Friday, October 26, 2012

Getting to the perfect dress

Final version 
My girls chose evening wear for the family Christmas pictures again this year. I decided to make dresses for them using my fabric stash and chose cream and navy as theme colors because I have a ton of fabric in these colors.  One daughter looks great in cream, but her sister and I look better in "Winter" colors (black, white, jewel tones...)

We went window shopping to check out current styles and what looked best on our very different figures. Plus, I wanted to find something for myself that didn't look too young or too matronly (which seemed to be the only choices).

I was shocked at how SHORT the current dresses are!!  The most prevalent style seemed to be a full skirted princess type dress... chopped off at cheerleader lengths! It was crazy! 

Skirt length - I tried some of the short dresses on and I felt practically naked! They were also way too young a style.  I prefer a bit of an A-line skirt as anything that fits and cups in under the hips, emphasizes them.

I have an hourglass figure, but I am very top heavy (36GG) and I've had 2 kids so I've got a pooch too.   Like my youngest daughter, I have small ribs and substantial hips.  I couldn't find a dress that fit my figure in the stores! 

People have started telling me they can see the difference in the weight I've lost (~20lbs so far. is really helping!)

After trying on many different styles, I finally decided that a wrap dress was the most flattering to my hourglass figure (see below).  The soft drape hides the pooch.

At the fabric store, I couldn't find any patterns exactly like what I wanted.  Not a problem, I just bought a pattern that was similar.  This beautiful Vogue 2880 pattern, which I planned to alter by removing all the little ruffles and the side lacing.

The first challenge.  The dress requires 6+ yards of fabric! I don't have that much in my stash (longest of any piece is about 4 yards) - except for the off-white chiffon of which I have multiple bolts... but off-white is NOT flattering to my coloring!  I finally realized I had an 8 yard long navy drape in my front room that would be perfect!  It would even leave me a couple yards with which to make the sash and bow for my oldest daughter's dress!

Yes, this makes me think of Carol Burnett's "Scarlett O'Hara Curtain" Rod Dress too.  lol!

I decide I need to make a mock-up/ "muslin" dress, because the pattern has to be significantly altered (patterns are designed for a B cup, and I'm a double G).  At the same time, if the first attempt turns out well, I'd hate to have wasted the time doing this complicated dress in muslin, so I decided to make it in a pretty metallic grey dressy fabric from my stash (a shorter version that I can wear to church or on a date). 

This pattern has 4 layers (lining, boned foundation, draped layer and underlayer to which the drapes attach), and because it is an asymmetrical wrap dress, each side and layer needs to be fit separately!!  

Fitting on yourself is always challenging too, and I foolishly left my mannequin set up for my oldest daughter, since I'd worked so hard to match it to her figure.  I pinned myself into the dress a million times.

Flash forward through 2 weeks of anguish.  The "muslin" dress is finally finished.  It fits perfectly.  I get Hubby to take pictures to show everybody, and discover... 
I think I look dumpy and sausage-like.  Apparently the mirror I was using to fit it LIED!


So to fix it, I planned to double the width of the shoulder strap, and angle it higher so it was more on the shoulder, at the same time raising the neckline for more coverage.  The seam at the hip would be removed and blended into one long column drape instead of the original mermaid style.  Adding a decorative detail at the waist where the wrap intersects to distract from what's around it.  Also adding a slit in the skirt  from the bottom of the decorative detail to the floor.

PhotoShopped possible changes

The final version! 


It moves beautifully, fits well, and I love it!

Later I read some reviews of the pattern and discovered that all the layers are unnecessary.
I reviewed this pattern at


  1. I saw your review on another site and was so interested in seeing the changes you described so came to see. What an excellent designer you are! The final dress is beautiful on you. I have to say when I saw the first pic, even the 2nd, I thought bleh - looks like something I could do (except given the difficulty probably not hehe). Then when I saw your final pic I was like oh yeah!! You rock.

  2. Thanks Carol! It was a fun dress despite being a lot of work. Would love to hear about your sewing projects!

  3. Adding to the skirt and putting in a slit has worked beautifully to length and slim through the vertical lines of sight. Very clever.

  4. WOW! You really improved this one! I am impressed.


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