It's a wrap

Wrap dresses are wildly popular for good reason-they are appropriate for any circumstance: work or play or dressy events depending on your fabric choice.  They are appropriate for any age.  The cross over neckline is flattering and add to this, there are no zips or buttons- which are potential stumbling blocks for a new sewist.  Yet, a wrap dress has a significant and potential pitfall- staying closed.  And it was this hazard that prevented me from making a wrap dress for years.

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The allure of the wrap dress kept calling and I spent over a year pursuing the perfect woven wrap dress pattern.  Wrap dress patterns generally are divided into two categories:  knits- like the iconic Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress introduced in the 1970s- and wovens.  There is a great round up of indie wrap dress patterns by Helen of Helen’s Closet here.  This spring, I found (and was tempted) by a new faux wrap: the Madrid dress by Coffee and Thread.

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I finally landed on the Aime Comme Mots doux -or “sweet words” wrap dress from Aime Comme Marie- and happy to report- absolutely no danger of a wardrobe malfunction with this gem.

I made a wearable toile in a sturdy Japanese cotton, a great work horse fabric that I purchased from Lakes Makerie.  Super wrinkly resistant- not at all fluid or swishy- which is the typical wrap dress fabric choice.

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The bodice of this dress has a full facing which gives the top great stability. I interfaced the facing for a smooth flat finish and to prevent the bodice edge from stretching.

This is my second go at this French pattern company, and as I stated before, you have to add seam allowances to the pattern pieces and the English instructions are extremely brief. Aside from these minor quibbles, I am pleased with the drafting and style.  I made two changes to the pattern. The bodice facing is cleverly attached to the arm seam- which is genius if you are working with a fluid lightweight fabric. But this cotton is substantial, so I trimmed the facing as indicated below. I also drafted a back neck facing instead of using bias trim.

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I only have sweet words for this lovely pattern with pretty pleats at the shoulder and excellent style. I can’t wait to make this up in a special swishy fabric!

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Smarter in a shirtdress?

It’s summertime and super hard to pay attention at work when the days are warm and perfect.  Will this smart looking shirt dress help me focus?  Does clothing impact performance?  I read studies that show wearing formal clothes increases abstract thinking, improves test scores, and improves negotiation outcomes.  I also read a super interesting study that found people made half as many mistakes on a complicated task when wearing a white lab coat. Well, I don’t have a lab coat, maybe next project…?

Even if this dress doesn’t improve my work product, it’s a smart option for summer work and other outings.  The pattern is the tried and true Simplicity 8014 with a modified skirt.  The fabric is a stretch cotton woven from Mood from my deep stash. 

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Neckline Strategy:  I came up with a simple solution for a “just-right” neckline plunge on this dress. I knew that I would never wear this dress buttoned up to the top- the fabric is a stretch twill and too heavy for that.  So, I tried the dress on and marked an ideal closure point for a not too low- not too high neckline and started my buttons from that point down.  Easy and perfect positioning- also no need to think about how many buttons to leave undone- and you save on unnecessary button and buttonholes.   Genius!!!

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This is a straightforward shirt dress.  I lined the back yoke with a Liberty of London scrap- which makes it cute and cool. The fabric was great to work with- very little fraying- see sharp looking collar grading below.

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The only other decision point was the belt option.  I tried this dress with a few belts on hand.  But did the leopard print cancel any possible performance advantage?

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I decided I wanted a clean, monochromatic look, so I made a self-fabric D-Ring self belt.  Simply cut a rectangle 2 1/2 inches by desired belt length.  Interface to your stiffness preference and sew a tube. Turn and topstitch attaching the D-rings on one end.

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Fresh in Fiona

Heat wave!  Just because our winters are long and cold here in Minnesota- that doesn’t mean are summer’s aren’t hot …and humid.  This past week- we were under a heat advisory.  Our house is nearly 100 years old and we don’t have air conditioning.  On Friday, it was 92 degrees Fahrenheit in our dining room. Thank heavens, I had just finished the Fiona Sundress by Closet Case patterns- a fetching choice when weather and moods are steamy.

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Even though there are several denim Fionas out there- including the pattern styling shown here- I also chose a substantial denim with stretch from Treadle Yard Goods for my Fiona. My daughter thought that denim would be too hot- but denim is wilt proof and I wanted fabric with substance for a more structured sundress. The cut of this dress is fabulous- flattering and definitely cool- even in this heat.

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This was my first experience with a Closet Case pattern.  And I found the pattern fit true to their sizing chart.  I cut a size 4 and graded to a 6 in the waist and an 8 in the hips. I followed the clear and thorough instructions.  Once the dress was sewn up- I decided to let out the hip side seams a bit for more ease since the fabric was so stiff.  I also fiddled with the strap placement.

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During construction, I was hoping to find some way to distinguish my denim Fiona from all the others, so I am super grateful for the inspiration from SewitCurly to cover buttons with flowers.  I used Liberty Strawberry Thief scraps- Liberty scraps are endlessly useful. I used the simple button covering kits widely available. I covered buttons quite a bit when I was sewing for the kids when they were small- but that was ages ago. It was satisfying and fun to pop out some one of a kind buttons.

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I am super pleased with the results. And a sure sign of a winning project is when daughter asks me to make the same for her.

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Letting the fabric do the heavy lifting

I know I have already discussed my love of a shift dress. But, this is a recurring theme with me. I did some quick research and learned the origin of the shift dress is the 1920’s flapper dress. A shift dress falls straight from the shoulders, has a short length and the only shaping is darts around the bust-making it easier to “dance and move.”  This was a dramatic departure from the corseted styles that preceded it.  The shift dress was revived in a big way in the 1960s. You can find plenty of shift dress warnings:  Avoid looking like a paper bag!  Don’t go too loose or too tight!  Don’t be boring!  But, I say- no need for caution! The shift dress is super versatile and is still the perfect wardrobe choice for a modern lifestyle. I also favor this as a simple one and done wardrobe choice.

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For this shift dress- the fabric does all of the heavy work.  This beautiful cotton woven with a repeating zig zag border makes this simple, straight-forward dress memorable.  Note the pattern is woven in- not printed- which gives the fabric extra soul.  The fabric is not tightly woven- but this also lends to the craft-like feel.

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As I discussed previously, I favor a slight A-line shape and this dress is a true shift falling from the shoulders with bust darts.  The only real work for this project was in the layout.  Pattern placement took some forethought to ensure the horizontal border placement was optimal.  It took a bit of draping, and head scratching, but I think it worked out.

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For this shift dress I used my tried and true Simplicity Cynthia Rowley 2584 pattern-now discontinued and modified the neckline and the sleeves.  It might seem like trouble to fiddle with those details- but I know the overall cut and shape are right- which makes minor details easy to sub out.

Once the pattern was placed and cut out- it was such a quick and satisfying make.

My long term relationship with the shirt dress

I stumbled across this Vogue 7415 shirt dress pattern in my collection recently that is quite possibly from the 1990’s -well, maybe not that old. I was drawn to this pattern again; the slightly larger collar and broader shoulder looked appealing and fresh. 

I have been making and wearing shirt dresses forever. A shirt dress is polished for work but laid back for weekend, social and travel wear. A shirt dress is almost always appropriate. Besides it’s versatility- a shirt dress is an enduring style in any iteration.  You can fiddle with collar size, sleeves, fitted or oversized silhouette, straight or flared skirt, etc.  Whatever spin on the shirt dress you choose, you will always look smart. That’s why I am committed long term to the shirt dress.

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Why hadn’t I made this pattern up previously? It is a “stretch knits only” pattern, and that may have been a stumbling block previously. But today, there are so many choices for knit. I used a perfect stretch fabric from emma one sock- seriously the best.  It is lightweight and even though it is stretchy it is super stable with great recovery.  The project was super quick- there are only a few pattern pieces.  I could have been done in a few hours if not for my mix-up with the sleeve placket.  The actual sewing of the placket was easy and successful….EXCEPT- I put them in backwards.  So, I had to do some seam ripping.  I seem to be refining my unpicking skills these days more than my sewing tricks.  I believe when I was younger, I would have settled for backwards cuffs- but now I have the patience and perspective to take another minute and get it right.

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See- the plackets are in correctly now and perfectly functional and lovely. I feel very laid back and at ease in this comfortable dress. But, it is also very boss looking- probably should be leaning in to the work week.

This pattern has a great cut and fit. And with a multitude of knit fabrics to choose from, I intend to makes this again. I have no doubt this will be a wardrobe mainstay with the winning combination of polish and comfort.

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