You Bet Giraffe I Love This Dress…

By | September 8, 2015

You know those projects that are a huge pain in the ass? The ones where you aren’t enjoying the process, and when people say, “Oh, in the end, you’ll love it all the more for all the work you’ve put into it!” And you respond with, “This dress can die in a fire,” followed by a string of choice epithets, but then you really do end up loving it?

Welcome to the world, my little giraffe dress of doom!
McCalls 6355
So, this guy is a continuation of the Great McCalls’ Pattern Sizing Debacle of 2015. After I made this pleated skirt, I decided to actually follow the measurement guide when cutting out my next two projects: this peplum tank and now this dress, McCalls 6355. Based on the measurements provided on the envelope, I cut a size 12. After making the peplum top, I realized this had probably been a HUGE mistake. I am going back to ignoring the measurement table, peeps. Maaaaaybe for a skirt or pants, but not items that are bust-measurement driven.
M6355 Pattern
Before sewing a single stitch, I figured it would be too big, and I was right. I decided this would be a good time to get in the habit of basting garments together and actually fitting them before stitching. While this may sound like typical, sound sewing practice, it is REVOLUTIONARY for me. I’m a seat-of-the-pants, stitch-it-and-see-what-happens kind of sewer. Committing to basting is a huge step forward for me.

I made the darts, then basted the side and shoulder seams with an extra generous seam allowance. After trying the garment on, I basted another 1.5-2.5″ inches over a couple of “try it on inside out, and stick a pin in somewhere” sessions. I then took some seam allowance back out after realizing that my efforts to make the dress look svelte and unsacklike had crossed into making my belly look like a sandbag. It was a moment of debate over “This is totally what I want this dress to look like” while sucking in, and “This is totally how this dress is actually going to wear” when not sucking in. Common sense won out, thankfully.

I also basted up a sleeve, again removing about 2.5″ of width. Then I realized that there was no way that the heavily altered sleeve was going to fit into the (now heavily) altered armhole.

Instead of freaking out, I decided that I was lucky to be sewing in era of free tutorials on the internet. I found some excellent advice on altering patterns, and decided it was time to try my hand at actually making changes on the tissue, then recutting the sleeves to fit. My craftsmanship and dedication were going to carry the day!


My altered sleeve pattern looked like, well, not a sleeve cap. ¬†Even I knew that this was not a sleeve, and that even if the pieces “walked” the same in size, that the shape was totally hinky. It was near midnight then, so I slept on it–really, a good life practice in general for problems and projects.

I decided the next day to try to recut the sleeve and front/back armholes based on a sleeve I knew fit well: Vogue 8593. I wouldn’t even have to recut the armholes, as it turned out. I just undid my basted shoulder seam alterations and it was a really close match.

Let’s cut to the chase: it worked! It was simple! After basting one updated sleeve, I was sold on the fit, and serged the whole thing.
A couple of additional notes on this dress:
  • I lowered the neckline a bit. Not a ton, just enough to make it both weekend and work-friendly.
  • I scrapped the suggested banding method on the neckline, since I’d altered it, and just did a narrow hem.
  • I used Stitch Witchery on the hem.
  • I used a long basting stitch on the sleeve hems, since they had to stretch just to fit on the machine. It looked pretty decent, so I did a second row 1/4″ away to give a more RTW look. I like this trick–it really does look a significantly less “happy hands.”
I don’t feel I can fairly review this pattern, since I changed so many things, but I will say the following:

1. I love that it’s a knit/woven pattern. Great concept. Seems to be well executed. (Can’t say yet, though–haven’t tried it on a woven.)
2. I love the optional darts. I didn’t use them this time, but maybe another time. It makes the pattern very flexible.
3. I love that the back is one pattern piece. This dress goes together SO SO easily and quickly. While I need to try again cutting a completely different size, this dress has major, major TNT potential.

Let’s talk about the fabric for a minute. I picked up this navy and pink border print jersey at Hart’s Fabric intending to make a top. I was shopping for a cute knit for a casual Friday/Monday work shirt, and the giraffes captured my attention. I didn’t realize it was a border print until I got it up to front and laid it on the cutting table! Plus, there was a tiny bit left on the bolt, so I agreed to buy it at a discount.

So many giraffes!

Once I got the fabric home, I was torn. I hadn’t realized what an ITY-ish knit this was in the store–mostly because I was trying to hurry and I loved the print so much. I have kind of an aversion to sewing ITY tops. To me, that kind of texture on a top always makes me think of the random mall stores that sell cheap imported clothes to high school students with questionable taste. (No judgement, I’ve bought more than my fair share of clothes at these stores.) Or, you know, something you’d buy for $9.99 at Ross. Not something that feels special enough to sew.

Plus, I now had more fabric than I needed, and a border print to top it off! After a few moments of being self-righteous about, “I made a plan, and I’m going to stick to it. I need casual work tops, not more work dresses,” I came to my senses and did what the fabric told me. I made a simple dress that would highlight the print and the border.

It was completely the right call, and I can’t wait to wear this dress! I mean, this is the whole reason I sew: to have special, cute clothes that are unique to me. I’m saving it for my fiance’s dissertation defense. What can I say? The man appreciates a certain amount of professional whimsy.

So, we’ll call this is a success. What I don’t have is a version of this pattern that fits me. I think I can probably cut a reasonable size 8 out of the existing 12 that I’ve cut. I’m likely to try that, because there’s a lot about this to love.

And now let’s talk budget. The fabric was $8.99/yd. I bought 1.5 yards at $8.99 and 0.25 yds at a discounted $7.19, for a total of $15.74, no other notions needed. It came out about the price of a cheap knit dress at Ross, but has a print that’s lovely and unique. We’ll see how it comes it out in the metaphorical Wash.

Edited to add: OMG, this dress! This dress makes people freak out with delight. It’s easily the dress I get the most compliments on, and I love wearing it. It may be my favorite handmade item ever. The neckline is a little wide (due to cutting a too-large size to begin with), so that’s something to update if there’s a future make. Bottom line: wearing giraffes is AWESOME and highly recommended.