Hello, my loves! After six years of blogging, quiet summers have become something of a tradition on Idle Fancy, haven't they? The temperature skyrockets and all I want to do is wear yoga pants, drink iced tea, and wallow around in the air conditioning. Sewing begins to sound dreadful.
Fit-and-flare dress? Ugh. Too tight.
Cozy cardigan? Beyond depressing. I wouldn't be able to wear it until October.
Jeans? Your optimism is hilarious.
There is one silhouette that has been on my mind, however: the tent dress. They've been everywhere in stores again, this year, and have won me over. Sure, they're shapeless and--well--tent-like, but they're also flowing and lightweight and ideally suited for triple digit heat. I fell hard for a striped knit swing dress at Old Navy, then an embroidered white version at Anthropologie. They're not my usual silhouette, but they're the only garments I crave right now!
Since I'm hopelessly late to this bandwagon, there are heaps of tent/trapeze/swing dress patterns already out there. There's the voluminous, bow-tied Cynthia Rowley design, Simplicity 1105, the notch-necked and subtle trapeze of New Look 6340, and even a chic silk Mart Visser collaboration from Knipmode's last issue.
As usual, I gravitated toward the woven options. My stash is robust, but I don't buy knits on a whim, like I do lightweight cottons and rayons. When I want to sew a knit pattern, the fabric has to be sourced, ordered, then waited on. That doesn't work for impulse sewing! So, to try out this silhouette, I settled on the woven Papercut Sway Dress.
This pattern has been made up dozens of times in blogland, to great effect. It's a classic tent dress with a v-neck, side seam pockets, two hem lengths, and an optional tie waist. The longer, cinched version appealed to the feminine core of my style. It has all the ease of a tent dress, but in a length and general shape I'm already comfortable with. Even better, the PDF version of this pattern only has 32 pages! It was printed and cut out in less than two episodes of Stranger Things (#JusticeForBarb).
I paired it with a cotton batiste from Mood Fabrics, in an orange tropical floral print. Batiste is an easy to work with fabric and the perfect weight for a light, floaty dress. I didn't bother matching the floral, since it has a large repeat, and love how the busy print worked with the simple lines of the Sway Dress.
Of course, I don’t quite fit into Papercut’s size chart. Their final size goes to 44″-36″-46″, an inch or two off my bust and hip measurements. However, with my high bust of 42″ and this pattern’s generous ease through the body, the XL fit me well. To better accommodate my bustline, I did a 1.5 inch Full Bust Adjustment, adding a dart to the side seam of the front bodice.
While that’s a straightforward adjustment, this pattern only has two main pieces: a front dress and a back dress. As drafted, the dress is fully reversible, so the wearer can choose whether she wants a v-neck or a rounded neckline on any given day. This makes a ton of sense in a voluminous design, but my FBA rendered this impossible. I had to choose which neckline I wanted as the true front and opted for the v-neck. Huzzah for open necklines!
The other adjustment I made was to lower the pockets by three inches on each side. Maybe my height caused this problem, but they sat right at my waistline initially. Egads! That might be fine for the true tent version of this dress, but I made the longer view, with a tie that cinches in the waist. Having tie and pockets at the same level seemed absurd.
The two more labor intensive parts of this dress were the tie and the hem. While turning a tie right side out is always a trial, this one is super long, skinny, and made of fairly flimsy fabric. My usual method of turning it around a knitting needle didn’t work, so I switched over to the safety pin method, which sped things along. As for the hem, I used a narrow baby hem, after leaving the dress to hang for a day. Papercut mentions this step in their instructions and I highly recommend following it, instead of rushing through construction. My side seams dropped a good four inches, after hanging.
Overall, this is a well-written and thorough construction process. A beginner might find the method of attaching facings a bit confusing, but if you’ve put in a lining by machine before, you’ll be just fine. If you add an FBA to the pattern, remember to alter your front facing as well, to match the new curve of your armscye.
Reach for the smelling salts, my dears. I actually love it! It’s lightweight, breezy, and swishes with every step. When suffering through another triple-digit heat index, those are priceless qualities in a garment.
Admittedly, this isn’t a silhouette I’ll wear without the waist tie or a belt. The longer length of the pattern hits me right above the knee, which is too long to make the unadorned tent work. At the shorter length, it would be flirty and kicky, even without the tie. As it is…well, the longer one really does give those muumuu vibes, doesn’t it? My waist and hips are completely lost in the dress's lines. For my purposes, though, it’s ideal. I don’t mind belting this dress, when it still has tons of ease through the bodice and hips. Either way, the Sway Dress is infinitely more comfortable than anything else in my closet!
Craving more Sway Dress inspiration? Check out the dresses that made me fall hard for this pattern: Nicole's flirty LBD, Rachel's chic linen midi dress, and Heather's fun crepe giraffe print. The lovely Gillian is also on a recent tent dress kick, sewing up pretty knit versions, like a graphic floral Jorna and bold scrollwork Groove dress.
It might not be my usual look, but I am digging this dress, y'all. To truly kick the sewing malaise aside, I’m already sewing another version in lush, green linen with a wider waist tie. Take that, Texas summer!