There are certain times when I make something and I know I’m really late to the party – so late that when it’s done, I hesitate to even post about it since it feels like people will have seen and read all about the pattern already and I’ll have nothing material to add. (I’m thinking of my Zadie jumpsuit for which the toile is still sitting somewhere in my sewing room)!
This dress started out as one of those projects. I have seen so many versions of this pattern on Instagram, especially views B and C, and like me, everyone seems to love its gorgeous puff sleeves. It’s like a more streamlined version of the super popular McCalls 7969 dress, which also features similar puff sleeves but has a lot more ease through the body so it’s quite voluminous (more like a smock dress).
McCalls describe this pattern as follows: “Dresses with elasticated, high-waist front-wrap bodice or front-wrap, elasticated at the waist. In two lengths with optional waist peplum or hem frill. Long sleeves with elasticated cuffs, or short sleeves.”
The pattern comes in sizes XS to XL (where XS = 4-6, S = 8-10, M=12-14, L = 16-18 and XL = 20-22). The finished hip measurements range from 39 – 52.5”.
When I bought this pattern I had in mind something like the illustration of view A but with the puff sleeves instead of the short petal sleeves. In the illustration view A looks like it has a much more flared skirt than the other views. I find that since my waist has become a lot less defined in the last couple of years, I am now drawn to a silhouette with more volume on top and/ or in the lower half, to help create the illusion of a more defined waist (which is just my personal preference for my own appearance). I didn’t come across many versions of view A when stalking the hashtag, but looking in more detail at the technical drawing I began to suspect that view it was not in fact any more flared than view C. This turned out to be correct; the main skirt pattern pieces are simply different lengths for the different views. Still, by this point I had committed mentally to try making this dress with this fabric, so I decided to give View A a go.
This viscose has been in my stash for so long that I now can’t recall where I bought it from or how much it was, unfortunately. It was a pleasure to sew up, it responds nicely to being pressed and the print and colour palette are right up my street.
Feels good to have used up some “deep stash” fabric!
Sizing and alterations
After checking a few measurements on the pattern pieces, I decided to skip making a toile. I graded from a size S at the shoulders and bust to M and the waist and through the skirt (in line with the sizes recommended for my bust and waist measurements).
- I added back neckline darts to the pattern, and slashed and overlapped the back facing pattern piece to match, before cutting out the fabric. This is a standard adjustment for me and works well for my round back.
- I also tacked the neckline in place at an acceptable overlap (I tried on the bodice before attaching the skirt, basted in place the amount of overlap I wanted at the waist and then tacked the neckline down where it lay). I could adjust the neckline on the pattern next time for a bit more coverage, but this works just fine.
- I lengthened the skirt, I think by a couple of inches. I just measured from the natural waist line (as marked on the pattern) to the hem and then adjusted it to my preferred below-knee skirt length.
I have also made a note of the following alterations for next time:
- A narrow shoulder adjustment (again pretty standard for me but given the style of the bodice I wasn’t too bothered about doing one on this dress).
- Consider adjusting the bodice length to tweak the waist seam position. The pattern piece markings indicate that the seamline between the bodice and the skirt is intended to sit 2″ above the natural waistline, and it is described as high waisted. However – and I think this because you then have the 1″ elastic waistband casing sitting above that seamline, it feels even higher than that. When I wore the dress sitting down at my desk for a day in the office, it felt more like an empire waist line than a high waisted dress. Looking back at the hashtag on Instagram it does look more empire-like on a lot of people (which is not intended in any way a criticism of those makes); ultimately I think the waistline feels/looks about 3″ higher than the natural waist. I would tweak the bodice length and position of this casing on future versions if I retain the elastic waistband. BUT – if I swap out the elastic in order to gather the bodice onto a different skirt, then I probably wouldn’t adjust it or would only bring it down by about 1″. Hope that makes sense.
- There isn’t enough fullness in the skirt for my liking. Personally I think the illustrations on the front of the pattern envelope are pretty misleading and contribute to a sense of disappointment that the dress isn’t quite what I’d had in mind, even when I had recognised up front that the skirt wouldn’t look as full as the pictures. The line art on the back is a little less misleading, but overall it’s hard to picture from the envelope what view A would actually look like on a body. I’m already tempted to hack this dress into a top at some point, but I’ll wear this a few more times as-is and see if it grows on me. I will still make another version of the dress but I’ll cut a form of circle skirt rather than use the original skirt pattern pieces.
- I think a tie belt would look nice on this dress. None of the belts in my wardrobe really work with it and because the waist elastic is an inch wide I don’t love the look of the casing as is.
- I’m tempted to lengthen the sleeves a bit next time. I’ll probably also sew some form of cuff as I don’t actually like the feel of elasticated sleeves (although it’s also possible that I just need to loosen the elastic a little).
- I also want to hack the bodice into a blouse. I would definitely get a lot of wear from that!
The instructions were straightforward, and I don’t think there was anything significant to report about the construction, which is helpful as I’ve rambled a lot about the design and alterations – sorry!
This was a pretty quick make. As usual it was split over several sessions – in fact the bodice was languishing for ages (I actually wore it in the photoshoot for my waterfall coat) and then I sewed and attached the skirt in one afternoon.
I really want to love this dress as much as I usually love my projects, fresh from the machine. But I don’t, I feel quite meh about it. I do love the fabric and the print, and I definitely want to turn the dress into something I’ll wear often… because this isn’t it unfortunately.
There are two other things, apart from the pattern itself, which might contribute to this feeling:
- The pattern/print of the fabric. It’s possible that I just find it too much/too busy as a dress (as opposed to just a blouse with something plain underneath), probably exacerbated by the lack of shape through the skirt.
- I feel like I’m in the process of accepting some of the changes in my body proportion in recent years. I’d been holding on to older items, thinking I would fit back into them one day, and likewise not wanting to sew for my current shape (despite the fact that it’s been here a while!). So it may just be that because I find this silhouette less to my liking on my current body, I’m projecting some of that disillusionment too.
I’m reflecting on these points further but I wanted to mention them in fairness to McCalls.
It’s the bodice and sleeves that win the points here, really. I just don’t love the straight skirt at this length (although I think it’s better in the maxi length of view C), and I maybe I’m reading too much into it but I feel like they tried to pass off views A and B as something they’re not, with those illustrations, which could catch people out if they take the envelope at face value.
Until next time.. happy sewing!