Heatwave buster- Tessuti Ruby & skirt 

img_2751-1This outfit was born with a heatwave – three years ago- Port Fairy. That was the year I thought I had cleverly combined a Christmas holiday at the beach with cooler than usual temperatures and less  humidity. The perfect holiday. Something for everyone.The added bonus for me was that I would have 10 days less of Sydney humidity to endure that Summer.

There was only one fly in the ointment.

Port Fairy was struck by a heatwave that year. It arrived the same day I did! For memory, temperatures reached 40 and it was just unbearable….and unusual.

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To make matters worse,  I didn’t have anything cool enough to wear….’cool’ as in temperature, that is (come to think of it, ditto the other meaning of cool, too). I  had plenty of clothes but nothing suitable for heatwave conditions…..apart from my nightie. I was pretty desperate and thought I’d have to spend the whole week driving around in the air conditioned car …….just to get home alive.

And then something happened. I found this outfit………. and my life changed….for the next 3 years!

The old heatwave buster- before it was completely worn out.

And yes I am smiling in this shot because this find was something like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It was cool, comfortable, decent, could be dressed up or dressed down, was light and easy to wash etc etc etc. And so, I lived in it for the rest of the holiday. I was truly liberated by this outfit……..let out of the air conditioned car…not just for the holiday but for the next 3 years.

Incidentally, it cost an arm and a leg. But I was in no bargaining position in that weather.  I would have paid anything to be comfortable. I needed that outfit.

Now here’s the thing. I have literally lived in this outfit since the day I bought it. I mean literally. I have worn it more than any other garment I have ever owned because not only was it cool but it was pretty and  very sympathetic to weight fluctuations. I always looked the same whether I was up ……or more up.  And in fact I wore it and Napisan-ed it so many hundreds of times that even the patches I mended it with have now worn out too. It has therefore been relegated to ‘around the house and can even cook in it’  status. And that’s a problem for me because I cannot function without it.

Enter Nowra Spotlight, a 40% off all fabrics sale, a Spotlight gift voucher for Christmas and the Tessuti Ruby pattern and I have reinvented the Port Fairy heatwave buster.

img_2751img_2757I made a few modifications to the Ruby top. I wanted it to be a little more fitted around the bust so I added darts. I also omitted the back opening – it fits easily over the head.IMG_2755.jpgI simplified the neck and armhole detail  because the focus of this outfit is the fabric which is a beautiful embroidered cotton.

IMG_2756.jpgThe skirt is a deliciously comfortable elastic waist…….narrow elastic and fairly loose.

The end result?

To say I am thrilled would be a gross understatement. I have my uniform back so I can now sail through the February and March humidity in relative comfort. And I actually think I will get more than 3 years wear out of this one because the fabric is of a beautiful quality.
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On a completely different topic……..well maybe a bit related because it was a holiday read, I cannot stop thinking about this compelling story. As a huge  Jimmy Barnes/Cold Chisel  fan I was interested in the historical aspect of how the band came into existence. I thought this might provide context for some of the lyrics. But I wasn’t nearly prepared for what I read. This is a very sad and disturbing story about a boy, who against incredible odds, survived an horrific childhood.  And yet, Jimmy Barnes didn’t just survive. He achieved phenomenal success as an Australian rock icon, in spite of his childhood…or maybe because of his childhood. Either way, its an inspirational story about what one can achieve by listening to the heart and focusing  on the vision.

Have a good weekend and happy Australia Day, next week.

The highs and lows of sewing, 2016

Mostly highs. I’d have to say this has been a milestone year for me, in terms of sewing. I think I’ve moved to the next level and I attribute this to social media……particularly Instagram which has really broadened my horizons. And for that reason I LOVE Instagram. It has been a great source of inspiration for me.

My first intro to Instagram….. and I don’t know how I’ve lived without it

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So how have I moved to the next level?

Its the first time I’ve drafted my own pattern.

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It’s also the first time I’ve got ‘the fit’ right for dresses for me....and that’s a huge first given I’ve been sewing for years. I will say it wasn’t easy. I unpicked until the cows came home but the result is these dresses which I am more than happy with with.

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It’s the first time I’ve  tackled this  jacket.  I’ve been looking at it for years but avoiding it because I thought it would be too hard/too much work. Turns out it was relatively quick and easy  and I think the possibilities for this style are endless . The blue is linen and the straw jacket is made from a heavy upholstery fabric.

Of course the big first was the fabric trip to Shanghai and London with my friend Wendy. That was absolutely brilliant and the highpoint of my sewing year. AND ………..hopefully the beginning of a tradition for Wendy and me……..we had so much fun.

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And of course there were the formal dresses.…..a first because it is the first time I have agreed to step outside the pattern……….very significant if you are a rule follower!!! I agreed to do all sorts of things to these patterns………not really me at all.

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Definitely the first time I have incorporated novelty prints into my garments.……and very effectively I have to say. I love them and will continue to use them. I love the fun side of fabrics.

Lets not forget the swimwear first.……..another whole story which I won’t start here but this was probably not one of my highest highs

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Another first that deserves a mention is knitting with fabric.OMG this is just so fun! That’s all I can say. I got the idea while on the London fabric tour and it’s something I would really like to develop. I think the sky’s the limit here. But I have to fess up that this is a UFO……..but also very much a current WIP and I have some great ideas.

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And not to forget the first time I’ve actively supported my daughter to try her hand at sewing….and with amazing results. She is very creative. Regrettably I am Mrs Rules so I struggle when she says but Mum I don’t need a pattern….it won’t take me long to make this top…all I need you to do is help me thread the machine. She was right. She made it in a couple of hours without a pattern and wore it that day. All I did was help thread the machine…..a learning curve for me!

img_2155img_2158And now for a 2016 sewing low.……...my overlocker was ‘found’ by someone in the carpark when I put it down for 5 minutes (hidden, I thought) behind the car. I hope they have lovely overlocked edges on their seams because  I don’t !

To summarise 2016 sewing for me…….a really big year that I enjoyed. What I have most enjoyed is the online sewing community of which I have become a part.  Thank you to everyone who has ever posted a sewing image on any form of social media. I have found it enormously inspirational and even exciting……..so much so that I try not to look at IG before I go to bed lest I should be so enlivened by a potential project that I cannot sleep!!!!! And that’s the truth.

On a very sad note….. my thoughts go out to David, husband of Katherine Scraper and her family. Katherine was better known in the sewing community as ….Pillows A-La-Mode.

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Katherine was an inspiration to me…….creative, resourceful, positive and clever and the sewing world has been enriched by her generous contributions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Formal Dress

img_2391Lots of late nights for this one…not a comment about degree of difficulty as much as busy time of year and short lead time. And there were a few challenges.

Ok. The pattern. My daughter had an idea in her head and enough confidence in me to believe I could create exactly what she wanted. Now this is very flattering but talk about pressure! You see,  I couldn’t find a pattern for a bralette top and I really am an absolute novice at drafting and grading. But I gave it a shot. This is what we started with for the top.

img_2414Using version A as the template, I added  4 inches to the band under the bust. I also interfaced the band and added boning to reinforce the  bodice. We omitted the halter neck and replaced it with  shoe string shoulder straps.  My daughter didn’t want buttons so we replaced these with press studs……big mistake because the press studs didn’t cut the mustard….they just didn’t hold so I had to do an eleventh hour safety pinning job as she was walking out the door.

img_2411 img_2415For the skirt I used version P which I lengthened by 8 inches but otherwise it was a perfect fit and smooth sailing.

The other big challenge was the fabric. The selection was based purely on colour. She just had to have that fabric because she loved the colour. Yes the colour is beautiful but this particular satin didn’t have the body to support the A line skirt. I wanted to work with something much heavier. But as we all know, when you have a vision, nothing else will do.  It had to be this particular flimsy satin despite my misgivings. So I improvised and lined the shirt with a medium weight cotton that worked quite well. The skirt hung beautifully.img_2382

img_2405She had a lovely night was thrilled with the dress and I will be pleased to move onto the next project tomorrow……..after a long sleep in.

International Day of the Girl- UN Women

Today I am blogging about girl power – well girl empowerment really.  October  11 is International Day of the Girl Child.  This is an initiative started by the UN to promote the rights of girls across the globe.

The objective of this day is to make people more aware of how life is for girls around the world – and the many challenges that girls face. I have included this extract from zonta international  to provide greater detail on these challenges.

Why have I blogged about this? Because I am passionate about empowering and mentoring girls today, to quip them  to lead and change the world for women (and men) tomorrow. I have enormous faith in today’s young  girls (and boys). I think they are intelligent, savvy,  tolerant and creative beings who have an insatiable  thirst for knowledge and justice and an astounding capacity to embrace and foster diversity. I believe they yearn for guidance and feed off the wisdom of those with experience. A partnership between women and girls is a formidable alliance and mentoring is key.

DKNY Jacket

img_2061I am so excited about this jacket because I absolutely love it and it was a long shot. There were just so many reasons why it shouldn’t have worked but I took a punt and it paid off.

img_2062This is an old pattern…well about 10 years……and one that I look at often. I love the femininity of the jacket. It is sort of pretty in a chic way….you know, a feel good jacket. But I was seriously put off by the French seams and top stitching and edge stitching ALL OVER the damn thing. So every time I looked at it I put it back.

Enter the Walthamstow linen fabric that I carted  all the way back from the UK and my own mad little ‘sewing bee challenges’. You see, lately, I’ve been playing the Great British Sewing Bee, by myself, in my own home. I say to myself before I start, ‘Sewers, you’ve  got 6 hours to complete this challenge’. And off I go. And I love it! I have so much fun by myself in my own little world. It sounds crazy but it’s fantastic! It’s like meditation because I am 100% focused on the project and its actually  very therapeutic. And ……my sewing is so much better because I am focused. And…….I get the garment finished quickly. No dithering. Sure. Its a bit mad. But very productive…..even though I am pretty liberal with my timeframes!

img_2051Anyway, I never really understood why I chose this colour and I didn’t like it much. So I decided to ‘choose it from the haberdashery’  to get rid of it.

Now interestingly  (and even more surprisingly), I loved making this jacket. I mean, I actually loved the whole French seam, edge stitching, top stitching bit.  And I enjoyed the precision of it all and the ironing of the seams. It was one of the most enjoyable sewing exercises I have done in a long time and it has occurred to me that I think I actually prefer making structured tailored garments to quicker easier things.

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And I love it, on me. It is a good  fit and the colour is perfect. I think it will be a great addition to my wardrobe.

And now for a little surprise wrinkle. See the white braid around the edges? It’s label tape!

img_2035What a stroke of brilliance  that was on my part You see I didn’t want to use braid because i didn’t want to sew it on.I didn’t want the stitching to be seen on the inside. The tape is iron on and it went on like a dream.

About the sleeves. I am under no illusion that they would pass muster with Patrick. But I just don’t know why they’re so bad. Could it be because I reinserted them about  85 times before I gave up? Perhaps it’s because I was too meticulous in the transferring of pattern marking! I have no clue.

But I did indulge myself in some shoulder pads…………….covered in Liberty no less

img_2038Yes I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge and cannot wait to make another in a more user friendly colour. I might do it for my own private quarter finals!

From Australia to London to buy fabric? Seriously?

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Well…..yes and no. Sort of, but not really. This was our fabric tour of London and Shanghai….a tour all about fabric, haberdashery and sewing- not exactly a trip to  buy fabric….even though the two got a bit mixed up at times.

How did this come about?

Good question. Well, my friend Wendy and I sew…all the time…..and buy fabric……often….and talk sewing and dressmaking and patterns and Threads magazine and read blogs about sewing and follow other sewers on Instagram and meet for morning teas and lunches at fabric stores all over Sydney and go to craft fairs and compare notes on the episodes of The Great British Sewing Bee.

You get the picture.

Now Wendy is a seasoned traveller. Anyway, after her last trip to Asia, she said to me in passing (actually I think it was by text) , was thinking,  wouldn’t it be great to do a fabric crawl of London? Well. I had never even contemplated anything nearly as fun as this …………..ever! It was like Christmas when you are a kid sort of excitement. I wasn’t even sure Wendy really meant it. But I was there. Done. And before I could even text back YES YES YES, Wendy had the flights sorted!

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So we made a plan to meet every six weeks, at a fabric store somewhere (naturally) and nut out the details. I think we actually gave the Sydney fabric market a huge boost while we were planning the trip…….so that’s good for the economy!

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What did we actually want to do there?

I’ll tell you. We were on a mission.  We were going to London to completely immerse ourselves in our craft. Fabric, patterns, haberdashery and everything else that is sewing related. We were unapologetic. This was an indulgence and we were hell bent on indulging ourselves every step of the way.

So to the itinerary. We pretty much left no stone unturned and made a list that included every sewing related place, thing or person we could think of. Lets’s see, there was Sew Over it London, the man outside Sainsbury’s (from Did you make That), Liberty of London, Goldhawk Rd, Savile Row, Walthamstow Markets, Greenwich Markets, MacCulloch and Wallis, the Button Queen etc etc etc.  If we’d heard of it, it was on the list!

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The man outside Sainsbury’s

 

Then there was the other kind of fun. We knew we’d need some R and R after all that fabric shopping so we punctuated our ‘research’ days with more run of the mill entertainment like……………..

 

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and

 

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And then?  More ……IMG_1748hard…….

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work!!IMG_1751IMG_1746

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So did we enjoy it?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and speak for Wendy too. The answer is of course a resounding YES! We had a ball. We absolutely loved it. But what surprised me was that I loved it for reasons that I hadn’t really anticipated.

London

I absolutely loved London…..with a passion I didn’t know I had.  I mean, I’ve been there before but somehow this time it was different. Reflecting on what it was I loved,  I’d have to say it was the overall look and feel…..greyness (yes..the greyness), the tube, the colour of the Thames, the architecture, the traffic, the crowds, the mix, the fashion the busyness……the big city-ness of London. I just loved it. It was everything I had remembered but in such a compelling way. I somehow couldn’t get enough of it….and in a crazy sort of way it felt like home…….in a ‘where I belong’ sort of way.img_1687

Talking shop and learning

Do you have any idea how much fun it is to go for 2 whole weeks talking about everything ‘sewing and fabric’ and not have to wonder if you are getting boring? Can you imagine how liberating that is? OMG! We didn’t stop. we completely immersed ourselves in sewing heaven. Went for broke. We dined out every meal, (3 meals a day) had umpteen coffees and  drinks, walked thousands of kilometres and talked shop the whole time. Our enthusiasm didn’t wane for a second. And on the rare days that fatigue did get the better of us, we’d retire to our respective rooms for even more fun! Wendy would do her appliqué and I had my knitting! In my book, that’s pure indulgence.

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Inspiration

I won’t lie, I came home with plenty of fabric. But I came home with even more inspiration…..truckloads. I couldn’t begin to explain the fuel that that trip poured into my soul.  Surrendering to one’s craft so completely is a rejuvenating and gratifying experience and I benefitted enormously from it. I am full of plans, ideas, and sketches. From a creative perspective, I feel light years ahead of where I was when I boarded the plane. I’m not sure what the plans actually are but I know there is a lot more scope for me to develop as a sewer. Technically, seeing, talking and reading have inspired me to focus more on process. I aspire to improving my technique.

Can you get fabric in London that you can’t get in Australia?

I am very loyal to my fabric shops. The range of fabrics and the service I receive from Tessuti, the Fabric Store, Remnant Warehouse and Pitt Trading  is way beyond what I will ever need to satisfy my creative sewing urges.

But London was different….for obvious reasons, namely the climate and population and perhaps even proximity to European suppliers. You can get everything you need in Australia or online. But the range of fabrics in London was mind boggling! Breathtaking even, particularly the Winter fabrics. I have never seen the likes of the ranges of wools, wool crepes and silks that I saw in London. It was staggering- truly a sight to behold. And then of course there was Liberty! It was an experience just standing in Liberty of London and drinking in the wall to wall shelves of Liberty prints.

what about Shanghai?

That is such another whole big story that I will deal with that separately

Would we do it again?

We would like to run tours!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marimekko cosmetic purse

IMG_1768I had long ago decided (actually, decided and reiterated to myself many times), that I would not go on another holiday without  new toiletry and cosmetic purses. Now I have seen the most beautiful purses, just about everywhere I shop. I could have bought one or two, many times over. I’m a sucker for them and would even like to collect them because they are so gorgeous.

But in true seamstress/dressmaker fashion, I pick them up and say to myself I could make that….. for half the price…. and mine would be even prettier.

And of course I never do. So I just keep wheeling out the old tattered ones with the stuck zips and hope nobody sees them.

But not any more!!!! Get a load of my new Marimekko cosmetic purse! I love it! I absolutely love it!

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I think it is the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen. Marimekko on the outside AND on the inside if you please!IMG_1774.jpg

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IMG_1767I have absolutely no doubt that I sound completely OTT but if you knew what I had been using for my make up, you would get me.

I found the pattern for this here and it was quick and simple. I omitted any stiffening or padding because the Marimekko has quite enough body. I lined the purse in the Marimekko water resistant fabric so I am happy that this will wash well.

You know, this was one project that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was so gratifying to have a completed project at the end of the sewing session. And the possibilities are endless so I’m pretty excited about the next one! Also a great idea for fetes, markets presents etc.

 

 

Knitting with rags- London inspiration

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I have so much to say about our London/Shanghai fabric crawl……..too much, really ..not sure where to start. So I’ll start with this…knitting with rags. Well, not exactly rags, but the guts  is certainly fabric that is torn into rag strips.

This is so much fun because it is a creative exercise where the sky is the limit. Anything goes!

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I started with a collection of white/cream braids and cottons. I think you can probably use anything really, as long as you can knit with it. I also bought 3 meters of light cotton fabric and tore it into rags one night in my hotel room (good time girl that I am…now you see why I had to travel with a fellow fabric diva…….normal people just don’t get it). I tied the rags together and rolled them into balls.

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I bought size 10 mm needles, cast on about 40 stitches in rag and the rest is history! Seriously, I couldn’t wait to get back to my room each night to do a few more rows! It’s just fabulous……it looks fantastic. I think it will be a top……..just a shapeless boxy top that will look a million bucks.

Thats the plan anyway but I may need to do a bit of shaping further down the track. I’ll see.IMG_1665The only hitch that I can see is convincing the airline to let me take the needles on board the plane……..I think I could finish it between London and Sydney.

36 hours later

Well I’m home and the top’s not finished. The airline wasn’t thrilled about needles on the plane ….even though they are more like broomsticks than weapons. Never mind.

Anyway I’ll keep going and if it doesn’t work out, there is one family member who was very happy to see me, and may just be able to find a use for the balls of rags when she’s finished with the cotton. I just love her gall…casually lifted the treasure  out of my suitcase and took it for a chew!

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Fabric tour- London and Shanghai

IMG_1386.JPGWell we’ve started. And our days are so busy I don’t really have time to blog. Or more precisely, I’m too tired to blog. 25000 plus steps on the Fitbit everyday and by the end of it, I’m fit for nothing other than sleep.  Above is the silk I bought in Shanghai. With Liberty of London next on the list, I picked up a couple of very pretty classics.

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IMG_1452.JPGToday was Sew Over It, Clapham. This was up there with our ‘must visit’s and aside from the fact that we didn’t get to meet Lisa, it didn’t disappoint.

IMG_1446.JPGFrom the perspective of gaining inspiration, the Dover Street Markets were a find.

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I will have to think long and hard before I put pen to paper on this one but suffice to say, the couture pieces were something else….well worth a look.

IMG_1425.JPGAnd speaking of inspiration, the Suzie Turner Couture fashion parade at the Savoy, over delivered.

IMG_1440.JPGIMG_1439.JPGIMG_1436IMG_1437IMG_1430.JPGBut tonight, I will spare you the words…….I am too tired and tomorrow is going to be a big day fabric shopping! Goodnight.

The midnight blue silk formal gown

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This is the silk formal gown that I made for my daughter.

IMG_1202 (1).jpgIt was a little bit of an eleventh hour job….only because I had to wait until she was home, so I could fit her. I knew what she wanted and I knew the colour so I was all ready.

I bought the silk from Studio Fabrics here in Sydney  and I have included the link because this shop is a ‘must visit’. I  hadn’t actually realised it was there but I’m so glad I found it because it is just beautiful. The fabrics were to die for and displayed so………..well, luxuriously. It was an  indulgent way to spend the lunch hour….spend being the operative word!

But the most impressive thing about this shop was the service. Now, I went in looking for ‘navy’ that was almost black. That was my mandate. It had to be dark dark navy or if I couldn’t get that, charcoal. But when I showed the girls in the shop a picture of the dress, and told them my daughter’s age, they insisted that I go for a lighter shade of navy….this is what they’re doing in Europe they said.  Well, I’m a ‘heart’ person. I never go with my head. I always know exactly what I want. So I had my doubts. I wanted dark navy. But the girls were emphatic. No, they said. Dark navy is so yesterday for a young person. It’s been done to death by mothers of the bride. Hmm. What to do. I always trust myself. But this wasn’t actually for me. So I did something very unusual. I trusted them.

And they were right!

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IMG_9835.jpgThe most challenging part of this dress was cutting it out.It was impossible to stabilise the silk sufficiently to cut around the cardboard pattern. A rotary cutter would have done the trick but alas…….no cutting board big enough. In the end I outlined the pattern in chalk and then cut it out….a much better idea.

IMG_1194.jpgBut even drawing in chalk on the silk was challenging….it slipped all over the place and I did wonder how well I was actually following the grain.

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But overall we were pleased with it. I’ve made the dress before but for this version, i replaced the spaghetti straps with a very fine satin covered cording. I used 8 meters in all so it could be wrapped around the waist and under the bust, to stabilise and embellish the dress. I made loops on the sides and waist through which the cording passed.IMG_9799.jpg

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The ball was thoroughly enjoyable, I am told and the dress worked a treat!