pain, the pain – I say move on, just move on and forget the other skirt ever existed. THE PAIN!!!!!!!

  11. HMSlatex

    2008-05-16 at 12:35 PM

    Wow, this is gorgeous! I love Etsy, such a fantastic place! 🙂

  12. Sarah

    2008-05-16 at 12:47 PM

    What a beautiful dress, and it’s such a shame about the skirt.

  13. Giselle

    2008-05-16 at 1:03 PM

    that dress is gorgeous, I’m feeling very inspired now! Your one lucky gal 🙂
    -Giselle <3<3<3

  14. a dreamer

    2008-05-16 at 1:20 PM

    oh that is so beautiful! the ruffles… the colours…awww
    angie sounds very sweet.

  15. Victoria

    2008-05-16 at 1:40 PM

    Absolutely fabulous dress! Love your choice of colours too! So sorry to hear about the skirt. Maybe the fashion fairy will deliver it to another fashionista? Who knows – but at least it helps to think positively!

  16. Jael

    2008-05-16 at 2:30 PM

    That’s beautiful and I want one.
    Thanks for sharing your Etsy experience.
    The bit about throwing away the skirt made me gasp. Always shake out the tissue paper!

  17. violetville vintage

    2008-05-16 at 2:38 PM

    I adore this idea of commissioning a dress from a creator on etsy (or elsewhere, but etsy itself is so fabulous at joining people together in a mutual creative mission).
    I know so many creative seamstresses and fashion designers (even just here in Milwaukee, which in itself seems a bastion of boutique indie fashion and art/craft boutiques), that I can’t believe more people aren’t taking it upon themselves to commission fashion (…wheels spinning…)!

  18. enc

    2008-05-16 at 2:52 PM

    Amazing and incredible. What a great way to pair up two people to get something done. The quality looks beautiful.

  19. Angie Montreal

    2008-05-16 at 3:00 PM

    Thank you thank you Susie for the amazingly kind words!
    I’ve come up with a not ideal but more pleasant solution for dealing with your loss of skirt. Picture it on some garbage man, you know just going around town, picking up garbage in his garbage man outfit, but just with the cage skirt over it. Striking poses on the back of the garbage truck, etc. Maybe we’ll spot him on Facehunter some day…
    At least you’ll get a giggle out of that image!
    Can’t wait for the sun to come out to see some outfit pics!

  20. Laia

    2008-05-16 at 3:10 PM

    Oh this is absolutely fantastic. I haven’t had a dress made since my 8th grade graduation dance (and that had mixed results). This is so cool, I cant wait to see how you’re going to wear it.
    It’s really grey, rainy and gross in nyc too, looks like no one is having a good friday 🙁

  21. Mej

    2008-05-16 at 3:21 PM

    OMG! Angie is such an inspiration for me. wow!=> it’s designers like her who inspire me to really take up fashion designing and be keen on sewing and details as well! i love that she instead tweaked the “caged dress” and both of you did a collaboration of designs. it’s really really amazing. can’t wait to see the outfit post!=>

  22. Elisabeth

    2008-05-16 at 3:27 PM

    Wow, she is very talented! The dress is gorgeous.

  23. WendyB

    2008-05-16 at 3:44 PM

    Oh no! That skirt story is tragic.

  24. raq

    2008-05-16 at 3:45 PM

    gorgeous! and really feel your pain about the skirt (also since we won’t be able to see outfits of you with them too…)

  25. Iheartfashion

    2008-05-16 at 4:17 PM

    What an absolutely lovely dress! Can’t wait to see how you wear it!

  26. Likky

    2008-05-16 at 4:29 PM

    wow, what a beautiful and romantic piece by angie, and founded on etsy, no less!
    so sad to hear about the loss of that skirt, but at least you still have this gorgeous dress, dripping in frills and sweetness, that only a few ppl can pull off…
    can’t wait to see you in it on a sunny day! 🙂

  27. Pamcasso

    2008-05-16 at 4:33 PM

    This is gorgeous. Thanks for posting about alchemy, I’ve been thinking about using it. I really love Angie’s shop, I’ve had her owl in my favorites for a while! must order soon!

  28. selina

    2008-05-16 at 5:10 PM

    i love this post! it makes you totally feel what you’re feeling and is just gorgeous, the colours and the frills, so pretty! maybe relate the lost skirt to fate, maybe it would have cause something bad to happen…

  29. Thom Wong

    2008-05-16 at 5:17 PM

    100% awesome. I’m not QUITE at this level yet, but if you need flannel pyjama pants (with button hole drawstrings!) I’m your guy.

  30. the 90/10 rule

    2008-05-16 at 6:02 PM

    thanks for sharing the process & fantastic work, anjie!

  31. cute

    2008-05-16 at 6:09 PM

    Oh my, so incredibly drooling over the detail. It’s like a little cake with incredibly buttery frosting! What an amazing dressmaker sweet heart.

  32. tysonbodnarchuk

    2008-05-16 at 6:12 PM

    I love Angies designs so much I moved in with her!
    Good work little dude!

  33. Anna

    2008-05-16 at 6:21 PM

    Amazing… the colors are lovely and the ruffles are perfectly sewn. I wish I had that much skill.

  34. gilda

    2008-05-16 at 6:32 PM

    oh GOSH i wish i knew you were looking for someone to make you stuff! i would have totally loved to have made you something and we could both experiment. you’d be the perfect person i know who would wear crazy things! 🙂
    i’d never heard of all these alchemy requests… i should check that out and see if i could earn some pocket-money. 🙁 i actually made the cdg cage dress and skirt myself too, right after i saw that collection, just cos it was so great and i was so broke. haha. oops… sorry, rei-san. but i still do buy your stuff full-price!!!

  35. Chic Looks

    2008-05-16 at 6:32 PM

    I had to read this post twice just to be sure I read it right, after which I was like “Noooooooooo” not the skirt. Anyway I’m looking forward to seeing you in the dress.

  36. candace

    2008-05-16 at 6:44 PM

    beautiful work!
    sorry about the skirt susie, i do stuff like that all the time as well. 🙁

  37. jill

    2008-05-16 at 8:05 PM

    holy doodle, angie!! i know you worked so hard on this. ANOTHER happy customer.
    can’t wait to see it on miss bubble!

  38. Sister Wolf

    2008-05-16 at 8:09 PM

    What an amazing story. Such joy and heartbreak! It’s like a classic fairy tale. If I could, I would illustrate it for you in the style of John Tenniel. xoxoxoxo

  39. SwanDiamondRose

    2008-05-16 at 8:45 PM

    that looks so beautiful! can’t wait to see it on.

  40. jane komori

    2008-05-17 at 12:20 AM

    Susie! Here to comment on several FAN-tast-ICE posts! First of all I’d like to shout out to the idiot who can’t appreciate your excellent blog, and to tell you that I, for one, STRONGLY disagree. I also REALLY liked hearing about the making of The Dress, although I did gasp when I heard about the unfortunate, er, disposal of Th Skirt. And I am completely inspired by the fringe tights, and I am sorely tempted to copy-cat you, although I’ll substitue ribbon so as to prevent complete unoriginality. 😀

  41. fashiontoast

    2008-05-17 at 2:53 AM

    That color combination is pure magic. Can’t wait to see you in this…and sorry about the skirt!!

  42. ym

    2008-05-17 at 3:43 AM

    this is the most superficial,materialistic post i’ve ever read

  43. arline jernigana

    2008-05-17 at 6:34 AM

    Sorry about the phantom skirt. : (
    I would say, that Angie will get lots of requests from this post.

  44. flatbrokefab Ashleigh

    2008-05-17 at 7:53 AM

    aw how adorable. I have recently lowered my loooong hours to just the normal 37.5 and its heavenly because all of a sudden i have been so inspired to start designing and making clothes again… and this post has definately given me the fever!

  45. j

    2008-05-17 at 8:22 AM

    Angie’s done such an amazing job. The dress is gorgeous. I can’t wait to see how you’re going to style it I keep on coming back to your site a couple times today (even though I know it is in the wee hours of the morning over there in the UK!)
    sorry to hear about the skirt…but I really enjoyed reading your post! a modern fairytale it is!

  46. Winnie

    2008-05-17 at 10:31 AM

    Wow what an amazing dress, can’t wait to see your outfit posts!

  47. super kawaii mama

    2008-05-17 at 10:54 AM

    What a wonderful and tragic story. The dress is truly amazing. Strangely enough, I was fabric shopping myself the other day and came across some wonderful fabric that made me think of you. I was going to email you for measurements as I would love to make a little skirt from it, and I can only see you wearing it. So perhaps there may be some good skirt karma coming your way.
    An email will follow soon.
    XXX Super Kawaii Mama XXX

  48. angelyn yii

    2008-05-17 at 3:02 PM

    so feminine!…..

  49. alicepleasance

    2008-05-17 at 3:08 PM

    I bet you’ll double check every package/envelope from now on!
    It’s a long long time since I’m searching for a dressmaker, but apparently there are none from Hong Kong, no Greek woman, not even an old Italian housewife around here…

  50. evie

    2008-05-18 at 12:06 PM

    lol on the skirt although i trust it must’ve pained you at that moment when you discovered the trash can emptied. still, you have a marvelous dress, and like the others, can’t wait to see it

  51. lady coveted

    2008-05-18 at 6:00 PM

    oh my gosh, what a cool process! and i love what you’ve done with it too! i bet this won’t be the last dressmaking project…

  52. fly tie

    2008-05-29 at 5:08 AM

    that’s really nice. i love the color combination.

  53. gilda

    2008-06-12 at 2:39 AM

    that fabric with all the florals is soo cute!! i love it. i’ve actually made about 3 different cage outfits for myself… one each of a dress, skirt and pants! hahaha. they’re amazing and i love them to bits.

  54. Alisa

    2009-01-17 at 11:55 AM

    WOW! I love it! It’s amazing! I want one too:(

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