Sunday, 6 October 2013

A casual autumn dress: pattern deliberations

Having decided that to hell with preserving my stash against some nebulous future where my weight is stable, I have been contemplating how to use a black ditsy floral fabric I bought right at the beginning of January. I wouldn't ordinarily have said that this fabric is at all my style. Actually, I'm still not convinced that this fabric is at all my style, but I am determined to try it out because I also wouldn't have said a border print with birds was my style and I love my border print Washi dress and wore it loads this summer.

Ditsy print draped on Flossie and a close up

I think it's actually hard to work out what colour this fabric is. The base is black, obviously, but there are tiny blue and green flowers and grey leaves and stems covering like 99% of it. From a distance it doesn't even look floral, just sort of like abstract splodges.

I have 5m of it, it's a 100% cotton, 110cm wide fabric. I'd have said it was quilting cotton, except it's actually nicely drapy and surprisingly, for a 100% cotton fabric, doesn't seem to crease too horribly.

Next question: what pattern?

My first possibility is the Washi dress again. I tried on my previous version and decided that actually the pattern version I have right now is actually a great fit for a casual winter dress, mainly because the elasticated back makes up for any fitting problems. It would probably need a tiny bit of adjustment at the bust, but because it was (to be honest) too tight when I made it, it's now at a comfortable level of loose. Plus, there's a free sleeve pattern piece available from the pattern creator, although I don't like the gathers on the sleeve head. However, I don't really like how it looks on me with a cardigan buttoned over the top, because of the high waist. I'd really kind of like a natural waist dress if I can find one.

Front runner among the alternatives right now is this 1970s Simplicity dress pattern. The only problem is that it's a half size, which is a nuisance because I'm 5'8" tall and will therefore need to lengthen the bodice. Also, I am fully intending to princess seam the bodice rather than play with darts. At some point I am going to have to get over my fear of darted close fitting bodices, but this is not that time. The only problem is that I ardently dislike the long-sleeve and would have to find something else.

Another alternative is a shirt dress and probably I would use Simplicity 2246 and use view C, the one with the gathered skirt, rather than the straight version. However, this would require me to overcome my fear of button-holes, and also, darts. However, this dress is clearly not meant to be close fitting, and I do have a darted sloper for a more relaxed fit top that I could hopefully put to use with this pattern. I just need to work out of course if my darted sloper actually still fits.

I had one other dress in mind, the Deer & Doe Sureau, which I bought ages ago. Yesterday I ran up a very quick straight out-of-the-envelope muslin in what I thought might be closest to my size and it was such a MESS, dear god, that I couldn't face thinking about all the alterations I would  have to make. I've put it on one side for now because I do really like the pattern and I'll maybe think about it again some other time. I actually think it's another bodice that could very easily be made to fit simply by princess seaming it.

(I have weird sewing guilt about my extreme reliance on princess seams, but they're just so EASY compared to darts when you're sewing around the Boobs of Doom.)


  1. That's a great Lisette pattern- I haven't made that particular one yet, but I've had a lot of luck with some of the other Lisette dresses. I do love the pattern illustration version with the white top- I think a white blouse top would look great with the black floral. Also, darts are totally managable! Just pin carefully. :)

    1. I've heard good things about the Lisette patterns before -- good to have that confirmed!

      It's not precisely sewing darts that concerns me -- I've done loads -- but fitting with darts. I don't find they're as easy to fit to the bust as princess seams.

  2. I have bought and worn shirt dresses that have buttons all the way down the front. They look perfect when standing and walking, but gape and pull like hell when I sit down. And needless to say, this is really really annoying. So, my advice is, if you make a shirt dress, make the skirt portion an A-line. Or try some on first to see if they work for you.

    1. Yeah, I've always been dubious about shirt dresses where the skirt portion is relatively straight, so you've confirmed my instinct that that probably wouldn't work for me. I'm always more drawn to fit and flare styles anyway. I'm definitely going to make a shirt-dress at some point, but I am leaning more and more heavily towards the vintage pattern above as my first pattern, just because it's got very few pieces!