This is what I call an “Epic Dress” (thank you for that, Georgene!) and the review is pretty epic, too. So pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and bear with me as I tell you about my dress for this year’s Winchester Hospital gala.
Pattern Description: From StyleArc’s website, “PIPPA DRESS: Gorgeous Pippa’s bridesmates [sic] dress with cap sleeve, cowl neck, bust under lay, Lace edging, small back train, centre back loops or optional invisable [sic] zip.”
Sizing: 6-20. I made a size 10
Fabric Used: An absolutely stunning and (you guessed it) sold out 4-ply silk crepe from Gorgeous Fabrics. Occasionally, someone on a sewing forum or group will ask the question, “What is your favorite fabric?” For me? 4 ply silk crepe. Hands down and no questions asked. It is a joy to sew, and even more of a joy to wear. But I digress… French beaded Chantilly lace and silk habotai from Lace Star on 40th Street in New York City. What can I say? They had the right color lining and I didn’t.
Needle/Notions Used: Universal 70/10, Gutterman thread.
Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes.
How were the instructions? Like other StyleArc patterns, they use industry-standard instructions, so they are kind of minimal. But the fact is, I didn’t need them. This pattern is so beautifully drafted that it goes together with no hassles. Plus, with the changes I made (see below), I had to do things differently.
Construction Notes: I first started on this dress in August, and I brought the muslin for fitting to the Sit and Sew with Susan Khalje and Kenneth King. We did some initial fittings, and made several changes. First, I eliminated the shoulder pads. I did a FBA and lowered the bust darts (sigh). I also added shoulder darts to shape it around the neck a little better (thank you, Susan Khalje!). Because of the bust changes, I did some length adjustments on the cowl.
When I first made the muslin, I thought the neckline was kind of high, so I lowered the V by about an inch and a half. I stayed the neckline edges with silk habotai selvages.
And then there was the lace. I added a lace overlay on the upper bodice. This one took some thinking, because I wanted the eyelashes on the lace to float free above the neckline. Here are the steps I took to do that.
- Trace off one half of the bodice pattern.
- Fold out the darts and smooth it flat.
- Lay the half-bodice pattern on the lace so that the neckline lies slightly below the scalloped edges (with the eyelashes) of the lace fabric.
- Cut out the lace along the shoulder, armscye side and lower bodice seams. When I reach the center front seam, cut around the lace motifs.
- Using cotton basting thread, mark the center front seam.
- Repeat for the other half of the bodice.
- Once both bodice pieces are cut out, lay one over the other, matching the CF markings.
- Make an applique seam (see Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture for how-to) around the motifs at the center front. This will give you your lace overlay.
- Baste the lace overlay to the dress outer shell bodice piece along the seamlines.
At this point, if you have a dress form, lay the combined bodice on the form. If you don’t have a form, drape it on yourself and enlist a friend to carefully pin it at various points. Make sure you don’t pin it to the form (or to yourself, ouch). Tack the lace discreetly to the outer shell fabric. This will keep the lace (which in my case is heavier than the crepe, thanks to the beading) from drooping downward.
After I attached the lace, I spent the better part of an afternoon pulling teeny weeny beads out of the seam allowances to reduce bulk. But once the lace was in, the rest was easy. With Susan’s help back in the summer, I redrafted the sleeves to be a two-piece cap sleeve that hugs the shoulder cap (the original McQueen dress had raglan sleeves which did this). I sewed the side and shoulder seams. I pinned the cowl and lace overlay out of the way at the neckline:
Once that was done, I tried it on and tacked the cowl to the bodice. This is important, because (especially if you are busty) if you don’t, then from the side, you look like the prow of a ship. I just used a loose tailor tack. It let the cowl move, but kept it close. I sewed the lining and outer shell together at the neckline, then finished the hems and gave it a final steam-out. You’ve probably seen it already, but here’s a replay of the final product.
Likes/Dislikes: Love. Love. LOVE! At one point last night, I was walking down the hallway back to the ballroom. I passed two women who were staring at me, and I heard one say, “I love that dress!” Can I just tell you? I was walking on air!
Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I would definitely do it again. This pattern was beautifully drafted, and it went together so well. Would I recommend it? Hell yeah! I’m thinking I may make this up at some point in a knee-length version for a dressy but not formal look.
Conclusion: I was so happy with this dress. I love it, love it, love it! I’m going to wear it again for DH’s cousin’s daughter’s bat mitzvah (a black-tie affair at the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan). It’s a great pattern. Here are pictures of the gala, so you can see it in action.
What can I say? This dress is a winner.