Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Red Packet Dress

Red envelopes filled with money, known as red packets or 'hong bao', are often exchanged during the Chinese New Year. Which was the reason for my trip to Singapore - so I could give out (and receive) some of those delightful envelopes! It is also traditional to wear a new outfit for the Chinese New Year, and although I never need an excuse for a new outfit, I was very happy to work on a new dress for the occasion. 
It may have been a 'new' dress, but the fabric certainly wasn't brand new. The shiny, red brocade fabric came from eBay about six months ago - I think they started life in the 1960s destined to become curtains, but were left somewhere and forgotten about, until I got my hands on them. Curtains? No way, they were much too magnificent for that!
Dress - selfmade, Tights - Sainsburys, Shoes - Hongkong (a very long time ago)
The dress itself is fairly simple - a sleeveless, jewel necked bodice, with darts at midriff and bust, and a half-circle skirt on the bottom. I lined the bodice with some cream habutai silk - very luxurious, and very comfortable too, especially in the tropical heat. I also put in a lapped zipper in the centre back seam, using a vintage metal zipper from my stash. 

The brocade fabric is fairly thick, so I ended up with a fairly heavy dress, and I was worried that I would be sweating in a very unladylike manner throughout the day. I'd even thought of bringing a petticoat along to give the skirt even more floof, but then decided against giving myself heatstroke. Good thing I decided against that option! When the time came though, the dress actually turned out to be surprisingly comfortable, and the perspiration was kept to a very bare minimum. I'm pretty sure the habutai lining helped in keeping cool - I'm definitely a fan of it now. It may be more expensive than other kinds of lining material, but I think it's worth the expense. 
Lastly, I finished the hem with some horsehair braid (following Gertie's tutorial) to give it some shape. That handsewing very nearly defeated me - I was frantically catchstitching just hours before my flight on Friday morning. I think it was worth it though - the hem certainly stands out nicely instead of hanging limply around my knees. 

Looking like a walking, talking red packet certainly seemed to pay off during the Chinese New Year, as I ended up collecting quite a few of those wonderful envelopes during the course of my holiday!


  1. Oh pretttttyyyyyy! Happy Chinese New Year, and well done on your gorgeous thematically appropriate dress. Love the fit, love the material, love the lovely catch-stitching. You look like a beautifully fitted firework.

    1. Haha, thanks Leah! 'beautifully fitted firework', eh? Might just have to steal that one the next time I need to compliment someone ;)