I tried making this dress several years ago when I was a) not yet as adept at fitting clothes to my body b) not yet as adept at matching perfect fabric to perfect pattern and c) not yet as adept at handling silk. Needless to say, it was a not a win. I blame it mostly on the slightly too-flowy silk I chose for the make (which is a shame because it was GORGEOUS- a background in a deep shade of lilac with little dots all over it. Actually… not too dissimilar graphic-wise from the print I later ended up using!) but it didn’t look that great on me at all, mostly because the fabric wanted to drape instead of hold it’s shape, and this is a design requiring a fabric that can absolutely hold it shape (it was also weirdly static-y and was billowing in all the wrong places). It’s the Stella Dress from Pattern Runway and it’s one of those makes that has shown me how far I’ve come in the last few years with my sewing.
I remember that when I first made this dress, the sleeves confounded me, I had tons of trouble getting the silk to behave so my stitching was really uneven, and once it was complete, it just didn’t lay on my body right at all. Fast forward a few years and zoom in on me at Mood Fabrics in LA obsessing over this grosgrain confetti fabric last spring. I had never worked with anything like it before (I believe this fabric is from a Carolina Herrerra collection) and I was completely intrigued by both the fun confetti design (party on a dress!) and the textile itself – it was just so slick and soft and stable, with a texture exactly like it’s namesake (just imagine a grosgrain ribbon 56 inches wide and 2 yards long). It was expensive, way more money that I normally spend on fabric, but that’s eventually why I decided to splurge on it- I rarely come across fabric that I simply cannot walk away from and I wanted to treat myself! And I’m so glad I did, because I think this dress came out beautifully.
That’s not to say she didn’t give me trouble, though! This fabric is deceptively tricky to sew with. Because of its’ stability and the hundreds of tiny little ridges across the yardage, it was weirdly bulky, and this became an issue because I decided to french seam all the insides- I might have been able to get away with serging the seams, but the raw edges were incredibly frayed and I figured that french seams made the most sense in terms of longevity of the garment. It’s all fine; the insides look beautiful and it feels like a really strong and stable garment, but sewing over some of those intersecting seams was a bit of a nightmare with all the thickness.
I didn’t make many adjustments to this dress and didn’t have to fiddle with the shaping all that much since it’s only fitted at the waist. The bodice has pleats stemming from the waist instead of darts which gives more wiggle room and accommodates a larger range of bust sizes, and the skirt also has front and back pleats, so you can nip it in or take it out at the waist as much as you want and it wont have as huge an effect on the hips/butt/thigh area because there is so much positive ease built in. This design is actually incredibly forgiving in terms of fitting a broader range of sizes, but it certainly doesn’t look like it’s over sized or loose or anything, and it isn’t made with a knit or an elastic waist, which I love. I also shortened the skirt length since I knew I wouldn’t be able to take length out of the hem as easily.
Speaking of, I love the hem of this dress- I am a sucker for a curved hem, but this one in particular has a separate hem with a facing on the inside which gives the bottom a little bit of weight and substance.
The sleeves I also love now even though I was initially on the fence about them. Since the fabric I used is so structured, the sleeves stick out from the bodice and the silhouette looks a little Judy Jetson-ish, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! I think I was stuck on both the shape of the sleeves and the fact that they are eased into the armhole on the fronts and back of the sleeves instead of just at the cap, which was a bit strange. But again, I got over it and I think they look great now- super unique and fun and unexpected and just the thing to keep this dress from landing into mix + match/ bodice + skirt territory (after sewing for so many years do you ever feel like all the new patterns just look the same??)
I also love the cute, subtle detail of the waistline with it’s folded ribbon of fabric that extends all the way around. Such a simple yet interesting addition to an otherwise straightforward make. Here is what I didn’t like: the neckline has a facing which is not normally my preference but it was necessary with this weirdly bulky fabric (lining the bodice would have been way too much material). It doesn’t flip out too much because I tacked them down on the insides, but still, they are not ideal and I wonder how a neck binding would work on a future version. My fabric, which I fell out of love with as soon as I got it home and started working with it, looks terrific in this dress but it’s suuuuuper wrinkly, which I would never have anticipated. The wrinkles aren’t deep, but they are all over, so much so that it almost looks like the dress is textured that way. They iron out easily but reappear as soon as the fabric has moved even just a little bit, so it works great for a one-off party dress but it wouldn’t be something I reached for over and over again on future garments. Also, I guess because of the tiny little ridges on the surface of the fabric, it was REALLY hard to interface!
Thrilled with how great this dress came out and also I thrilled that I decided to return to this sewing pattern even though it didn’t work out for me the first go round. For years I have loved the shape and style of this dress but was convinced that pattern wasn’t right for me after my first fail and I never imagined I would come back to it. As it turns out, I just needed a little more experience, a little more perspective, and little more fabric!