I recently overheard a conversation among a group of women during a shopping trip. They had just discovered a rack of clothing that included a few striped blouses, linen drawstring pants, and a polka dot skirt (you know, just a few of my all time favorite things). They all agreed–and with great enthusiasm, I must add–that polka dots were ridiculous. “Who actually wears such a stupid looking print?”
My feelings were hurt for the polka dots. Look, to each her own and all that, but polka dots?! What’s not to like? There are a few prints I will always have a soft spot for (gingham, stripes, big florals), but polka dots must be the happiest print on earth.
I found this polka dot print earlier this spring from Fashion Fabrics Club, and I love it. It’s a navy blue medium weight stretch twill with a pretty stiff hand. It would make for a lovely spring jacket, and a shift dress or full skirt would be a nice option too. When it was delivered, I knew it would be the perfect fabric choice for a vintage Vogue pattern I’d been eyeballing for weeks. There’s enough volume in the fabric to support the fullness of the skirt. No petticoat needed!
This pattern appealed to me because there’s good coverage in the bodice and the skirt is nicely flared but not too huge. I was also intrigued by the wraparound detail, which is quite flattering.
Like I do before every project with a commercial pattern, I did a little research to see what other folks were saying about it. The pictures I came across told me everything I needed to know. I thought there might be an issue with the sides of the bodice being too big, and they are (understatement of the year). So what began as an easy project quickly escalated into an enormous fitting challenge.
I want to preface my summary of the fitting issues by saying that this wasn’t a sizing issue. I am the same size across the board with Vogue patterns, and I appreciate that consistency. The issues with the fit of the bodice have to do with gaping in one specific area: the sides of the bodice where it wraps around the body. I had to contour the pattern to fit my body, which is a common thing patterns need when there’s a low neckline, a wrap detail like this, or anything with style lines that follow close to the body, like a strapless design.
The first thing I did was sew a muslin of the bodice to have a look at the fit. It was a mess, but the waist fit and the princess seams were in the correct spot.
I made three sets of adjustments to this pattern. Along the way, I had a good laugh about it because this has to be the most simple pattern I’ve ever had to adjust to such an extent. When I got into the thick of the adjustments, determination kicked in and just sort of said, “I will win this, you silly pattern!” I knew that if I could correct the fit I would have a really, really great dress pattern on my hands that I could make in a lot of colors and patterns, because it really is an easy sewing project. Once you get beyond the task of fitting it, that is.
Three muslins later.
In addition to the contouring (which is essentially just “pinching” out excess fabric), I shaped the front princess seam under the bust and removed some excess fabric from the back bodice (a swayback adjustment).
With the fit finally conquered, I could move on to construction. This dress is unlined so the seams are finished with bias tape. I’m particular when it comes to that finish. Sometimes, on white, for example, I don’t mind sewing the bias tape on my machine. The visible sewing line doesn’t bother me. On prints, however, it bugs me a little. So, all of the bias tape on the bodice is slipstitched down by hand so that there are no visible sewing lines on the right side of the fabric. Notice on this scrap how distracting the sewing lines are, even the navy one.
All that slipstitching took some time, but I’m glad I did it. The edges on the bodice are nice and clean. I used bigger hooks and eyes at the back of the neck and on the back wraparound pieces because they are easier to hook than the little ones. Plus, they’re sturdier, and I just like them.
I opted for the hook and eye and snap closures instead of the ties in view A because I want the option of wearing a belt, which wouldn’t have been possible if there was a tie already around the waist.
I mentioned this whole contouring thing in my Stories on Instagram, and there were lots and lots of questions about it so I will be dedicating a post to that concept sometime in June. I promise, it’s not that complicated and it makes a world of difference to how a garment fits. If you have any questions, let me know. Have a wonderful long weekend, and happy sewing!