Oy, this dress, you guys.
When the Royal Wedding Sewalong was announced, I thought it would be totally fun to participate. I had been sewing a ton, and tossing a fun project in the queue, even if I didn’t need a party dress, wouldn’t be a problem. Then I spent half of April torturing myself sewing this dress, only to realize at the end that I’d made a lot (like, a lot a lot) of stupid mistakes. This dress is so lucky it turned out cute, because I was ready to chuck it out the window a number of times.
I’m just going to put it out there: I hate sewing grown-on/shawl collars. I need to not do it for, like, at least another year. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but they never come out crisp and clean for me. They come out kind of sloppy and forced and ugly on the inside. (That’s the nickname for this dress: Ugly on the Inside.)
Because I went into this project all gung-ho, I ended up making three muslins of the bodice. Three. You guys. The funny part is that the joke’s on me. I ended up making a bunch of edits and unneccessary tweaking because I didn’t fully read the instructions. And after having a lovely time marking up my muslin with Crayola washable marker (not joking, it really was fun), I totally disregarded some important marks and didn’t fit the damn thing(s) properly at all. I ignored the directions regarding gathering part of the bodice and just hacked the pieces down because I thought they were too big.
Then, when I went to sew the final garment, it was too small to sew as intended because sometimes I am SO SO DUMB. It sort of works, but there really should be more overlap between the two bodice fronts. I mostly lost the high front neckline, and ended up with a much lower front v-neckline. It’s not bad at all, just not intentional. If I had just made the dress like usual, without muslining, it probably would’ve fit reasonably well. Alas, no.
Sidenote: I seriously debated being all, “I made a bunch of intentional edits because I’m awesome,” but I just can’t. There’s enough smugness on the internet without me pretending I have skills I really don’t. So embarrassing honesty it is.
There were some edits that were valuable that didn’t totally jack up the fit, so that’s a plus. I slashed out some fullness across the back, which I should always do. That was an easy adjustment to make on the pattern and resulted in a smoother fit across the shoulders. I also cut in the shoulders a bit. I’d read a few reviews that note the finished dress doesn’t have the cut-in shoulders that the cover illustrations show, and I’m happy with that update. In all honesty, I’m really, really trying not to have my takeaway on this project be “don’t muslin, ever,” but it’ll be awhile before the sting goes away. (The real lesson is: don’t sew like a damn idiot, Self.)
Another update includes lining the skirt because my fashion fabric is pretty thin, but I didn’t think through the process. So instead of having a lovely clean finish inside, I have double the mess because I made a lined bodice and lined skirt, and then put them together. (Shaking my head.)
Okay, now that I have all that off my chest, there’s actually a lot to like here.
I love my fabric. It’s just polyester, but the colors are so vibrant and the print is a blast. So blingy! It’s walking the edge of “super tacky and cheesy” and “mildly ironic but in a refreshingly earnest way.” So happy I have more of this fabric, so I can make a cute everyday blouse and/or a slinky nightgown and robe. I’m also thinking it might make a fun lining for a coat project I’m planning for the fall.
I love that this fabric is lightweight, which ended up working really well for this skirt. The skirt is enormous! Huge! Tremendous! It’s four panels wide, and I can’t imagine gathering that much yardage in a fabric like shantung, which is what I would’ve picked if I didn’t have this fabric in the stash. It’s wonderfully floaty and light and swishy to wear, with the lining (a silky poly-ish of unknown origin) providing some extra body.
I did cut the lining down by half after seeing how much bulk the full gathered skirt had. Thank goodness! My lining would barely gather up in the halved size — I’m not sure what would’ve happened if I’d tried to gather the full four panels together!
I also love the length — long enough to seem a bit formal, but short enough to be playful. It’s just right for me, but of course, it all depends on your height.
Okay, some final notes if you’re interested in making this dress:
- If you muslin, make sure to gather at the bottom of the bodice (as clearly laid out in the instructions).
- Make sure your fabric can be gathered a lot. While stiff fabric will give you a lovely shape in the skirt, you’ll end up with a bulkier waistline. If you’re fine with that, go for it!
- Consider altering the shoulders to be a bit more cut-in if you love the envelope cover.
- Consider doubling up on the tie bow (instead of edge finishing both humongous pieces with a narrow hem). I cut double the number of pieces so I could just sew them right sides together, turn the whole shebang, and be done with it, and also so that the fabric underside wouldn’t show. If you have enough fabric, I’d recommend this option.
- Also on the ties, consider adding some interfacing or fabric with more body. My bow is really floppy and it kind of takes away from the whole look.
On the whole, this is a really wearable dress. It offers coverage without being boring. The faux wrap front with a side zipper lets you move freely without worrying about moving parts. I just didn’t enjoy making it nearly as much as I enjoyed wearing it.
So, welcome to the closet, my Gem of a Party Dress!