Simplicity 2281, this time in a recommended fabric, what?

Apparently I’m working backwards through my backlog of completed projects, so here is the second-most recent big thing I made and didn’t blog at the time – a dress to wear to a wedding in May. I bought this beautiful Italian polyester when I was in New York and I knew then that it would have to become my dress for this wedding. This is seriously the nicest poly I’ve ever touched. It’s soft and flowy like silk, but doesn’t feel delicate. It’s also amazingly stable, unlike basically any poly woven I’ve ever touched. It’s fairly opaque, and I thought I might be able to get away with not lining it, but just to be safe I bought a generic ivory poly chiffon at the Michael Levine Loft (where fabric is sold by the pound, so chiffon costs basically nothing) to line it, which of course is not as nice against the skin as the Italian fabric. Ah well.

The only problem was that this fabric took a long time to tell me what kind of dress to make out of it. Some fabric is totally unambivalent about what pattern I should make it into, but this one wouldn’t decide. (Or maybe I couldn’t decide, who knows.) I thought about doing some kind of deep v-neck crossover bodice, or a traditional halter v-neck with a back tie, but finally the fabric suggested a gathered neck halter (one of my favorite styles) and I knew that was right. But then I waffled between Vogue 8380 and Simplicity 2281 for a while. In the end I decided on the Simplicity, sans wing sleeve things, because I reasoned that the fixed neck binding would be dressier than the casing/tie neckline of the Vogue. I think it was the right call.

Simplicity 2281 halter

I had made this pattern up before, but with long sleeves and in a knit, so not much fitting guidance there. I wound up making one size bigger than my knit version in the bodice and two sizes bigger in the waistband, which worked out pretty well. When I installed the side zipper I fine tuned the fit by varying the seam allowance along the zip- I had a little extra room at the top of the waistband and barely enough at the bottom/waist seam, but overall pretty close. I did try to cheat and not cut the neckband on the bias (although I don’t remember the pattern actually calling for a bias band, it must have, right?), but I should have used bias because the straight grain neckband pulls funny and doesn’t look like it wants to wrap around my neck.

S2281 close

Based on the fit of my knit version, I shortened the waistband by about a half inch to make it less gigantically tall, and I flared out the skirt because I thought a fuller skirt would suit the fabric more than the slight tulip shape of the pattern. I had a hard time deciding on a length for the skirt – it was a garden wedding, so I wore these flat sandals, but I didn’t want to shorten it so much that it wouldn’t make sense with heels for future uses. I will say that I think the length I wound up with does look better with heels than flats, but the only matching heels I have would have gotten stuck in the grass, so I went with the flats for the wedding anyway.

Also, I love my machine but it does not like making blind hems. I can’t figure out why, but the one thing my cheapo old Sears Singer did better than my fancy Bernina is blind hem. This hem looks like crap, and I pressed it for, like, hours.

S2281 back

This dress came together easily, because the fabric really behaved itself the whole time. I gotta find some more Italian polyesters, I guess! On the plus side, this fabric was a bolt-end and they made me buy the remaining 3 yards (at a discount, thankfully, I think I paid $30 for 3 yards), so I still have plenty of fabric for a top or something. Which is good, because I love this pixel print more every time I look at it.

I just returned from a vacation in Seattle, and before I left I actually sewed a buttload of new summer things to bring on the trip, but none of them managed to get photographed while I was there, of course. Sorry, no new photo backgrounds for you, but hopefully some summer clothes at some point. I also made a purse based on a friend’s RTW bag that I have coveted every time I’ve seen it, so tutorial coming… eventually!

  1. Very nice- a perfect wedding guest dress. As for the problems with blind hemming, my solution would be- don’t bother. Any fabric nice enough to make you annoyed if the hem isn’t lovely is telling you to just handsew it. I know a lot of folks these days are desperate to try to sew every inch of a garment by machine, but the joy of NOT making something RTW is that you can add all those hand-sewn details that make it amazing. Go on, thread up three or four needles, wax the thread, and do it while watching a TV programme or listening to a good book. It will make all the difference!

    • aleah said:

      You are totally right, I should hand hem more. I usually use the excuse of “no time”, but with this dress I think I had a spare day before the wedding… I never hand hem unless I need something to do on a car trip – all dresses I’ve made for destination weddings have been hand hemmed!

  2. Bonnie said:

    Love your dress style for a garden wedding. The fabric is beautiful, you can almost feel it in the pictures. Great job, keep posting, I love your style.
    See me at

  3. Super pretty dress! This fabric is really awesome 🙂

  4. Very pretty dress – I love the print on the fabric. I am about to make a dress and I noticed it calls for using the blind hem stitch on my machine and I am really scared to use this stitch. I have a hard time thinking it will come out good – I will try but I have a feeling I may need to hand stitch it, which I hate. Anyways, great job.

    • aleah said:

      Just practice on scraps a bunch. Maybe you’ll be lucky and your machine will do a beautiful blind hem, like my old one did!

  5. Oh I love this, it’s a great wedding guest dress, and the print is so cool! Isn’t amazing how little the “100% poly” can tell you about the fabric? I actually do prefer this sleeveless and in a woven, so much that I might just dig it out of my stash, I think it was in a donate pile, but you’ve got me rethinking. Can’t wait to see the bag!!

  6. lisa g said:

    What a great dress! I really love the fabric. And I’ve never had much luck with machine blind hemming. I figure If I really need a blind hem (which is seldom) I’ll just do it by hand.

  7. Katherine said:

    Also so so cute!!!

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