Mississippi Ave Dress

Of all of the challenges for The Monthly Stitch’s Indie Pattern Month, there’s nothing that strikes more fear in my heart more than this week’s theme–New to Me.  I’m very cautious about what patterns I choose outside of my Burda/Ottobre/Jalie bubble of warm comfort.  I check, double check, and triple check the measurements, other people’s reviews, etc. before I press the buy button.  What, I can’t just remake Jalie 2921 and hack it any way I choose to make a fantastic tee again?  Nope, the rules state that you can’t even have made a muslin from your chosen company this week.  Eek!

But, I suppose we don’t learn if we refuse to push ourselves beyond the borders of safety, so, throwing caution to the wind, I bought Sew House Seven‘s Mississippi Ave Dress from IndieSew.

There’s much to like about this dress.  It’s the perfect sundress with it’s shoulder ties and partial elastic waist.  The inset on the front of the dress would be a great place to add some colorblocking, and I’m glad to see a v-neck dress that’s not too low…if you sew a lot of Burda, you know those are rare.

Before I talk about the dress(es), I have to note something about patterns in general as it informs this whole project.  The thing about patterns and pattern companies is that no one is guaranteed a perfect fit out of the envelope (or printer as it may be).  We’ve all been uniquely created with our own collection of lumps and bumps or lack thereof that are purely idiosyncratic.  When you let someone else do the work of pattern drafting for you, you’re giving up a certain amount of perfect fit because companies, like RTW stores are drafting for some average, i.e. not you.  Company X makes patterns that fit you perfectly, while Company Y makes patterns that lead you on a path of neverending frustration.  It doesn’t mean that Company Y is out on a personal campaign to make your life miserable–their average that they’re drafting for just isn’t close enough to your measurements to be reasonable.  So when you find yourself with a Company Y type pattern, your options are throw in the towel or pick up a ruler and figure out a way to make it work.

When I was taping this pattern up, I kept looking at the armhole thinking that the armhole length was quite long.  I did a quick measuring with a tape measure and held it up to me and confirmed that the circumference of the armhole put the base of the armhole was all the way at the bottom of my bra.  Kind of defeats the purpose of a sundress, if you, like me are the type that would never go without a bra. From all of the modeled photos of this dress on Sew House Seven’s website, the armhole ends right where it should, so I can only conclude that the pattern was drafted for someone who is longer in the upper torso than I am.

I didn’t set out to make this dress twice, but my first attempt at fixing the armhole just was not successful.  After I made up a muslin, I folded out 2″ horizontally on front and back (it really was so very low).  Once in a while, like with my Southport Dress, I’ve done this to great success, but never more than 1/2″.  Ideally, whenever you alter a pattern, it should never affect other areas of the garment.  This particular adjustment raises CF, but I almost always have to raise because CF levels are often proportionally too low on me (short girl problems), so I’m okay violating the rule of alterations not affecting other parts of the garment.  However, 2″ is obviously a much larger adjustment, and as such, it created all sorts of problems.  Proportionally CF became too high, and the waist seam became an empire line (there’s not enough ink to express how much I hate empire lines).  Also, I got a little carried away, no doubt due to my very real anxiety about sleeveless armholes covering my skivvies, and my alteration was a bit too aggressive.  The resulting armhole isn’t tight at all, but it could use a little more length too.  Thankfully on this first version, I hadn’t cut into anything too precious–just a cotton/poly print recycled from home fabric.  I kept thinking I’d come back to this pattern some time in the future, but it kept on nagging at me, and I happened to have this Gramercy Central Park Breeze voile sitting in my stash and perfect for this dress.

A week ago while wrestling with sloper drafting, I watched Peggy Sager’s video on sleeves.  In this video she talked about there being 4 kinds of armhole drafts–a sleeveless, a jacket, t-shirt, and a blouse armhole.  When you have any of those drafts, you just move that armhole to every pattern that you encounter.  She also talks about measuring armholes on garments that fit (well, she always talks about this!).

I haven’t advanced in my patternmaking attempts to have drafted my own sleeveless armhole, but I have made a few over the years.  When I tried on the various candidates, I had a clear winner in Burda 7508.  The top is multiple sizes too big on me now, but the armhole sits just where I want a sleeveless armhole to fit.  Following Peggy’s advice, I measured up that armhole, and plotted it out. The resulting armhole is a full 3.5″ smaller than the pattern’s armhole.  Keeping the shoulder point the same, I simply traced the good armhole onto the pattern’s armhole, adding paper to fill in the gap.  Tada!  A better armhole without affecting the rest of the dress.  I did have to add 1.5″ to the bodice to put the waist seam at my natural waist.  When I muslined the bodice before I cut into the voile, the bodice really was just too close to empire height for my comfort.  I also raised CF by 1″ so that it’d be at a comfortable proportional height for me, though I think overall the V would be quite modest on most women.

Other than that, the sewing was really simple.  Both dresses came together in a couple of hours.  I serged the seams on the diamond patterned dress and opted for French seams on the floral dress because the voile demanded it.  The instructions are pretty clear, with maybe the exception of the turning of the ties where a safety pin is the recommended method.  I don’t know this method, and I couldn’t make much from the illustration, so I translated that step to mean–turn the tie the normal way you would turn a tie.  For me, that means using one of my Turn it All tubes. 

I chose to skip the facings on the neck and armholes in favor of binding everything with foldover elastic.  This was one thing I got right on the first version, and I carried it to the second version.  I avoid facings if possible because of their annoying habit of rolling outwards despite how well you understitch.  Another day, I might have used bias binding or lace in the place of the facings, but lacking both, I was glad to try the FOE in its place.  It’s a simple technique to apply the FOE, and it couldn’t be an easier finish.  The elastic has a tiny dart sewn at CF to maintain the V neck.

I also chose to add some pockets for function as much as form.  Because I trimmed them in FOE, I didn’t even have to add seam allowance to the place I cut away to make the edge of the pocket.

You can see more of my work at Elizabeth Made This.

6 thoughts on “Mississippi Ave Dress

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