I posted a bunch of inspiration pictures a while back, including the very cute ABS Sweetheart Jersey Dress (not so cute in that blah solid brown, in my opinion, but great design). I got encouragement in the comments (thank you!) to give it a shot.
Rather than try to draft from scratch--I have only done this a few times and it takes me 8-9 muslins for even very simple designs--it seemed that frankenpatterning would be a more efficient process.
I started with Vogue 2980, the Sandra Betzina bolero shoulder top for the fauxlero, bodice back, and sleeves. I also drafted the midriff based on the front and back width of this top. The first time I made this top I cut a size A at the top, transitioning to a C at the hip and found it a little snug. This time I cut a B (since I was only using the top portion I didn't need to transition larger).
I don't know if it is the difference between my two fabrics--a sturdy cotton jersey versus a lightweight poly/lycra--or what but the back shoulder on this dress came out waaaaaay too wide and floppy. It kept wanting to open up around and slip off my shoulders, creating sagging and bagging at the underarm. To "fix" it without taking the entire thing apart and starting over, I took up as much width as I could by "easing" the back neck/shoulder seam onto twill tape. By "ease" I mean almost to the point of gathering. This helps the dress wear more comfortably, but I am curious what happened there.
Then I went to Burda 05-2009-103 for the front bodice. It was a good match, as it has pleats to create bust ease in the surplice/crossover pieces, rather than gathering, as the original dress appears to have. The V2980 top is designed so that the front bodice is not a full bodice piece that attaches at the shoulders, but instead is matched with the bolero at the lower armscye and stitched about halfway up the armscye, and then the square neckline goes straight across. At first I tried tracing the V2980 armscye curve onto the Burda piece, but it was just not happening for me. This sounds simple, but somehow it was insanely complicated. So I gave up on that and just used the Burda armscye curve as it had been drafted on the original pattern piece.
I then measured the depth of the armscye on the V2980 front bodice piece (i.e., how far up the armscye the front bodice goes) and marked that on the Burda piece. Using that marking, I created a new diagonal line to the pleated tip of the bodice piece, creating the neckline.
I decided to get fancy and self-face the front bodice piece. The neckline looks right, but in the end I'm not sure it was the best plan. Where the pleats overlap, the bodice is 8 layers thick. Even in a lightweight poly knit, 8 layers is really, really, really thick. Add in the midriff and midriff lining layers and there are 10 layers in spots on the front. Had I changed the pleats to gathers self-facing might work, but I think a better plan probably would have been either to create a separate facing piece with the pleats folded out and just a little gathered ease, or just to have a single layer bodice and finish the neck edge with a twin needle and clear elastic as I often do for (faux) wrap necklines.
The other issue I had with the bodice, which I knew I would have, is that I didn't do do a small bust adjustment on my fancy self-faced piece. Normally, I adjust a wrap style so that it won't gape on my bust by taking out some length on the diagonal neckline edge, as seen here. I didn't do that here (too impatient, truth be told), so to get a good fit on the bodice I had to stretch the bodice pieces way beyond their intended meeting point. The front midriff is about three inches smaller than the back midriff, if that tells you how much stretching I did!
Once the bodice was figured out the rest was cake. The midriff is just a straight piece because it's high on the ribcage where I don't have much contour, and the skirt is straight out of Simplicity 2754 (with the inverted V folded off to have a straight edge at the top as I'd done for the back in the gray and yellow fan dress version of S2754).
After it was all put together not only were the wide back shoulders slipping off, but the bolero was flopping open like crazy. In the first iteration of this top I'd had to hand-tack the bolero onto the bodice because it was bunching under my arms, so I wasn't surprised I had to some post-construction molding. I did a little hand-sewing magic (aka slapdashery) and gathered the bolero below the neckline to stop it from looking floppy, and then stitched the bolero and neckline edges together to keep my bra straps covered. In the photo at left, one side is hand-tacked and the other is not--you can definitely see a difference.
I could certainly have done a less slapdash job on this knockoff, but I don't know that I would have been *that* much more satisfied with it. That is why I am slapdash. It doesn't take too much to make me happy. `-)
And I am satisfied with this dress! It is really cute in a nice print and the shapes come together in a very flattering way, making the most of nice collarbones, giving the illusion of a bust, and emphasizing a narrow ribcage while accommodating a larger belly and hips. Plus, sewing problem solving is fun and you feel so accomplished when it's done. Thanks to everyone for the encouragement to give this project a shot!
All photos are here and the pattern review is here.
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