Hot! The “Beauty for Ashes” Dress

Pattern: McCall’s 8443 view A

Year: 1966

Fabric: 2 yds med. weight white cotton $8 1yd floral poly $2

Notions: white thread $2.50 1 22in invisible zipper $2

Time to Complete: about 6hrs

Wear Again?: Yes-but where?

Total price: $14.50

I have been thinking a lot about what I will say about this dress and its inspiration. I picked the city of Jerusalem. Gosh. I don’t even know what to say. I’ll start from the beginning.

I was looking at pictures from the Commes des Garcons Spring 2012 line. This dress really caught my eye.

It’s like someone broke into the workroom and tagged the dress. I wanted to make my own version only I couldn’t think of what I would paint on the dress. I went to the fabric store with the intention of representing London or Memphis but I couldn’t get the white dress out of my head. I kept coming back to this white cotton fabric. I made the dress mostly because I could not think of anything else to make.

I did not have a dress to wear for Easter so I thought that whatever I make should be something I could wear to church as well. My first thought was Golgotha where Jesus was crucified. Make the dress then paint an image of a skull onto it. Cool but maybe a little too dark for Easter-plus Easter is all about the resurrection. So I went with Jerusalem.

I used the same pattern as I did for last week’s challenge only this time I used view A. I lengthened it to make a simple sheath dress and lengthened and widened the sleeves. I also added a pleat at the top of the sleeve to put a little more emphasis on the shoulder. I sewed the right sides of the sleeve and lining together along the sides and bottom then turned it all right side out, pressed it and top stitched along the edge. Instead of the separating zipper in back I used an invisible zipper. I had the idea for the contrasting fabric in the sleeve later in the week. After basting the dress together to get the fit right I got to thinking about how to finish the sleeve since the inside was going to show. I think the floral fabric makes it look more like fashion and less like a priestly garment. I have not lined the dress because I couldn’t really afford something nice and I felt like the cheaper lining would bring the quality down. I plan on exhibiting this dress at some point and will line it then. I wore it with a vintage slip for now.

I’m sorry all the pictures look the same. We were at a friend’s waiting for lunch and had about 20 minutes to walk to a nearby park and take them. I hope you get an idea of how the sleeves are attached and how it would flow when I walked or how it would fall when I was standing.

I like this one but I should have thought a little more about my hands. They look a bit claw like here. Also, my beautiful nude heels look a lot like sandals.

Of all the pieces I have made this one is one of the most meaningful. I was not raised in the church and did not become a follower of Christ until I was in my 20’s. I was an alcoholic and drug addict. Recovery and healing have taken many years but I would not be the woman I am today and could not share my gifts with you all if not for God and his love for me. He literally gets me through each and every project. That’s where the title for the dress comes from. In the Bible in Isaiah 61:1-3 it talks about giving us a crown of beauty instead of ashes. This dress is a representation of new life in Christ and symbolic of the church as the bride of Christ. It is not my intention to preach to you all so I hope it was OK to share this. I just thought it was important to share this little bit of my life with you so you could better understand my inspiration for the dress. These are the things that make us more real to each other right? Anyway, thanks for reading and I’ll see you all next week.



Gina Clark is a girl from Texas living in the Midwest. She has been sewing most of her life but swears every few months that she is giving it up for good.


Comments are closed.

  1. Your dress is gorgeous, and perfectly appropriate for Easter. I admire you and the challenges you have overcome earlier in your life.


    • Thank you Donna! It was a hit this past Sunday. I was a little nervous to wear it out. I am known for my interesting style but wasn’t sure if I was pushing it with this one!

  2. You are so amazingly creative and can execute your ideas with such panache, and thank you for sharing your story

  3. Wow! It doesn’t usually occur to me to comment, but wow! The cut and the style is fascinating, the story behind it is inspiring. The color contrast on the lining is brilliant. Seriously, honestly, beautiful.

  4. I think this dress is stunning, and I’m glad you made it and shared your story. I personally am Jewish and consider myself to be fairly observant, at least, inspirit if not always in practice, but I rarely talk about it on my blog. I’m glad you shared the inspiration for this gorgeous creation and I hope you had a lovely Easter.

    Also, way to cope a runway style for real life. Very cool.

  5. I hope you can find more occasions to wear this dress as it looks lovely and obviously has great significance for you. The way the colour splashes out of the sleeves is beautiful and your story is important in the understanding of the garment.

    • Thank you Jen. It will have to take a trip to the cleaners before it gets worn again! Some friends of ours have concerts and art events in their home so I may wear it then. I have always told them that I would do my best to dress the part and support their creative endeavors.

  6. What a beautiful dress, and I love the meaning behind the name. :)

    • Thank you! I was a little nervous sharing because I didn’t want to offend anyone. The responses have been very encouraging.

  7. Beautiful story and thanks for sharing. Stunning dress too …

    • Thanks! Didn’t think sewing could get so personal :) I’m happy to be able to share my victories with such an amazing group!

  8. Those Sleeves are Awesome! Love the dress and it’s inspiration.

  9. Your dress and its story brought tear to my eyes. Thank you for reminding me that God finds beauty where man finds ashes.

    • Your welcome! A little nudge and reminder are good every once and a while to remind us what life is really all about! Your reply has done that for me. Thank you!

  10. Your post made for a good morning read and the dress is really stunning.

    • Thanks Lisette! Any advice you can give on juggling work and sewing would be appreciated. I may be adding part time job to my already busy schedule.

  11. THAT DRESS TOOK MY BREATH AWAY. It reminds me a lot of the gown Gwyneth wore to the Oscars this year…..

  12. I LOVE this dress, although I first thought it had an attached cape. Now that I see they are lined sleeves I like it even more!

    Congratulations on fighting your addictions; I can’t imagine what that must have been like, and thank you for being open enough to share.

    • Thanks for the pat on the back! I think I should celebrate that more often. I don’t know if I could have pulled off a cape. Knowing me I may try to one day!

  13. Very pretty! Reminds me of the dress Gwyneth Paltrow wore to the Oscars (I think) this year. The pop of print is gorgeous!

    • I haven’t had a chance to check out what was worn for the Oscars. If I’d seen that dress it may have influenced the design a bit more1 Maybe someday I’ll play with that.

  14. It looks very lovely on you! I especially like the lining. I also thought of Gwyneth’s Oscar dress when I saw it.

    • Thank you! The lining definitely makes the dress. I’m so glad I was able to find it so easily. I usually end up wandering around the fabric store for an hour before I finally settle on something.

  15. Gina, your an amazing women and this is dress is a beautiful inside as it is outside. I think this is my favorite piece you have made so far. It reminded me also of the Gwyneth’s Oscar Dress but better!

  16. That’s quite a compliment! Thank you! It’s my favorite piece as well.

  17. What a lovely dress, and your testimony is so inspiring!

    • Thank you Evie. I think if we could all spend a little time together there would be a whole lot of amazing stories! This is a great group-

  18. Gorgeous gorgeous dress! I love the way you transformed a simple pattern into this amazing dress.

    • The funny thing is that I most likely have a simple pattern for a dress in my collection somewhere. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it! I was probably just trying to push my way through. Thank you for the compliment.

  19. I love this dress on you. You always amaze me with your creations and your inspirational posts. Hopefully you’ll be able to wear this a lot. It’s adorable.

  20. Gina I really love this, I would wear this is a heartbeat, LOVE Commes des Garcons you certainly captured this look perfectly. I really look forward to your posts, I hope you wear it again. Well done on your sobriety, every new day is a special day xx

    • Thanks Kazz! I think this would look great on you! Maybe I should send it to you and you can wear it somewhere and add a little fun to it with your gift of accessorizing. Take a picture of yourself then mail it on to the next person. We’ll be the “Sisterhood of the traveling dress”.

  21. Your dress is amazing and very creative. Your story is inspirational thank you for sharing, it is good to hear how good God has been to you.

  22. I love your creations Gina. You are an inspiration not only because of your creativity but turning your life around. Thank you for sharing your story and beautiful, beautiful dress.

    • Thank you lovely lady! You stole my heart with the Elvis thing! Your creativity and sense of humor are one of the best things about this group!

  23. wow! incredible! you are so unbelievably creative

  24. Oh wow this is a really special dress. You have certainly made a totally wearable version of that dress and the peek of fabric behind the dress is stunning.

    • i wonder if anyone has worn that Commes des Garcons dress? I know there are some hard core fans out there. Thanks for the compliment-

  25. This is a couture piece. I love it! Love the color white and color of the sleeves – very beautiful. Of course your story is redemptive!

  26. REALLY interesting Gina! I love it! Great inspiration (and totally something different!) with really beautiful results!


  27. I’m moved by the story of your inspiration and amazed at how all the elements came together in this high-fashion, vintage, totally wearable, very Gina dress. Great job!

  28. This is so incredibly striking and so meaningful. I am a Christian as well (and in fact I’m married to a pastor) and I know how much this dress must mean to you. Blessings to you!

  29. Not only are you are a rockstar seamstress, but a beautiful, brave woman as well. I have SO much respect for people who battle their demons. Your dress is absolutely beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing a part of yourself with us all.

  30. This is a beautiful dress. I saw something similiar in a catalog and loved it on first sight. I cut picture out for inspiration, but just never knew where to began. But I love what you did here

  31. Gina, you are so talented! This is so avant garde, and so beautiful. I for one did not have a problem with you sharing your story! I was so humbled and touched by it. I thought about all through that day. I love hearing people’s real stories and who would have thought that we could share and get to know one another, just like women used to in an old fashioned IRL sewing circle! x