A few weeks ago I ordered some grey roma jersey from Fabric Godmother expecting to make a sophisticated, sleek and understated shift dress using this pattern from Burda in September. It’s lovely fabric but when it arrived I realised it was a bit too plain for such a simple dress; there’s a fine line between understated and boring and I suspected that the finished dress would have fallen very much on the dull side of the divide. I still wanted to use the fabric though and fortunately Burda decided to republish this dress from 1956 that month. I was attracted to the long lean lines, the funnel collar and the slinky, skirt.
The fabric is lovely, a warm thick knit, very smooth, doesn’t crease and looks as good after washing as it did when it first arrived. I may order some more in the future, although probably in a more exciting colour (the aubergine looks fab!)
The pattern is very straight forward to make up, but the bodice is time consuming and it took me a good couple of hours to trace and then hand baste all the darts. I expected to have problems getting the seams to match but they came together very easily.
I had a little difficulty with the neckline, the instructions tell you to apply the facing before sewing the shoulder seams. I did this but then found a tiny mismatch on both sides of the top neck seam which meant the facing would not fold neatly in. This was quickly fixed by taking it apart, sewing the shoulder seams, sewing the pieces of facing together and then sewing the seam around the top of the neckline in one go (this is the way I normally apply facings and I’m not sure why the pattern asked for a different method).
The project was started before Christmas and before I received my overlocker so, although I have finished it off where I could with the overlocker I would have got a neater finish had I been able to finish each seam as I sewn it. Incidentally I found in my thread drawer that I had five different spools of Gutterman’s 701, all bought to go with different fabrics purchased at different times from different shops. I don’t think I could have done this if I had tried, obviously something in my sub-conscious draws me to that particular shade of grey. They are all used up now as the overlocker eats thread, so I am going to have to find a new, cheap source for the future (any suggestions?).
So anyway I finished the dress and was very happy with it. I had taken a smigeon off the waist and a fairly hefty chunk out of the two front princess seams across my belly (this made me feel much better about my post Christmas flab). I also thought about taking some fabric out of the top of the back as I get a weird wrinkling there but it was a bit too late to make that alteration by the time I spotted the problem. I get a bit of gaping on the top of another Burda dress I made some time ago so I probably need to think about this in the future. The bodice was well fitted but I hadn’t taken out the basting at this stage. It did vaguely occur to me that it should be much tighter given that the darts would be removed adding back lots of fabric but I really didn’t think this was going to be a problem.
What a mistake! Unfortunately removing all those darts had a terrible effect on the fit. The bodice suddenly became far too long with huge baggy bits about five centimetres under my bust. I took this photo but I’m not really sure it shows the full horror of the situation. There are pictures of the dress on the Russian Burda website which show that it can work with the darts open however I did notice that Melissa of FehrTrade also decided to sew up all the darts so I am not entirely alone in this respect! (yes I know, a toile would have highlighted these problems much earlier)
By this stage all my careful marks showing where the darts should have been had rubbed off and rebasting, then resewing those darts took me forever.
This fixed the problem with the bodice but emphasised a wodge of fabric I had been trying to ignore at the top of the central skirt panel. The piece is shaped with a point here, I had noticed that it didn’t look quite right but thought the weight of the skirt would pull it into shape. Unfortunately the jersey is too clingy for that to happen. The bodice is quite thick where the three pieces meet, as the central seam also has the folds from the darts sewn into it and I think this contributed to the problem. Eventually I fixed it by taking about 2-3 cm from the top of the central panel of the skirt. It hangs well now but there is still some bulk at the bottom of the bodice which I haven’t been able to remove.
Anyway I love the finished dress even if it’s not what I was expecting. Burda recommends using a wool jersey but looking at the picture from 1956 I suspect a drapey, woven fabric was originally used (did they have thick jersey fabrics in those days?). This would explain why the pattern has a back zip and calls for darted sleeves to be set in with a bit of ease around the cap. Whilst it would be difficult to get such a close fit with a woven I think a lovely patterned silk or maybe a wool challis would have made a gorgeous dress. I also suspect that the problems I had with the bodice may not have been so severe had I used a more drapey fabric.