Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Striped T-Shirt Dress of Victory

There is nothing earth-shattering about the simple dress I'm showing you today.   And yet, this piece represents a true sewing triumph for me.  I have never "been able" to wear a dress like this before, because I was under the impression that this style - a knit bodice bloused over a cased elastic waistline - simply did not suit me.


I'm pretty psyched to have been proven wrong.

Both my sisters have worn variations on this style every summer for years.  It looks like the perfect "forgiving" shape, right?  And yet, the literally dozens I've tried on in stores have always looked awful on me.  The bodice was always too short and the elastic hit just underneath the bust, maternity style (best case scenario) or (horror) right across the bust line, while the gathers of the skirt made my hips look ginormous.   If the elastic hit at the right spot, the bodice itself would be way too wide.  I self-diagnosed myself as someone with a long torso, gave up looking and just wrote off the silhouette. 


Recently, though, I saw a few lovely Closet Case Files Sallie dresses (particularly the ones by SweetKM and Helen's Closet) and was newly inspired. The Sallie dress pattern is, of course, a bit more sophisticated than mine, but my desire to plunk down $14 for the pattern was tempered by my hard-learned knowledge that my sewing machine really stinks at sewing knits.   I knew the lined bodice would be a disaster.  I also knew I'd need to fit the bodice first.  I wanted faster results.

Kirsten Kimono to the rescue!  I took the pattern pieces from my latest alteration (where I swung out the side seams) and extended them to 43" (I should have extended to about 45" to allow a slightly longer and blousier bodice and to allow for hemming). The total width of each pattern piece at the hem was 30". After sewing it together, I tried it on and very scientifically and systematically bunched it up around my waist with my fingers until I figured out where I wanted the elastic casing to be. Then I chopped the skirt off, and sewed it to the skirt, right sides together with a 3/4" seam allowance. I actually used my coverstitch machine  to do this. My machine does an alright stretch stitch on cotton jerseys, but it detests rayon jerseys (this one is from FabricMart) and won't sew them at all unless there are more than two layers.  Even using stabilizer isn't foolproof.


I serged the ends of the seam allowances without cutting any off, and then I pressed the seam allowance down and stitch the edge to the inside of the skirt with a stretch stitch, forming a casing.  I threaded it with 1/2" elastic and tried on the dress to determine where to cut the elastic.



I think it turned out pretty well.  I'd like the neckline to be a bit lower - I think I cut my neckband a bit too short and that pulled it up more than I wanted.  I do have to adjust the fabric around the elastic casing when i put it on to keep the dress from twisting around - I might sew the elastic down at quarter marks to prevent this in the future.  There's also some excess fabric in the center back of the bodice - maybe this has something to do with that swayback thing people are always talking about? This is a new fitting issue for me.


I've worn it a few times, including out on a beach date with my husband, and in hindsight, I don't know why I thought sewing this dress would be such a risk.  I realized after I started sewing that I didn't actually have a long torso.  The extra length I needed is due to my bust size.  I already know that my shoulder width is proportionally much smaller than it "should" be compared to my full bust - this is why I always do FBAs.  The reason the RTW dresses don't fit is that if I choose a size that fits in the shoulders, there's never enough fabric to cover my bust, whether via dart in a woven fabric or extra length. 


Altogether, I'm pretty thrilled with the dress.  It's a nice throw-on-and-feel-put-together garment, but more importantly, it represents a real coup of sewing vs RTW.  Also nice: It was a pretty cheap sew - the fabric was on sale for $3.60 a yard and I only used 45 inches of my 3-yard cut.


Take that, boob-bisecting, hip-enlarging RTW blouson dresses!  I have conquered you.

18 comments:

  1. The dress is beautiful on you. I think you did a great job on the fit too. You look lovely! Great job! Happy Sewing!

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  2. This really does look great on you! I'm glad you tried it. And your stripe matching! <3<3<3 High fives all around!

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  3. Yes!! Fantastic make! I was reading your description of fitting problems with this style and thinking, "I have that problem too! But my problem isn't a long torso, it's a large bust ..." and then I got to the part where you came to the same conclusion, HA! So yes, it's all about having enough fabric to go over your bust and then pool nicely at the waist. I find this style very flattering on a large bust if it fits well, and this dress is very flattering on you!

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    1. Thanks. Sewing makes you so much more aware of your body, doesn't it?

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  4. Well done - it looks lovely, and perfect for summer weather.

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  5. Great blog post. This dress turned out fantastic and looks great on you! Here's to shattering many more style avoidances due to crappy RTW sizing. :-)

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    1. Thanks, Debbie! This project was definitely a liberating experience.

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  6. Great make, I think this style really suits you and you look lovely. Isn't sewing amazing, no matter our shape (and I'm an odd shape) we can alter and adjust and get a great fit!

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  7. What a successful experiment that deepens your love of the magic of sewing! I have a long torso, too, and I find it is hard to get the casing in the right place. Yours looks great!

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  8. What a great dress. There are so many styles that are a nightmare in RTW and can be made just right when you sew it yourself. Great job cracking the code on this style! How does your machine do with a stretch needle--like a Schmetz 75/11? I know my machine will not sew one stitch with a ballpoint needle but does a great job with the stretch needles.

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth! I've tried every needle - stretch, ballpoint, universal, microtex - I've tried walking foot and knit stay tape, etc. etc. My machine just hates knits :(

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