Well, it’s done. That’s about all the enthusiasm I feel like mustering for this garment. I know, I know, it’ll grow on me. But for real? This was a pain the ass. I mean, 2-3 broken needles level of pain in the ass.
I had a vision in mind. I keep seeing high-necked, sternly prim floral print dresses in black. They look feminine but totally badass, which is just like me, so naturally, I want one. When I came across this fabric at Hart’s, it felt like a perfect fit. It was a bit splurgy at $9.99/yd for poly, but I’ve been focusing on buying things I love, not just things that are cheap. (There’s definitely an argument to be made that you can have both, but I’m really trying to break out of being catastrophically cheap and cannot deal with nuance yet.)
I used McCall’s 6355, which is a Palmer/Pletsch pattern designed for both knits and wovens. I made it in a knit previously, and I love that dress. (Though I think I should add in the optional back darts now that I’ve worn it a few times.) After the knit version ended up being way too large when cut based on the body measurements provided, I cut this woven in a straight size 8, figuring I could always forgo the darts if it was too snug.
Spoiler alert: it was too snug. At least in the hips. Through the magic of sewing, I have finally realized that I have hips. At least, I have bigger hips than the standard Big 4 blocks allow for. Which I love! Yay hips! But it did require some finagling–and tiny seam allowances–to get this dress to fit. Yes, I cut the fabric before I constructed the lining, which was to be a fit test. Lesson here? Never try to learn anything about your sizing on a particular pattern if you’re comparing a knit version to a woven version. Just don’t do it.
Having tackled that fitting issue, I finished the dress and machine-hemmed it. I tried it on and…. Barf. The machine hem looked super-cheap, the dress was shorter than I’d wanted even with a tiny hem, the color of the floral didn’t pop, and the neckline was all wrong. (I wish I had pics, but trust me, it sucked.)
My original thought when choosing the pattern was: “It’ll be okay. The neckline on this pattern is pretty high.” No! Turns out (to perhaps no one’s surprise but my own) that this look really hinges on the super-high neckline. Less than an inch lower than my inspiration look, and my dress looked sweet, delicate, and totally boring. I can’t make Serious Business Decisions in this cheap-looking pastel dump of a dress!
Brokenhearted, I went back to work after a few days of sulking. When you have a vision, it’s hard to see it go unrealized, especially after investing in awesome fabric. I ripped out the machine hem. Regardless of length, I learned that machine hemming really does look crappy and it’s not worth the minimal amount of time and effort saved compared to hand-sewing. I pondered adding a fabric band to the neckline, but it just seemed like a ton of work for a gamble of a fix, and let’s face it: the glow was already dimmed for me on this garment. I decided to let go of my vision and open up to a new style. This dress was going to be what it wanted, not what I could wrangle it into.
I decided to add a delicate double-ply sheer panel to the hem to add some length and interest, and leave the neckline alone. There’s a minor laundry list of ways this plan went wrong: attaching the sheer panels to the wrong side of the dress (leaving the vent in front), miscalculating and not leaving enough inches to have the vent overlap/meet like a normal vent, buying the wrong super-jumbo size of hem lace and having to go back and buy more… It was not a joy.
I did use hem lace for the first time, and that’s now something I think I’ll use more often. I always end up wanting my hemlines longer than originally planned, and hem lace is all about that.
Oh, and I almost forgot! Landmark! I inserted my first invisible zipper, right there on the side! The add-on plastic feet freaked me out, so I just used a regular zipper foot (after Googling and YouTubeing various tutorials) and it worked out fine. No need to be scared! I mean, it was confusing, partially because of the underarm placement, but it’s not all that different than sewing in a regular zipper. Also, any mistakes are not exposed on the garment exterior. Bonus!
Upon reflection, this dress is not the glorious statement I had envisioned, but I did learn a handful of new tricks (er, techniques) from it. All in all, I’ll choose to call that a mostly-win.
Another note: at around a $30 investment, this is one of the more, if not the most, expensive garment I’ve made. I’m going to have to wear it a whole bunch to get my money’s worth. I can’t say paying more made it any better. The poly fabric was slippery and frustrating, and pulled threads easily. On the other hand, $30 for a unique dress and hours of entertainment (eh… torture?) is a pretty good deal.