Maybe that's why I'm drawn to a sewing pattern with a reputation. And, like a "bad" rockstar, it seems that you either love, hate, or struggle to relate to Vogue 1342 by Donna Karan
Me? I have a serious fan girl crush on this pattern. Probably in a way that's kind of awkward for a middle aged lady carrying quite a few extra kilos, but this shrink wrap knit dress pattern is brilliant.
I don't know much, if anything, about pattern design but I'm starting to notice that a lot of the time there's a basic block to which various combinations of sleeves, collars etc are added. Then, when a pattern like this comes along, and there is nothing at all recognisable about the pattern piece in its flat form, that's when I feel like pattern designers are amazing and I shall always value their work.
There's no better occasion to borrow a bit of bad, rockstar pattern attitude for than Frocktails. It's not the first time this pattern has been let loose to play at Frocktails, and it wasn't long after I'd picked up the pattern in a sale, that I saw Funkbunny's version and knew that one day I'd have to give it a go.
I arrogantly assumed that the fitting step would all come from fitting the lining, and IF one were to use fabrics with very similar stretch for the lining and the outer, then I maintain that would technically work. Of course that's not what I did, but you saw that coming, right?!
For the main dress I had the grey cotton knit with silver sparkly dots that was already in the stash. If I remember rightly it was $5/m from ClearIt. It's quite a thin knit and I knew I wanted something more weighty and smoothing (let's be honest and say compressing) for the lining.
I'd just made P some (still unblogged) arm and leg warmers for cycling and had just the right amount leftover of this thick, stretchy synthetic black knit to cut the lining. While I got the weights of fabric right - hefty on the inside and lightweight on the outside, I was badly mismatched when it came to stretch.
The black stuff was chosen specifically because arm and leg warmers need to stretch both in circumference and length. So this fabric has a lot of stretch, and great recovery, along both axes.
But not the grey t-shirt knit. That stretched nicely along one axis and not at all along the other. Of course the pattern plainly says the fabric is required to stretch both crosswise and lengthwise so I was being a bit foolhardy.
- as an aside. The common practice of referencing two and four way stretch is a confusing misnomer. Knit fabrics will stretch along one axis (selvedge to selvedge), or both axes (crosswise and lengthwise). When Vogue say two way stretch fabric required, they don't mean that your left and right hands move when you pull the fabric. They mean that it stretches in TWO perpendicular directions.
Having ignored that instruction, what do you do when the bottom hem of your dress is cut on the bias and loses all it's stretch? My solution was to buy some insanely divine shoes and make them the reason why I couldn't take big steps. See, not the dresses fault at all!
I'd drafted the dress in a size 16 blending out to an 18 below the waist. Easily done with the lining, but much harder to work out where and how for the dress outer. A better solution is undoubtedly to split and widen as shown by Cleo and Phineas here.
Because of my fabric differences the lining ended up too wide and loose. I ran the side seams back in and probably ended up with the straight size 16. But then I also added a few darts at the top back as that was gaping a lot. The outer dress on the other hand, was not giving me much wiggle room in the area that need to wiggle most....
The "center" back seam - I say "center" in quotes as there's nothing centered about it, was taken out to the limit of my seam allowance over my rump, but then taken in by almost an inch above the waist.
From the 4 or so versions of this dress I've seen now, I think it's safe to say it runs bigger across the back than might be expected for the hip/arse sizing. I don't have all that much up front, and while it's roomy there I was grateful not to have to try and figure out how on earth you would downsize the bust.
Due to my taking in the center back seam (which ends up at one shoulder strap), and the very stretchy versus minimally stretchy fabric disparity, I ended up with this major pucker on the inside.
This is where the outer dress is sewn to the lining to hold everything in its gathered, twisty shape. I just went ahead and stitched exactly where the fabric had been pattern marked. I'm pretty sure it was my fabrics and tinkering, but of course, when you've got the whole thing half inside out and are sewing seam allowance of outer, to marked line on the lining, it's impossible to know how dodgy it's going to look. Once you finish and get this, you shrug, think sod it, it's on the inside, and congratulate yourself for sewing with knit fabrics 'cause you can get away with that kind of shit.
Keeping things honest, here's the front shot of where the lining was about an inch bigger (too much stretch) than the outer and so the V becomes a small saggy U shaped hole.
So, there were plenty of challenges in sewing this pattern, both of Ms Karan's making and of my own, but once you get your head around it, it works. I can see that the steps where the lining is sewn in could be baffling. I find if I suspend any notion of knowing what I'm doing, and completely forget about anticipating how it's going to happen and just do as I'm told, it really does work. If I ever do make this dress again I would be sure to photograph those steps, but in the meantime, if you're having a step-20-what-the-f*&% moment, don't be afraid to ask.
One step that I think should be ADDED is understitching as much as possible of the back and side necklines. It's not that hard to get in under there and add some understitching in an effort to keep the lining from showing too much at the back.
Since I now need to wear those shoes at every opportunity until I die and they are buried with me, I put the whole outfit back on this weekend for a university reunion. (20 years, seriously)
Where I had to unpick the centre seam for my WAS adjustment a little hole formed. It's been interfaced and stitched, but I'm wondering about this dresses longevity... I seriously would do it again, but it would have to be the right fabric. If I ever find a sparkly grey fabric with two way stretch I'm on to it!
*that's a Wide Arse Salvage for new blog readers