Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Butterick 5321 Pleat Front Shift and Malaysia Stashoholism Confessional

For me it wouldn't be travel unless I stayed up super-late the night before finishing a project. My most recent trip to Asia was no exception, although I actually finished this little number in plenty of time the weekend before leaving (it was a bathing suit giving me a sleepless night). I love a shift dress with a jacket for professional speaking engagements--much more flattering, less stuffy, and more approachable than a suit.

B5321 Thumbnail

As I observed previously, Vogue 1025, an Anne Klein designer pattern, is almost identical to this one. It seems odd because Butterick and Vogue are the same company so it's competing with itself, but perhaps they are run separately and the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing. Or perhaps the Butterick was already drafted and in the catalog when Anne Klein handed in her pattern, and they couldn't exactly tell a top American designer her pattern was too unoriginal to accept. Or something. Anyway, I hesitated between the two, but ended up choosing Butterick 5321 because of the unusual diagonal darts in the back and the set-in rather than cut-on sleeves.

This was intended to be a muslin for the silk linen I bought a while back from Fabric Mart. I don't have a good solid black dress for either professional events or, not to be morbid, a funeral should one come up. When my dad had a health scare several months ago it occurred to me that I really ought to be prepared, because in a sad situation the last thing I want to think about is whether I have anything appropriate to wear and then have to go shopping or something. What a nightmare. Since the silk linen was expensive by my standards ($8.99/yd), I decided to practice on this $2.97/yard G Street polyester suiting first as a wearable muslin--a highly wearable one as it turns out!

Small Bust Adjustment My first pattern adjustment was, of course, a small bust adjustment. On the bodice front I reduced the pleat width and shortened the neck to shoulder edge by taking a tuck a couple inches below the shoulder. When I made it up it turned out I should have taken out just a little more of that distance; the photo here shows the new amount of tuck.

While sewing the dress, I found that the reduced pleat width was good, but the pleat needed to be closed up *much* higher than indicated. I sewed it up to just underneath the bust, so it is more of a released dart than a pleat, I suppose. It's much more flattering there--shapely, not baggy.

Swayback Adjustment I knew I would need a swayback adjustment as well, though I was a little concerned how it would affect the diagonal dart in the back. But, that's the point of a muslin, right? I just took a regular swayback tuck. Luckily, this didn't seem to create any problem with the pleat. I also shortened the skirt a touch.

Back I do like the diagonal darts. They're so unusual and they add a little interest to what is otherwise a plain back to this dress (though I do like that V back much more than a rounded back neckline). My only gripe is that the fabric ends up so thick there you either have to insert a regular zip (ugh) or fudge your invisible a bit by sewing further toward the edge of the tape (away from the teeth) and compensating by pressing the fabric over the zip. This imperfect solution frustrates me because I take pride in my invisible zip application. In retrospect, I think perhaps if I had trimmed the fabric from the darts I might have improved the situation, but again--that's the point of a muslin.

Lining This is a nice, simple pattern with four pattern pieces (front and back bodice and skirt), each of which is also cut out of lining. I hate facings and would have lined it anyway, so I'm glad Butterick was in my corner on this one. To ensure that the lining would not roll outward and show, I trimmed 1/4" off the neckline and armscye edges of the lining. This makes the lining slightly smaller than the fashion fabric, so it turns under and creates a nice finish.

It seems the Big Four have *finally* caught onto the all-machine method for sewing a lining to a sleeveless garment so the directions don't have you do any nonsense involving hand sewing the lining shoulder seams after everything is put together. Instead, you sew the shoulder seams of the fashion and lining fabrics (leaving the sides seams and back seam open), sew together at neckline and armscye, turn right side out through the strap tunnels, and then sew the side seams of the lining and fashion fabric at one go. I can't believe I did it the other way for so many years.

Since I love a surprise lining *and* I love shopping my stash for linings I pulled out this rayon challis from The Carol Collection. The rayon adds a layer of breathability to the polyester fashion fabric, but is still lightweight and drapey so it doesn't interfere with the lines.

I added pockets, based on the pattern for them from 07-2008-107. This has become my go-to pocket--the shape is good, the opening is large enough to fit your hand easily, but it's not ridiculously large. I don't expect to put anything more bulky into the pockets than business cards (or kleenex in a funeral dress), but there is something nifty about having them. Based on Butterick's method from the Maggy London pleated collar wrap dress Butterick 5320, I sewed the pockets on with a 3/8" seam. This magically causes them to turn under when the rest of the side seam is sewn with a 5/8" seam. It's a nifty little trick. I cut the front pocket out of the lining fabric, because I think the contrast is cute.

I love this dress. It's adorable but professional but comfortable.

Side viewHOWEVER, I am not totally sold on the style. The tummy-disguising front skirt pleats are what drew me to it. And they are tummy-disguising. However, they do their job a little too well and the skirt front is puffy and unattractive with a hint of Pregnant Chic when viewed from the side. But then again, seeing the pictures I'm wondering if everything else about it is cute enough to ignore that problem. How many people are going to view me only from the side? And do I care about their opinions?

But my goal for the silk linen is a classic dress I can keep at the back of the closet for many years (or at least as many years as it still fits!), and--while it has shown great staying power--I'm not sure that Pregnant Chic is here to stay. So I'm not yet committed to this pattern as my Reliable Black Dress (a different category than the Little Black Dress, to be sure), but it is still a contender.

All photos are here and the pattern review is here. Please excuse the indulgence of way too many photos of this one. The colleague I was traveling with also sews, so she understands the need for fashion shots, and we did photos all over the area. When you have a willing photographer *and* an exotic location it's hard to know when enough is enough!


Batiks from Malaysia 8-09

This review is an attempt to make up for the lack of any interesting travel information or stories about Malaysia. I was on the resort island of Langkawi, which is a lovely spot but resorts are not highly cultural. I was working all day anyway.

One evening we had a tour of the island, but unfortunately it was more in the nature of shopping tourism. I was excited that one of the stops was to be a market of local handicrafts, but this was then substituted with a trip to the mall. Yep, a mall. In the department store, I was happy to find these fabrics. They came in pre-packaged lengths of 2 and 3 meters. On some of the fabrics the edges were finished and perhaps the fabric could be used as a tablecloth, but some of them had raw edges, which makes me think they really were sold as fabric.

They were marked as "batik" from Indonesia, but based on my knowledge of batik these are actually prints in batik motifs. It was better than nothing!

I was really drawn to the blue and orange flowers on the dark green fabric. I actually hate the muddy, dark background color and knew at the time I was taking a risk. Either someday a project will leap out for this fabric or I will someday purge it from the stash. It would make a good tier for a tiered skirt, but the hippie/boho thing is not really my style, so I don't plan to make any tiered skirts. However, as the fabric was around $2/meter, I was ok with buying a "maybe someday" piece.

The blue is a little bit like a cuter, girlier bandanna print and I love it! It will be a perfect summer dress.

The light green has so much going on with different prints and motifs, and the colors are sensational. I have a vision for it and I can't believe I don't have a pattern!!! I want a dress with kimono sleeves, a crossover V neck in front, a low V back, a relaxed fit at the waist but with some shaping maybe with an elastic casing or a drawstring, and fullish, short skirt. This style is very popular and I assumed I would definitely have the exact thing in my stash.

I went through all my back issues of BWOF and my envelope patterns and nothing! I have several in that style, but they all have a separate midriff. I feel like, given the elements of the fabric, a midriff would need to have some kind of special print on it. My plan is to cut the bodice with the border along the neck edge, and to use the sawtooth pattern in the center of the skirt (another problem because to use that motif on the front and back skirts the waistline will have to be closer to natural than empire because the fabric is quite narrow). That doesn't leave anything special for a midriff.

BWOF has a couple of options with kimono sleeves, a slightly below empire drawstring/elastic, and relaxed skirt but none of them have crossover tops, they are all very low Vs that require a tank top underneath, and they require fabric flowier than cotton. All the options have high round back necks.

I could draft something but really, who has time? Of patterns I don't own, Simplicity 2642 is OK, but again has the high round back, and the fit is a little *too* relaxed. Butterick and McCall have nothing.

Well, enough rambling. My Tokyo report is still coming!


Michelle said...

I really like your dress, I wonder if you could make it less "pregnant chic" if you tacked the pleats down? I've sewn down pleats on skirts before to keep them from popping out over the tummy, but then...that would take away some of what drew you to it to begin with!

Can't wait to see what you make with those amazing fabrics!!

Myra said...

The dress is great. You know, I fight the tummy battle, too, and your dress is fine from the side. As far as the lining being machine sewn and attached then turned, that's how I do the baby's and daughter's dresses. I wonder why adult patterns just caught up.

KayY said...

To reduce the poofiness of the pleats right below the waist without losing the look of the tuck/pleat, try sewing it partly closed just inside the actual fold line, parallel for a couple inches and then curve back to the inside fold. Sewing the pleat like this will ensure it holds closed when you sit and that it stays flat when you are standing, but will not change the look of the dress.

Little Hunting Creek said...

I love your dress! I think the suggestions above would work. Also your fabric is pretty and I'd take your "muddy" one in a heartbeat. Someimes the odd ones end up being the most versatile pieces.

Rose said...

What a wonderful dress! thank you for the review. I adore the fabrics, especially the green one on the right with the floral and geometric patterns. It's got a lot going on and I know you will chose a delightful pattern for it.

Rose in SV

Meg said...

I really like that dress on you. I think it's worth trying again in a different fabric.

My parents used to live in Jakarta in the 90s. I wish I had returned to sewing by then because they could have brought me oodles of lovely fabric.

kiltsnquilts said...

I also like the dress on you and think it would be worth trying to do something with the pleats for another version. Also I do agree that 'pregnant chic' is a 'look' and it might not make a classic reliable black dress to wear for years to come.

Could you create a frankenpattern from one or two (or three?) patterns for your kimono style? Changing a round back neckline to a V would be fairly simple and easier than adding a wrap front - but merging two or three different patterns might work. Or try looking for a top that fits the bill and simply lengthen it?

Carolyn (Diary of a Sewing Fanatic) said...

Trena - a couple of things...

You do want to have the black dress finished ahead of time...take it from someone who made hers two days after her father died...

Second - this dress is really cute on you!

Third - you must be the only sewist I know who has more clothes than me! *LOL*

Sew-4-Fun said...

Lovely dress, gorgeous backdrop and a beautiful model. I'd be taking a million photos too. :)

Linda said...

Great dress. I love the fabric and the polka dot lining fabric is excellent choice. Very envious of your Malaysian fabric.

Kathi said...

The dress is adorable! I completely understand the pregnant chic issue - I have some dresses like that also. They look great from some angles, but bad at other angles!

Gail said...

I was in Malaysia back when I wasn't sewing much. I really regret not buying silk which was abundant and cheap.

Shelley's Garden said...

Hi Trena, I like the dress and the fabric you bought. The Black fabric sounds beautiful...but I don't think black is necessary for a funeral. I've conducted lots of funerals over the past 15 years and have never, ever worn black. I remember one of my first funerals -- the 86 year old widow wore a bright spring coloured dress. She hugged each of the 200 some guests and told any who commented on her cheery dress, "Earl bought me this dress." We all knew the bright colours reflected both her's and Earl's vision of heaven. In the years that black has been particularly popular, I've noticed lots of black at funerals. Prior to that, not much at all. Perhaps that reflected people's desire to get away from the time when a mourning family was forced by cultural standards to wear black at the funeral and for years afterwards. If your happy to wear black, go for it. But otherwise, I'd suggest choosing to wear to funerals what is most comfortable for you and your cultural/ family setting.

ClaireOKC said...

I LOVE the dress - one of the best you've done - great look on you. In another fabric, it would look totally different.

Marie-Christine said...

Really awful to have to think of funeral clothes, but I second Carolyn in saying that it's much better if you make something now... You won't be happy with anything you buy, and you'll sew through your fingers if you don't. Sadly, after a certain age we should all have funeral clothes in our closet (note to self: way old enough now).

As to the side view, I agree this dress looks way too fabulous for you to really worry about that. But I'd also guess that it's a 2-fold fabric problem 1) polyester isn't really drapeable enough for this design not to poof out too strongly 2) rayon chalis is great but it has a bit too much body for a lining. So if you make the dress in a silk (not too much linen I hope?) and especially line it with china silk, your next rev will be much more discreet on the side view.

Chor Yin said...

Hi from Singapore! I think your batiks are lovely! They are meant for the skirt portion of the sarong kebaya (triangular print in front) but you could certainly use it for anything you like. Some nice pics here: http://thekebayacouture.blogspot.com/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/lspeng1951/3775218572/ I was told to wash the batik in white vinegar to set the colours. I have a nice stash of them: )

chelle said...

You give me hope that a girl who also has to do SBA could actually look good in a shift. Usually, I look like a sausage in casing. Great dress!

badmomgoodmom said...

You bought a skirt panel. You are right that they are mostly printed, not true batik. I buy them from a Thai grocery store stateside for about the same price you paid. T

he owner explained how to wrap the rectangle into a skirt. She said that the edges are sometimes left raw because it is assumed that the wearer will want to adjust the length of the rectangle to fit their girth. They don't hem the length, though. The border prints don't usually allow for that. The excess at the top, if any, is just folded and tucked.

Anonymous said...

This may be my favorite garment that you have made. Great style and I love the lining!

Sue said...

Wow - what a backdrop! Great dress too!

Uta said...

This is a great, classic dress. I wouldn't mind the "pregnant chic" - that's just the line, the style, the trend. You'll make another one when you're tired of this style. Oh, and what an enviable backdrop!

Vicki said...

Looks gorgeous on you. Love the location..sigh!

BrusselsSprout_Katharine said...

Suggestion for late-night sewing before your next tropical destination: bias-cut tap pants (knickers) with wide lace hems to make an otherwise frumpy style pretty. Woven tap pants can make even a jersey wrap dress in summer almost bearable. They would be so comfortable with a woven dress. It pays to expect to sweat in suddenly hot temperatures and when giving a presentation.

senaSews said...

I really like this dress. The front view looks great. I see that the side view isn't that perfect but i would ignore it. Oh, and i love your fabric (as always). The blue one is my favorite!