In my 2009 roundup I mentioned two fails. This is one of them. This dress is not an Epic Fail such as seen on failblog (warning: not necessarily safe for work or tasteful but sometimes funny), but more of a run-of-the-mill, every day kind of fail. It's wearable, and I will wear it often during cold weather, but I don't love it.
I really liked the look of Simplicity 2473 when it came out. I've been wanting a coat dress for a while without the work of a coat dress, which would be as much effort as an actual coat but at a fraction of the wearing value, and I thought the collar version on this would give the same feel. Perhaps someday I'll try again.
I got the fabric, a rayon/wool/linen blend, from Fabric.com for $4.49/yd, so I can't mourn the unloveliness of the result too much as at least it wasn't an expensive mistake. When the fabric arrived it was perfect, a chunky but smooth coat-y houndstooth. I pre-washed (cold water wash, hang dry), because I just don't dry clean. The fabric really fluffed up! Although I didn't lose much length, holy cow did I lose width! It got down to about 38 1/2" wide. I thought the fluffy loft would be well-suited to a coatdress so I kept my original plan, but it made squeezing the pattern out of what had once been 3 yards of fabric into a jigsaw puzzle. I managed to do it with pretty much zero fabric to spare and no scraps larger than my hand.
I started with my pattern alterations. First of all, I don't like that this dress has princess seams only on the front bodice. It looks cheap. So I split the back into princess seams as well. Of course, after I got started with the cutting layout on this one I realized that an appropriate subtitle for this post could have been: "Houndstooth is Just Another Way of Saying Matching Plaids" and had a moment of regret for my princess stickling. But in the end, I think it looks so much better that way, so meh. One of the adjustments I really should be doing as a matter of course but never do is narrowing the front shoulder and creating a dart in the back shoulder. I didn't do that here, but next time it will be easier since I've already got the back princess seams, right?
Next comes swayback. I split it between the midriff piece and the skirt piece because I find in Big 4 I need a huuuuuuge swayback adjustment and I figured it would distort the pieces less to split it. Had I thought of houndstooth as the stripe/plaid that it is, I might not have done any adjustment to the skirt. I have a whole other grotesque houndstooth matching problem on the right back skirt panel, but on the left back skirt panel you can see the houndsteeth march upward a little bit at center back.
When I was still planning this project, after I had prewashed the fabric and it lost so much width I was trying to figure out whether to line or underline it, unsure which would be the most comfortable and best for keeping it from bagging out. In the end I did a hybrid--I underlined the bodice as it would look much worse if the bodice bagged out and lined the midriff and skirt (with a heavy interfacing fused to the midriff). I finished the neckline with bias tape. After a few wearings I can say that this system seems to have worked well.
After all this planning and anticipating, it turned out that I couldn't use the collar after all. It actually looks ok there in the photo where I pinned it on, but in real life it was way too bulky. And that was pinned on. I literally could not imagine how to attach to the dress (three layers of fluffy fabric turned under to make six layers) without it being two inches thick. It was not going to work.
The back skirt. Ugh. It is horrible. I am not going to repost the picture because it is too embarrassing, so you will have to scroll up. Instead I have posted a side view where you can see how nicely the houndsteeth match up at the side seam. I assume that I had not folded my fabric carefully enough to cut doubled (although miraculously the rest of it is reasonably lined up--I used the lengthen/shorten lines as my "check" as Burda would say). Because I had no more fabric my two choices, when I saw the back pieces, were to mismatch the houndsteeth or to ease the right back piece in so that the houndsteeth match at the side and center back seams, but the panel is on a slight diagonal. I chose the latter, figuring that most non-sewing people would not be arrested by the terribleness of the slight diagonal, but would be more likely to notice the non-continuousness of the stripes at the CB seam. It was a Hobson's choice, and the result is awful. Ugh. I hate it so much. Luckily it is behind me and so I can wear it without obsessing about it. Out of sight, out of mind.
I wanted to trim the seams, not only to add interest but to cover very slight mismatches. I was thinking some sort of fancy black cording type trim, but neither Joann nor G Street had more than two yards of any black trims. So frustrating!!!! I ended up using flexi-lace hem tape in pewter.
This dress was a lot of work and it was disappointing when I was done and unfortunately I can't blame the pattern! It's not just the houndstooth mismatch at the back, although it is truly awful. The fabric just was not suited to a dress and I refused to recognize it. The fit is very boxy, which I can blame on Simplicity and their Ease of Doom, but I have to blame my fabric choice for the fact that I couldn't alter this to fit because the fabric is too bulky. So it has to be worn with a belt, which is fine, but the fabric is kind of bunched under the belt which doesn't look nice. It is just a mediocre dress. It is warm, however, and I am complimented when I wear it. My goal will be to wear it as many times as I can stand it this winter, maybe even every week, and then I can get rid of it at the end if I want.
All photos of this project are here and the pattern review is here.