I think this might be the most flattering dress I’ve ever sewn. No, really. Well, from the front anyway… more on that in a minute.
I was very excited when this pattern, Simplicity 1804, came out – like, 8 months ago – but it took me forever to get around to cutting it out. That may have been as far back as May, I can’t remember (I think the humidity we’ve had lately is frying my brain), but I do know that the neatly stacked cut-out pieces sat untouched for about two months while I made a bunch of other things instead. But just before my most recent trip, thinking I wanted something cute and comfortable to wear on the airplane, I dusted off the pieces of this dress and put it together in just about a day.
I may have been dreading the neckline finish, I suppose. The pattern has a neckline facing piece, but then it instructs you to topstitch the neckline anyway. I’ll never use a facing if I don’t have to, so instead I zigzagged clear elastic to the wrong side of the front neckline edges, then turned it to the inside and twin needled over it (all before I sewed the front center bodice seam, I might add). I only used the elastic on the front, I just turned and twin needled the back neckline (though the elastic wouldn’t have hurt, since the back neck gapes a little – perhaps I’ll make the effort next time. Wow I’m lazy). Then I matched the finished edges at front center and the shoulders and sewed the bodice together. I was worried about the elastic finish with the slightly curved neckline, but it turned out better than I anticipated and I think it may be my best neckline finish yet. Hooray!
The skirt and the front drape went together quickly and without incident, then I stitched up the sides and tried it on. Success in front! But oh boy, the back was kind of terrible. One of the reviews on PatternReview mentioned in passing that because the back skirt was gathered in the center, the fabric pooled a little above the butt. I didn’t really think anything of it, but… yeah.
Okay, I know I have a bit of swayback (or really, just “full butt”, if that’s a thing) that I should be altering for, but this is a little excessive. I considered just leaving it, since only other people have to look at the back of my dress, but then I remembered that other people would be looking at the back of my dress. It occurred to me that I don’t have this problem with center-back-gathered skirts on dresses with a midriff, since that lowers the gathers to where they can do their work (going around my bottom), so what the back of this dress really needed was a back belt or something to lower the gathers to my waistline.
Luckily I had cut out two of the front drape pieces way back when – I was worried that the wrong side of the fabric would show in the twist and I briefly considered doubling the twist piece rather than just narrow hemming it as the pattern instructed. But the twist pulls tightly enough to hide the wrong side totally, so I had an extra square of fabric the same size as the front drape. I gathered the sides and sewed it into the side seams opposite the front drape. Ta-da! A fabric pooling reduction drape that kind of looks like it’s supposed to be there!
Having the drape across the back too also helps balance the pull of the front drape, which is a little snug since apparently I cut it on the crossgrain for some reason (was that on purpose or an accident? I’ll never know), and it makes the side seams fall straight down my side rather than pulling toward the front where the drape is. Whoo-hoo, my first real after-the-fact fitting save!
The fabric is a modal knit from Girl Charlee eons ago. It’s very soft and not too stretchy, has an okay drape, and presses marvelously (something that cannot be said of almost any other knits). It does tend to wrinkle, but then the wrinkles just go away after it hangs for a little while. It’s very nice. I don’t know that I’ll come across any more modal fabric in the future, but if I do I’d be happy to work with it again. But don’t ask me what the heck modal is, because I have no idea.
Overall, this pattern taught me some things about my figure and what I should be wearing. The dress has an empire line, which emphasizes my small bust to the best of its ability, but then the drape pulls the skirt in on the sides through the waist before letting it flare out at the hips, giving me the illusion of a regular-person-with-a-waist shape. I should clearly be making more dresses with midriffs. And never again one with center gathers in back at the empire line. Lesson learned (and applied to my next project, actually – stay tuned)!
Full pattern review is here.