How often do you go to Black Tie events? If you are anything like me, the answer is probably once in a blue moon. Last week that blue moon happened.

Actually just Going Out is a reasonably rare occurrence and usually warrants mass panic and hysteria before leaving the house, not from the children, from me. By Going Out I don’t just mean leaving the house. I mean Going Out in the evening, to a social event, to an event where I might actually have to talk to someone other than a direct member of the family.

I have never been one for Going Out. At University I would wonder what the attraction was of going to, say, Time Tunnel, spending four hours in a room shouting at people, attempting not to feel self-conscious whilst dancing badly and being dressed in clothes that just weren’t ‘me’. In fact because much of University was spent revolving around doing this, or variations of it, it is probably why I never really enjoyed it that much. I could, however, see the point of going to the pub and sitting down with a pint in jeans and a top having a chat with mates. Or popping round to someone’s house and having a drink and a chat with friends, ostensibly Going Out to Stay In. That kind of Going Out I could understand and felt comfortable with, indeed, during my second year at Uni the art of Staying In Going Out was perfected as my housemates were such an eclectic bunch of people we didn’t particularly need to go out to have a good time.

The Black Tie Event though takes Going Out to a whole new level. I mean it’s not just Going Out, it’s Going Out Out.

Black Tie Events mean that you will be presented with a 5 course meal (more than you would usually eat in a week), there will be accompanying wine which means either a designated driver, or because this kind of thing happens so rarely, an extortionately priced taxi to add onto the babysitting costs. There is usually a fabulous band or DJ which means that dancing will be expected – sadly though no one will be foxtrotting round the room which would fit the theatre of the occasion, everyone will still be shuffling awkwardly from side to side Dad dancing but in a bow tie. Then of course, the question of what to wear gets totally blown out of all proportion. It’s not just a case of a pencil skirt and glittery top. Oh. No. This is where dressing to Go Out becomes all consuming. Not for men, their toughest question is what colour bow tie to wear, oh and whether to go for a matching hanky in the top pocket. For women the following decisions have to be made…

Do you for a short or long dress? Clingy of floaty? Sequinned? Lacy? Satin? Do you need special underwear for said dress? What shoes? Do you go for strappy sandals? Platform stilettos? Kitten heels (because at least you can walk in them)? Do you need a coat or a shawl or a pashmina? Hair…. Does it go up, down, curled, half and half? Nails… Make up…

OMG. The list goes ON.

However, at least you’re Going Out. You can get dressed up and look fabulous, even if it does only last for the champagne reception.

When we were invited to this Black Tie Event I stood and looked at my wardrobe. The theme was the Oscars, so Hollywood glamour was expected. This would definitely mean a long dress. I stood in front of my wardrobe and pulled out the few long dresses I owned, including a maternity one. None of them fitted. Another decision was thrown into the mix. Do I spend upwards of £100 on a dress that I will wear only once?

Sadly I don’t have a spare £100 to blow on a dress that will then spend the next 10 years in my wardrobe so I decided to get creative. I would make myself a dress.

Obviously making this decision was the easiest part of the whole project, and this decision was made after I had trawled through two towns worth of charity shops on the off chance that I would get lucky and find my ideal evening dress, in my size, for under a tenner. I did find an evening dress, but a size too small. I bought it. For £9. The cheapest way of getting fabric to make a new dress is to recycle an old dress, or two, so, in my Sewing Bee frame of mind I felt that this was too good an opportunity to miss and that there was enough fabric in the dress to make a long skirt.

Once at home I laid out the dresses that I could cut up and trawled the internet for ideas on what I could turn them into. I spent 3 days doing this. Some might say it was a waste of time. However these dissenters clearly don’t understand the creative procrastination process that has to be gone through when undertaking a project of this nature. You can’t just rush in and chop a dress up with little regard for the finished article. During this research phase I decided that I would need some new material to make the bodice part of the dress, so I bought a meter of pink stretch satin and an invisible zip from the local fabric shop, spending a further £7 and bringing my total expenditure to £16.

Finally, with 2 days left until the day of the Black Tie Event, I started work.

bodiceWhen making your own clothes you probably spend three quarters of your time thinking about what you are doing, then creating a pattern, then cutting out and ironing the fabric, then thinking a bit more about what you are doing. Only a quarter of your time is actually spent sewing. All was going swimmingly, the pressure of the looming deadline was adding a little frisson of excitement (ok, stress) to proceedings, but all was going well. I made a toile of the bodice to check the fitting made a few adjustments and then made the real bodice. I used lining from one of the dresses that were too small for the lining of the bodice and I cut the charity shop dress down so that I had a skirt to add to the new bodice. I stitched the two together and inserted the zip. I have never inserted an invisible zip before and I have no idea how to do it without ending up with one side of the dress back slightly higher than the other – any advice will be much appreciated. I did it three times before deciding that I would wear my hair down to cover the misalignment.


When I came down the stairs to Go Out last week in my recycled evening dress, and as I stepped out into the light of the Blue Moon, I actually felt a bit like a Hollywood Star.  Best thing was, the dress stayed in one piece!