Tuesday, February 3, 2009

McCall 5466, Pleat Neck Dress: Buyer Beware

Thumbnail

This is another project, like the Vogue 7898 mock wrap asymmetric hem dress, that I made back in October for my Germany trip. I am really liking the whole pleated neck detail thing that is so popular in the pattern books right now. I can't say I've actually seen it on the street or in store windows, but it's cute enough that I think it will catch on eventually.

This project was extremely frustrating. It is certainly an argument for muslining because I put a lot of work into a project that ended up being almost too uncomfortable to wear because of the draft of the armscye and sleeves.

The first challenge was lining. This being a Big 3 pattern, as is typical it did not provide for lining. Since I was making this in a wool (from The Carol Collection, of course!) it really needed to be lined for comfort, not to mention it just makes things nicer all around.

I first tried morphing the facing and the bodice pattern pieces into a non-pleat bodice to stabilize the neckline. However, when I put the unpleated bodice lining together it was way too tight and it was clear I wouldn't be able to skip the pleated parts of the neckline in the lining. So that was a couple hours down the tube. I ended up just cutting the bodice pattern out of lining fabric. Unfortunately, even with understitching the lining peeks out a little bit at the neckline.

Pattern Layout

After this it was the cutting layout. You can see here that I altered the pattern by narrowing the front dart for a small bust adjustment and shortening the skirt about an inch on the lengthen/shorten line. I am short, but most of my shortness is in my legs and I generally don't need to shorten above the waist. To match the plaids, I cut the fronts and backs along the same axes, and lined up notches across from one another. Because the skirt has pleats and therefore the top and bottom plaids couldn't match entirely, I decided to match up the vertical plaids at the centers front and back instead of sides front and back.

Reinforce Pocket Opening The next step was the pockets. This has hip pockets on the skirt; I liked the look but worried about the danger of them billowing out and widening my hips. I used cording slightly shorter than the length of the pocket and used the feed dogs the ease the pockets into it. This worked very well and the pockets are firm and secure.

Now was the actual sewing. Believe it or not I actually hand basted the side seams to get the plaids to match up, which they do, beautifully.

The back skirt pleats turned out to be awful over my large booty; you can see here that they pretty much stuck straight out. I closed up the bottoms of the pleats to make them into darts, and they lay well on the final product.

Restricted Movement This dress took me a several weekends worth of sewing to finish because of all the effort I put into it. I was concerned about the fit of the armscye during construction, but foolishly assumed this problem would somehow take care of itself when the dress was all put together. Foolish, foolish assumption. I have an exquisitely constructed dress in which I can barely move (this is after going back in and sewing everything on the very edge of the seam allowances to give me more room). The photo at right illustrates the limited range of motions of my arms, and every time I try to lift something I feel like the seams are going to split. It is a huge disappointment after all that work. I can only wear it on days I know I won't be doing anything strenuous (which, let's face it, is most days, but it's hard to get in and out of so my two-a-days at the gym are a disincentive to wearing it to work).

Armscyes are so much trouble. Some, like this, are way too tight. I have a small frame and though I work out and am toned I don't think my shoulders and arms are abnormally large--or even necessarily as large as the average size. And then there are ones like the Tippi Hedren dress that are way too large. I really don't get it.

I'm not going to give up on this style, as there are a lot of other options. I bought Simplicity 2846 as a replacement for this pattern; it has raglan sleeves so I figure it will give a little more ease of movement. Though I bought Simplicity 2724 for the shirtdress view (I have been shopping stash for a while to figure out what to make it out of) it also has a pleat neck bodice view. And BWOF gave us one in a knit in 12-2008-113.

All photos of this project are here and the pattern review is here.

23 comments:

Cindy said...

I have this pattern but never made it up because of the repeated criticism of the tight sleeves and armsyce. I might just pitch it! I am doing a reorganizing of my patterns right now!

I do love the look of the dress on you! Just stand pretty.

Rachel said...

I think that is the free pattern I downloaded from sewinpattern.com. Hmmmm...now it makes me wonder why it was free. Thanks for the tip.

Vicki said...

What a pain. BWOF had a dress pattern with similar neckline but higher a while back and I have seen the exact dress in the shops here. I don't recall what number it was but I know Dawn made it in black a few months back.

Elizabeth said...

You did a beautiful job. It looks great on you; just don't move. Stand and look pretty!

-E said...

That's a shame, because the dress is too cute. I had that same pokey rear pleating problem on the S2724, so watch that one too. It's like the pleat stitching ends in the wrong place or something.

Lori said...

That is a shame, it is very cute dress. I had this pattern in my cart last weekend at Joann's, after reading your review, happy I put it back.

Heather Dee said...

Oh Trena, that dress is absolutely adorable. I would wear it everyday. That is really really really too bad about the tightness in the shoulder arm area. I can relate because a few minutes ago I set in the sleeves of my Vogue 8408 and had the same problem. The dress fit GREAT before I put the sleeves in. I have already topstitched it but regardless, I'm going to drastic measures. I'm going to take out the back princess seams and make the back a little wider. I hope it works out. My dress fits a lot like yours does and I love it but I don't think I'll wear it if I can't lift up my arms! Anyway, good luck to you.

sharon said...

I don't know if this is of any import, but if you look at an armscye it is more or less a circle. If you sew closer to the edge of the circle, you reduce the diameter. If you want to make the armscye larger, you have to move away from the edge, thereby making the circumference of the circle larger. (from my mom, many years ago)

Lindsay T said...

Shhh, I have a little bit of that problem with the coat I made (and labored over). Not quite as restricting as what you've got going on, but enough to annoy me that I didn't resolve this. I still wear the coat. That dress is cute, though!

AllisonC said...

Well the dress looks great in the photo but I know it is annoying if it feels uncomfortable. I too love the pattern and it's in my stash, where it will be staying for now....Thank you for the great review.

Meg said...

After all the adjusting and mucking around you have a great dress, it looks good. Well done.

Jackie said...

The dress looks very nice on you, but I understand how irritating it can be to wear something that restricts your movement. You did a great job!

Faye Lewis said...

That is a lovely dress, thanks for sharing all the details. And you made it in plaid! You were right, clipping is the key to notched collars.

Birgitte said...

I so feel your pain (or discomfort). But you did a wonderful job matching the plaid. I'm almost sick of my plaid at this point, the matching drives a nerd like me INSANE! I really need to take a break and work with solid for a while...

Rose said...

sigh. thank you for the info about the wonky armscye and sleeves. I like the dress--the plaid is very striking. I hope that you are able to get some enjoyment out of it.

Sherril said...

If you had a pattern block for yourself, then you could compare your patterns to see how they would fit. Then you would also have a guide to make alterations to prevent armhole problems.

senaSews said...

That's too bad because you look great in this dress.

Sue said...

That fabric is great in that dress - what a shame about the pain it has caused you!

brocadegoddess said...

Hi there! I just started peeking around your blog and listening to the podcast with Cidelle (did I spell that right?) - love it!!! As a Canadian to who listened to one of your first ones (with just you) talking about Project Runway Canada - no, *you're* adorable!

Man oh man do I understand your frustration and disappointment. Something like this has happened to me more times than I would care to admit. But it does look great, so at least it's not a total loss!

If it's ok in my first post here I have a couple of comments/thoughts:

1. regarding the armscye, I think Sharon's comment is half right. While sewing a larger seam allowance makes the armhole bigger, it also pulls in the sleevehead if you sew them together with the same allowance. It *might* help to increase the seam allowance on the armhole and decrease the one on the sleeve, thus adding room on both counts.

2. I made a BWOF dress with this sort of neckline last year or so. I love it to pieces, but have the same problem with the lining rolling to the outside. But you made a lightbulb go off in my head: when I'm using a pattern that has only facings and I want to put in a lining, I will sometimes put in the facing too - either draft lining pieces to sew to the facing, or lay the lining flat inside the garment and use the facing to finish the neck edge and then catch-stitch it to the lining all around. I find this to be a really nice technique, and since lining adds next to nothing, it doesn't really affect bulk. I wonder if this might be a good way to deal with this neckline? That way, even if it rolls a bit to the outside you'll never notice because it's the dress fabric and not lining!

Thanks again for the great reading and getting my brain a-working!

Josie said...

Hello, I love your blog.
I made this dress to wear to a wedding last May and I found that the front armhole was too scooped out, which pulled the sleeve forward onto the body and made it too tight even when there was plenty of room in the bodice - lucky for once I made a muslin! I traced the pattern (I was making other alterations anyway) and just drew in a new front armhole curve less scooped out (I just eyeballed it) and it worked great for me. I lined the dress as well - I cut the bodice lining using the main pattern piece and pleated the two layer together, then bound the edges with bias strips(I had previously tried to work with the facing pattern as you did but it wasn't to be). I know it's too late for your dress but just a thought if you come up against this problem again. You can see my version and a description of what I did at http://josiesews.blogspot.com/2008/04/m5466-success.html
BTW I think your version is super cute anyway, so you can wear it when you just want to stand there and look hot!

Laura Lee said...

THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE POST!!!

I was just about to start a project using this pattern for an ASG challenge garment (a knock off of a a Michael Kors outfit from last Fall's collection) but will now use the Simplicity 2846 pattern instead!! Thank you thank you thank you!! Also, wanted to say hello from another DC sewist!! Great to see there are a few of us around. Check out www.DCThreads.org and see what we are doing to try to keep sewing alive in DC!
Thanks again!
Laura Lee

Marte said...

How about adding a gusset to the underarm? I think Sumerset of Pins and Needles has a good piece on that.

I also get armscye problems, so I pretty much always cut out the arms with a bigger allowance at the underarm curve, just in case.

Meetzorp said...

I had the same problem with this dress. I literally couldn't lift my arms over my head to zip the dress up. Good thing I'd made mine up out of a bit of crummy cheap calico I'd found in a thrift shop for less than a dollar! It's a cryin' shame, too, as this could and should be a cute, relatively easy dress.