Summer sewing winner: Southport dress

So I guess summer’s finally over? It’s been hard to tell, since September and October are always the hottest months of the year here, and this year our 90-to-100-degree heat wave was accompanied by 90% humidity and lasted for about 6 weeks. I have never been so sticky in my life. Anyway, we seem to have finally reverted to what passes for “fall” around here (daytime temps in the low 80s cooling to high 50s at night), so I thought I should share my favorite make of the summer now that I won’t be wearing it again until next year.

I was intrigued by the True Bias Southport Dress from the time it was announced, but I did a lot of hemming and hawing before I actually bought the pattern. I liked the silhouette and style, but wasn’t sure if it would work for my body without a ton of modification (with a small bust but broad shoulders and low armpits, woven tanks do not usually work out for me). But coming up to my trip to Seattle in July, I just went for it with some Kauffman dot chambray I had purchased specifically for this purpose. And I’m so glad I did. I know everybody and their mother have already blogged this pattern (probably in this very fabric), but too bad, here’s another one.

southport dress

Because True Bias patterns are drafted for a C-cup and I am decidedly less than that, I decided to make a standard, by the book SBA of about a half inch. Okay, I realize that in a traditional SBA you shorten the unaltered half to match the shortened half under the dart, but I lengthened under the dart instead to keep the original bodice length. I wanted the blousing, and I’m not short-waisted at all. I cut a size 8 in the shoulders/bust grading out to a 10 at the waist according to my measurements. And wouldn’t you know, the bodice fits great! After many wearings, I have realized that my preference would be to have the bottom of the armholes a bit lower, but that’s easily adjusted for next time.

southport sba

I graded out to a size 12 in the skirt, because while I am not gifted up top, I have an overabundance in the behind, and the skirt as designed looked pretty slim through the hips. And indeed it is – in this non-stretch fabric the ease is just barely enough. I have to hike it up pretty high to ride my bike in it… but that hasn’t stopped me.

southport back

As much as I love this dress and this design, can I just put it out there that I hate bias bindings with a fiery passion. I just can’t make them sit flat. Yes, I understitched, but it was not enough. I think I’m so used to knit bindings that I stretch my bias just on instinct when I sew and that’s what’s messing it up? Should you not stretch woven bias bindings at all? Curves in all patterns have always been my nemesis (…nemesises? nemeses!), and bias binding curves just exacerbates the problem. I also chose to use some green print cotton bias I made a ton of forever ago (a fat quarter makes a lot of continuous bias tape), so it’s more noticeable peeking out than if I’d used self bias binding. Let’s just call it a design choice. I also apparently didn’t pre-shrink my homemade bias tape, so after the first wash the straps gathered themselves a bit.

southport dress pockets

I made no other modifications to the pattern (I actually like that the drawstring casing at the waist is on the outside, I think it’s a fun design element for a casual dress), although I will confess to not bothering to make functional buttonholes – so unnecessary with the wide neckline, and I am very lazy. I just sewed a short, dense zigzag through the plackets at each button location and then sewed the buttons on top of that stitching. I like to do that because it’s more security than only sewing the buttons on through both layers, but it maintains the illusion of a button fastening more than stitching down the whole placket along the topstitching line.

And that’s pretty much it. I just really, really like this dress, and I wore it at least once a week all summer. I fully intended to make another version, but my summer sewing was not as prolific as I’d hoped it would be and it never happened. I’m currently thinking about how I might add sleeves to this sucker, though…

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7 comments
  1. I hate bias binding finishes too! Drive me nuts applying them & they can be randomly excellent or horrid!

  2. Another one here who hates bias bindings too! to me they scream homemade, and not in a good way. I will make an exception for silk blouses, they do work out well on those most times. (must be self-fabric)
    Cute dress thought and perfect for our continuous hot summer days.

  3. When I get the bias finish right, it’s really nice, but when I don’t…yuck. And you just never know how it’s going to turn out. I wonder if self fabric (or at least not that stuff from the packet) would make the difference?

  4. Fab frock! Check out Sewing on the edge – Craftsy class. I swear you’ll soon love bias binding 😀

  5. I actually love bias finishes! But it turns out so much better when it’s homemade bias tape versus the store bought stuff. And I actually made the same pattern in the exact fabric! I was scrolling through my feed and was like “woah, that’s my dress!” Looks great!!

  6. Love the dress! I think I make the same mistake with bias bindings, I think I should be stretching around the curve, but maybe I should be easing? So that the outside edge of the binding has more length, so when you flip it over it can go around the longer outside of the curve? I don’t know, but I know I hate doing them. But then I also hate facings, and I never line anything, so what am I left with? ANYWAY great dress, it suits you well and no harm in a little leg sometimes while biking!

    • aleah said:

      Ha, yes, all finishing methods are evil! Perhaps we should just stop finishing necklines at all…

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