I’m getting ready to speak in public for the first time in .. oh many years – and realised I have nothing currently wearable that is not just a bit too comfortable (scruffy) and full of holes. My style is pretty laid back, necessarily so until I release this extra 50lbs, so I was looking for something feminine, modest, sewable in linen and with possible areas for embellishment – well, I do have an awesome embroidery machine. I wanted something not too obviously tent like but so that I can still sit on the floor, garden or (if needed) prostrations in church.
Pattern: Style & Inspiration
Enter the Liesl + Co Cinema Dress. (not an affiliate link!) – you can see how it fits all of the above almost perfectly.
The first version here has a contrast yoke and back yoke facing, which I think I will borrow – it gives a secret ‘pop’ and as the instructions are helpful about slightly rolling the facing under so that when top-stitched there won’t be any lining showing, it will be my own secret 🙂The main official image shows a lovely terracotta linen, view B (the longer length), on a very pretty model.
I had a quick look a the Very Kerry Berry blog post and she used a beautiful vintage contrast print for the front and back yoke and sleeve cuffs, which finish off the sleeves beautifully – however, she is a very slender sewer and I was beginning to get anxious that no-one over a UK 14 had tried making it.
I found another beautiful print example over at Ivy Arch blog with a great use of print and colour – i love her confident mixing.
It wouldn’t suit me at the moment but it’s something to think of for the future!
So to summarise: we have an a-line skirted, princess seamed dress with a decent length skirt and cuffed sleeves that are shown at 3/4 length. It buttons up the back and seems to be quite flattering but have only seen examples on slim bloggers so far, which is kind of odd as it goes up to US size 20 – so it’s decent in range and the actual garment sizes are generous, it’s not mean to be fitted. It has pockets (of course) although they are placed on the front panel seam, rather than the sides: I’m kind of conflicted about that, as it could make my belly look bigger (as opposed to side pockets which do the same for the hips – so can I win? no? but pockets are essential). Plus: It has a matching child’s pattern, the Hide and Seek Girl’s Dress, so I can (with enough material) make a matching one for Miss K! Right now, it’s a good fit for what I’m looking for.
Pattern printing and Changes to the pattern:
- FBA: Liesl says the pattern is drafted for a B and if you have 2 inches difference between full bust and rib cage, you will need to make an adjustment. I have done it (unsuccessfully) before but this time, I’ve followed the instructions given. It took a while because I was being careful and tired, but it worked really well. Now I know what I’m doing I feel really confident about how to alter similar styles of dress.
- Blend sizes: for the upper bust measurement I used a US 10, blended out to a 16 from the waist. It wasn’t difficult at all, although I added too much on the front sides of the princess seamed panels that meet the yoke instead of at the sides… I will adjust that in the final dress. With too much it just looks a bit maternity – handy for that post-Friday-night-curry-bloat?
- Lengthen skirt and sleeves: I HATE 3/4 sleeves that sit just below the elbow. I have long-ish arms yes but I just don’t get why the 3/4 are so popular. I’ve added 2 inches already but will add more, so they sit just above my wrists (hey, no fat wrists yet! FTW!). The skirt needs, for me, about 5 inches. I like my dresses long enough so that I can be pretty undignified and it won’t show my knees. It’s a modesty thing (and a lazy thing). I think longer dresses are more practical and since I don’t wear trousers unless I am desperate, they need to be quite sturdy.
- Widen sleeves and adjust armholes: a personal choice. I need about an extra inch of width at the bicep right now, to be comfortable. This was easy to do with a cut and slash tutorial plus I looked at this one, adding movement in a fitted sleeve – it isn’t bad, compared to lots of patterns, but it does still lift up when you try to move your arms high. I am not stressing about it right now. I’ve added width on the bicep, slightly lengthened and raised the ‘wings’ of the sleeves – this tutorial shows why/how and my goodness, it’s good to know I’m not the only one who goes into a meltdown when the sleeves are too tight – which of course necessitates adding a little just at the top of the bodice side seams (blended down into the waist)
I decided against doing a forward shoulder adjustment on this – the toile definitely didn’t need one – and the sleeves turned out very well. Mark of a good pattern drafter – the front of the sleeves is a different shape from the back and there is more space behind the top of the shoulder point (where it meets the shoulder bodice seams) than the front. WE ARE NOT EQUAL SHAPES PEOPLE – especially not after years of computer use and painting hunched over a desk.
I spent about two hours doing the pattern adjustments, onto a pattern paper, then traced the whole lot onto swedish tracing paper (so I can adjust again), then made a toile from plain calico (£4 per metre). I know this seems like an *awful* Faff but in the past I have wasted a lot of money on fabric and time on patterns that just look *shocking* – I have about four dresses hidden away right now that need to be adjusted before they are wearable. I am a perfectionist, true, but why shouldn’t we be when we are making the clothes for ourselves?
No photos as I managed to fit in assembling it while DD and I played during a quiet home day of school holidays – she made glitter masks (yay) and sequin signs (double yay) and I ignored the mess to stitch it together.
I’d say these are very clearly written by an experienced sewer who understands the ‘whuck’ moments we all have when dealing with things like bodice and back yoke facings, welts for in-seam pockets and cuffs on set-in sleeves. All of these are clearly illustrated by line drawings – no photographs – and rather than print them out, I used my trusty chromebook next to the sewing machine. NB: Pattern printing requires many, many A4 sheets. I chose to use my local copy shop which luckily had an extra-wide plotter printer, and I think the two sheets were about £5 each? Moral of the story: BUY THE PAPER PATTERN it will be easier and cheaper in the long run, if you are like me and happy to trace off the pieces. If you don’t mind taping 50 sheets of paper together to trace, then get on with your bad self and tape away..
The assembly is straightforward: I liked the almost flat construction, with set-in sleeves. It is intuitive and easy to follow, logically steering you through the pattern. Take your time and don’t try to rush too much – this is a dress that needs your attention, but not because it’s hard to follow: it expects a certain level of experience I think, for techniques that make it look handmade, not homemade.
I didn’t fit pockets into the toile because, you know, time. I DID choose to fit two sleeves – I know some people will think “it’s a toile, why fit two sleeves?” Answer: because there will be two sleeves on the finished garment and it will hang/fit/drag differently, if there are equal forces on each side of the bodice. Plus I hate the binding sleeve thing (see above). I also omitted the yoke facing and back facing, to save time and make adjustments easier.
I was amazed: it actually fitted me through the shoulders. I have relatively narrow shoulders and a neat upper chest, compared to everything else, and this dress is the first to have fitted me properly ever. Yes, you read that, ever. The width was absolutely spot on for me, so happy happy day. The adjusted sleeves fitted in nicely, no obvious gathers at the easing. Over the FBA princess seams, I preferred the seam on the side where I didn’t snip into the seam allowance – it seemed to hold it better, but bear in mind there was no facing on this toile so that might change things. The length of the sleeves even with an additional 4cm was irritating – personal peeve – so I will add more. The length of the skirt was fine, with my extra 5″ (10cm) and the side seams on the bodice from armscye to waist were hanging straight.
The only changes I plan on making are at the front yoke beneath the bust – I will blend out the additional fabric I put in by about 1/2 inch, maximum, so it swings in under the curve a little instead of hanging so straight down. At the side seams, there was a ton of extra fabric – I suspect that might be because of the calico I used being stiffer than linen but all the same, I think about 1/2 maximum either side from waist to hem should fix that for my first go.
I will be cutting this out of a fabric from my hoard first, I’ll see if I can find something bland or neutral, or perhaps I will just go mad and use some linen.. I want to decorate the yoke with embroidery from the Urban Threads Las Flores Collection
Or perhaps their Folklorico, although the designs are a bit more limited and rectangular – but they do have some pretty birds that I already used to customise my denim jacket.
In fact this will look really pretty over a very fine linen or lawn petticoat or bloomers, like the ones from Sew Tina Givens, which could make it look a lot more relaxed when I’m not pretending to be a grown up.