I made this dress for a wintertime party that I wasn’t all that jazzed about going to (spoiler: I didn’t). It’s the first dress I’ve ever made (finished), and the first garment that I’d constructed in a long time so even though it’s probs a little out of season, I thought it was a good place to start the adventure!
I like to get fancy on occasion in the winter, but I’m also not down with feeling cold. This is a problem for me because I have a really hard time finding dresses that have long sleeves AND a long skirt. It’s like, long sleeves short skirt, or long skirt no sleeves. I wanted both! So… I did end up staying home from that party to work on the dress, but I’m still happy to have a piece like this in my wardrobe for future winter fancy hangs.
French Seams, will you marry me?
So I’m not that new to sewing but relatively new to fashion sewing, so when I saw the phrase “Finish the seams,” I had to look that business up. I found lots of options, like using a serger (don’t have one), or imitating a serger using zig zag or overlock stitches on the raw edge of the seam. But I was feeling fancy so I liked the options that fully encased the seams, like hong kong seams (where the seam is sewn right sides together and finished with bias binding) and french seams (where the seam is encased within a second seam). French seams are good with lightweight fabrics and I was using a nice light poplin, so I gave it a go. I was not prepared for how much I would love this method! It gives the garment such an amazing finished feel that makes you feel like it could still be around for your ancestors to wear. This tutorial was super helpful for setting in the sleeves using french seams.
Big Print – Laying it down
Giant dresses are the perfect space for giant prints! Since the repeat in the fabric I used is so large, it wasn’t so much a matter of pattern matching as it was fussily moving pattern pieces around until I found ones with a good balance and with flowers in the right places. First I centered the skirt panels around a strip of negative space, cut one of the front panels, and then moved that piece around to find a spot for the opposite side that had a good balance of flowers and banding, keeping seam allowances in mind. I went through basically the same process with the bodice panels and back panel except that for those I was looking for less negative space and more big flowers and dark colors. It took me WAY longer to cut than I thought it would, but I’m really happy with how it laid out
Sizing, Buttons and Boo-boos
Sooo, I have a pretty small frame and I’m generally used to grabbing the smallest size when it came to dresses. That didn’t work out so well in this case – the sleeves came out shorter than I wanted (go fig the pattern company would account for petite sizes), and the overall fit was much snugger. It still works! buut it’s a trimmer fit, and I usually roll up the sleeves to 3/4 length to hide the fact that they come up short at the wrists:The numbered sizes on the pattern envelope definitely don’t map on to numbered sizes in retail clothes. Some people attribute the difference in commercial and pattern sizing to “vanity sizing,” which is to say that retailers gradually marketed smaller sizes to the same women to make them feel like they are getting smaller instead of the sizes getting bigger. My partner in crime Lisa tells me that this has more to do with how the pattern is drafted around an average size – over time the average size that we’ve built the pattern around has changed. In any case, though, the point is that there is not much standardization on pattern sizing from commercial retail to pattern sizing, or even between pattern companies or over time within the same company. The moral of the story: if you’re also new to fashion sewing, don’t be a me – measure yo’self! And if you want to go the extra mile, doing a mock-up (toile) of the dress in a crappier or less expensive fabric gives you a chance to make minor adjustments where needed (like making the sleeves longer).
My other oops on this dress was that I didn’t do a very good job marking out where the button holes would go and the drape is just slightly wonky. Next time I’ll check the position of the buttons with the dress on or hanging instead of lying flat so I can head this off. I have a second version of this same dress pattern in my works-in-progress (WIP) bin, so hopefully I’ll get a second stab at it soon. (How do you mark out your button holes?)BUT I love the little neon green flower buttons I used! They fit my flashy style and are a perfect match for the neon green highlights in the fabric. Plus aren’t they cute? Eeeee!
I used McCall’s M7242, without much in the way of modification, for this pattern. I actually had to buy the pattern twice because I lost a piece! Isn’t that the worst?! I mean, there are definitely worse things, but it is a little inconvenient…
Like I said, I have another version of this dress in the works with some fun pieced elements and minor modifications to the pattern so keep an eye out!