The Drapey Dress

IMG_1321I wasn’t sure whether to blog about this or not. Usually I like the things I make but this one – not so much.

The pattern is the Drapey Dress from the British Sewing Bee book and the fabric is some navy ponte roma I’ve had hanging around for sometime now.

So what is the problem – well it’s a just a weird shape.  Don’t get me wrong I love wearing rather shapeless dresses but this one is just a bit strange and not at all flattering. I think the problem is that there are some strange angles in the pattern which would be better if they were curved out. 

Oddly enough shortly after I finished it an email from StyleArc came in advertising an almost identical dress. I think theirs has a slightly softer line which might be better.

Have you every finished a project and then found you hated it?


A long story….

Some dresses take a few hours, some dresses take a few days and then there’s this dress.

I first wrote about the StyleArc Emma dress in January 2014 in which I admitted to having procrastinated for some time already because of the fit.  I see my second post was February, also 2014, at which time I managed to fix one of the fit issues.  By December I was bemoaning the fact that it, and many other, projects had ground to a halt.

In order not to play with your patience too much I’ll just list the problems I had with it.  I should stress that there is nothing wrong with the pattern itself, all the problems are of my own making

  • Stylearc patterns only have 1cm seam allowances, this doesn’t give you much room for fit adjustments so I traced all the pieces out and increased to 1.5cm. There were a lot of pieces and all the symmetrical pieces were drawn out flat.
  • I had to increase the bust which took a bit of working out, but I am quite pleased with the result. I should have done the same on the lining piece but I couldn’t work out how so I just used the shell pieces
  • I was so pleased with having fixed the bust issue I completely ignored the fit around my hips and stomach and it was only when I made up the actual dress I found it was tight around my hips but had a bizarrely huge pouch of spare fabric around my stomach. I had to spend quite a bit of time playing around with the side panels and their fiddly right had cornered seams to get this resolved.
  • My sewing skills were just not up to fitting in the pockets neatly and I decided to leave them out. A good decision as the fit issues would have meant I would have had to adjust them too.
  • I decided the cap sleeves were just too unflattering on me so I removed them.
  • Having put the dress together and getting the fit right, I then had to take it all apart so I could add the lining, aaaaagh!

The fabric I used is a wool from Misan fabrics in Berwick Street, it’s dark navy but with dark grey or black undertones. I bought the lining from Bernstein and Banleys who were recommended to me by a friend.

I find it odd that although lots of people have written about ordering this pattern, I couldn’t actually find any photos of any made up dresses.  I’m actually very pleased with the result, it’s just as flattering as I expected from the line drawings and has a fabulous collar.  Now I’ve got the fit right I can imagine making it again. Maybe in a less formal fabric with a bit of stretch. 

Do you have any long term projects on the go? Am I the only one who takes the best part of 18 months to knock out a dress?  Have you tried this pattern?  What was the result?

The Fitting Resolution 2

Thank you for your helpful comments on my last post about fixing the Emma dress.  I thought I would quickly update you on what I did.  This is not by way of being a tutorial, it worked for me but I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to say it will work for anyone else.

Princess seam alterationDo you like my picture?  I’ve just downloaded paint2 to help me edit my photos.

Just to remind you I wanted to increase the bust on my dress by 1.5cm on each side.  The dress has princess seams but I needed to avoid changing the design line which runs along the bottom of this picture.  So what I did:

1) I marked the point on the side front pattern piece where the bust is at it’s largest (red mark)

2) I placed the pattern on a new piece of paper and drew a line parallel to the grain line 1.5cm from the edge of the pattern at my red mark (red line)

3) I traced around the outside of the pattern pieces from X to Y, around the arm hole seam, the side seam and the design line – these are the lines I wanted to leave unchanged

4) I pivoted the pattern from X until the red mark met the red line and traced around from X to the red line (new blue line)

5) I then returned the pattern to it’s original place and pivoted it from Y, again until the red mark met the red line and traced from Y to the red line (new green line)

6) I measured the difference between where the blue and green lines met the red line – 2cm and then smoothed the curve over this area.  This produced my new side panel.

7) For the centre panel I worked out where the red mark would come on the inner part of the princess seam and cut a horizontal line across the pattern (at right angles to the grain.   line). I then added in 2cm of paper between the two pieces and taped it back up.

Result – it now fits across my bust much better.  It’s a little large in the waist so maybe I should have just pivoted from a point a bit higher than Y (but I’m not too bothered).

I’m not sure if I can use this method on the lining, but if the worst comes to the worst I will just use the shell pattern rather than the separate lining pattern.

I’ve also made some decisions about the dress.  I popped to Berwick Street last week to see what was available and found some rather nice black and blue lightweight wool. I’ve also decided that sleeves are a must so have been playing around with my drafting some from my block.

The Fitting Resolution

Some time ago I ordered the Emma dress pattern from StyleArc. I had been looking at their web site for some time, admiring many of their designs but this was the first time I had ordered anything.  When the pattern arrived I cut out a toile and then did………… nothing.

To be honest I wasn’t sure what to do next.  The pattern is lovely, but  I am in two minds about the sleeves, should I leave them as they are in which case I’m going to need a jacket or should I just use my block and draft some proper sleeves? Secondly, I can’t decide what sort of fabric to use.  The pattern suggests gabardine or thin wool, it also says you can use a stretch fabric.  I love the idea of wool, but then there is always the problem of how to keep it clean without spending a fortune at the dry cleaners.  I could go with a poly  of some sort but I am a bit prejudiced about synthetic fabrics and never feel they are as nice as wool.  This is a fairly complicated pattern so if I am going to spend the time on it I want to make a dress I feel special in.

Anyway I got the toile out again last weekend and spent a bit of time trying to get it to fit.  First off I had gaping at the back neck which seems to be a common problem on a lot of my clothes (bought as well as made).  I added a couple of darts to the neckline and it fits much better.  As the dress has princess seams running into the sleeve seams I now need to decide how to get rid of these darts.  Adding them to the shoulders is the most obviously thing to do but it might look a bit odd having shoulder darts as well as princess seams.  The back seam has a bit of shaping in it so I might just try and lose the excess there.

The second problem, also a common issue for me, was the back was a little narrow.  This was easily fixed by letting out the princess seams.  I might need to recheck this one if I decide to add sleeves, but for a sleeveless dress it looks fine.

Lastly, and one I didn’t expect, was that the bust is too small.  The pattern I bought is the same size as my full bust measurement so I am a bit puzzled about why I need some excess.  The adjustment isn’t huge, just 1 ½ cm on each side, but just big enough to make me puzzled as to how to correct.  I tried letting out the seam allowances on the side piece and although this worked I can see that I will need to lengthen the front over the bust a little to take into account the excess.


I read up on doing an FBA in a princess seam and have found lots of useful hints but all of them seem to increase the width of the overall pattern piece.  I don’t want to do that because of the design lines on my pattern. If I did make it wider I would also need to adjust the skirt part of the dress and the pockets.

Adjusting the shell is bad enough but the lining is going to be even more complicated as that has the princess seams but is one piece without the design lines.

I do wonder if I am trying to make this more complicated than it needs to be.  Have you got any ideas?