I made my own patterns for a long time. I drafted and tweaked and tested and revised patterns for everything you can imagine (pants, coats, dresses, tops, skirts – all of it) for longer than I’ve not been doing it. Patternmaking is a tedious, long process that I actually really enjoy. I still draft my own patterns from time to time when I need to – and knowing how to alter commercial patterns is a skill I’m not only grateful to have but one that has definitely come in handy – but I’m less inclined to draft from scratch these days. The convenience of well designed patterns neatly folded in an envelop available for a reasonable price is too much to resist. The work is already done for us! So now that I’m all about those patterns, I watch with eager anticipation for each new season’s collection. Vogue is my favorite brand and never disappoints me, and I probably use those patterns more than any other, but McCall’s and Butterick aren’t too far behind. The last time I used a Simplicity pattern was sometime in 2016, but one of their recent releases caught my eye so you’ll see that skirt soon.
This fall, McCall’s released a pattern for a wrap dress that had my name all over it, and I scooped it up as soon as I could. I thought it was so pretty, and it had lots of potential to become something I could make into a few versions. And the blouse? Stop it, it’s too darling!
My fabric is a floral cotton sateen I got a few months back from Fashion Fabrics Club. It’s sold out now, but I like to search “sateen print” every couple of weeks to make sure I keep an eye on their inventory of that fabric. I cannot tell you how many sateens I’ve ordered from them over the years, and the prices are unbeatable. (I’m not an ambassador for them or compensated in any way to say that. Just passing along helpful information!)
Right off the bat, I want to say that this is a lot of dress. The skirt is a full circle and the sleeves are quite wide, so thank goodness for the cinched in waist to give it all some definition. I initially wanted to make view C without sleeves, but I let my “it should be a fall garment with sleeves” mentality get the best of me and used the sleeves from the blouse in view A. Of the three sleeves, that one is my favorite because it’s subtle and not too in-your-face.
This pattern fits well and is incredibly easy to sew, and I will happily make it again in the spring. Gingham, maybe? Denim and poplin are also good options, and I also really like the idea of this in yellow cotton. I made it in one day, just hemming it the following day after letting it hang overnight to let the bias settle. (See more about leveling a hem here.) The only change I made to the pattern was to narrow the sash belt. I was short on fabric, and I also didn’t want to see the wrong side of the sateen. (Per the instructions, the ties are gathered and attached to the bodice as a single layer, no lining, and the edged are hemmed – so the wrong side of the fabric shows.) I thought this would be distracting, so I’d planned to cut two of the ties, but had to make an adjustment when I nearly ran out of fabric. (We’ve all been there, right?!) So I made the ties narrower and cut out two in my self fabric and two in black cotton.
You know how I’m always going on about “breaking up” a print in an interesting way to avoid being overwhelmed and distracted by it? Well, you’d think that thought had never crossed my mind when you look at this dress. The waist ties should be solid black, to interrupt the print a little but also define the waistline better. (Come on, Emily.) I’m going to replace the ties with solid black, and I will cut them using the original pattern piece, because I do like how wide it is. It gives the dress a little more character.
Putting the bodice together was fun, and I really liked the look of the sleeves at that point. After I finished the dress, though, I completely changed my mind. I think the combination of the big sleeves and the busy print of the fabric are too much. It’s almost robe-like, and I had a huge flub over the summer with a dress that looked like a robe, so I’d very much like to not make the same mistake twice. Eliminating the sleeves does make it easier to wear this with a cardigan or jacket, so I definitely appreciate the uptick in versatility. Without the sleeves, it’s a little more predictable and less special – but I’m okay with that. I can wear predictable, but I can’t wear robes or things I don’t feel good in or that aren’t flattering.
This will be much better:
The sleeves and sash belt don’t take away from my love for this pattern, however. It’s a good one! It’s true to size and flattering, and fit adjustments should be minimal. I think it would really shine in a solid color, and the blouse version with the flirty peplum is simply adorable.
This dress is unlined, and there are neckline facings. I don’t mind facings at all, and I think they’re just the thing in unlined dresses sometimes. With facings, I have do have one suggestion: finish the edge. I see unfinished or serged-only edges all the time, and some big time sewists prefer that and encourage their followers to do the same. I happen to believe that the smallest, easiest details are what take your sewing from “I made this in our spare bedroom” to “I made this but you would think I bought at Saks.”
Whenever I have a facing with an edge that doesn’t attach to anything else, I like to serge it and then press it under and edgestitch it. Simply serging it (or zigzagging it or what have you) isn’t wrong. I just think it looks a little unfinished. And to press the edge under and stitch it only adds a few minutes of production time. It’s worth it.
I’m looking forward to making a couple of tweaks to this dress, and turning into something that I really, really love. That’s the beauty of sewing – everything is fixable!