Saturday, 30 July 2016

Those lazy, hazy crazy days of summer

I'm pretty sure I've started my last four blog posts saying "This project was a long time coming", and not being one to break a chain this dress is no exception! I've been wanting a strappy dark wash denim sundress for quite a while now. Something simple, with interesting style lines, for easy summer time japes... something along these lines...

L-R: Free People (Sold out), Valley of the Dolls, Trashy Diva

Sometime last summer I started trying to recreate the Trashy Diva dress (right) seen on New Girl with this Burdastyle pattern. I won't lie that pattern was a complete dud! Gapey cutout, too low neckline and a horizontal bust seam that simultaneously made it impossible to fit and cut across me making me look like a chunky KitKat bar! Not good at all! Needless to say that muslin got dumped, but one good hangover from that experience was  full-fledged love affair with bust pleats! (Although this dress indicates that's  not a new development!)

So when I saw this pattern in Burdastyle 11/2015 edition I jumped on it! It was everything I wanted, strappy, sweatheart neck, simple lines and best of all BUST PLEATS! It's definitely reminiscent of my Salme sundress which I've made umpteen times and love, but with enough different details to make it interesting. Undeterred by my previous Burda experience I decided I would finally have the denim dress of my dreams!

It took me a while to get around to tracing out the pattern/adding seam allowance and then another while to muslin. But it was a nice leisurely pace, since I had no deadline. Plus, since the pattern itself is super simple, the whole dress came together in a day once I started the real thing! Matching the CF pleats look complicated but as long as you baste well, there's no issue. I made the bodice 3 times (Muslin, lining and actual bodice) and each time the pleats matched up perfectly first time. Since there are no darts and the back princess seams require no easing all of the shaping is fairly painless.

For the dress I used an absolutely gorgeous 4 ounce denim from Backstitch. It's a super light-weight with a discrete twill weave so it seems almost like chambray. It's super soft and drapey so I was a little concerned it wouldn't hold the pleats well. However, it actually does have a nice amount of body that worked well for pleating. (Plus the pattern does list drapier fabrics like crepe in the recommended fabrics, so it probably wouldn't have been an issue) One thing to bear in mind is that due to the overlapping pleats on each side of the CF seam it can get very bulky, super quick, so a crisp light-weight fabric is probably best. Being a cotton denim it handled really well and didn't fray much. I actually think it would make a really nice shirtdress for autumn, lightweight but still warm, so I might get some more soon...

Sizewise, I graded between a size 36 at the waist and 40 at the bust which actually worked remarkably well! As usual I did make a few other tweaks...

Tweak list:
-Taking in the CB seam 2" at the top, grading to nothing at the waist- A common adjustment for me due to my rounded shoulders, although admiittedly I don't usually have to take quite so much.
-Shortening the bodice length 5/8" so it hits my natural waist, since, unfortunately, my body was not drafted with the same lanky German height ideals as Burda.
-Rotating a tiny bit of front neck/armhole gaping into the top bust-pleat
-Reshaping the front neckline: I found on my muslin that the sweetheart neckline ran a bit low for my tastes and showed my bra-strap quite dramatically. So I marked the strap placement on a scrap piece of fabric pinned to the top of the neckline. I then went back to the pattern and redrew the neckline so so it covered the strap completely.

I guess that sounds like more than a few tweaks, but they're all pretty standard adjustments for me so they went pretty quick. Plus I'm pretty picky about fit (Side-effect of sewing, HA!) so it was definitely worth the effort from my perspective!

I will say that because of the difference between my bust and waist sizes there is a bit of excess fabric under the bust which kind of collapses in on itself annoyingly. It also creates these weird diagonal drag lines like a downwards pointing arrow- the complete opposite to any draglines I've had before. The issue is that since all of the front shaping  comes from the CF seam and bust pleats there's not a lot I could do to eliminate the excess. I tried curving the CF seam a little but that only made it worse It's not a massive deal and everything else fits so well I cant really complain... but still a little annoying...

Lawn lining  

I fully lined the bodice in navy cotton lawn, but kept the skirt unlined, simply french seaming the side seams and pockets (My trusty Simplicity 1873 pocket piece!) Burda actually provides a separate lining pattern with front princess seams instead of pleats to reduce bulk at the front. It's a really good idea, but I'm super lazy and couldn't be bothered to trace those pieces as well so I simply used the main bodice pieces again. This worked really well and I think in this lightweight fabric the extra volume from the lining pleats helps reinforce the bodice nicely. One thing to note about lining the bodice is that due to the nature of the straps you can't understitch in one fell swoop. Instead you have to keep on stopping and starting to avoid catching the straps. A little irritating but certainly not difficult.

I also changed up my hand-stitching technique for the waistline and hem. Usually I just catch-stitch my hems but recently I've been trying to up my hand-stitching game, so my past few dresses have used a blind slip-stitch. I won't lie, I'm a lot slower with this technique but I'm absolutely in looooove the clean finish it gives to the inside of the dress! Totally worth it!!
Pretty hem (plus bonus french seam)

The only thing I'm sad about is the skirt. You see the pattern has a gathered skirt, but I really wanted a 1" knife pleated skirt to mimic the bust pleats. Honestly, I'm not really sure what happened; either I messed up measuring the waistline or the maths... Either way when I pleated up the skirt it was waayyyyyy too small! Boo! I didn't have any left over fabric to recut, but so I decided to undo the pleats and simply gather the skirt instead. Luckily this worked really well, and for some reason these might be he most even gathers I've ever sewn! (Go figure!) I do really like the gathered skirt, as it's incredibly cute but I think next time I'll do a pleated skirt... One that fits this time!


Also I desperately need help turning straps through!! Somehow I always manage to make a hash of it and it takes forever! With these ones I accidentally stabbed through the straps about 5 times with the knitting needles I was using... not great and now there are tiny holes *Sob* I also think I probably should have interfaced the straps since they feel a little flimsy, especially with the new holes!

Can you spot the hole?
So all of this is really to say that I'm in love! I absolutely adore the shape of the sweatheart and how the underarm continues up smoothly into the strap! I love how the back is higher than my other sweetheart dresses to give more coverage- It almost reminds me of the back of the By Hand London Flora. I love the full skirt and the slight vintagey-ness of the fit and flare silhouette. And lets not forget, most of all I addoooorrrreee those bust pleats!! I love interesting details, and pleats especially, so this design is right up my alley! It was an easy sew, with a lot of visual interest. The pleats are the sort of detail that you see a lot more in vintage patterns than in modern, so I was thrilled to find them in a Burda magazine of all places and I'm now super excited to make another... As soon as I buy more fabric of course... hehe

This dress is actually part of a capsule wardrobe type thing that I decided to make a few weeks ago as a summer project. I picked out 5 fabrics in fairly neutral colours, lots of denim, black and white, khaki and a dash of red, for easy coordination. Most of the styles and fabrics I picked out are a little outside of my usual style comfort zone for various reasons but I'm definitely really excited about where the wardrobe is heading. This dress is the most traditionally "me" part of the group and unsurprising was the first to be sewn up. I'm currently 3 items down out of 5 and pretty impressed by my productivity... next up the jeans...

Capsule wardrobe fabrics

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