denim dress

a while back i got the idea in my head that i needed a denim dress. it seemed like a nice casual and potentially versatile garment to have in my wardrobe, so i picked up some denim at sewfisticated. these people always have a table of $2.99/yd denim remnants and i check out that table almost every time i visit. this one is probably around a 6.5 oz denim—lightweight, but still substantial.


i planned to revisit mccalls 5927, which i made last year in plaid. my intent with making that dress was to fit a bodice i could go back to as a TNT. upon re-trying on that dress the multiple fit issues were very apparent—shoulder seam needed to move out, the back neck needs darts or re-shaping, etc. i had a pretty long list of changes i didn’t feel like dealing with. instead i went back to the hawthorn bodice, which i had fit recently, and fit well. i redrafted bits to eliminate the front button closure, added a back seam for a zipper, and replaced the v-neck with a scooped neckline.


then i wanted to have some cap sleeves so it would easily fit under a cardigan or sweater. the sleeves proved quite an ordeal. i went back to the cap sleeve on the mccalls pattern and tried those, but they ended up a little too “strong shouldered” for my tastes. i mulled over it, then just fidgeted with them until i liked what i saw. so i cut off most of the cap with the pleating and just set it in with incidental gathers. obviously, it’s not perfect and there is either too much or too little ease in the cap, but it really doesn’t bother me. overall, the shape is very nice and i’m quite happy with it!

for the skirt, i pulled out NL 6776 (used perviously here and here) because it has a nice a-line shape and doesn’t take up a crap-ton of fabric. i pleated it to my heart’s content… which. took. forever. to get right. love pleats, but geeze they can be annoying. as you can see, i added a little swoop front pocket. inseam pockets are great, but i’m always annoyed about how the pocket bags flop about. i went back to the mccalls pattern as a guide and went from there.

since this is a denim dress, i took the opportunity to topstitch in white. i considered the more traditional gold, but i also like the look of white on denim. i even used white when stitching the zip down the back, and i did a pretty good job of keeping it straight! while i intended to wear a belt with this dress, the topstitching at the waist gives just enough definition that i don’t feel super inclined to bother with one.


i had anticipated finding loads of things in my closet to layer with this dress, but came up pretty much empty-handed. that’s the problem with an at-waist dress: all my sweaters hit at my high hip, which looks terrible! then i grabbed this cardigan i made a year and a half ago (jalie 2919, unblogged but much loved! p.s. i nixed the ridiculous stitched pleats for gathers at the shoulder). it’s very very long, so i frequently just tie it around my waist. it works okay, but now i think i need a few papercut coppelia  wraps in my closet to pair with this dress for the colder months.

i hope you followed my merry adventures through all those patterns to get to this dress… i thought it was apropos to publish a real frankenpattern mash up on halloween, so happy halloween all!

—lisa g.

mad for plaid

i definitely struggled with this dress more than i thought i would, but it all worked out in the end. i chose mccalls 5927 because of the simple lines in the bodice and plain but not too plain skirt. let’s face it—i’m a sucker for pleats and pockets. i mentioned before that i’m trying to work out a fitted bodice pattern or sloper that i can have on hand. after a few adjustments i think i’ve come pretty close with this one. the pattern came with several different bodice pieces based on bust size. i thought this would be super helpful in getting to my target shape a little faster. unfortunately, they treat both A and B cup sizes as one. not so helpful. past experience has shown me that i need a 1 1/2″ dart intake. this bodice has a 2 1/2″ intake so i was able to immediately spot and adjust this.

i had just read through the palmer/pletch “fit for real people” and one very good point of advice they give is to pick your bodice size based on your upper bust measurement, then adjust as necessary to fit your waist. in retrospect, i should have been able to figure this out myself. i quite often stared and stared at those bodice cutting lines because my bust lands me a much smaller size than my waist. then, even though i’m 5’8″, i usually need to do a petite adjustment (taken out above the bust) then add the removed length back in under the bust. then for your lower half you should pick a size based on your hip measurement and adjust the waist to fit. totally obvious, but still a lightbulb moment for me.

i love my plaid fabric, and a darted bodice is really nice for not disrupting the pattern as much as a princess seamed bodice would. however, if you’re working with a stripe or plaid, the waist dart can make the lines go all jagged in a soul-crushing sort of way. OCD much? guilty. but not to despair… there is a super easy way to fix this.

draw a line through the middle of your dart. then, pivot the dart as necessary to make the center line run parallel to CF. now when you stitch your dart, the plaid/checks/stripes will match up and chevron at the dart seam. genius, i know. now, if your skirt has a match point that is supposed to line up with the dart (pleats or front darts), keep in mind you’ll have to adjust that as well.

on the left: original dart placement
on the right: dart pivoted so the center is parallel to CF

because i was using this squishy, comfy, cozy flannel, i chose to leave the bodice unlined. which is ironic because i usually end up adding linings to dresses and then griping about the fact that the pattern doesn’t include lining instructions. if you’ve never lined a dress before and/or fear the very idea of lining a dress, rest assuraed. this pattern has directions for a FULL lining. even the sleeves. which seems kinda weird, but there you have it. this flannel has a sort of natural stretch and it’s quite thick. all in all, it feels really nice against my skin and has enough movement to be super comfortable. the only reason why i lined the skirt was so i could wear tights. this is obviously a winter dress and tights are a must. i used a bemberg rayon and it’s perfectly slidable. no crazy ride ups!

since i didn’t line the bodice i drafted a facing. i know some people avoid facings like the plague but i happen think they’re great for a clean neckline finish. since this fabric has a tendency to stretch funny and get all bent out of shape (it has a twill weave) it also helps to stabilize the neckline and keep it in check.

the only place that really gave me nightmares was the zipper install. an invisible zip was not an option given the thickness of the fabric so i got a standard zip and had intended to do a standard zip install. so you’re supposed to baste the opening closed, topstitch around the zipper, then remove the basting. so i basted, pinned the zip in then went to topstitch. but… see that high, narrow neckline? nope. can’t get it through a sewing machine when everything is closed up. i tried to go in from the skirt side, but that was so awful and wonky i quit after a couple inches. as usual, i made this far more complicated than necessary, and ended up going for a lapped zip.

i had only done a lapped zip once before and it seemed really hard and didn’t work out. i think i did the zip three times only to eventually rip it out and hand pick it months later. so i never tried it again. but for this dress, a lapped zip was the only remaining option. i ripped out all the stitching i had attempted, un-basted the seam, added some fusible to stabilize the edges, and lapped that zip. and it went in perfect with my first try. go figure.

i don’t often do a narrow skirt but thought it would be a nice departure from my more pouffy gathered dresses. the skirt is slightly off in fit, i could use another inch of ease in the backside. but who’s counting? i already let out the side and back seams as much as i possibly could. rookie mistake… i didn’t check the pattern’s finished hip measurement. oops. i think i’ve determined though, that my hips aren’t that wide, just le booty. things you don’t learn from making gathered skirts, huh.

i think i need to raise the back neckline
and/or add a back neck dart to fix the gaping.
that would be my “not impressed” face

so there’s my long-winded final analysis of this dress. my only real gripe is that for this large scale plaid i should have gone with a pattern without a waist seam; unless i’m wearing a belt it just looks funny. that and i could totally stand narrowing the sleeves a touch, they’re slightly boxy but… next time, right?

—lisa g.