Monday, 19 November 2012

The Empire-Waisted Top Travails: Part #2

Style 3997: The Pattern That Solved Everything
The is part 2 of my attempt to make an empire-waisted top. We left our plucky heroine at the end of the last post shrieking EUREKA, and leaping to the Massive Stack Of Patterns to fish out Style 3997, a.k.a the Pattern That Solved Everything. Can I just say, helloooo to the 1970s for the styling on this envelope? The woman in the blue dress in view 4 looks like an escapee from Star Trek. I also freely admit I am NEVER EVER going to want to run piping or braid along the princess seams over my bust. Just. No. Not ever.

Trimmings aside, there aren't too many options in this pattern set: long or short dress, sleeves (long or short) or sleeveless, and a neckline variation. The only decision I had to make, really, was in the latter respect. The front bodice piece comes in two formats: scoop necked and sleeveless, or my-dress-is-trying-to-strangle-me high-necked with sleeves, each with matching, different, facings. Of course, I want the scoop neck with sleeves, just to be awkward, which complicates the facing situation significantly. At this point, though, I also wanted to look back at the Ottobre dress and the original, billowing muslin to decide if there was anything I liked in the pattern that I wanted to Franken-pattern onto the Style version.

Ottobre 2012-5-1 (from Ottobre blog)
Looking at the Ottobre dress for features:

1. The Style pattern has a curved bodice that is higher in the front that the back. The Ottobre bodice has a horizontal empire waist seam around the body. I wasn't sure how flattering the Ottobre shape was when I made the original size 46 muslin so I decided to make up the different seam shape and see which I prefered.

2. The Ottobre dress has two little pleats in the front. I liked these a lot for providing extra volume over the abdomen and some vertical lines.

3. Hard to see on this photo, but the Ottobre dress has an interesting little pleated ruffle cuff thing that I liked, but wasn't totally sure about.

All that decided, the next task was to make up a muslin. I knew I would have to do some kind of FBA, and I decided to use the Fit For Real People (FFRP) book for my adjustments. This is the order I did things in:

Side bodice alteration using FFRP
Step #1: Using the back bodice, side front and front bodice pieces only, I made up a completely unadjusted muslin. It was immediately apparent that the main problem was that the side front bodice piece was far too small. I opened up the seams, pinned in some fabric, and then adjusted the side front piece. This sounds easy but it took at least an hour and a half to get this right. The actual paper adjustment is easy. Figuring out by how much to adjust it was hard.

Front bodice piece alteration

Step #2: Sewed together an adjusted bodice: original front bodice piece, adjusted side pieces, original back bodice piece. I cut the bodice on my body down the centre front and then pinned an inverted V shaped wedge into the centre front to see how much I would need to add in order to get the princess seam in exactly the right place. The actual wedge in the adjustment is inside the pattern piece, but it has the same effect in the muslin.

Step #3: Sewed the new front bodice piece to side and back. At this point I wanted to fine tune the back. I actually ended up leaving the back exactly as is, except for leaving the back waist darts unsewn to allow for my larger waist. Everything else is fine. Bodice: done for now! \o/

Front and back skirt pattern pieces
Step #4: Adjusted the front skirt pattern piece for the extra width from the FBA. As I left the back bodice waist dart unsewn I also left the back skirt dart unsewn and found this to be a good fit. With the skirt sewn on, it all looks OK, but that extra little pleat of fabric in the front skirt Ottobre dress would come in useful. I added the pleat to the pattern exactly at the seam line for the princess seam, but decide not to cut it on for now -- if I dislike it when I make the non-muslin version, it's easy enough to recut to take it out. Adding the pleat also has the advantage (compared to just adding to the side seam) that it adds width exactly where I need it -- I carry weight front and centre on my abdomen more than at the sides of my body.

Adjusted sleeve pattern piece
Step #5: The armhole seemed very high throughout the fitting process, but I ignored it because it wasn't uncomfortable and I could deal with it when I got to the sleeve. The pattern only has a short-sleeve available due to the previous owner cutting off the long-sleeved version, but the short-sleeve was for for a tissue fit. It was clearly MUCH too small. FFRP to the rescue again: I traced the pattern, slashed it, and added 7cm to the width. I cut one out and attached it in a very half-assed manner. I am not worrying about sleeve cap wrinkles, just whether it goes round my arm and whether I can move. REVELATION: this is the BEST FITTING SLEEVE I have worn in a woven in FOREVER, in which I have totally comfortable full-range of movement. Intense joy. \o/

For the final version, I also made a new long-sleeve pattern from a combination of the Ottobre dress sleeve and the adjusted sleeve cap from the original pattern. For now I am leaving off the pleated rufflecuff as I am in still in two minds about it. Plus, I adapted the scoop neck facings to work with this sleeved version of the top.


The Sewing Novice: wearing a muslin.
And that is where I got to this weekend.


  1. Looking good! You are doing some great work with your adjustments. Looking forward to seeing the finished piece.