Every morning I stare at my wardrobe and nothing excites me. I’m really tired of the standard pants/shirt/topper silhouette and am beginning to realize that I want to wear dresses.
Simple sleeveless dress in fun prints. I always find things I like in the J. McLaughlin catalogue.
Simplicity 8570 has a similar look. A simple sleeveless dress with a wrap closure in the back.
There are 2 options for the back, a V opening, or rounded neck opening. I went with the rounded neck opening, thinking it would be easier to fit.
A couple of months ago, designers from Cotton + Steel had a clearance sale here in Atlanta. I came away with several different fabrics, including a few small pieces for handbags, two cuts of rayon, and this lightweight quilting cotton called “Frisky” in the Cat Lady collection by Sarah Watts. Honestly, I never would have guessed this is quilting cotton. It has a lovely hand and a bit of sheen. Best part? The design is subtle enough that you don’t know it’s a crazy cat lady print until you get really close.
This is a simple design – front, two backs, facings, tie.
Shaping comes from bust darts in the front, two fisheye darts in the back, and two neck darts at the back neckline. I measured the pattern pieces as well as I could (wrap closures complicate things), made a few small alterations in the darts: lowered the bust points by 1 1/2 inches, and reshaped the back darts to allow for my short waist (mid-point of dart was moved up 1″, and dart was made shorter by 1 1/2″).
Although the version I chose didn’t require pockets, I decided to add patch pockets. And to make them stand out just a bit, before attaching I stitched two rows of running stitches using off-white embroidery floss. A member of the Atlanta ASG decorates her garments with this type of simple embroidery and that was my inspiration.
The dress is unlined, and the back facings, in particular, are long and may flip open and show, which means edges need to be tidy. To finish the long edges I tried a trick that I’ve seen online. Probably everyone has seen this before, but it was new to me and a real time saver so I thought I’d share.
First, serge the unnotched edge of the interfaced facing without the blade cutting any of the seam allowance.
Then move to your sewing machine. Fold the serged edge under and topstitch within the width of the serging. The serged edge will fold under very easily meaning that you don’t need to burn your fingers by pressing in a narrow edge. The long curved facings were finished in a matter of minutes!
Fitting is the least fun part of sewing and on this project, I was lazy and didn’t size down and do an FBA. That wound up being a mistake. I measured the pattern pieces and figured it would work out. Wrong.
I tried the dress on a few times in the sewing process, but it was only after I attached the front and back facings when it became apparent that there was a huge fold of fabric at the neckline. Like almost 3 sizes worth. I had cut a 20, and Nancy Zieman’s books indicate I need a 16 – and the late, great Nancy was spot on. I wasn’t about to pick out the facings and shoulder so seriously considered leaving it as is.
Taking a page from a lot of RTW tops (that I actually dislike), I started folding the fabric and realized that the gaping could be addressed by making two small pleats in the centre of the front neckline. So that’s exactly what I did – folded pleats and stitched by hand to keep them in place. Not my favourite solution, but it worked.
This dress made it so apparent that I just have to take the time and do FBAs always. Or maybe just stick to a diet so I’m a smaller size all over. I’m ordering more Swedish Tracing Paper now.
Final Result: I Like It!
This is a classically shaped dress that I believe works for virtually any figure. The wrap around belt provides gentle shaping, even on those of us whose waists are disappearing (or moving north). My legs are long and I didn’t have to add a centimetre to the length. Maybe next time I’d add pockets in the side seam.
The fabric is fun. The wrap at the back stays closed. I’d say it’s a winner! Next time I’ll try it with some contrasting fabric for the pockets and tie.
Oh, and I had to preserve the selvedge. I mean, if you’re a crazy cat person you may as well just label yourself that way!