Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Dress #2: StyleArc Mila (and a quick repeat top)

Thank you to people who left kind words in comments about my first dress this month, which I was not very excited about. I continue to not be very excited by it, in all honesty, although I am actually wearing it today and there's no denying it's very light and comfortable in the current very warm (for the North of England, feel free to laugh if you're in a place that actually gets properly hot) and humid conditions.

Since then I've been battling pretty epic insomnia due to medication change, and as is often the case when I am awake at 3am, I made a series of buying decisions I might not have made if it had been a more sensible hour. Most of the purchases were harmless enough (although why I bought Simplicity 1616, surely the world's least exciting maxi skirt pattern, is anyone's guess. It turned up in the post and I was like... Well, OK then. I guess this seemed like a good idea at the time, or something? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ) but one purchase, at least, turns out to have been inspired.

StyleArc Mila
Ages ago, when it first came out, I said how weirdly attracted I was to this StyleArc pattern, the Mila dress. The line drawing is actually not super exciting, but the modelled sample on the StyleArc Etsy shop site was very cute. However, I wanted to wait and see how it worked out for a wider variety of body shapes, since the StyleArc model was quite small-busted and I worried this would hang unflatteringly from my much larger bust. The other night I was trying to think what direction I could take with my dress-making experiments, remembered this pattern and decided to buy it and forge ahead even though I could only find a couple of reviews.

StyleArc Mila in black linen and black cotton sateen, front view
I decided on the fabrics in the middle of the night as well. The bodice is in a lightweight cotton shirting with a slightly shiny finish. The skirt is in black linen. Of course this means the entire dress wrinkles if you so much as breathe near it, but I quite like that "lived in" look that linen and cotton get in the summer, so that's OK. It is exceedingly difficult to photograph black dresses, so please forgive how over-exposed my photos are as I was trying to show the two fabrics and the seam lines. That said, to be honest the variation in texture between top and bottom is a bit subtle even in person. I did consider doing a proper contrast bodice with a black and white floral I have a small piece of, but I decided in the end to go for straightforward all black. I am so dubious about florals, I just wasn't sure I'd get the same wear out of even a partially flowery dress as I would from a plain black.

StyleArc Mila side and back views (see what I mean about the wrinkling? I pressed this and put it straight on Flossie but: wrinkles!)
I made a size 12 straight from the PDF based on full bust. In theory, I am a size 10 hip in StyleArc but I did not attempt to adjust for this, and in fact I am very glad I did not adjust it! The dress looks great when you're standing up but it's certainly not got a ton of ease in it, which you REALLY notice when you sit down.

The actual sewing was very easy. It took me basically just a single morning to make after cutting out just 5 pattern pieces yesterday (including switching over my overlocker thread, doing a blind hem by hand, and doing three loads of washing in breaks!). Given all the very curvy seamlines, I was happy enough to just overlock my seams, which of course is a big time saver compared to e.g. french seaming or flat felling.

I did have three very minor difficulties in sewing:

The centre front pointy bit
1. The neckline/neck facing are sewn with a 6mm (1/4") seam and I had a bit of a problem wrangling the fabric when it came to understitching. However, the actual finished neckline looks quite good. If I make it again though I'll give myself a bit more of a seam allowance and trim it -- not the most efficient, but I have fewer problems that way.

2. I was sewing together two somewhat different fabrics and I got a little wrinkling and stretching as I stitched them together on the bias curve at the front. It mostly pressed out, but it's not perfect.

3. The pointy bit at centre front. Oh dear. Well, it's not perfectly pointy, but it looks OK, I think? I didn't do myself any favours by using a shiny fabric which really shows of any flaw right there. I don't know whether I am being too critical (nobody is looking at my clothes that closely except for me, seriously) or not critical enough (bad seamstress! Strive harder!) of it, but I think I can live with how it turned out. I have to admit that after a couple of attempts, I actually hand-stitched this part of the seam, because I just couldn't get the control I needed with the machine.

StyleArc Mila, as modelled by me
More importantly, I do really like how this dress looks on me, and I don't think the photos really do it justice. It skims the body nicely and I really like the shape of the skirt and side seam.

One thing to bear in mind if you're interested in this pattern is that it's very strange to put on. It's a pullover dress but the hem is pegged... but pegged front and back, so it sort of curves in towards the back of the calves, rather than curving in at the side like a pencil skirt. Anyway, that makes for an interesting experience pulling it over my bust and hips and there's a certain amount of wriggle-hopping required. If you're very top heavy or very pear-shaped or have a pronounced butt, it might actually be entirely unworkable without some kind of vent at centre back (as written, the pattern does not have one). The finished hem circumference is therefore something to maybe keep in mind if you are particularly curvy.

Overall, I am really happy with this dress and the pattern, and actually with the overall experiment of making a waistless shift type dress. Definitely a style I want to pursue further. Moreover, I am much more pleased with this dress than the previous one. Middle of the night inspiration FTW, apparently. \o/

Very briefly, also, between the two dresses, I made one quick little summer weight sweatshirt with some cream and black stretch cotton pique. I used the Grainline Linden pattern, which I have used a couple of times before, and I also really love how this came out. The modelled shot is from Instagram, and I am sorry for, among other things, the weird perspective that makes me look like I have a giant hand.

Striped Grainline Linden
I made the same size I made previously (14) because I forgot my bust size has changed in the intervening time (current bust size, according to the chart: 12). More radically though, and the reason I can't be bothered to make up any of the other Grainline patterns I have, in theory my hips are currently between a size 6 and 8 in their draft (and closer to a 6 than an 8). As you can see, the size 14 therefore leaves me with acres of ease at the hip! I don't care, I like how it looks baggy like this but yikes, 12 top, 6 bottom is a bit of an epic differential, even for me.

Next up: this is apparently my week for making "interesting" patterns, as I will be following the Mila up with a pattern from Burda that is definitely at the more peculiar end of their spectrum. I also have a tote bag cut out and ready to sew. :D


  1. I used to have terrible insomnia when I was on prednisone. I found that it helped if I took it at about 5 in the morning (I had to set an alarm to wake up and take it, which seemed counterintuitive at first). Hopefully things will settle in for you soon.

    Love the dress!

    1. That is really interesting about your pred dose timing. I may have to try that!

  2. I really like the dress - I didn't look twice at the pattern but yours is lovely. I like the Linden too. I feel like I should be able to adapt a t shirt pattern to get a sweatshirt, but then I see lots of nice Lindens and get tempted to just buy the pattern. I like the loose hips on you - it looks cool and casual.

    1. I have to admit I probably wouldn't buy the Linden at her new, much higher, prices. I bought it back when Grainline was charging like $7 or so rather than the current $12. But I'm a cheapskate, so your mileage may vary :D

  3. That sweatshirt is perfect for laid-back casual days.

    I LOVE THE DRESS! It really is interesting in it's simplicity and I love the subtle difference in the two fabrics. Really nicely done! And yeah, the point in front is just fine...

    1. Thank you! I really love the dress too, it's just that little bit different from the norm.