After spending quite a bit of time researching and looking at different independent dress patterns I settled on the Decades of Style Dorothy Lara Dress for the week 1 dresses category for Indie Pattern Month at the Monthly Stitch. Usually when thinking about past decades and styles I am drawn more to the 50s, especially in the blouse area, but The Dorothy Lara dress (pattern #4013) appealed to me for a number of reasons.
1.) I thought the overall cut and style of the dress fit my shape okay, I don’t usually do the gathered skirt thing as I could use to shed a few pounds but this dress has an okay amount of gathering in both the bodice and the skirt and I felt I could pull it off.
2.) The raglan sleeves which would sew up easier (this did not turn out to be true due to my hand sewn rolled hem decision) and again would be flattering to my upper arms;
3.) The neckline in general (I am a sucker for bias bound edges) and loved the front scoop;
4.) After reading several reviews of the pattern I thought it might, in general, be an easier sew with less fitting issues than some other dresses I had found and liked and;
5.) I have had this nice vintage(y) looking rayon in my stash for many moons and thought it fit the dress style quite nice.
I am pretty pleased with the end result and while it was not terribly difficult to sew, it also was not terribly easy and I spent the better part of this past week working daily on the dress. I would say this pattern is not really for the beginner sewist . I did not find a rating on the pattern so do not know what Decades of Style thinks the level is although with patience and time a beginner could probably work their way through.
Some essential skills needed for a nice finish are; how to gather, how to apply bias binding, topstitching, inserting a side zip and a few more. It is not that any one technique was extremely difficult but the directions are pretty sparse for some things, i.e. to insert the invisible zipper at the side seam the instructions say “insert invisible zipper in left side seam between notches as per manufacturer’s instructions” and that’s it. I found it a bit tricky to sew the top of the zipper so near the (very short) raglan underarm seam of the sleeve. I looked at this tutorial from Colette and also remembered some tips from this tutorial from Angela Kane.
Also I think it would have been helpful to include little tips and tricks here and there such as snipping the center of the bodice tops and bottoms as well as the skirt top front and back and snips at the waistbands centers to make matching up things later a bit easier. (There is a pattern mark for the center of the waistband but not on the other pattern pieces.)
Regarding fit, the only change I made was to the side seams which I sewed at ½” instead of the instructed 5/8”. I cut and sewed a size 38 (B) but knew the fitted waist was going to be tight so went with the ½” seam. Everything else was completed according to the pattern directions.
I finished the sleeve hems with a hand sewn rolled hem (call me a sucker for punishment) and,
the bottom hem with a loose catch stitch.
I noticed very early in construction that when I used my iron on the fabric it would “flatten” the fabric and take away its’ “depth”. I know no other way to say what I mean here but I did not want to “harden” my edges with a machine stitch. The rayon is very flowy and both the hand rolled hem and the catch stitch allowed them to stay that way. I finished seams with with my serger (which I just realized this morning was threaded wrong!!!) I wondered why I wasn’t getting a good tight serged edge but thought it was because of my lightweight fabric.
A few quick tips on how to make this an easier sew would be to; practice your gathering skills beforehand; have a ¼” quilting foot at the ready; have an invisible zipper foot; have a threaded hand sewing needle ready to go for basting; hand baste the zip, then sew; finish seams as you go; sew the dress in stages to make it more manageable; take your time for accuracy on the mock smocking (this step would be my do over on this project).
Overall, I am very happy with how the dress turned out but am not 100% sure I like how it looks on me. I still love the pattern and the instructions given were clear and the illustrations helpful and clear. I will most likely make this again using up more of vintage rayon stash.
Last, it is a good thing I stopped by the Monthly Stitch FB page today as I did not realize my entry had to be in by 8:00 p.m. Saturday! Whew…just under the wire.