Friday, June 17, 2016
Sewing: my ideal dress.
I've always had this idea in my head of "the perfect dress": fitted bodice, full skirt, made from cotton. No facings or collars or anything fiddly, and a good fit so I can move around without constantly adjusting something. Basic and simple (plus pockets!). I've sewn dresses in the past that I like and wear, but I've also sewn a lot of awful ones. I really needed summer dresses, so a couple of months ago I decided to finally figure out a dress that I would love.
It's been years since I wore anything sleeveless. I'm not crazy about sleeveless because I'm sort of self-conscious about my upper arms. (I have a whole post about self-esteem and sewing your own clothes that I've been trying to write since the fall. Maybe someday?) I try to stay out of the sun, but I always end up with a farmer's tan (so please excuse the blindingly pale arms in the photos above). Finally I realized that I couldn't get the fitted bodice that I wanted unless I left off the sleeves. And it actually works well because it's cooler during the summer, plus easier to wear under a sweater during the winter.
The bodice is from Simplicity 2444. Straight out of the envelope, it fit reasonably well. (I did go down one or two sizes automatically, because of the huge amount of ease that these patterns tend to include.) But I didn't like the skirt from that pattern. It has a seam in the front and pleats, and pleats are very unflattering on me...all of that excess fabric at the waist. So I substituted my favorite skirt pattern, McCall's M5431.
I made a muslin and ended up having to make quite a few little adjustments to get the fit right. I don't really enjoy that part of the process because it's trial and error, and I'm never sure if I'm doing things correctly. I took out about an inch at the shoulder seams and took in a lot at the side seams. I had trouble with gaping at the neck (apparently a common problem with this pattern), so I removed wedges of fabric from the neckline at the front and the back, using this information. I also narrowed the skirt pattern by a small amount, to make the waistline match up with the bodice waistline.
I lined the bodice (again, helpful info from the same blog), though it's not originally lined in the pattern. It's probably been at least 5 years since I've lined the bodice in a dress, and since I was going by my own cobbled-together instructions, I kept making dumb mistakes that resulted in a lot of seam ripping.
My first attempt (after the muslin) was the black and white polka dot one. (The fabric is cotton from Joann's.) I was very happy with it, except there was still too much gaping at the neck, so I added darts to the back neckline and then wedged out more from the pattern piece. Somehow the bodice edges were off by about 1/2 inch at the top (which I managed to mostly hide by sewing in a hook and eye), and this has to be the sloppiest zipper I've ever put in. But thankfully, most of those flaws aren't noticeable when I'm wearing it.
The second dress came together much more neatly. The fabric is once again, cotton from Joann's. (You can't tell but it's tiny metallic gold triangles on a navy background. I really like it!) The neckline gaping was fixed in the front, but I still need to take more from the back. But, final tweaks aside, this is basically my ideal dress! I'm very happy that I finally have a dress pattern that I love. Now I just need to make a couple more!