Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The Pattern Review challenge for July is Designer Knockoff, which is always one of my favorite contests of the year. It is usually my opportunity to do actually draft a pattern. This year, however, it is a two week challenge. Also, I am not necessarily low on mojo as such, but I have definitely been low on energy and time for sewing lately, so I was not up to the challenge of undertaking a huge, challenging project anyway.
I still wanted to participate, but needed to start with a pattern. After realizing that I wasn't going to be able to wear pencil skirts in 95º+ weather and that my go-to dress when it's really, really hot is my loose-fitting cotton Tracy Reese sundress I decided to concentrate on styles like that.
The fabric was a birthday gift from Karen two years ago. It's a really soft rayon in all my favorite colors. I have several border print pieces in my stash and in doing research on how RTW uses border prints I ran across this Suzi Chin Maggy Boutique border print dress. I really liked the way the border was used at the sleeves as well as the hem, and it just looked like a cool, comfortable dress.
The original dress is just a V neck, but I thought it would be a little nicer to do a surplice neckline (and honestly, they're easier than a V neck for me; I really, really hate clipping to within a thread of the V point because it makes me too nervous). Burda 05-2009-123 had the perfect upper bodice and a modifiable flutter sleeve.
I started by altering the pattern. My standard small bust adjustment for a crossover or wrap neckline is to shorten the diagonal crossover edge. I folded out my usual amount of length. Unfortunately, this turned out to still be a little gapey and I should have used more. In the end, I had to hand-stitch the overlapping parts of the right and left neckline together which I hate doing--it is admitting defeat. (More on the neckline below). I wanted to make a real effort with this project to match the print, and if you click on the bodice you can see that I traced out the flower motif so I'd get it in the same place on both sides (somebody made a Hawaiian type blouse and shared this trick, but I cannot remember who). For me, it turned out to be easier and more precise to cut out the pieces single layer, laying the first cut piece upside down on the fabric and lining up the motifs that way. Single layer, people. This is me making an effort.
For the sleeve, I needed a flat hem. If you click on the sleeve pattern you can see my tracing line of the original sleeve. I pretty much just extended the length out diagonally so it would have fullness at the hem and drew an almost flat lower edge. The resulting sleeve has a lot of volume and kind of a kimono style vibe. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect as far as how the sleeve would end up looking, but I like it, although the arrows go in opposite directions because the sleeves are mirror images, which I didn't think about. I used this sleeve as drafted for my silk wrap blouse and it is a perfect flutter sleeve.
Burda has you essentially underline the bodice of this dress, and finish the neckline with a facing. That makes sense for the dress as drafted because it is meant to be made of a chiffon. For my opaque fabric, I sewed the shoulder seams of bodice and lining, and then finished the neckline by sewing fashion and lining fabrics right sides together. I interfaced the edge of the fashion fabric to help it keep its shape. I turned, pressed, understitched, and after the neckline treated the lining as an underlining, catching it in the side seam and folding it into the pleats and darts. You might be able to see that I took a hand stitch along the right side of the neckline to try to ease it a bit--despite the interfacing it really stretched out and was gaping.
Both skirt and lining were cut 60 inches wide so there would be a lot of ease and room for whatever breeze might stir up to alleviate the heat. To line the skirt, I sandwiched the bodice between the fashion skirt and lining skirt. The fashion fabric was gathered, with the gathering concentrated at center front and center back as in the inspiration piece. I pleated the skirt lining as per usual in order to reduce bulk. The downside of a border print is that you have to know exactly how long you want the skirt before you cut. I think this could be a half inch shorter, but it's definitely not worth taking the whole thing apart.
I was able to use a short zipper at the side seam because of the width of my skirt. However, the dress is a little hard to get on and off because the bodice is fairly close fitting. I would recommend keeping the zipper in the back as drafted.
I finished the sleeves and hem with a machine blind hem. I really should improve my blind hem skills as I always take too large a bite of the outer fabric. I lined this with an Ikea Knoppa sheet. The sheets are a batiste-weight cotton-poly blend with a coarse weave that breathe well and hold their shape and are $1.99. I keep a stash of them in the sewing room at all times. For this project I was able to use the finished sheet edge as the skirt lining hem. Score!
When it was finished, it felt like there was something missing where the bodice and the skirt meet. This is a very high empire line, way too high to wear a belt as would be my normal preference. I remembered that I had bought some turquoise (plastic) sew-on jewels in Hong Kong with AllisonC. The color is not an exact match but I felt that it added what I needed to that area to give it a little oomph.
After wearing this all day yesterday, I admitted that the neckline is just too low. When standing it only just covers my bra. When sitting at my desk, it gapes open. I really didn't want to put in a modesty panel because something about this dress already feels like a Chico's Kind of Day (the high empire and skirt volume, maybe?) and I feel like the modesty panel nudges it deeper into Golden Girls territory (not that I don't love the Golden Girls). Oh well. This is probably me being insane and I will forget how much I hate the modesty panel next time I wear it.
Quibbles aside, I really like this dress. The final result is more "inspiration" than "knockoff," but I prefer my changes to the original details. It is comfortable in the heat and I'm glad I finally got the chance to make up this birthday gift fabric. Thank you, Karen! Two years isn't *too* bad, right? Between this and my giraffe print cowl top I feel like I am stashbusting all over the place.
All photos are here and the pattern review is here.