Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Tale of Two Dresses

Early in the summer I picked up a blue and white floral window topper, thinking it was a sheet (early June).  Later, I found a blue and white floral sheet, Mainstays brand (Wal-Mart?), 60% cotton, 40% poly.  I'm pretty sure it was a twin.  It had a nice, crisp hand; not a wimpy polyester 70's sheet.  I also found two dress patterns at Value Village in my size.  One is a shift dress, Butterick 5628, and one is a sheath dress, Simplicity 7965.

I had just tried making another shift dress, McCall's 3173.  During tissue fitting (my first "real" time), I was worried that it was going to be too shapeless, despite the large darts, so I went with making a top.  However, I didn't quite finish it as I was disappointed in the shapeless shape, and the feel of the fabric irked me (I think I live in knit t shirts too much).  Shortly after making that dreadful top (it probably isn't so dreadful, but compared to t shirts...), Elizabeth wrote a few posts about shift vs sheath on her blog, SEWN.  This was so timely for me as I was struggling with trying to break free of the empire waist style.  I thought a loose, flowy shift dress would be a nice, cool, summery dress I could quickly sew in a variety of fabrics and just throw on and wear easily.  However, I had just bought a gorgeous stretch twill sheath dress (with empire waist, but not noticeable), and it made me feel fabulous.

Despite my now second guessing a shift dress, I went ahead with Butterick 5628.  The pictures show the dress as a jumper, over a long sleeved shirt.  It also says "fitted, A-line jumper".  Doesn't look too fitted in the tiny envelope picture!  I don't remember exactly if I did a FBA or just cut smaller shoulders (I think that's what I did).  I did take an inch out of the upper bodice, the inch shown above the waist, and the inch shown in the skirt for petites.  I also made it shorter.  I had some issues with pinning the dress...stupidity, actually.  After pinning the first piece, I realized it should have been on the fold.  Re-pinned it, then realized I wanted the hem to use the sheet hem.  Unpinned it, started pinning it at the hem, and realized the sheet wouldn't be wide enough to cut both pieces along the hem.
 The sewing was going good, however, when I went to sew up the sides, I got a surprise...poor pattern drafting meant one piece was longer than the other!
I've never checked pieces prior to cutting!  I guess I should.
I didn't want to do the facings; I never get a good finish on the edges, I don't have a good stash of plain fabrics to use (the fashion fabric would show through if used), etc.  I went and bought a 1" bias binding gizmo after the (relative) success on the last two dresses with the smaller binding.  The package has wrong instructions though---it said to cut the fabric in 1" strips!  I cut 2" strips using up the odd shaped pieces leftover from cutting out the dress, sewed them together, and ended up with way more than I needed.  What a great way to use fabric!  I finished the edges, and tried it on.

Blah!  It might have been "fitted", but only at the sides, and only if I wore a sweater under it.

I can understand how fashion "experts" say a shift dress is flattering...it totally hides any of the mid-section curves.  Supposedly, this makes viewers look at you and think "Oh, I can't see her waist, it must be REALLY small under there!"  Ya, right!  LOL!!

So, I added some front and back vertical darts, and took the sides in a bit (actually, I think I did this before finishing the openings).  It affects the lay of the skirt, but it's acceptable (to me).  I hemmed it, and washed it, and I think it shrunk!  It's way shorter than just the hemming would account for.  The first time I wore it out, I used a dark blue wide ribbon as a belt, but looking at the pictures now, I don't think I'll share those!  I wore it recently to a pool party and forgot the belt.  I had a couple compliments, so I think the belt is out.

At least now I know, a shift dress just isn't for me.  Maybe as a nightgown.  Even though the alterations probably took as long as the initial sewing, I DO have a wearable dress that I really like (and I found some blue sandals at Value Village!!).  Sometimes quick isn't worth the time!


lzbthmcmullen said...

An interesting bit of history: in the 1800s (and before) a nightgown was called a shift. Probably why everything done in this style looks like something Laura Ingalls would wear to bed no matter the figure underneath.

I'm not big on shirring, doesn't look good on me. But you have such a wonderful figure for it! The second dress looks fantastic on you.

TracyKM said...

That's an interesting bit of history, and it definately had a nightgown feel to it!
Thanks for the compliment on the second, shirred, dress. It's quite comfortable to wear and now that I know I can do it, I might make another one but use the changes I mention. I also might create a faux back waist seam in this one to even out the hem.