It is entirely hand-stitched, just like my tank. I added beading to make this a fancier sort of outfit because I wore it to chaperone prom. :-)
I used the short fitted dress and bolero patterns from Alabama Studio Sewing and Design. I altered the neckline a bit, the same way I did for my tank, but I didn't think about how this dress would fit at my waist until I was almost finished with the construction. I ended up needing to take it up at the shoulders to bring the waistline of the dress up to my waist (I have a short torso, and I often need to shorten the bodice of my dresses), so the neckline is even higher than I originally intended. I hate that I didn't think to check this before I cut out my fabric, but it's okay. The fit is still pretty good, and this dress is incredibly comfortable.
I bought my cotton jersey from Organic Cotton Plus. This jersey very closely matches the weight of the AC jersey at less than half of the cost. I found glass beads and button craft thread at local stores, and I went through a ton of both. I should have kept track of how many spools of thread I used--I felt like I was always running out! For the stencil design, I used the AC paisley stencil again and regular fabric paint from a local store. I liked how the navy paint looked on the navy fabric, so I left some of the design uncut. I applied the beads with a running stitch and used a back stitch for the flower part of the design. I wanted the bolero to dress up the outfit a bit, so I added beads to the binding with a parallel whip stitch. For the binding on the dress, I left off the beads and used a feather stitch, which might be my new favorite decorative stitch.
As I mentioned in my post about my AC tank, I really enjoy the hand stitching for these garments. I didn't think I would because one of the reasons I like sewing (as opposed to knitting) is the element of instant gratification. For most sewn garments, your progress is quickly apparent, and the entire process can take as little as a few hours. However, I am perfectly willing to take on a sewing challenge that requires more time and attention to detail, and I think this project satisfied that desire for me. I can't wait to start on another AC style garment, but I want some time to plan it out. Sounds like an excellent summer project.
I think the hardest thing to accept about this type of project is that it will not be perfect. Every stitch cannot possibly be uniform, there will be imperfections in the paint and the design, and those are the qualities that make a dress like this even more unique and special. Everything about this outfit is unique to me; every inch of fabric has passed through my hands. This is slow sewing and design at its heart.
I like that this dress becomes a little more casual on its own. I know this style may not appeal to everyone, but I adore it. I can't say that I would want my entire wardrobe to be AC style garments, but I like that this is very different from anything I see in real life day-to-day.