When my hula sisters and I were asked to dance at a nursing home in town we all jumped at the chance to give just a little bit back to our community and the kupuna (elders) who reside at Hale Anuenue. We were told we could wear any mu’umu’u we wanted and one of the halau members volunteered to make us all lei…bright red. I realized that I really didn’t have a long dress with red in it and I didn’t want to wear a short mu’umu’u. So down to the fabric store I went. Searching through probably 50 different fabrics, I found the perfect fabric. It was predominantly red with a wide border of white hibiscus at the bottom. So I bought a couple of yards and took it home.
I had recently taken a marvelous class from the Lutterloh company on pattern drafting and decided this was the perfect time to try out what I learned so I gathered my measurements, pattern paper, measuring tapes, pins, etc. and started to draft. I followed the instructions to a tee. When I held the front pattern piece up to me, it looked like it was going to fit perfectly…I should’ve done the same to the back! When I cut the back piece out it seems a little wider than I expected, but since it had a gathered neck line I figured it would probably have to be a bit bigger to accommodate the gathers. So, I started cutting the fabric. There weren’t too many pieces, a front, back, sleeve and a facing. Done. I began sewing the pieces together, first putting in the zipper. When the two back pieces were sewn together it looked even bigger! But, I continued, certain that it would come out just right in the end. I attached the sleeves which seems to be a little puffy and big as well, but, well, they were suppose to be puffy sleeves, right? Okay, all was together and I decided to try it on. Auwe! Oh my gosh, it looked like a 50’s housedress! Huge. Very huge. Okay, back to the drawing board…took the zipper out and cut two big chunks off the back, reinstalled the zipper and sewed everything back together again. Oops! Looks like I got a little carried away with the cutting of “chunks” and it barely slid over my hips. No way could I ever dance hula in this. At the first ami it would split open like a bean pod! So, back again. It’s a good thing I made generous seams as I let them out a little on each side and voila, it fit. So I put it on and went into the house to show Keith. His reaction? “Whoa, that really looks frumpy!”. I looked in the mirror and indeed that was true. The neck was very high, the sleeves were very puffy, the bottom fell just below the knees. I had forgotten that bordered prints can only be cut one way and the fabric is only 45″ wide, so something had to be done about the bottom. Back to the sewing room. I cut the neckline down, got rid of the facing and sewed on matching red bias tape. Okay, better. I took off the sleeves and cut them to a manageable puffiness. They looked better. Tried on again and still didn’t like the look. Off to the fabric store where I bought a white on white piece of fabric. Back to the sewing room. I gathered the white fabric and added it to the bottom for length. Hmmmm, not bad, but I still didn’t like the neckline, so I cut it down some more and instead of red bias tape, I decided to tie the bottom in with white bias tape. Wow, it was growing on me. I checked it out again with Keith and got a much more positive reaction. Last I decided to add bands to the bottom of the sleeves and narrow red bias tape edge to the bottom of the white hem.
I got it done the day before the performance. I had to stop at the bank and the grocery store before the performance and people were stopping to comment on pretty my dress was. The performance went well with more comments on the dress. At lunch afterwards, people continued to stop me to say how they loved the dress.