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Inspiration

From Cosplay to Gala with Marcy Harriell

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Marcy Harriell's latest maxi dress includes the faced hem technique she discovered during an eleventh-hour skirt-making session. Photos by Jack Deutsch

Editor’s note: In Threads #215 (Fall 2021), Digital Ambassador Marcy Harriell shares a clever and quick method for sewing a faced hem on a full skirt. Necessity is the mother of invention—find out how Marcy invented her technique. Take it away, Marcy.

Cosplay overload

Summer was coming to a sweltering end, and the fabric of our existence was made of actual fabric. Cosplay fabric, to be exact. Superhero costumes, in various stages of completion, had taken over our small Manhattan apartment. They were spread out on the floor, exploding from stuffed suitcases, dangling from floor lamps. We kept a narrow path of wood cleared to give access to the bed, the bath, and the kitchen. However, we didn’t do much cooking, as temperatures had been in the high 90s since July.

During this heat wave, Rob, my ever agreeable partner in crime, ended up in a gold basketweave pleather jacket, PVC elbow-length gloves, denim coated in multiple layers of acrylic paint, and a shoulder-length wig. Suffice it to say, this was a style departure. My superhero deserved a prize for keeping his cool in the clutter of that summer, and I was determined to give it to him, in something a little more his taste.

Rob Harriell in Aquaman costume
Rob Harriell in a custom Aquaman cosplay outfit created by Marcy Harriell. Photo by Dylan Osborne.

Transition to fall gala wear

The gentler temperatures of September were on the horizon, heralded by New York City Ballet’s fall gala. With the cosplay completed, and a week to sew, I wasn’t about to make a tux. But I could provide a classic white shirt with French cuffs and a black silk tie. Days quickly evaporated as I tweaked the fit for Rob’s sloping shoulders and athletic build, getting the cuff length just right for the suit jacket, unpicking all my stitches on the tie when it ended up an inch too wide.

With 24 hours to go, I was sure that I could knock out my own look overnight: a floor-length brocade skirt paired with a red leather bustier, the latter handily pilfered from my stock of superhero couture.

Marcy Harriell in Wonder Woman costume.
Marcy Harriell in a self-made Wonder Woman costume. She later repurposed the bustier for a formal gala look. Photo by Dylan Osborne.

The final save: A faced hem

On the day of the gala, I leveled the hem of my skirt and considered how to finish it quickly. From one of the many boxes of supplies in my apartment, 5 yards of horsehair braid peeked out at me. Suddenly, I decided it wasn’t a gala if I wasn’t wearing horsehair.

But at that point, the months of slam sewing had set my brain askew. After stitching the full length of horsehair to the hemline, I realized I’d attached the braid upside down. Now it was impossible to ease the horsehair’s gathering edge into the hem’s upper curve. There was nothing to do except cut the horsehair off and start over.

As I sliced three inches of perfect hem away, I admonished myself for setting the braid in upside down. Upside down! Something clicked—what if I could use those lost inches, by turning them upside down?

With hours left before the gala, I went for it. To my utter glee, I found that by inverting the detached hem, and applying it back to the hemline, I had a generous, flat hem that already matched the fabric and circumference of the skirt, with no need for gathering. I didn’t miss the horsehair—or the red carpet. We strolled out of our apartment, decked out in handmade garments—ready to leave the summer detritus behind and welcome fall.

Marcy and Rob Harriell in formal outfits in front of New York City Ballet gala backdrop.
Marcy and Rob Harriell at the New York City Ballet fall gala. They wear finery made by Marcy, including a beautifully hemmed full skirt. Photo by Julie Skarratt.

Now, I cut my skirts with three extra inches of length on purpose. The wide band becomes a facing without needing a separate pattern piece.

 

 

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  1. BardAndArtist | | #1

    How does the hem facing work on a flared skirt? I can see how it would work on a straight skirt.
    Wouldn't a flared skirt facing cut from the hem need to be gathered anyway?

  2. CarolFresia | | #2

    The facing is applied with the wider, convex edge sewn to the skirt's bottom edge. The curves are a very close match. The facing will be a little bit longer than the skirt's bottom circumference, but you take that extra length (which is probably less than 2 inches on most skirts) out at the seams. The concave edge (the bound edge in the top photo) ends up at the top of the facing, and lies flat against the skirt. Full instructions appear in Threads #215 (Fall 2021).
    Carol J. Fresia, Threads Senior Technical Editor

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