There are times when sewing is more than a craft.
In graduate school, this hobby was something I could conquer and control within a set time frame. That last part was particularly important. My dissertation was a year-long process of frantic writing and re-writing, but a few hours was all it took to make a well-fitting dress. Such quick project resolutions were a godsend, especially in comparison to the graduate work that wouldn't end.
Nowadays, sewing tends to be a more practical part of life. I sew, because I don't really buy ready-to-wear anymore. Other than jeans, sweaters, and lingerie, everything in my closet is homemade. If I want a new dress, or a cute off-the-shoulder blouse, I raid the fabric closet and make it myself. It's fun, but it's rarely a case of true mental self-care.
Until last month, of course.
Sam and I had a week from hell, y'all. Right after school ended, we were supposed to embark on an epic road trip of the Southeast. Instead, the night before our trip began, the plumbing in our mid-century house went haywire. Our master bath flooded, all plumbing in the house became unusable, and it took plumbers four days to show up and fix the problem.
Meanwhile, poor Sam came down with a vicious stomach bug. The universe has a damn fine sense of humor, kittens.
So, our trip was put on hold and we were landlocked. First, in a hotel room, then finally back at our own house, as the beloved recuperated. Sewing became a matter of sanity preservation, once again. In that one week, I cut out and sewed four more variations of McCall's 7351. While there are other patterns in my queue, I wanted solace from my sewing. I needed to make pieces that would definitely work out and would instantly fit into my wardrobe. Shirtdresses were a guaranteed win on all fronts.
I'm going to combine the other dresses into one big post, but this first one deserved special attention. Not only is the fabric a beloved piece, but this dress was a template for the other three. After my last version of M7351, I changed the pattern to better suit my preferences.
While I loved the casual elegance of that straight skirt, it wasn't terribly comfortable to wear. It felt more restrictive than I'm used to and made me long for a pair of Spanx. In order to make the straight skirt silhouette work for me, I made a few crucial changes:
- Widened the skirt by four inches.
- Changed the shape to a slight A-line.
- Added four darts at the front and four darts at the back, for a better fit at the waist.
The end result is a dress that has the same casual feel of the original design, but skims my lower body more. It's still a much different silhouette than M6696 or the full-skirted M7351. With the shirt-tail hem and A-line shape, it's almost like an elongated man's shirt. You know, with that all important waist definition.
It's funny, I'm still calling this McCall's 7351, but I've certainly veered away from the original pattern. The silhouette may be similar, but between bodice and skirt changes over multiple versions, the pattern pieces themselves look radically different. I've somehow turned a simple, two dart shirtdress into a project with twelve darts! Mary Danielson Perry: complicating the issue since 1985.
I love where the fit has ended up. The waist lays closer than the original and the bodice fits so nicely that I've already turned it into a button-down shirt pattern, as well. The experiments won't end there either. I'm currently testing how this pattern looks with the pleated skirt of M6696. I'm guessing it's going to be winner, as well. This pattern is such a great canvas for design alterations.
This fabric, as mentioned, is a favorite of mine. It was a gift from my mother, for my thirtieth birthday, last year. That comes as no surprise, if you've met her. My love of bright novelty prints on black backgrounds comes honestly, friends! This is a Japanese cotton print from B&J Fabrics, but no longer available on their site. It's a lightweight broadcloth with a crisp hand and, as you can see, is covered in lovely, colorful paper lanterns. The color palette is a retro mix of earth tones and muted pastels, which balances the sweetness of the print in such a great way. Mom has awesome taste, right?
I only had three yards of fabric, so barely eked out this dress. To cut corners, I used a pale dotted yellow cotton batiste as the yoke lining and bias bindings. Apart from the under-stitching on the yellow, the whole dress was sewn and top-stitched with black thread. It breaks up the print enough to make the details pop. Huzzah!
Now, I know the whole world is posting shirtdresses right now. Between the McCall's sew-along and all the new patterns coming out, it's a great time to practice your shirt-making skills. You might be tired of all those collars and buttons marching into your feeds, but...I am probably going to keep posting them. I did once promise to make 1000 of the things, after all.
This one, at least, did its job well. Not only is it on constant rotation in my wardrobe, but it was the perfect comfort project for that hellish week. Luckily, since then, things have looked up! We went on an attenuated version of that trip, safely made it through the Southeast to visit Sam's family, and returned home to delighted dogs and a perfectly working plumbing system.
Small victory, but I'll take it!