Saturday, May 8, 2010

Is an Easy Dress Like This Supposed to be so Hard?

Now that I have the Kyoto Skirt and the Burda sheath done (and thank you for all of the kind comments, by the way,) I have turned my eye to the May issue of Burda Style and dress #106. It's a cute little sleeveless empire waist number pictured in blue batiste with white dots.
Now I don't really know why this particular dress caught my eye. It may not be a good look for me, or even age appropriate, but I'll decide that once I get the muslin done. Maybe it was the dots. I'm loving that dotted fabric.

It's really a simple little dress. It has two bust darts, an empire seam, and an A-line skirt. Yes, it is completely lined and there is the bubble hem thing going on, but even so, it should be pretty simple to fit and construct, right? After all, there are only four pattern pieces.
Sigh... Why does it so often seem that the simplest projects end up being the most difficult? Remember the Googly Boiled Egg Dress? Yeah, it was simple, too. And I never did get it to fit quite right. I think I've worn it to church once, even though I love it on the hanger.
Could it be that simple pieces are hard (at least for me) because they have fewer seams and therefore, fewer places to manipulate the pattern? That's my theory.
So. I started the Bubble Dress Journey this past week by making a muslin of just the bodice. That's all I really need to "fit," right? I began by tracing the pattern, which only goes up to a size 42 (as so many Burda patterns seem to do.) Once I had the bodice pieces traced, I proceeded to grade up to a size 44 at the side seams. I decided to experiment a little bit and leave the neckline and shoulders at the size 42. I thought I might get a better fit that way, and prevent the neckline/shoulder gaposis that I often experience with Burda.
The next step was to cut out the muslin. I used a scrap of quilting cotton from my stash. I sewed the darts, basted in a spare zipper to hold the back closed, and sewed the front to the back. It was time to try it on and check the fit.
Hmmm. The bust circumference was good, and the neckline and shoulders seemed to be in the right spot, but the underbust edge was way too big. The fabric fell straight from my bust, going nowhere near my chest wall. That would result in a baggy, sack-like finished dress, and that's not the look I'm going for. Also, the front bodice was way too short. If I attached a skirt to it, there's no way that underbust seam would have been in the right place. And the neckline was too low and wide for my taste and to wear with a good bra. But I knew going into this that I would have to raise it and maybe narrow it slightly as well.
(Sorry there are no photos of this muslin fitting session, but after all, I made the bodice only, and I trust no one really wants to see my pasty white belly in an ill-fitting "crop top" and a pair of ratty sweatpants!)
Back to the pattern. I added an inch of tissue to raise the neckline. Then I folded the darts out of my paper and tapered the side seams back to the size 42 at the underbust seam on the front and back pieces. Next, I wandered around the house for a while trying to decide the best way to add extra length to the pattern by slashing and spreading. In the end, I decided why get all complicated about it? I just added 5/8" to the bottom of the pattern piece, tapering to nothing at the side seam.
The I cut and sewed another muslin and tried it on.
The empire edge was still too big! Crap! What is going on? Then I realised, I neglected to sew the back darts! So I basted those in, put it back on, and the width seemed to be just about right. The only problem was that the back seemed a little bit tight across the shoulder blades. I decided to make a broad back adjustment by slashing my pattern vertically from the shoulder to the lower seam and spreading it 3/8". I figured I can take the excess in at the back dart, and either ease the shoulder or make a small dart there also.
So I made a "quick and dirty" muslin to check it out and to see if the weight of the skirt would pull the underbust seam into the proper place since it still felt like the bodice was a hair too short.
It's promising. The skirt went on perfectly and the underbust seam seems to be just right. I still need to tweak the neckline a little bit and maybe the armholes. This just seems like a whole lot of work for such a simple dress.
Stay tuned for the next installment of the Bubble Dress Journey, when I stitch up a "wearable muslin" to see if all my tweaking pays off and to judge the overall look to see if I want to make the "final version" of this pattern out of good fabric. Which will be- you guessed it- dots!


Karin said...

What a lot of work! I am looking forward to seeing you finished dress. I like dots too.

beangirl said...

well it sounds like it's going to be cute all the same. And if it makes you feel better, that is about half (and I mean half) the fitting adjustments that I have to make on... well, anything. ANYthing at all. So I still think you're way ahead of the game in my book. Can't wait to see it!

angie.a said...

I just realized this bodice is the same as the plus sheath...and I LOVE this dress with the bubble hem, so cute! Maybe I can make an empire pattern piece from the plus top (so I don't have to do an FBA!) Hopefully you'll have pictures soon? (haha, I wear ratty old sweat pants on the weekend too. :P ) said...


Shannon said...

You go girl! I'm loving this dress... I'm on the edge of my seat!!

By the way, your state has seen some rough weather of late. Stay safe!

DanainDFW said...

REmembered you're from OK, hope y'all are OK.

Rose said...

Yes, I know what you mean. I think someone titled a post "simple plus me = complicated". I'm a member of that club! I have the pattern traced and the fabric washed for that dress. My plan is to de-bubble it. I'm still not sure how it will work. I look forward to seeing your version. BTW, I love to look at muslins and fit discussions (as long as they are somebody other than me screaming as I research fit books).

MushyWear said...

Way to stick with it. I hope it works out for you and am anxious to see the muslin. I think the dotted dress is super cute too!