Friday, August 30, 2013

Vogue 8870, High-Low Hem Surplice Birthday Dress

V8870 Thumbnail

It takes me a long time to warm up to a trendy trend, like the high-low hem.  At first I hate it.  Then I am skeptical.  Then I see some cute examples.  Then I am ready. This process can take years. 

After seeing several cute iterations of this pattern on PR, I decided I could take the plunge with the high-low trend (I may be willing to do the trend, but I am not willing to butcher the English language by calling it "hi-lo") using Vogue 8870, sized XS-XXL.  I even went bold with double trending by using this ombre silk, one of the gorgeous pieces BadMomGoodMom picked up for me for a song.

After I had the dress almost done I saw this Lela Rose for Fall 2013.  It looks like my trends should last through at least next season!

Broad Back Adjustment

I did my usual adjustments, including a broad back.  I should have been more aggressive with the broad back.  I didn't want the hassle of bringing the adjustment into the raglan sleeve, so I just did it on the bodice piece, and I don't have as much movement through the back and shoulders as I would like.

There was universal praise for this pattern among those who have sewn it, but I had an *awful* time with it.  I think the flowing silk charmeuse added a level of complexity the pattern could not take.

Back Neck Dart

I had a little gaping at the back neck, which is not unusual for me.  I added a tiny dart, which took care of it.

My main issue, though was the length of the bodice.  The side seams drooped a full two inches lower than the center front and back.  I sewed it to the skirt like that thinking that once the waist was elasticized there would be some sort of miracle transformation.

There was not.

So I put the dress on inside out and tied elastic around my waist and snugged it even with the lower edge of the center front and back of the bodice, then marked on the side seams where the elastic lay, which was two inches shorter.  Then I ripped the skirt off (poor silk!), reinforced the stitch line with strips of interfacing, trimmed the sides of the bodice at my markings, and sewed it back together with the shortened side seams.  Much, much improved.

The side seams of the front bodice are cut on the bias because of the grain direction, so I assumed the problem was my carelessness in letting the seam stretch out (though the back side seam is pretty close to straight grain).  But comparing the pattern piece to the finished dress, the side seam was as drafted.  I really don't know what happened.

Small Bust Adjustment

Part of the problem may have come in with my Small Bust Adjustment of shortening the front bodice crossover.  I probably could have shortened it half as much and not had gaping; this is *very* unusual for a Big 4 pattern.  Anyway, the front pulls up a little and it's hard to keep the shoulder seams exactly square on my shoulders.  (I did nothing to the length of the back bodice, though, and it had the same length problem there with a very high center back and the drooping side seams.)

Experimenting with the elastic in the "waist" casing, it looked best if it started and ended about 3 inches in from the side seam on the front, with the center front completely flat and unelasticized and the majority of the gathering in the back. 

Back UnbeltedFront Unbelted It still isn't great, so I went for the universal solution to a bad waist:  the sash.  Without the sash it is just bad.

However, the Bust Pleats to Nowhere I will not take credit for.  I don't know if they are angled wrong, or too close to the center front (and I overlapped the fronts about an extra 3/4" from the design) or what.  But they do not create flattering draping over the bust.  They just create a bubble of fabric above the waistline.

Speaking of which, the waistline is way high!  It is dangerously close to empire, and I swore off empire last year, no matter how much I am tempted, because it is very of a moment for 2011 and the expiration date approacheth.

I like the raglan sleeves, though they are a tad restrictive.  The downward slope of the shoulder is pretty severe.

Dyed to Match Bias Tape

I finished the neckline with bias tape rather than a facing.  I used the leftover bit of white fabric from below where I cut the front skirt to make the bias tape and then dyed it using a mix of Teal (mostly), Aquamarine (a little), and Navy (just a few drops) liquid Rit dye.  I managed to get an almost perfect match for the turquoise in the fabric, much to my surprise.  In the photo at right, the dyed bias strip is above and the original fabric is below.  (Alas, an attempt to dye cotton in the same dye bath did not have good results.)

Stitch Bias Tape over SA

After sewing the bias tape to the right side of the neckline, I stitched the raw inside edge of the bias tape over the neckline seam allowance before pressing under.  It is kept in place by strategic hand stitches at the sleeve seams.

I cut the back skirt on the fold rather than with a CB seam, as did most everyone who made the pattern.  It required ignoring the grainline, but a seam would have interfered with the smooth ombre look of the skirt.

I lined the skirt only with silk/cotton Elegance from Martha Pullen.  This stuff is a dream for lining!  I drafted a straight across hem for the lining, rather than making it high-low as well.  It shines through a little, so maybe that was a mistake.  My pet peeve for patterns with "specialty" hemlines like this is when they do not come with a "regular" hemline marked as well.  It limits the versatility of the pattern.

French Seams

It's frustrating that this dress turned out kind of meh.  I put a lot of work into it; I sewed it while my serger was in the shop so it has gorgeous French seams for everything but the waist.  It's a luscious silk.  And it will have to be my birthday dress (tomorrow!) because I had only 3 weeks to sew for the Greek islands instead of a month and a half.


When it is all dressed up with accessories, it passes for a cute dress.  But it definitely cannot stand on its own.

I like the idea of this pattern but I'm not sure I'll give it another try.  Definitely not the crossover bodice.  If the mood strikes I would try to draft a plain bodice with sleeves based on the spaghetti strap version.  I like the spaghetti strap version as is but seriously, bra.  Strapless bras are horrible.  I would recommend a stable but lightweight cotton as the best fabric; a good quality lawn would be perfect.  I think this could also work in a knit.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here.


Trip sewing continues apace!  So far I have made:
-3 bikinis
-yoga/hiking capris


I have a knit dress done except for the hem, and a knit top about halfway done.  The last two pieces on my list are a little sweater and another knit top.  Though this is a long weekend, it will be full of birthday festivities so we'll see.


becki-c said...

The results are stunning, Happy Birthday indeed!
You details on dyeing the trim are interesting. I used to dye lace for bridesmaids dresses with mixed results.Its also interesting that it worked better on the dress fabric, but not the cotton.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! :D

The dress may not have turned out as you envisioned, but it looks wonderful on you! So flowy and elegant. Totally love the ombre and the belt.

Samina said...

Happy Birthday! I'm just like you on trends. I'd always start liking stuff just as it was going out of style. I finally gave up on trying to catch up with a trend in high school. I broke down & got parachute pants just as they were going out of style. Since then, I've stuck to my basics & ignored the trends.

You're a sewing machine though - you seem to whip stuff out so fast! I'm so slow that by the time I'd ever finish something, it would be out of style, so I don't even try.

Juliet said...

Have a lovely birthday tomorrow.
Your fabric is lovely but I can understand your regrets about the design.

Ripple Dandelion said...

Okay, if I let myself read about your doubts and then look at the pictures with them immediately in mind, then I get what you are saying about the waist and the pleats and the crossover. But without those grumbles uppermost in mind, I just love the overall effect of the ombre and the shape of the dress. Your hem looks soooo good! And hurray for that, since it is very visible in the white.

I am totally the same about trends in general and this one specifically. I now really like it, as of this summer.

Happy birthday and happy travel-sewing and then travel-traveling!

Karen said...

Happy Birthday! Thank you for the many photos of your pattern adjustments. They are so super helpful, & I appreciate them very much! I always look forward to your posts. ~Karen

T. Sedai said...

Happy Birthday!

I am exactly like you when new trends come out - I go through a period of hate, then mild acceptance, then ooooh, want! I just went through that with maxi dresses, and now peplums might be my next object of desire.

I totally agree with your assessment of the dress - it looks awesome when you accessorize and have the sash! The colors are lovely. It looks like you put a lot of work into it, but it also looks like the draft for the placement of the bust pleats is a bit odd. Oh well. I think you will still look awesome when you dress it up and wear it out. Have fun partying this weekend!

badmomgoodmom said...

Happy birthday.

The ombre is beautiful. I'm still too nervous to cut into mine.

I think the dress is fine with the sash. Have you thought about washing the silk to soften up the pleats? Do you think that will help?

BTW, I was at the same odd jobber yesterday and came home with 20 yds, including 5 of an amazing double-sided denim. It's woven into a tartan on the reverse side and has a small amount of lycra for stretch.

Linda said...

First Happy Birthday!

I am glad you found some ways to make this dress work for you as I really love the ombre fabric and it would be sad for that to be wasted.

I like you have not gone with the high/low dress; I have made a few tops though. There may be a h/l dress in the future. Enjoy your upcoming trip.

Adelaide B said...

I love ombre fabric, and the example you used here is quite lovely.

Yeah, I'm still not sure I buy into the high-low trend, but I am going to try it on a blouse and see what happens.

Happy Birthday!

DawnSSL said...

I think the dress looks stunning on you! Happy Birthday.

Geoknitter said...

Oh wow - I had exactly the same experience with this dress (although mine was a poly charmeuse) except that I didn't then try to salvage it. I think that your efforts were very successful, given the absolute horror that is the drafting of this dress. I almost cried when I first tried it on. "Bust pleats to nowhere" is awesome. It's currently on the floor of my sewing closet waiting to be cannibalized into a skirt for my three year old. Some big chunks of fabric in that dress!

On the other hand, I had really great luck with Vogue 8784. Sleeves are a bit restrictive, but the bust pleats somehow don't do the odd pooling thing, and the waistline hits me at a flattering, right-below-ribcage spot.
Vogue 8784.

Vicki said...

Happy birthday. The dress is very cute with the sash.

Mrs. Micawber said...

Happy Birthday! Totally with you on the slow warm-up to trends. Luckily I dress completely out of fashion at all times so it doesn't really matter. :) (And several times I have found myself predating a trend purely by accident.)

That is a beautiful fabric - how frustrating that the pattern was so quirky. But it looks very nice all accessorised up - did you make that lovely necklace?

By the way, I got some of the recycled poly activewear from Fabric Mart thanks to your recommendation a few months back - have made a tee and really love the fabric. (And thanks for the recent tip about Schmetz stretch needles - they saved the project.)

Happy Greek sewing!

Sue said...

I was esactly like you on the high-low trend... hated it to start off with but have now found a pattern I want to try! Happy Birthday!

aleah said...

Happy Birthday! Have a great day!
You perfectly described my process with trends too - I go through that exact process, and I can also often take years to get into something! I have still not succumbed to the high-low hem (and I absolutely agree with you about spelling it out). I'm coming around to the subtler ones like yours though. It is cute, even if it was a trial!

Clio said...

Happy Birthday!

On the plus side, this is a beautiful color on you, your use of trends is spot on and not overbearing, and the dress looks very pretty the way you've styled it. It's too bad that all that extra work and beautiful fabrics didn't yield better results - that's always a bummer!

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday!

I feel the same way about trends. I usually decide that they're maybe not so bad right around the time they go out. I know, it's one of my many not-so-handy superpowers. ;-)

I love this fabric!! And I'm surprised the raglan sleeves are binding--I've only ever had that with set-in sleeves. :-( Hope you can get some wear out of it though, those colors are too gorgeous to stay hidden!

Uta said...

Very cute, so floaty and summery! I'm exactly the same with trends, except it takes me even longer than you...

Uta said...

Oh, and Happy Birthday!!

Mely said...

Happy Birthday! Lovely dress

Trumbelina said...

I gasped out loud when I saw your dress. I'm a sucker for ombre and definitely in these shades of blue. I've attempted a very similar raglan style wrap and had the same problem with the broad back – because of which I didn't attempt raglan again for a number of years until my Minoru. I hope you had a fantastic birthday and are stretching it out for as long as possible! You are a sewing maniac with all you are tackling for your trip. I can't wait to see your post(s) about it!

Kelly said...

I think this dress is beautiful! I like the high-low trend when the curve isn't too severe. It's such an elegant dress.

Anonymous said...

Despite all the trouble, you have ended up with a beautiful dress.

meli88a said...

Good on you to battle that fabric to the beautiful end. That dress is very cute, accessorized with matching glasses no less!

And... hear hear on the strapless bra. The things we do to be presentable!

AllisonC said...

Hope you had a fabulous birthday! That fabric is so lovely you could have just cut a hole in the middle and put it over your head and it would still look good! I understand your frustrations with a pattern that doesn't work, but you can definitely get away with it here.

emadethis said...

Happy birthday. I hope you have a lovely trip. The ombre is really beautiful.

senaSews said...

Happy belated birthday. I hope you had a wonderful day. The dress is stunning and looks so beautiful on you. I'm sorry that it doesn't worked out so well. But the result is awesome nonetheless and worth all the effort.

Anonymous said...

I laughed about how you go about liking trends because I'm exactly the same way. I enjoy and envy your sewing :D

McVal said...

I love that with the sash! Great job on the dying.

Karin said...

Happy birthday! Your dress is gorgeous.

As an aside, I follow you on Pinterest, and there are a lot of diet supplement pins coming up under your name. I wonder if you have a virus?

Jan Crews said...

Just happened across your blog. I can see much happy reading ahead. I am so impressed with your dip-dye results. Congrats!

I also have mixed feelings about the hi-lo hems. I've made a number of Marcy and Katherine Tilton's Vogue knit top patterns, and it seems the ones I like the best in the end are the ones I cut straight across rather than curved.

The dress looks great on you. Congrats!