Thursday, September 18, 2014

Vogue 8994 -- Last Dress of Summer

I finished this loose summer dress just in time for summer to be over.  That is because things take me WAY longer than I think they will.  I have a bit of a self-imposed guideline, allowing myself to sew spring/summer items from March through August and fall/winter items from September through February.  However, that last item tends to take its sweet time, so I think I need to back this up and sew for fall/winter in August-January and for spring/summer in February-July.

This dress is made from Vogue 8994 - a pattern labeled 'Very Easy.'  Patterns labeled 'Very Easy' should come with cautions -- very easy IF not one thing goes wrong.  In this case, a lot of things conspired to make it 'Not So Easy.'  In defense of the 'very easy' rating, there are only three pattern pieces, a front half and a back half and a back neck band.  But they are large.  And all the work is doubled because the dress is lined.  (That does allow you to use a sheer fabric on top, however).

And I did choose to use a sheer fabric, a gray and white crinkled chiffon purchased from   Chiffon is not-so-easy to sew; it is slippery and it frays, and you need to use a pressing cloth when ironing it.  The one smart thing I did was to soak the chiffon in heavy starch and let it dry (by hanging it over the shower rod).  That made it stiff and easy to cut out and relatively easy to sew, and I will definitely be doing that with thin fabrics in the future.  I used a Schmetz size 70 universal needle, which worked fine.

I lined the chiffon in a silver gray broadcloth from Hobby Lobby.  I was going to use white but the gray looked better.  The broadcloth is a poly/cotton blend, so not much wrinkling and it's definitely cooler in the heat (which is where this dress will be worn) than straight up polyester.  Also, it's washable, all important things to me.

Because the chiffon is sheer and frays like crazy, all the seams (front, back and side) were French-seamed.  I also French-seamed the lining.  I was careful and did a good job.  But something was terribly wrong.  When I tried to sew the lining to the chiffon, they did not match at all.  After puzzling through this for some time (Did I cut the pieces that horribly off?  Did the fabric stretch? Did I trace the wrong size?) I realized that I had made a gigantic mistake:  I had sewn the armhole seams together in the center instead of the center seams!  Three long lines of French seaming had to be painstakingly unpicked.  The pattern had to be put back together properly and then painstakingly re-French seamed.  (This is where I was very glad I had starched that chiffon so thoroughly.  Even with all the unpicking it held up pretty well.)

The neckline scoop is on the left and the deeper scoop on the right is the armhole, opposite of what I wrongly assumed
In addition to that colossal mistake, I ran into a few other issues.  One: if you are anything above a B cup, you will need an FBA.  I definitely do not have a figure that normally calls for an FBA (full bust adjustment), but a reviewer on Pattern Review had warned that this pattern was snug in the bust.  So when I traced the pattern out I traced my usual size 14 in the shoulders but under the arm I went out to a size 16 and then used that for my side seam.  I am glad I did, too -- I needed that extra room, and it was barely enough.

Second, the armholes are very low.  Maybe not too low for the runway, but if you are an everyday woman making this dress to wear in your everyday life and you don't like your bra showing, then you are definitely going to have to raise the armholes.  Unfortunately, because of the way the neckband is constructed, it is difficult to tell exactly how the dress is going to fit until it's almost sewn together.  I was almost finished (I thought), but those low armholes were unacceptable, putting the bra band and hitherto unnoticed underarm fat on clear display.   It would have been better (and easier) to redraw the armholes higher on the pattern pieces before cutting out the fabric, but it was too late for that, so I had to settle for shortening the front and back.  I removed the neck band, raised the armholes by shortened the back by one inch and the front straps by a little over one inch, and resewed everything back together.   I probably overcompensated the front bands by a quarter of an inch, but good enough.

Third, either the shortening of the back piece resulted in a problem with the neck band or the neck band is drafted too narrow (which is what I think is the problem).  The neck band should extend on either side by a 5/8" seam allowance past the back neck piece (step 11).  Mine didn't; in fact, it was exactly the same width as my back neck.  I rechecked to see if I had made the neck band the right size according to the pattern, and I had.  However, it needs to extend.  You have two choices:  either redraw a longer neck band, or narrow the back neck piece.  I chose to narrow the neck back piece because I didn't feel like cutting a new pattern piece, especially since I had already underlined and interfaced my neckband.  So I had to take it off and resew the upper back seams (making them more narrow), then reattach the neck band. (I sewed the neck band on three different times -- thankfully the chiffon held on, but it was feeling the strain).

The back looks like it's pulling a bit on the left side, so I need to check that before sewing again.  Also, the neckband is hidden under my hair.  I should have gotten a better photo of it.
All of this raising of the back and the front made the neckline too high for my liking, so I lowered the neckline at center front by two inches.  This entailed redrawing the neckline curve, which was harder than I expected and made me wish I had a French curve -- it was not so easy to get an exact mirror image.

I made view A, which is the shorter length.  I am 5'8" and I usually add length, but this time I didn't, and even with the shortenings that happened, this dress is plenty long.  Like the reviewer before me, I felt the high-low hem needed more exaggeration for it to look right, and since I didn't have the option of adding to the back hem I redrew the front hem one inch shorter at center front, tapering to nothing at the side seams.  That little bit of change made a big difference.  I hemmed the dress with a narrow machine hem, enclosing the raw edges. Then I washed the dress to rinse all the starch out.

Before I rinsed the starch out, so it's hanging a little stiff here
To be honest, I thought I was never going to be done with this dress.  And I'm probably not going to get but one wear out of it this year.  Up until the last minute I just did not know if I was going to have to toss it despite all the work.  It is very tent-like, so if you don't like that, then don't bother with this pattern.  But surprisingly I do like it.  It is good to have a few loose dresses in your wardrobe if you live in a hot climate (like Texas in the summer).  I like that it is simple, but the chiffon gives it a slightly floaty feel.  It's a pull-over-your-head-and-go dress, which is a plus for me.  I think that I ended up with an okay fit. Now, am I going to make it again?  Mmmm.......not anytime soon.

Happy to be done
And, fearful of missing the season again, I have gone straight from finishing this sundress to working on a winter coat.

My little photo bomber Luna