I know it's only April, but I'm going to go ahead and predict that this dress will be my most-worn and most-loved make of 2018. I'm also going to go ahead and let you know right now that this is going to be a long post. So grab a cup of coffee, because I have a lot to say about this garment.
In case you are not aware, this is the Lisette Portfolio dress, aka Simplicity 2245, which has been out of print for several years and has attained a bit of a following. I bought it while it was still widely available, even though I wasn't at all a fan of it at the time. I have no idea why I bought it.
But when I happened upon the unopened pattern envelope in my bin a few months ago, suddenly I was in love. Where I used to gravitate towards lower-cut dresses, now I'm more comfortable in a neckline that doesn't gape when I lean over to pick up a toy train. Where I used to rock a tight top, now I'm self-conscious in anything without ease around the middle to skim over my stomach. Part of it is that I've had a bunch of babies in the last seven years, and the rest of it is probably just time ticking by, and my age with it. My style has been changing for awhile, I guess, but my newfound love for this pattern really crystallized that for me.
So all this is to say, that I finally pulled out the pattern in mid-March and started muslining.
As I was planning my dress, I carefully considered how I wanted it to fit me. I looked at just about ever Portfolio dress ever shared on line and thought about what made the good ones work, and what I didn't like about some of the others. Two things jumped out at me. First, I had to make sure that the center gathered panel started at the right place on my bust. If the gathering started too high, it would make the bust appear lower and create too much volume. Second, I knew there was a chance the neckline would be too high. Some of my not-so-favorite versions out there on the web had necklines that looked like they were about to strangle the wearer. Redrafting it and keeping the same width would be a significant amount of work that I'd rather not mess with. I know a lot of people have just left off the neckband, but I think that makes the neckline a bit too wide. So I steeled myself for some significant neckline redrafting, but I was pleasantly surprised when the neckline on the muslin came out fine. I did end up sewing the upper neckline on my final dress with a 7/8" seam allowance to lower it 1/4", but it would have been ok the way it was drafted, too.
Making a muslin was crucial for this pattern - I discovered that I needed more room in the sleeves and that I needed more length in the dress overall. When my Google search for a cut-on sleeve full bicep adjustment tutorial struck out, I asked on Instagram. (I clearly need to buy a fitting book or two). Thanks to advice there, I ended up altering the top of the sleeve, starting from 0 at the neckline (since the neckline fit me well) and widening to 5/8" at the end of the drop shoulder. Then I had to add that width to the bottom sleeve piece, which ended up being about a size 20.
I made some more adjustments as I was sewing my linen final garment. Here is a list of my final alterations:
- Cut size 14, but graded back pattern out from 14 at bust to 18 line at hem.
- Graduated back seam to a 1/4" seam from just above the booty down to the hem.
- Cut front panel 1.25" off the fold for a total of 2.5" width added.
- Lengthened dress 2.25" (And somehow this was still too short; I ended up sewing on a hem facing with a quarter inch seam to preserve the length).
- Lengthened yoke 1" and shortened front panel 1" to correspond.
- Sewed side seams at 3/8" to add a total of 1" circumference.
- 1/2" forward shoulder adjustment (though I am finding in the finished dress that I actually need to move the shoulder seam back to its original location, at least where it hits the neckline, if not the whole way through).
- Added width to drop shoulder by adding a wedge to both front and back that was 5/8" wide at bottom of shoulder and 0" at neckline. Added 5/8" to each side of sleeve piece. Cut larger bottom band (15.25" wide).
- Sewed tops of neckband and neckband facing together with a 7/8" seam to lower neckline by 1/4".
There are a couple of small issues that have presented themselves in my final version. First, as I mentioned above, I need to undo my forward shoulder adjustment, at least partly. Second, there is just a slight bit of gaping at the front neckband. I didn't have this issue in my muslin, but I also didn't put on the neckband facing or lower the neckline in my muslin. To address this issue on a possible future Portfolio, I'd need to take a 1/4-3/8" wedge out of the center front of the front neckband piece. Third, I see in the photos of the back view of the dress, that I do need a smidge more room around my backside. I think that adding just a bit of width to the center back seam will help.
And I am very tempted to make a second Portfolio.
This dress used 3.25 yards of fabric - a lovely black linen that I got for a steal back in February - $7.20 for 4 5/8 yards - during a Fabric Mart sale. I topstitched the pockets and the side-front seams up to the yoke using dark gold thread. I also decided to topstitch the hem facing with the same gold thread. As I was doing it I was not sure it was worth the effort, but it's definitely visible in the photos and I like the extra touch. I like the look of the back loop closure, though I can pull this dress on without unbuttoning it, so it's not at all necessary.
Yes, that's snow in the above photo. All the photos in this post were taken within five days of each other. Our weather has been crazy!
I don't have immediate plans to sew up another one, as I don't have any suitable cuts of fabric large enough in my stash. But I'm thinking a short-sleeved linen one in a bright color would be a great addition to my summer wardrobe, so I may revisit this in a few months.
Thanks for reading, and see you next time!