Monday, October 6, 2014

BurdaStyle Plus Size Essentials Blog Tour: Faux Wrap Dress

Good afternoon, crickets! Last month, BurdaStyle approached the Curvy Sewing Collective with a blog tour proposal. They had recently released two plus size pattern bundles, the Plus Size Essentials Collection and the Best of BurdaStyle: Plus Size Collection, and were curious if we'd like to review some of the patterns in a blog tour. As the girl who recently eviscerated a Burda plus size collection, I was excited to sample some of their more popular patterns. If I'm going to snark on a company, it only seems fair that I give their patterns I do like a try. 

And, boy, do I like the patterns in these two bundles. My personal favorite is the Essentials collection, which has some patterns I've been coveting for months, including the Short Sleeve Bow Blouse, Contrast V Neck Dress, and the Faux Wrap Dress. All three of these patterns have a mature, sexy vibe to them, like pieces right out of a Sophia Loren movie. 

When it came time to decide, I chose the riskiest pattern of the three, the Faux Wrap Dress. While relatively simple in silhouette, it's actually a fairly complicated design, with side pleats in lieu of front darts, criss-crossing bodice pieces, and no waist seam. One of the strengths of Burda is their interesting, fashion-forward design aesthetic. They either hit big or miss big, but they rarely release anything I could easily recreate with a sloper. 

They also--Oh, my sweet crepes!--don't come with seam allowances. 

Thus, in a nutshell, why I have never made a Burda pattern. As a perfectionist, adding my own seam allowances is a nerve-wracking exercise in geometry and chalk dust. There's so much tracing and measuring and cursing. How I longed for those 5/8th inches! I would never take them for granted again! Honestly, I don't understand Burda's lack of seam allowances. I'm sure this is how it's done professionally or how it's always been done or some such nonsense, but give the home seamstress a break. Most of us would pay extra money for included seam allowances, I promise you. 

This wasn't even a complicated pattern--five pieces total--but by the end of the tracing process, I had about lost my mind. When it came time to mark the resulting pieces, it was completely gone. Transferring markings from pattern pieces that are smaller than your fashion fabric is infuriating. There is so much room for error! Afterwards, champagne and a full Brandi Carlile album were the only things that could calm my frazzled nerves. 

The actual sewing process, however, was charmed. Thanks to its lack of separate bodice and skirt patterns, this was a really quick dress to sew up. There are three pleats on the main front, a darted wrap piece, then double pointed darts on each back panel. A zipper, some side seams, and you're done!

Going a little rogue, I also subbed in a lapped zipper for the prescribed invisible zipper, and finished the dress with bias tape instead of a lining. The gorgeous model's dress is lined stretch cotton crepe, but I couldn't get my hands on a suitably stretchy thin cotton. Considering this dress has almost zero ease built in,  a stretch cotton is absolutely necessary. I ended up choosing this autumnal floral cotton from JoAnn's that's been in my stash for a few months. It had a slight horizontal stretch that felt perfect for a body-conscious dress like this one. It was also horribly, horribly off grain which necessitated some creative lopping off, but that's another story entirely. (One that, incidentally, involves me trying to explain fabric grain to a mystified teenager at the Returns Desk who just wanted to go on his lunch break and get away from crazy, wide-eyed seamstresses. Needless to say, already washed fabric is not returnable, even if it's a foot off grain. Grumble.)

The fit was a bit more challenging than the sewing process. This pattern only goes up to a Burda 52, measurements of 48-41-50.5 inches, which is actually pretty darn small in the realm of plus sizes. That's about a 24 in terms of the American Big 4's usual sizing. I started with a 50 at the bust, then graded down to a 46 at the waist, then back up to a 50 at the hips. The result is a mixed bag. I actually love the bodice fit, with its interesting pleats and faux wrap style. It ended fitting me really well, apart from a bit of extra blousing at the non-pleated side seam.

The skirt, on the other hand, is odd. What look like drag lines around the hips in some of these pictures are actually extra horizontal folds of fabric, caused by the dress' middle being too long. Between the bottom of my rib cage and top of my thighs, there's an extra two inches of fabric desperately trying to find a home. It lands like ruching throughout the waist and hips of the dress. What's even weirder about this is that I'm pretty tall for a woman--5'8'' without hairspray--so the proportions have to be based on someone much, much taller than average.

Lesson of the Day: fitting is complicated, because patterns are not drafted for individuals. Hardly anything is going to fit you out of the envelope and that's okay. There are work-arounds for almost any problem! Were this post for any other reason, I would have hacked the dress in two, formed a waistband seam and front darts, then sewn it back together again. Since this is supposed to be an honest review of this pattern, however, I figured it was best to show you my end result without massive overhauling. Having extra room through the torso is probably going to be a common fitting issue with this one, unless you're incredibly long waisted.

Lapped zipper! Practically perfect pattern matching!

Even with the unintended ruching, I like this dress alright. Yes, the fabric is a giant, crazy sofa print, but I dig it. One of the perks of having Viking Warrior Princess bones is that I can pull off largescale florals like this one. Mine is not a figure that's easily overwhelmed. Thanks, hearty ancestors! Even better, the colors of this fabric are beautiful.  The oranges and golds of these flowers fairly glow against the dark background. So autumnal! If the leaves refuse to change color, maybe this dress can encourage them along. 

Also, let's be honest, this pattern is sexy as hell. With the right silhouette, apparently even a sofa floral can be sexy. It hugs my curves beautifully, giving a tasteful bit of cleavage and a retro wiggle vibe. The pictures for this blog post were ridiculous to go through, because I kept doing unintentionally hilarious sexy faces. Scarlett Johansson, I am not

Were I to make this again, I'd probably go for a stable knit. It could be such a wearable piece, with a true stretch knit, instead of just a stretch cotton. There's such a variation in stretch wovens that they're not all going to take to this pattern the same way. The stretch crepe of the modeled dress is light and airy, whereas mine is a clingier, slightly heavier fit. A nice ponte, however, would drape wonderfully into those pleats, not require a zipper, and make fitting this one much easier! That's my recommendation, if you give this one a go.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the BurdaStyle Plus Size Essentials Blog Tour! That's a mouthful to say, but there have already been some gorgeous pieces made by my CSC compatriots. Have you made a Burda pattern, friends? Tell me the secrets of adding seam allowances without losing your mind.

September 29th — Jenny at Cashmerette — the Jersey Dress
October 1st — Tanya at Mrs. Hughes – the Printed Tunic
October 2nd — Laurence at Quirky Pretty Cute — the Loose Jacket
October 6th — Mary at Idle Fancy — the Faux Wrap Dress
October 7th — Mary at Young, Broke, and Fabulous – the Draped Dress
October 8th — Sophie Lee at Two Random Words — the Cape
October 9th — T at U & Mii — Contrast V Neck Dress

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