If you look back over my makes for the Simple Sew Blog, you will notice that I’m a firm believer in making a pattern work hard! I generally make more than one of the same pattern, and I try to find ways of adapting it or hacking it, to make it seem different. There are many good reasons for working this way, but for me, it’s essentially because I’ve usually had to grade patterns to make them to my size, and make adjustments, such as an FBA (Full Bust Adjustment) or a Swayback Adjustment. And then I often have to toile the pattern, to be sure that my adjustments have been successful, and if not, tweak it. So if I’ve gone to all that trouble, it makes sense to use the pattern again, rather than starting from scratch with a brand new pattern that will need all the grading and adjusting and toile-ing and tweaking.
I first made the Stylish Shell Top earlier in the year, and I thought at the time that it could be easily hacked into a dress. This summer, I’m feeling a need for more “throw on” dresses in my wardrobe, and my thoughts came back to this idea. I was originally thinking of just lengthening it into a shift dress, but I kept seeing trapeze dresses on my social media feeds and they looked so lovely and loose and non-clingy, perfect for all the hot weather we’re having, and perfect for holidays.
As I already had a fully adjusted pattern for the bodice, with no colour blocking, I figured I could use the neckline & sleeves from that, and taper out the bodice. I decided that this dress was going to be sleeveless for extra coolness and non-clingyness.
I had two main concerns – firstly getting the angle of the taper right so that the dress looks flowing but not overly tent-like, and secondly making sure that the length at the front was enough to allow for the projection of my bust, without turning the dress into a hi-lo hem type of thing.
I didn’t think a trapeze dress would need a bust dart, because you don’t need to shape the fabric in below the bust, so I decided to taper the bodice piece right from the underarm. I took a stab at the angle of the taper, as approximately 25° from the vertical, taken from the point of the underarm on the bodice piece. It was basically gut-feeling, but also, that just about fitted the width of the fabric, so that was lucky! I just drew the line straight onto my fabric, using a frixxion pen (so that the marks would disappear when heat was applied).
I was using a recently acquired pebble crepe. It was from when FC Fabric Studios had their summer sale, and it was a bolt end. I love black & white prints, and I love a floral, so this one was a no-brainer! I had 2.4 metres of it, which was just right for this make.
The construction was a breeze. I didn’t have any darts to sew, it was just the shoulder and side seams – it really couldn’t be any easier! I just had to try it on and be sure that the hem was OK.
For that second concern. I decided to allow 10 more centimetres at the front than the back, and tidy up when I had the chance to try it on. As it happened, I ended up cutting another 2cms off at the back.
Once I could try the dress on, I made a couple of tweaks to the neckline (deepened by 2cms) and shoulder (narrowed by 2cms). The armhole is a little long, to be honest, probably because it was designed for sleeves, and because it was designed to be boxy. If I make this again, I’ll shorten the armhole by one or two centimetres. But it’s fine for a loose-fitting summer dress.
I considered using a bias binding finish for the neckline and armholes, but settled on keeping it simple – it’s a straightforward turned under hem, finished by hand.
Béa blogs at Béa’s Sewing Adventures