I really can’t say it enough: I love gingham. For whatever reason, I didn’t use it very much until this year, but after discovering the fabric for this Butterick dress I made in March I can’t seem to get it out of my head. It’s such a happy print, and nothing else reminds me more of summertime and America and classic, timeless style than gingham. Today I’m finishing a red gingham dress, and then I’ll have a fun little trio of gingham dresses. So maybe a matching skirt and blouse set will round out the collection for this year? Yes, I like that idea.
The dress in today’s post came to me one afternoon, after I finally found the perfect navy blue gingham. I found it at fabric.com, and it’s not a poly/cotton blend, which I especially like, and I also like the size of the checks. I like prints that aren’t so small that they essentially look like a solid color and not so large that they’re overwhelming. This 1″ gingham was the perfect size for this project. I can’t quite remember what sparked the idea for this dress, but it’s possible I saw something somewhere that inspired it. All I know is that once I had the idea, I couldn’t get it out of my head. And, I can say this with complete confidence, this dress will make the “hits” list at the end of the year. It is exactly the vision I had in mind, it’s easily one of the most comfortable dresses I’ve ever made. It also felt good to use my slopers and execute my own design. I love the convenience of commercial patterns and I’ll never stop using them, but every once in a while I need to design something on my own. It’s what I know, and I enjoy it.
I wanted something that tied in front, but anything remotely skimpy or revealing was out of the question. I also needed a dress with full back coverage so anything strapless or spaghetti straps wasn’t an option either. Sometimes you’ll find a dress or top with a tie element, but it’s pieces of fabric sewn into a seam that ties over another part of the garment. For example, in my research I saw a button front top with ties that came from the side seams and tied on top of the button placket. I didn’t want that. I wanted the tie element to be functional, not decorative.
To achieve the bodice I had in mind, I drafted a fitted bodice with a midriff and shaped pieces that tie in front. When I have an idea like this, I often start my search in a commercial pattern catalog, in case there’s something similar that I can adjust to save time. I never did find anything that would have worked, so I made the pattern myself. This was the best way to go for this project because it let me control every design detail without having to test too much or worry about the fit.
I outlined my idea on the dress form and used that as a guide for the pattern. This step just gives me a nice visual for style lines, seams, and specific measurements like width of the ties or shoulder seam.
After drafting the first pattern, I made a muslin on which I noticed only two fitting adjustments that needed to be made. I pinched out a little excess fabric under the bust, and made a slight swayback adjustment. Here you can see the midriff and bodice pinned where the fullness needs to be taken out. (And, gah, my apologies for such an icky picture!)
The muslin on the form:
My pattern pieces looked like this:
Lining the entire top bodice piece would have made the ties a bit bulky and difficult to tie, so I had to get creative with the lining. The ties could have been lined in rayon, for example, but I didn’t want the lining to show anywhere. That would have been distracting. So, the lining extends far enough into the ties so that cups can be sandwiched in between, but it ends in a spot that keeps the ties free from an extra layer (and you also never see the lining from the right side of the dress).
Here you can see the lining pattern on top of the bodice pattern that shows where it ends.
And here’s how that looks in the dress itself.
I had a pair of cups hanging around in the studio for ages, so I just used what I had on hand. You can find these at JoAnn. I just tacked the cups into place underneath the lining.
Once I decided that the ties wouldn’t be lined I had to figure out how to finish the edges, but I knew I didn’t want a narrow hem. So, I frayed the edges. Just having frayed edges on the ties didn’t make sense to the continuity of the garment, so I cut the selvage off of my fabric and continued that detail around the entire neckline and the armholes. I’m particularly crazy about this part of the dress. It’s so darling!
The skirt is a simple full circle skirt pattern, and there are side seam pockets. The skirt lining is a half circle pattern (no need for a full circle lining), and I used bemberg rayon to line the skirt. This gingham fabric is very “cotton-y”, and a cotton lining would have gotten bunched up under the skirt and not allowed it to move and flow like it should.
I let the dress hang on my dress form for a day to let the bias settle. Then I leveled the hem so that everything would be nice and even. For more information on leveling a hem, see this post from last fall.
I wore this dress in Nashville last week on the day my mom and I went fabric shopping and had lunch. I got lots of comments on this dress, and the ladies at the fabric store especially liked it. They also appreciated the sewing and time it took to make it. Every once in a while if someone compliments something I’m wearing I’ll respond by saying, “Thank you, I made it!” Then, I get the enjoyment of seeing their reactions, because sewing your own clothes is still one of those things that most people don’t think about. Usually, they’re so shocked they have no idea what to say. Isn’t it funny when that happens?
I cut the midriff pieces on the bias, because I liked the visual of the print going in a different direction around the wait. It interrupts the placement of the gingham in a way that isn’t distracting or overwhelming.
There’s this cute little flower truck that parks in spots all around Nashville, and it happened to be close to where we were that day so we had to check it out. Adorable, right?
My parents and my brother live in Nashville, so I like to go visit them a couple times a year. We had the best week together! The fabric store I mentioned is Textile Fabrics Nashville, and I would encourage you to go there if you’re ever in Nashville. They carry the most beautiful things, and I stocked up on some delicious linen for some summer projects and a plaid shirting that I think will make a pretty shirtdress.
I’m happy to home and back at work. I missed my studio, and it felt really good to crank up the sewing machine on Monday. Have a great week!
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