2009-05-134, My Anniversary Dress…

Muslin.  Let me explain.

Every year we celebrate our wedding anniversary with dinner out.  As times have gotten better, we’ve taken to dinner out at a 3-5 Star Restaurant followed by a hotel stay.  The hotel stay mostly because there are no Starred restaurants nearby and we must travel.  We don’t want to eat, drink and make a 2+ hour drive home afterwards.  The dinner is a ‘dress up’ occasion for both of us. I’m making a special dress.

I know what I want.  I have a beautiful, navy blue  matelasse  fabric. It’s obviously a rich fabric.  It’s deeply crinkled surface absolutely fascinates me.  I do believe it is polyester but I don’t remember and I’m not taking time for a burn test.   I want a cocktail length dress.  While this is the first time it will be worn, this length makes it suitable for future occasions.  When I get tired of it as a dress-up dress, I can shorten and use it as a dress-up blouse.

Of course I want a flattering shape and neckline. I fell in love with Pamela’s Softly Pleated Dress (115)

This style is similar to the much-loved Ebb drafted by Louise Cutting.  I ordered the pattern and put it away until now. Now, I’m deeply disappointed. My own fault, I know. I saw a bust dart which indicated to me this was for woven fabrics. To my surprise the recommend fabrics are all knits. Despite its deep crinkles, my matelasse has nearly zero stretch.  It will comfortable to wear but not if it is fashioned two sizes too small. I must admit I pouted.  I pulled out the master pattern and started measuring trying to see if I could make this work. Finally I came to my senses and realized that attempting to use a knit/stretch pattern with a non-stretch fabric was a recipe for disaster.

I turned to my Burda collection.  I’ve scanned them all (for personal use of course) and so could peruse the collection from my easy chair.  There were numerous Burda patterns that were very similar  to both the Ebb and PP115 but I kept looking through until I could find one that was drafted in a size 48.  That’s my Burda size which is one size larger than Burda says I wear. I found #133 in the July issue of 1996:

I’ll change those sleeves to be long sleeves but I will not use the collar.  It is a collar with stand which I hate sewing. Neither will I add the pockets. When I get to the matelasse, the center front will be cut on the fold and the pleats shifted towards the side.  But I traced all the pattern pieces and all the markings.

Why not use the Ebb and lengthen the skirt portion?  Even after 5 versions this year, the Ebb doesn’t quite fit. That means if I don’t want to ruin the matelasse, I probably should make another wearable muslin.  As long as I’m making a wearable-muslin,  I want to try another shoulder fitting idea.  Since creating my block with the Connie Crawford pattern, I’ve been reshaping the shoulder slope of new patterns by aligning at the neck edges.  I trace the shoulder slope which ends up being 5/8″ lower into the armscye.  That means, I need to recreate the correct armscye. Even doing this, the new pattern may not fit.  I’m not sure why every pattern won’t fit by simply using the correct shoulder slope. I know only that I’m still struggling with it and for that reason considering alternatives.  The alternative I’ve chosen to explore is aligning at the shoulder edge and tracing the slope up towards the neck.  The neck should end up being about 5/8″ higher than before.  It’s possible that the neckline or collar may need to be adjusted as well. I won’t know until I try it.

I traced size 48 for the upper bodice and considering how my rear always needs even more room, I traced the 50 for the lower bodice/skirt. I made my usual 1″ narrow shoulder and back waist length alterations. I added 1″ seam allowances to the side seams, the shoulders and both sides of the front empire line. The latter because all my patterns have had to have more length at the center front.  I folded up the skirt portion 13″ thinking I’d make the muslin tunic length but still have all the issues solved for a dress.

First fabric I chose for this wearable muslin, was a silk Jacquard  described as “warm beige”.  It was a color somewhere between dull peach and pink tan.  Not sure how it would look on me or with my other garments so if this becomes a wadder, I won’t mind. Unfortunately, with all the additional seam allowances, the pattern pieces would not fit on this 2.25 yards of 42″ wide fabric.  Fold it up. Put back in the stash.

Next fabric I chose  is polyester peach skin.  Earlier peach skins were always too warm. These recent peach skins are comfortable to wear and easier to sew. At least for me.  Either they’ve altered the peach skin formula or I’ve definitely passed through menopause.  Could be both. The one thing I regret about this fabric is not starching it to the ninth degree.  It behaves fairly well but will slip about and does ravel.  A good starching would have taken care of that now and then disappeared in the first wash.  Oh well, it wasn’t really that squirrely on either SM or serger.

I laid out my pattern pieces but cut each separately.  The next hour consisted of cutting a single pattern piece and marking the wrong side which was hardly distinguishable from the right side but would have shown up after the garment was securely stitched.  Followed by serge finishing all the raw edges and sewing what little could be permanently sewn (darts and tucks).  I was relieved to be able to add water-soluble thread to the sewing machine and start basting all the pieces together.  Finally I could try it on and critique the fit.

Keep in mind, this is barely pressed and completely unfinished.  It is intended to help me discover and resolving both fitting sewing issues.  I still need to cut the back facing,  apply it and permanently stitch everything including hems. Let’s start with the back

I’d war this. The back passes with flying colors  I’m unlikely to change this beyond permanent stitching and a good pressing.

The sides aren’t particularly bad either. The bust dart was rotated to the empire line and then is gathered. It may have been designed for a bigger cup than my own and I possibly can work that towards the side seam and remove a little. The drape lines below are occurring because I basted the tuck lines with water-soluble thread and then tried to press with a tiny bit of steam. The tucks puckered.  Most interesting to me is that the hem is pretty level.  That is one of the biggest complaints I make about my top patterns.  That and the diagonals that often form  from bust to side seam but are missing in this first fitting..

I think it is the front which frightens me

Ignoring the wrinkles on the ‘skirt’ and the sleeve length. I altered Burda’s sleeve to be as long as my sloper which includes a 2″ hem. My sloper sleeve is also roomy.  What disturbs me is the neckline V’s all the way below my front bra band. I’ve pulled the blouse fronts together a bit, but when I move they open up and totally exposes me.  Why didn’t I check this at the pattern stage?  In the past, I’ve complained bitterly about Burda’s bosom revealing necklines.  Even asked if Europeans really wear their necklines so low.  If I’m to wear this blouse, I will need to add a lace dickey.  More importantly, it troubles me that I can’t really tell if the front  is too big.  The shoulders are just slightly wider than my own.  The sleeve cap was not high or to be gathered only eased. So I think the sleeve cap and shoulder are like they should be. I would prefer the empire line to hit me about 1-1.5″ higher.

Honestly, I think the location of the empire is the only thing I can easily adjust by simply stitching the skirt higher on the bodice.  The neckline???  Sigh, I need to think about this before doing any more.


4 thoughts on “2009-05-134, My Anniversary Dress…

  1. Wow, I love the empire look from the back – very figure flattering for you. FWIW, the empire looks like it’s is a good position for your figure – more of a raised waist than an empire, if you will.

    The neck and shoulders are way too big, though, and that may be part of the low neckline problem. You manually narrowed the shoulders but I think the starting size for that area is too large. Looks like no more than a 44 through the neck, shoulder and armsyce would be needed but you’d need to measure the neck to be sure. I use Roberta Carr’s method – neck circumference dictates the neck & shoulder sizes to begin with and then I taper out according to what I need by their chart. If that smaller size still leaves you with a shoulder that’s a bit too wide, you could then add your manually adjustment to it but I suspect you’d notice a dramatic difference in that whole top area, especially in the front.

    • I’m beginning to distrust the recommended method of choosing size based on hip circumference. I agree it’s just too big. If I were in a dressing room, I’d ask the clerk to findme a smaller size.

  2. BTW, not really related to your pattern but the raised waistline reminded me of this post from inconic patterns yesterday. This woman is a professional patternmaker but she relates her experience of shopping with a friend and her epiphany moment when she realized that “perfect fit” doesn’t always equate with the “perfect figure” illusion that some garments are able to provide and she then proceeded to test this on her own fitting blocks. Very interesting indeed.


    • I read that post! One thing I loved was no mention of ‘body shaming’. Her friend wanted to project a certain look and Lena was totally supportive. I thought that was wonderful.


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