The simple shape of the Nancy dress appealed to me as I have a good few special occasion and summer dresses but not many for everyday wear in autumn and winter. The bust darts provide some shaping and there are no waist seams, which makes using prints or stripes easier too.
The fabric is a medium weight printed Japanese cotton by Sevenberry, which was kindly supplied by Doughtys. It has the look and feel of linen but crumples much less. I used a woven interfacing for the collar and facing, which was probably a little heavy but will, I hope, soften a little with washing.
I cut out and prepared all the pattern pieces one afternoon, overlocking all the raw edges, adding interfacing and marking the darts, so all the sewing could then be done one evening later the same week. I find this a satisfying way of working as it makes the construction so much faster.
When making a dress or top like this, I tend to start with darts, then shoulder seams, sleeves, lower centre back seam, zip, underarm and side seams and finish with the hems.
For the collar, I used the reverse side of the fabric I made a small change, stitching only the longer, outer curved edges, then grading, clipping the seam and turning each piece right sides out and sandwiching the collar pieces between the facing and dress neckline. This felt less bulky than the suggested method. Another option would be to stitch the collar to the dress neckline and then to finish it with bias binding, which could be especially useful for heavier fabrics.
When I tried the dress on, it felt very loose. I didn’t have enough of the fabric left to make a belt and don’t have anything that would work with it, so decided to add fish eye darts in the back. I placed a pin in the centre back at the level of my natural waist, then worked up and down from there to determine the top and bottom points, 10cm/ 4” to each side of the centre back, then marked the lines with chalk. Another option would be to borrow pattern pieces from another similar garment to use as a guide, which might have been easier! It was an interesting process and I’m much happier with the fit after making this change.
It’s a perfect dress for the changing seasons and can easily be layered with tights and a cardigan or sweater. I’ve worn it a few times already and might consider making a lined version in wool or a wool mix for winter.
(Portrait by my 8-year-old daughter!)