In just under a month, one of my closest friends is getting married. Since she set the date, 6 months ago, I have planned to make the dress to wear to her wedding… I have the design in my head. I just need to plan the pattern out properly onto paper (it’ll be a mix of Treid&Tested and self-drafted) and order the fabrics and trims. I have a whole month, it’ll be fine!
Despite the planning of the above in detail, it was a completely different affair for her Hen Do! In my defence, although the date was booked in, the details and theme’s for the day were quite last minute. The day theme was 50’s and I had nothing in my wardrobe that I thought would be suitable. What worked against me was the plan to not make something and to buy something RTW that worked both in the theme and also would fit in with my wardrobe.
AND THEN I rooted through my patterns to see if there was something there that would work, and I found this pattern! It came free with Sew Magazine months ago and I’d forgotten about it. The off-the-shoulder look felt very 50’s-esque with the full pleated skirt. The seed was planted, but I wasn’t 100% sure whether I’d have the time to make the dress. That was until I decided to pop to the local haberdashery for some notions for a different project and left 20mins later with fabric and zip in hand! The seed was sown and the dress was to be sewn!
I made a quick toile of the bodice in size 12, as my measurements placed me between sizes 12 and 14 and I was closer to the finished measurement of the 12. I hedged my bets and it paid off. I was ready to cut out the actual fabric.
The fabric is a heavyweight cotton in navy with tiny white polkadots, which I chose so that it would hold the shape of the pleated skirt. It was a dream to cut and sew. The polkadots make it really easy to line up the grain of the pattern, so cutting was easy and quick. This is always my least favourite part of a project, sometimes it drags on and on and I don’t really have the space in the flat to lay it all out, especially when the floor of the flat is the kitties’ territory, so it’s nice when it’s made easier and is relatively painless. (Where possible, I like to use the large tables at work for cutting out, however time was not on my side and it was the long Easter weekend I started this dress and the office was closed). As soon as I’d cut out my fabric, I cut out the interfacing and prepared the pieces this needed attaching to. Everything was then folded neatly and I went to bed.
With everything on track for the dress to made in good time, I then put off sewing it for 2 days – I think life just got in the way (working late, gym etc). This left me 2 days to make the dress around my full-time job, so essentially 2 evenings. While this isn’t a need-to-know fact, I think it is relevant to show how quickly and easily this dress came together.
I constructed the bodice in one evening after work using industrial machines – probably in around 2 and a half hours. The instructions for the main bodice and straps were straight forward, and obviously the basic toile helped as I followed the same processes, except for the toile I did not add in the elasticated straps, which are hidden under off-the-shoulder sleeves. Having worn the dress, I am still not 100% sure how effective these were but I didn’t want to risk not adding them in.
The neckline and armholes had a full facing and this was certainly the fiddliest part of the garment to sew. This is mainly because of the variations in the thickness of the fabrics as you sew around the armhole and sleeves where you will have 2 layers of fabric in some places, 4 layers in another and then 6 layers of fabric plus elastic when you get to the elasticated straps. This then becomes 4 and then 2 layers very quickly as you reach the neckline edge and repeat at the other other end of neckline for the armhole on the other side of the body. I knew, in order to get a clean finish and to around catching the straps into the seam, I would need to take the sewing of this area more slowly. Also, I was already having to do this twice for the front and back, I couldn’t bear the though of unpicking parts or all of it to re-do it. Luckily, taking my time and practicing a little bit of patience paid off and I’m really happy with the finish of the neckline.
Following this, the skirt came together very quickly in approximately an hour and a half, the next evening after work. I usually find pleats to be fiddly at times but I just made sure I pinned each pleat accurately and machine-basted the pleats in place in one go, ensuring they were consistent to each other. The instructions for the skirt construction, attaching it to the bodice and inserting the zip were very straightforward, nothing out of the ordinary. Once I’d hemmed the dress, I did one final fitting before I met with a friend for some after-work drinks where I could relax and look forward to the festivities the next day!
All-in-all, for a last minute project, I am very happy with this make, it had some great feedback at the hen-do. Although, I do wish I’d made it with a circle skirt so that I could swish it around at the dance class we attended! Another regret was not buying the concealed zip as suggested on the pattern envelope (I really need to pay more attention in future or take a photo to review when in the store!).
I think, for me personally, I will shorten the skirt and replace the zip to be concealed and inserted much more neatly, however for many sewists out there, I think this pattern will be pretty much near perfect for you straight out of the packet! There are loads of design variations in this pattern, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be making more of them in the future.
Have you tried any of Simplicity’s inspired by Project Runway patterns? What did you think?