A sewing blog about building a functional, cohesive handmade wardrobe, one garment at a time.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Copycat Plantain dress

Earlier this winter, I saw a lovely dress on Instagram and immediately fell in love.  It was a lengthened navy-blue jersey Plantain dress and the shape was perfect and easy.  

Fabric Mart had a sale a few days later and in the sale was a 4-yard pre-cut of this navy jersey, which was listed as cotton/rayon/lycra.  My striped Blackwood cardigan is also cotton/rayon/lycra from FabricMart, and I really liked the heft and hand of the fabric, plus it was in the exact shade I wanted, so I was sold.  The fabric didn't disappoint, and I was even more pleased with my purchase when the yardage came out of the wash with that unmistakeable wool smell.  I don't think it's a pure wool/lycra, but some percentage of the fabric definitely came from a sheep.  The dress took just under 2 yards, and I have about 2 yards left for another garment in the future.

I made up a Plantain from the same adjusted pattern as the purple Plantain tee I made last month.  I lengthened it 17", continuing the side seam angle all the way down.  I ended up cutting about 2.5" off before hemming it up another inch.  (I actually didn't realize that I had ended up with a dipped hem in the back until I saw these photos.  I might even it out, I might not.  Haven't decided yet!)

Following my frustration with the Plantain sleeves when I last made the pattern, I decided to use the size 16 Renfrew sleeve with 1/2" shaved off each side seam. The Renfrew has a symmetrical sleeve, but it generally fits me with the right amount of ease once I take in the side seams.  

I had assumed that the sleeve was just wider at the top, but I was curious, so I compared the two pattern pieces.  Apologies for the blurry iPhone photo, but it illustrates the differences well enough.   The Plantain sleeve, in white, is underneath the Renfrew sleeve, in pattern tissue.  

I walked the Renfrew sleeve cap along the Plantain sleeve cap, and they are almost exactly the same length.  But as you (probably can't) see, the Renfrew sleeve cap is about 1/2" taller than the Plantain sleeve cap.  I was also surprised to find that the Plantain sleeve is actually a bit wider than the Renfrew sleeve at the top of the arm (and more than it would seem, because this newest version of the Plantain only has a 3/8" seam allowance, while the Renfrew has a 5/8").  And yet the Plantain sleeve is much tighter on my biceps than the Renfrew sleeve.  So it turns out that the height of the sleeve cap has a good deal to do with fit at the bicep.  I feel like this is a pretty significant lightbulb moment for me, and am looking to the prospect of better-fitting sleeves in the future!

There is a bit of fabric bunching at the front armscye.  I think I could fix that by moving the center of the sleeve cap towards the front sleeve, the way you do when you adjust a sleeve for a forward shoulder (and this would take care of making the sleeve asymmetrical).  I may try that out next time I make a Plantain (which might be sooner than I thought, now that I have a better-fitting sleeve for it).  The folds on the lower 2/3 of the sleeve indicate that it's too big, but they really don't bother me - they pass the "would I notice this if it were on a RTW dress sleeve?" test just fine.

All in all, I think the dress was a great success and I am very excited to have it in my closet.  I'm looking forward to wearing it with clogs and bare legs in the not-too-distant future!

Thanks for reading, and see you next time!


  1. Super cute! Well done. I love that sort of dress in knit, but I always want pockets and am never happy with how they look when I add them. :/ A problem for another day. I'm super intrigued by your sleeve lightbulb--I'm always looking to fit my upper arms better, and that is an interesting thing to consider! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great dress - and yeah for the light bulb moment - It's always nice when something clicks into place.

  3. Great dress!!! And I am following your sleeve discoveries with great interest!!! So interesting! #sewingnerdandnotsorry

  4. The sleeve lightbulb was worth the investigation! I love reading about the ways you alter patterns to make them work for you! I had a giggle at the rtw test. I think I am much more critical about the things I make myself than those I buy!


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