Floral Maxi Stella Dress

I made this dress back in October but it’s only just now making it to the blog. I know I will wear this dress and overall I think it looks nice, but this is not my favorite make. It’s the Stella Shirt/Dress by Named patterns, and if you hunt deep enough into this blog you will see that I have a fairly complicated relationship with this pattern  brand. I LOVE the ideas, looks, and styling of all their pieces, but I have found that their sizing is always off on me, their construction methods can be questionable, and their finishes are not always super clean and professional looking. For me, this is one of those brands where I have to read through all the directions first so that I can alter or embellish the details they do (or don’t) include; I just don’t trust that the final project will look as finessed as I prefer. This, of course, is just my personal opinion- lot’s of people love this brand and make beautiful garments from the patterns, and I don’t dislike them enough to not to ever give them another try, but nevertheless, whenever I finish one of their garments I’m usually disappointed about some part of the process.

My hands-down absolute favorite thing about this dress is the silk I used from The Fabric Store. I LOVE the colors, the pretty floral design, and the large print. The silk is transparent, so I used a dark navy opaque lining for the dress underneath at the bodice and the skirt, and thankfully it doesn’t distort the print or colors. This fabric was packed along with my sewing machine, a few patterns and a couple other cuts of material on one of my last trips to Vancouver in 2017 where I knew I would be sequestered for 2 weeks without much to do outside of work. I had a blast with my traveling sewing station, filling up my off days with making in my hotel room, but this dress was unfortunately the only completed project that was worth a damn. I burned The Pennywise Paperbag Waist Clown Pants after I snapped some hilarious pictures of them for instagram, and the raw silk hoodie I made from a McCalls pattern is being gifted to one of my sisters-in-law as I type this (it just didn’t come out nearly as cute as I had hoped). The lesson I learned here was that I needed to spend more time planning what projects would accompany me for future trips instead of throwing a bunch of patterns I had never sewn before into my suitcase and hoping for the best. Nothing but TNTs for my foreseeable #sewnawayfromhomes!

Construction for the dress was pretty straightforward. Initially I didn’t plan on sewing the lining into the dress and instead planned to just wear it as a fully transparent shell with a slip underneath, but once I read through the directions and realized that the elastic casing at the waist would look very visible and sloppy in my see-through fabric, I changed my mind. I took a trip to a small indie fabric store in downtown Vancouver (whose name escapes me at the moment) and hunted for some proper lining fabric. Thankfully I found some, but not before feeling very annoyed that the person manning the shop barely even made eye contact with me, much less gave me a hello after I walked through the door and spent at least 10 minutes perusing the bolts in the shop. And no, the store wasn’t crowded; during this trip I was the only person in the shop for the majority of my time there, and it’s a very tiny space, a fraction of the size of Dress Sew (whose very busy employees still find time to give me a quick hello even when the store is at its most crowded). Honestly I wasn’t too surprised by the shade- Vancouver might be the most unfriendly city I have ever lived in, but I figured that the ties to the sewing community would lend this small shop to at least extend a quick greeting or some kind of acknowledgement- and by the way, this happened each time I went into the store over the span of a couple months- but no such luck. Anyways, I found what I needed even though it was of pretty poor quality, one of those super stiff linings that feels like it’s made of paper- I would have much preferred to purchase from Dress Sew but they were closed and this place was right across the street.

As for the design of the dress….I’m on the fence about it. When I initially completed this dress in Vancouver with nothing but a poorly lit yellow-hued bathroom to view my handiwork, I thought it looked great, but I think I was mostly responding to the pretty fabric. Once I got back to LA with a mirror with better visibility, the whole thing just looked off. Initially I picked this design because I knew it would be simple to lengthen the dress to a maxi, and I had been wanting one of those easy-to-wear-Boho-inspired dresses that I could pair with some heeled boots and a cute hat. But standing in front of my mirror, nothing about it looked relaxed or easy. The stiff lining underneath gives the silk more body than the dress I was going for needs, so it tented out a bit at the bottom and came off looking much more formal than I anticipated.

But the worst part was the bodice. I just…really am not crazy about it at all. I loved the idea of the raglan sleeves but these are drafted with so much ease that I feel like I am swimming in them. Maybe they wouldn’t look so weird to me if the rest of the bodice was a bit more fitted, but unfortunately it isn’t, so the whole bodice piece feels much too big and billowy on me. Ultimately I felt like this dress could fit a body several sizes larger than mine as long as the length of elastic at the waist was altered, and this matters because maxi dresses don’t quite work on me if they aren’t well-fitted; an overly blousy dress with a floor length skirt can make me look like a kid playing dress up in her mom’s closet if I’m not careful.

 

The only thing I could think of to save this dress was to chop it off at the knee (which is closer to the length of the original dress’ design- perhaps shame on me for attempting to hack it into something it wasn’t meant to be?…but also, you never know til you try!) Once it was re-hemmed it looked MUCH better, the blousy effect on top now balanced by the shorter skirt on the bottom. Proportions, amirite??? I still think the armscye is way too big, I don’t like the elastic casing finish on the hems of the sleeves, and the neckbow is awful! When tied, it won’t lay properly against my collar bone, instead it droops down (and my silk is very lightweight so it’s not the culprit) and the area where the bodice pieces meet directly underneath the bow gapes open, which I hate. Thankfully the bow mostly covers that peekaboo area up, but I still find myself fiddling with it to keep it in place. It’s just another reason that this dress feels like it’s drafted for several sizes larger than my own.

This isn’t the dress that I was envisioning in my head, but as I said, I still like it and I know I will get some good wear out of it. The colors and the print are so fun and it feels very feminine while also feeling comfortable (that elastic waistband basically makes this outfit nightclothes with heels). I want to try the look that I have inside my head again, but perhaps with a button down dress with a full flowy skirt, and regular sleeves? Not sure if I have anything like that in my pattern arenal or if I should just hack it, but I was gifted some beautiful rayon from Workroom Social for Christmas and I think it might be a match made in heaven.

9 replies
  1. Charlotte E
    Charlotte E says:

    I actually really love it. The look suits you and I can imagine a maxi length version. Perhaps you should revisit this pattern in a smaller size and an opaque fabric, although I think your fabric for this version is fantastic. I wish The Fabric Store would put more of its in store stock online. That could be dangerous to my bank balance though!

    Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      Thanks. I made the smallest size that the pattern comes in, but I don’t love this dress enough to grade to a smaller size, or to even make it again as-is…there are simply way too many good patterns out there on the market (and in my stash) to make a pattern I am so lukewarm about for a second time.

      Reply
  2. Justine
    Justine says:

    You look darling in the dress! I love bow tie necks. So retro 80’s! The too big raglan armholes and shortcut elastic cuffs are not something a non sewing person would notice, though, but as a seamstress I find shortcuts like that taken by pattern companies to be annoying. They should take the time to get those details right. A small cuff would be so much nicer than elastic. I feel the same about elastic waistbands. Shortcuts. I have been searching for a dress pattern like what you describe, too. I just wrote a post about it. I finally bought a pattern from the early 80’s.

    Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      Thanks! You are so right, that is the perfect word to describe these kinds of makes- SHORTCUTS. So many times I get lulled into making a shortcut garment because it will be quick and easy and comfy but 9 times out of 10 I am disappointed in how the finished product looks. Nowhere near as disappointed as when I used to shop RTW and would see shortcut dresses selling for $60 though!

      Reply
  3. Elle C
    Elle C says:

    It’s a shame that you don’t love this dress, considering how glorious the fabric is. It really is lovely.

    Your post is the second one today that has issues with an Indie pattern. I seldom sew with Indie’s (except free t-shirts patterns) because I don’t trust the drafting. It’s always nice to have my opinion confirmed. 8-D

    Is the fabric shop Atex Fabrics on Hastings?

    Reply
    • Jasika Nicole
      Jasika Nicole says:

      I love indie patterns and much prefer them to Big 4, where the sizing has too much ease on me and they often use weird or unnecessary construction techniques that can feel outdated. Like anything else, it’s a matter of preference and finding the right pattern company to match one’s body shape, preferred construction methods and style. I trust brands like Closet Case Files, True Bias, Megan Neilsen, and Grainline above and beyond all other companies because their drafting is exquisite, the details they put into finishes are professional and well-explained, and their designs match my aesthetic. Other pattern companies can be hit or miss, but as I explained in the post, I do my best to try things I am really drawn to in case I can make them work for myself with a little extra time.

      Reply
      • Elle C
        Elle C says:

        I hope you didn’t misunderstand me, I wasn’t slamming Indies.

        Isn’t it great there are choices for all of us. I have consistent success with the McButtVogue, once I take into consideration the ridiculous amount of ease that they sometimes have. Then of course there is the age thing, I am at the right age for Marcy Tilton patterns, which wouldn’t suit your aesthetic at all.

        Reply
  4. PsychicSewerKathleen
    PsychicSewerKathleen says:

    I agree with you Jasika on all your points re the problems with this pattern. I’ve only sewn up their knit patterns (Minya) which fit me beautifully (you & I are totally different sizes/body types etc.) so I wouldn’t know about how their woven patterns like a dress or coat fit and construct. But I agree with you about the armscye being too big, the elastic at the wrist just not looking right, and the neckbow being off somehow. Sometimes we get a pattern and are so excited about it but once it’s made up it’s so disappointing! That pattern looks like it gulped up a lot of your lovely fabric too! I know you can put it to use somewhere else but it’s still cut up 🙁

    Reply

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