Friday, November 19, 2010
When I went to NYC recently for work, my plan was to catch the 7 am train and head straight to the luncheon and then on to speaking, so I wanted a dress that would be professional under a jacket but wouldn't wrinkle too badly if I sat in it on the train for 3.5 hours. I wasn't satisfied with the professionalism of any of my current knit dresses and was thrilled with the Cache ponte knit I had just received from Fabric Mart (who knew Cache, such a tacky store, used such good quality fabric?), so I went pattern hunting.
Burda 11-2007-109 caught my eye. The skirt pleats with plenty of belly room (I sewed the pleats down only as far as they would be covered by the drape, not as long as Burda marked) and the drape overlay to disguise same were appealing. I remember liking the dress when it first came out, but it was only my 4th issue of Burda magazine and I was very intimidated by the sparse and indecipherable instructions. There are still some Burda patterns that scare me, but once you figure out which edge of the drape goes where this one isn't complicated.
I wanted sleeves, so I went through the previous and following issues until I could find a dress with set-in sleeves to copy. I figured the closer I was in time to the 11/2007 issue, the more likely the dresses were drafted from the same block. I ended up using the armscye and sleeve from Burda 03-2008-118 (graded down to a 34). Yes, Burda went four months in Winter without presenting a woven dress with a sleeve! Well, not exactly true, there were a couple dresses with specialized sleeves and/or armscyes, but really! How many sleeveless dresses can you have in your wardrobe? In the months of November, December, January, and February???? There are some occasions--like snow, ice, and sleet--that require sleeves.
To copy the armscye, shoulder, and sleeve, I laid my traced sleeveless pattern over the (graded) sleeved pattern sheet, lining up the lower curve of the armscye. Then I followed the line for the sleeved armscye. I used the shoulder as a check--on both pieces, the shoulder from the sleeveless dress extended out in a perfect straight line to the top of the armscye on the sleeved dress. In all other respects everything worked perfectly, but I should have walked the shoulders on the finished pattern. For some odd reason the front shoulder ended up being longer than the back shoulder by nearly 3/4 of an inch. In fact, I can clearly see they're different lengths in the photo of the pattern pieces, but I was obviously too excited at the time to notice! I just folded the excess into the front self-facing, because I am slapdash like that.
The instructions call for the bodice to be lined. One is to finish the back neckline and armscyes with lining and then treat the lining and fashion fabric as one for remaining seams. As my fabric was quite thick there was no need to line and with sleeves there was no need to finish the armscye.
To finish the back neckline, I drafted a back neck facing. I serged it on so as to have the smallest possible seam allowance, then turned and pressed. The facing line shows through on the finished product, so it might have been better to turn under or use a bias strip.
The front is cut with a self-facing for the neckline. To sew the shoulder seam, I used the same technique as for a self-faced cowl, as explained in depth here. Place the finished back neck edge, with the facing already applied and pressed to the inside, at the self-facing fold line. Wrap the front's self-facing around the back facing, so that the finished back neck edge is sandwiched, right sides together, between the front and front self-facing. Stitch the shoulder seam. I stitched by machine, then used the serger to finish and trim the allowance close to the stitching.
Lining up the self-facing fold with the back neckline at the seamline is key. I found it very difficult to keep the fold flush against the back neckline in this thick fabric, so my neckline is a couple millimeters off from perfect, as you can see. Turn the front self-facing to the inside, which will automatically fold the shoulder seam allowance to the front. Press. This gives a neat finish, though in my thick fabric all those layers cause the neckline to stand out from my body a little bit at the shoulder.
Previous reviewers mentioned the very low neckline. The instructions have you sew the center front seam only up to the joining point with the skirt. It was very easy to raise the neckline by sewing beyond the joining point. If I didn't plan to wear this in outside-the-office professional contexts, I would have kept the neckline about 1 inch lower (not obscene or even sexy on me because of my small bust), but figured conservative is better.
Although this pattern translated surprisingly well to double knit, I wish I had calipers to show how thick the front seam is. It is so thick! You've got the bodice front seam and allowances, bodice pleats, skirt pleats, and gathered drape (with self facings). That's a whole lotta thick double knit in a small space.
I really love the way the three tiny pleats at the bodice look--much nicer than gathers--and love the shape the center pleats in the skirt make. I think the gathering on the drape overlay is a little incongruous with the pleats. If I had been working in a lighter weight fabric I would have pleated the drape as well, but it would have made that seam so thick it wouldn't have fit under the presser foot! Despite the thickness of the many layers there, it doesn't look bulky or sit funny while wearing, which is kind of miraculous.
I traced out my usual sizes, 17(=34) at the shoulder and bust, transitioning to a 19(=38) at the hip. While the upper bodice fit well, even without an SBA, the hips were oddly voluminous. I ended up taking it in about two inches at the lower hip, tapering at the waist and near the hem. There is still plenty of ease and my very stable knit wears like a woven when it's not being stretched, so I don't know what the sizing was about there. Burda is not usually guilty of excess ease and my saddlebags have not magically shrunken. The pattern was drafted for cocktail fabrics such as floaty silks, so it could be a fabric choice issue.
I did the usual swayback adjustment in the back. I am not in the habit of doing a broad back adjustment on knits or on Burda patterns, but I can see that the back is not perfect. When wearing it is quite comfortable, but I think a broad back on the bodice would probably release those upper wrinkles. For the hip wrinkles, if I were a muslining kind of gal it would probably have been good to transfer some of the excess width from the side seams to the CB seam for my capacious booty. But I'm not a muslining kind of gal and I really don't care much about minor fitting wrinkles as long as it wears comfortably, which it does.
I think that I no longer believe that Burda makes petite patterns. I think they *label* some patterns petite, but don't actually do anything to them. First there were the crazy long sleeves on my jacket. And then the length on this one was way too long. It's shown on the (tall) model as an above the knee dress. It seemed to be measuring long so I only cut a 1/2 inch hem allowance, and ended up taking a three inch hem, making the final result 2 1/2 inches shorter than drafted. Granted, I am 2.5 inches shorter than the official definition of petite, but 2.5 inches is a lot for me to have to shorten even a "normal" height dress (usually it's closer to 2).
I started tracing this dress at 11:30 am and was done by 4:30 in the afternoon. Looking at my recent reviews, I feel like I have been dipping into the knits well a little too often. But dang, they go so quick! They are addictive like popcorn. Or crack.
I had some Barbies when I was little that I enjoyed but my sister was Barbie crazy! My favorite of her Barbie outfits was a blue skirt with a long ruffle attached and a sequin tube top to wear underneath. You could configure the ruffle in all different ways to change up the look. My favorite Barbie accoutrement of hers was a Barbie hot tub. It had a mechanism whereby you could push on a little plastic disk that served as a pump to make it bubble.
I always thought this ruffle thing was the Day-to-Night Barbie outfit (I guess I thought it was ok if you wore a sequin tube top to the office as long as your giant ruffles were properly arranged?) and I LOVED the concept. When I found out that the real Day-to-Night Barbie is a pink suit I was sadly disappointed. But whatever, the point being, I love the Day-to-Night Barbie concept. It is one of my childhood fantasies that I live through sewing. This is a classic Day-to-Night Barbie dress. Looks great under a jacket with professional shoes, but can be totally vamped up for evening with lots of sparkle (and a seam ripper to lower the neckline, if you want to go extreme).
All photos are here and the pattern review is here.