Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tea and Scones Dress

As much as I love watching shows like The Great British Sewing Bee and Project Runway, sewing under a deadline is definitely not for me. About month ago I got it into my head I would just "whip up a dress" for an upcoming fancy tea party with some girlfriends. Ha! Cut to me, last Saturday, frantically hemming at 12 pm with bedhead when I'm supposed to leave at 12:30. But, somehow, miraculously, I managed to finish the dress and pull myself together. Whew!

What really made the afternoon perfect was not the company, or the delicious tea, or the yummy miniature scones, but a passing comment by a friend who asked where I had gotten my dress because it fit so well. I could have done a Breakfast Club air fist right there at the tea table that 1) my dress didn't look Becky Home Ec-y (my biggest fear) and 2) I nailed the fit. Instead I gleefully explained that I made it and tried to convince her to give dressmaking a go. I think I may have my first convert, you guys!

Okay, okay, enough about me. The dress is Simplicity 1803 and it's made with a horrible polyester from Joann Fabric. Looking back, I have no idea why I used a GIFT CARD to buy this last year. For shame! I could have stocked up on notions or went home with a rainbow of serger cones, but instead I bought 100% polyester that's much girlier than I usually go for. In all fairness though, it doesn't wrinkle, and it's amazingly opaque for white. I'm wearing a black bra in these pictures, and you'd never know it.

All things considered, it went together pretty easily. I cut a 10 in the shoulders and then blended to a 12 for the waist and hips. I did my usual SBA, 1/2" lowering of the armholes, and 1" lengthening at the waist. It was actually pretty easy to fit because of the princess seams - just shave a bit off the curve and voila, smaller bust without any of the usual side effects. I am now completely enamored with princess seams.

Overall, this was a pretty straightforward make with a couple of tricky bits. One was the the notched neckline, which I ended up handsewing into place because I couldn't get it it centered on my machine. Even now, it's not perfect, but it's passable.

The other part I struggled with was getting the top edges in the back to line up. Maybe I accidentally stretched the facing out, because the dress met up at the waist seam no problem, but the right side of the back was a good 1/2" higher than the left. Or it may have something to do with the fact I was putting in the invisible zip, oh, 90 minutes before I was supposed to leave. In the end, I channeled my inner Tim Gunn, sternly told myself to make it work, and did some quick seam ripping and lowered the right side to mirror the left.

The only other change I made was to cut 2 1/2 inches off the skirt and used bias binding for the hem instead of folding 1/4" twice like the instructions called for. I figured the bias binding would be faster and easier, and when else was I going to use the rest of the packet I bought to finish the arm holes? And I have to say, it was kind of magical. I have never hemmed anything as quickly or easily in my life. Or maybe that was just the potent combination of coffee and adrenaline.

So I guess what I've learned from this experience is that every dress should be made with princess seams and bias tape. Every last one. Except that I'm already working on one with waist darts. Oops.
Also, sewing on a deadline and using polyester fabrics are generally terrible ideas that sometimes pay off. I'm sure this won't be the last time I set myself a ridiculous deadline, but for now, I'm going to take a breather and go at my (happy) snails pace.


  1. What an accomplishment. Every part of your dress is just awesome. I am enamored with your alterations because I will have to do the same things on a dress I plan to make!

    1. Thank you! I'm glad you can use my alterations - it's always nice when you can use someone else's make as a guide. :)

  2. It looks great! I like the print a lot, super girly and preppy :) I've only made 1 garment with princess seams and it was a trench coat. I really can't remember if I liked it or not LOL I am making a pattern that uses princess seams though - so I better like them ;)

    - That's Sew Amy

  3. Beautifully made! Its so dainty and feminine! I love it. I am also a HUGE fan of princess seams, they give such a great fit!