I generally tend to steer away from the Big 4 patterns nowadays since I have much better luck with the sizing in indie patterns, but it’s still hard to go into a large fabric store and avoid looking through those big books with their beautiful pictures of the season’s newest designs. A while ago I was at a Joann’s in a neighboring town to pick up some notions, and they happened to be having a huge store-wide sale. All their stocked Simplicity patterns were $1 a piece, and although most of them had already been picked through, leaving little else but Halloween costumes for toddlers, I was able to score a few prizes, including this beauty, Simplicity 1803.
I had a beautiful yardage of some cotton + steel rayon that I bought from Hart’s Fabrics a while ago, but I ended up not having enough to make the maxi dress I envisioned for it. But the soft draped look of the dress on this pattern sleeve seemed to be a good fit for my fabric, so I nixed my initial maxi dress idea and spent hours adjusting the bodice on my dressform. I made a muslin of just the bodice (sans facing pieces) in a size 8, pinned out all the extra material at the seams and then re-sewed it together. When I was happy with the fit, I transferred the pattern markings to my pattern pieces and cut out my fashion fabric. It was only when I started sewing these pieces together with the full sleeves, linings and facings that I realized I had gotten the sleeve pieces very confused and had sewed them onto my muslin not only backwards, but upside down! In my defense, the sleeve pieces for this dress are unnecessarily confusing and it would have been awesome if they had been marked them with “top” and “bottom” signifiers, since looking at the line drawings and sleeve artwork didn’t help one bit. So basically my muslin and ensuing adjustments were now null and void because the bodice, with the sleeves now attached correctly, ended up sitting much lower on the torso, meaning it no longer fit the lines of my bust and waist.
The good news is that this bodice has princess seams, and I think those are so much easier to adjust than moving darts around and making them larger or smaller. I eventually ended up pinching out about 1 1/2 – 2 inches in the bust, tapering in to the regular seam allowance at the waistline. Since the skirt is a five piece gathered dirndl, it didn’t require any major adjustments at all. The sleeves, whose details you can’t see very well because the fabric design swallows them, were a little fiddly to work with and I think I might have even accidentally missed sewing one of the design elements (a pleat at the hem of the sleeve maybe?) but I like how they came out.
My favorite thing about this dress is the guts, a place where I usually don’t have the patience or interest to make things look very pretty. I usually just serge or pink my seams closed and move on with construction, but lately I have tried to focus less on the amount of projects I finish in a given week and instead focus on how thoughtful and deliberate I am with the construction of my makes. This is much easier said than done, as I often have lists of things that I am excited to make and I start thinking about the next project before the current one is even halfway done. But the thrill I feel whenever I pull this dress off it’s hanger and put it on is immense, because I feel like the most impressive parts are on the inside, a treat that only I get to enjoy. For this dress I used Hong Kong seams, which I worried would cause bunching and pulling on the outside of the bodice since the seams are all curved, but I clipped into the curves before I did the binding, so everything lies flat and unnoticeable on the outside of the dress. The Hong Kong seams took much longer than would serging or even French seaming, but it was absolutely worth it in the end.
My other favorite thing about this dress is the way the skirt is constructed. There is a center panel cut on the fold with a pocket on either side which is connected to a front side panel, and the back of the skirt has two pieces as well. I love that the pockets are not on the actual side seams of the garment, but rather centered on the front of the skirt, which doesn’t change the functionality of the pockets much but definitely gives the whole look a little touch of visual interest when you stick your hands in them. There isn’t a whole lot of variation in a simple dress comprised of a bodice and dirndl, so these little details stick out to me a lot.
As usual, I was VERY oblivious to doing any pattern matching with this dress til I cut all the pieces out and realized that ummm…it might have behooved me to pay a bit more attention. The funny thing is that I made sure to keep the big star design in the fabric from landing straight on my boobs for the bodice front, but that’s where my attention to detail ended, so I was a little annoyed with myself once the bodice was all pieced together and the fabric design lines were close to matching…but not quite! I think that the fabric is too busy to draw much attention to subtle inconsistencies at the seams, and honestly, I am not a perfectionist with that stuff anyways. It might annoy me, but small irregularities wont keep me from wearing it.
Something I am realizing about my body is that it is much smaller in the upper back/shoulders than most patterns are drafted for, so I often have to sew my zippers with a larger seam allowance at the back neck to use more fabric, and then taper out to the regular SA for the remainder of the garment, starting at about mid-back. I am not familiar with what this kind of adjustment is called, but I would love to know if any of you are aware. It’s not normally a big deal unless there is a bold pattern on the fabric, in which case you can see the curve where the back edges meet because the design won’t be symmetrical from top to bottom.
All in all I am super happy with this make! I love the feel and graphic print of the fabric, and I (mostly) love the shape of the neckline, although it affects the way I wear my hair -anyone else have weird ideas about which hairstyles and jewelry look best with which necklines? This dress took a LOT more time to make than I anticipated because of all the fitting adjustments and tiny interfaced pattern pieces for the neckline facings and Hong Kong seaming I decided to do, and fyi, when I was clipping threads from the gathered waistline after I had sewn the bodice and skirt together, I totally nipped into my skirt fabric with my scissors, which was embarrassing more than anything else. I mean….?!?!? I was simply working too fast, hoping to get a step completely done before leaving my craft room for the evening and heading upstairs to make dinner. See now why I am making a commitment to work more slowly with my makes? But I tried not to be too hard on myself. I used some interfacing to patch the snip back together and then some blue fabric marker to color the white that was peeking through to the outside, and now no one but me knows that it’s there…kind of like my beautiful dress guts!