Frankenpattering a RTW knock-off

I’ve lost a little of the sewing mojo lately. After finishing a bunch of things in January that I just wasn’t that over the moon about (and I will post someday, really), and studiously ignoring the two projects that I’ve started cutting and really need to make (pants and a jacket), and quite frankly just lazing around (two whole days spent reading Gone Girl, for instance – warning: it is exactly as un-put-downable as everyone says it is), I was looking for a project to get me going again. As usual in this case, I turned to a PR contest. The RTW knock off contest is one of my favs, since I enjoy figuring out how to modify existing patterns to copy designs I’ve seen in stores (and also because it enables my terrible habit of going into shops and scoffing “well, I can make that“).

But February was passing fast, and nothing was really jumping out at me. Of the likely RTW candidates I had chosen from my inspiration file, I either didn’t have a suitable pattern or the right fabric in stash. Then, miraculously, a week and a half ago I pulled a lavender doubleknit out of a pile at the crazy fabric store and was reminded of a lavender ponte dress from Banana Republic that I had seen in the store last winter, scoffed at, and then actually went home and saved the picture to my computer for distant future knock-off purposes. Looking at it again I also finally realised that I had the perfect pattern(s) in stash to use for it, so I tossed the fabric into the wash and started it the next day. And, you know, it actually kind of worked out.

Banana dress collage

I started with Simplicity 2219 as my bodice. It’s funny, after I first saw the dress I remember scouring the pattern websites for a dress or top pattern that mimicked the neckline shape, with the two bands meeting in a V then continuing straight down to the midriff. And somehow I missed this one. Huh. I guess it took actually making it up this summer to lodge it in my brain, because it’s basically the exact. same. shape. The inspiration even has the slight racerback style of this pattern. So I really didn’t have to modify the bodice at all. I used the bodice lining piece for my main front piece, since I just wanted the shape but not the gathered overlay of the original pattern. I didn’t line the bodice (though I did line the bands) because my fabric was heavy and also I only had a yard and a half. I finished the armsyces with narrow bands as a nod to the inspiration piece, though its bands are wider. It was a bit of a brain puzzle to figure out how to assemble the bodice without the lining, but eventually I figured it out. I left the side seams for last for fitting purposes. The midriff pieces came from Simplicity 3503. I could doubtless have nicked a midriff from any number of patterns, or just drafted one myself, but I grabbed this one and it worked perfectly. If I make another 2219 sometime this summer (and I might, I like this bodice pattern) I’ll use this midriff again, because frankly I think this pattern kind of needs a midriff. I topstitched the midriff again as a nod to the inspiration (which might actually have piping? I can’t remember nor can I tell from the picture).

Banana dress back collage

But then came the skirt, and here’s where my Frankenpattern monster got away from me a little. At first I was just going to draft a rectangle skirt and pleat it front and back, since I prefer a fuller skirt generally. But the inspiration had more of a fitted pencil skirt, with back darts and what looked like slash pockets, and I had McCall’s 5927 in my stash, so I figured, why not? I should have gone with my original plan. I suppose I assumed that the bottom of the midriff would hit at my natural waist, where the skirt of the McCall’s dress was supposed to start, but it wound up being a little higher than that. I think this threw off the curvature of the skirt, so I’m getting drag lines above the pockets and there’s some weird wrinkling near the midriff at my natural waist. Not helping is the fact that my, well, ample bottom and hips are a little too big even for the size 14 that I cut in the skirt, so the sides are pulling toward the back and preventing the pleats from falling straight. It might be exacerbated by the fact that I converted the pattern’s two pleats per side to just two big pleats, like the BR dress has. Ah, well, that’s what I get for being a slave to the inspiration. The problem is solved, though, if I just keep my hands in the pockets!

Banana ruffle dress knock off

I saved the ruffle for last. I had cut three lengths of fabric that were 3 inches wide, a half inch wider than the bands. They seemed really wide when I cut them, but after they were turned into ruffles and attached to the bands (by sewing straight down the middle of the ruffle, and having the seams of the ruffle at the shoulder seams), I kind of wished they were just a little wider. I can still see the neckline bands peeking out behind the ruffle sometimes. I thought the ruffle would be the hardest part of the project, but it turned out to be the easiest! Tedious, but straightforward.

In the end, though, I don’t know how I feel about this dress. I’m pleased that I (mostly) successfully knocked off the Banana dress, and it got me sewing again, but ultimately why did I do it? I mean, it’s an awesome contest, but I certainly won’t win (still, do vote for me next week if you’re so inclined – the prize is Mood money!). I don’t really need a dress like this right now, and I bought new fabric for it rather than sewing from stash, as I really need to do. Well, if nothing else, perhaps it will guilt me into finishing the Thurlow trousers I started cutting out before Christmas, and that I’ve been putting off because they seem slightly daunting. But hey, if I can frankenpattern a ruffled dress into existence in a week, surely pants can’t be any harder. And it’ll be kind of a relief to have some instructions, at least.

My pattern review slash contest entry can be found here, and all the contest entries are here, check it out. It really is my favorite contest. Voting begins on the 3rd!

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15 comments
  1. Love it! Even though you don’t need a dress like this, entering PR contests is fun, and it helped you get your mojo back. If you look at it that way, maybe you did need the dress. ;) In any case, you’ve got my vote.

  2. lloubb said:

    Wow, you made like a perfect match!! So impressed. You sew more, and more complicated things, than I do, so I know you’ll have no trouble with thurlow. I have 2 successful pairs! Def use lladybird’s pics. Good luck in the PR contest!

  3. Nhi said:

    This dress is super cute. You did such a great job recreating it. Love the style and fabric. Can’t wait to see this crazy fabric place in person. If you don’t *need* this dress, I’m sure I can take it off your hands.

  4. Myra said:

    Beautiful! Love the radiant color.

  5. Wow, you did an amazing job of copying the RTW! If you can pull something like this off, you have no need to fear trousers!! :-)

  6. Becky said:

    This is so inspiring! I guess you needed a real challenge to get your sewing mojo back. I am duly impressed. This is not a talent I have developed yet, knocking off RTW. Maybe I should consider it, but then I think you are way ahead of me. Congratulations on a great job.

  7. Stevie said:

    Seriously great job with that dress it looks beautiful!

  8. Great pattern modifications and lovely colour! Good luck

  9. That’s beautiful and I love that you mimicked their styling too. Hurray for purple dresses! sewingforme.wordpress.com

  10. I’m bowing and making ‘ooh’ noises!
    This is an amazing job lady!

  11. Super cute and I love that vibrant color. You are ready to be a stylish guest at a summer wedding, it would be a perfect dress for that.

  12. Oh, this is divine! A) the colour is perfection on you. B) I heart ruffles. And these are some very ruffly ruffles!. C) Unusual backs on a dress make me weak at the knees. I’m LOVING the back of your dress, possible more than the front. This could be considered criminal. and D) Where did you get those shoes? Pure awesome.

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