Saturday, September 20, 2014

Miss Isla Makes a Toast: Simplicity 2648

There are a few universal truths about a woman's late twenties. Friday nights will increasingly be spent watching Netflix and drinking champagne, family members will start to gossip about the impending doom of her eggs, and she will attend eight-hundred-and-two weddings a year. Roughly.
Or, at least, those are the truths of my late twenties. Yours may be defined by never-ending balloon rides and the sudden ability to play the mandolin. Me? I'm all weddings, all Orphan Black marathons, all the time. This fall, specifically, is jam packed with wedded bliss. Sam and I have five invitations decorating our fridge right this second.
Kicking off the Season of Personalized Cocktail Napkins, one of my dearest friends from high school was married earlier this month. There is no trickier event to dress for than a September night wedding, in Texas. Anything is possible, from freak cold fronts to hurricanes. My solution: a cocktail dress, a cardigan, and a large purse filled with emergency ponchos/granola bars.
Unfortunately, I don't own many summer-appropriate cocktail dresses. Most of them are silk or velvet--lovely fabrics, but not coming near my skin before October. Luckily, Hancock Fabrics had one of their mega pattern sales in August, with Simplicity, Butterick, and McCall's all priced for 99 cents! Much of my pattern buying has been indie-focused in the last few years, so I came away with quite a haul. Among the trove was Simplicity 2648, an "Amazing Fit" princess-seamed cocktail dress.
Y'all, I know we talked about this with McCall's 6696, but cup-sized pattern sizing is genius. This particular pattern goes up to a size 24 and D cup size. Considering how annoying princess seam bust adjustments are, I am just going to pause for a happy dance.

Right. So, there's just one question. How well do these Amazing Fit patterns actually fit? I set out with two yards of stretch floral cotton sateen to find out. To fit my 46-34-46 frame, I traced a size 22-D for the bodice, graded to a 20 waist, then graded out to a 22 curvy for the hips and skirt. The result, as you can see, is a pretty amazing fit, indeed.
The way Amazing Fit patterns work is at once brilliant and infuriating. Not only are the bodice pieces based on your cup size, but almost every seam has a one inch seam allowance, rather than the standard 5/8th inch. In order to find your personal fit, Simplicity has you baste the entire dress together, take it in or out where you need, then stitch everything together permanently. For those with hard-to-fit figures, this is a welcome, if time-consuming process.
For me, the standard sizing ended up being an almost perfect match. The armscye was taken in about an inch, but everywhere else is as-is. All of my skirt and side seams were one inch, which is much larger than I prefer, when sewing up princess seams. It can be really difficult to ease that much fabric together. I ended up trimming them all down to 1/2 inch, after the basting fit check.
The rest of construction, as Simplicity would have us do it, is super easy. One invisible zipper, a machine-stitched hem, bodice facings, then you're done. You know, of course, that I didn't let any of that stand. Three cheers for making things more difficult!
Okay, I did keep the neck facing, which I under-stitched and tacked to the shoulders. I then finished the armscyes with self-fabric bias tape, catch-stitched to the inside of the dress. The invisible zipper was subbed out for a hand picked lapped zipper--metal, because that's what I had in stash--and the hem was hand-stitched up. Apparently, I'm a glutton for hand stitching. I don't know when that happened, but I suspect the aforementioned Netflix marathons are to blame. It's such a mindless, soothing thing to do while watching TV murders. I love it.
Dress back! Note: Lapped zipper, lack of pattern matching.

Dress guts! All seams were serged to finish. I used a mix of black and white thread, because the dominant color outside is black, but the inside is white. I opted for black anywhere it could show on the outer fabric.
The only quibble I have with this dress is the fabric. This large scale watercolor floral was bought a zillion years ago from Gorgeous Fabrics, and really is the perfect end-of-summer cocktail print. Unfortunately, the stretch of the fabric and the huge scale of the print made this simple project a bit more intense. With the amount of fabric I had, print matching along seams was not an option. The repeat distance was well over two feet! Instead, I settled for matching by color group, when possible. It actually turned out pretty well, thanks to the amorphous quality of the flowers, but I was terrified it would end up a mess.
Stretch came into play in two areas--easing the princess seams and choosing foundational garments. Stretch is totally awesome for close fitting dresses, but it can encourage a fabric to pucker. There is some small bubbling over the bust seams, thanks to this very thing. After the second attempt at easing, I invoked the privileges of a wearable muslin and called it good enough. As for that other issue... let's just say that Spanx are a total necessity, with this dress. This cotton wants to cling to everything it touches, both girl and garter. It's either suck it in all night or girdle up. Wearing this for a night out definitely made me appreciate all those full-skirted day dresses!

In the end, I adore this bodice. There is a high, rounded neckline than I'm dying to try with a fuller skirt. I'm actually wondering, if cutting a size larger in 2648's own skirt wouldn't make this pattern much more wearable for day-to-day dressing. I love the way Alana's version skims out a little bit, instead of hugging every curve. It's less a wiggle dress, that way. Oh, the possibilities...

No matter what future style changes I make, this dress is a perfect cocktail piece. I actually didn't quite finish it in time for the wedding, but I've worn it since and loved it! The wedding itself went off without a hitch. The outdoor ceremony ended up between two thunderstorm cells, which is much better than it sounds. It was cloudy, sixty-eight degrees, and perfectly breezy. Such lucky weather for a Texas September! It was a lovely night for the loveliest of couples. Bring on more wedding marches!

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