The Un-Mermaid African Panel Skirt
And I had the perfect fabric: this long narrow length of fabric that I bought at a sari shop. It appeared to be made of metallic weft threads held together with loosely woven linen warp.
It was a slippery b***er, and even cutting it was a challenge. It was like handling a wriggling fish. I had to pin the selvages together to prevent slippage, then I had to cut very carefully to prevent the fabric from sliding out from under my scissors (I don’t have a pair of those fancy serrated ones). It started unravelling before I even finished cutting it, and it wouldn’t hold it’s shape, so I immediately cut some pink cotton voile to underline and help stabilize. I still held out hope that it would make the most amazing mermaid mini dress, shimmering with silver scales and flowing like a sea creature. Then I started sewing on my machine and this happened:
I used a super-sharp new needle, but it was still snagging the tinsel threads and pulling them through. I switched to a ball-point, but the result was the same. This fabric was clearly not meant to be sewn on a domestic machine!!! I may rescue the pieces and make scarves with some kind of hand rolled hems, but there is no way I have the time (or inclination) to underline and sew this dress completely by hand. Sigh.
Plan B: Ethnic / Tribal trend.
(I have a bit of a beef with this terminology…..I’d rather say international or global fashion. I guess (hope) that we’ve reached a point in society where we view our neighbours’ fashions less as exotic or tribal and more as international fashion statements in their own right. Have you ever seen the work of Bongiwe Walaza? Rant ended.)
Well, no one has a bigger obsession with South African shwe shwe fabrics here than I, so it was a quick dip into my stash for this beauty. This shwe shwe is purchased by the panel, which you then cut apart, realign the print and sew along the dotted lines. The Mamas in southern Africa tend to bring the seams in under the hip for a more mermaid shape (see, I managed to work mermaid in there somewhere), but for now, I’m sticking with the A-line; despite all the time I spend in southern Africa, I’m still not entirely comfortable highlighting the largest part of my body!!
When you purchase these panels, they take your waist measurement and then calculate how many panels you need. I was told I would need 7, but luckily thought to buy an extra one just in case, because it turned out that 8 panels was exactly enough. I would have been seriously crushed to discover that I didn’t have enough and I would probably never have the chance to purchase more, since they change prints quite often.
It will be a well worn and loved wardrobe staple, I’m sure. I’m also sure that is will last 1,000,000 times longer than anything I would have made from that shifty mermaid fabric.
Fabric: 8 cotton shwe shwe panels x 9R = 72R (~$10)
Notions: zipper, hook & eye, bias tape = $3
Time to complete: ~3hrs
First worn: June 27th to work and Board of Director meetings 1, 2 and 3. It’s a busy day.
Wear again? Yes, once I pinch an inch from the waistband.
Total price: ~$13