Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bodice Ripper

Welcome to another episode of "Kristin Complains Sews". In today's show, K tells you about her first Built By Wendy dress made from the Shift style sloper discussed previously.

After careful planning (aka determining the things she thinks she can pull off), she opts to turn it into a mash up of a) a few styles in the Dresses book and b) the contents of her own imagination.

What crazy times ensue!

This zipper took 3 hours to insert. The white line denotes where the fabric has been abused in the aim to make the invisible zip lie correctly. Even more stupid: It's strictly cosmetic. The shift can easily be worn by putting it on "shirt style".

K likes to call the finished product "urban caftan". Urban she may be, but this is her first caftan ever. Why does she decide to go so adventuresome? Well, the shift dress unaltered has that rather extreme (she discovers) "a-line from the boobs down" thing happening. The muslin of the original sloper alluded to this, but the boat neck on the urban caftan really drives the point home.

(Note to viewers: K does not look good in boat necks. Formerly, she suspected this. Now she has proof.)

Furthermore, while it's vaguely less depressing (she supposes) to make something too big, than too small, it's all a huge pain in the ass when you're trying to fix it. Stretch fabric, strangely, it makes everything stretchy. Even after re-sewing the side seams at 1 inch (rather than the .5 inch she started with), the finished product has a decided "sack" shape. Chic sack, to be sure, but sack nonetheless.

Here's what she likes about it:
  • The length of the sleeves (really the whole fit of the sleeves) and the hem. Note: The hem is turned up at .5 inch and isn't turned under, i.e. the overcast seam is there for all to see. That's because she cut too much off the bottom. For some reason, K likes to cut 5 inches off the hem of every dress prior to hemming, just to see how it flies.
  • The indigo wash of the denim. Very classy.
  • The fun bias tape, the tone of which is continued by the mustard hem top stitching.
  • The fact that she "made this up" - albeit with a lot of assistance.
What she doesn't like:
  • Blame it on Mercury retrograde (she will deny suggesting this at a later date), just about everything that could turn the construction of a simple frock into a seam-ripping misery, actually occurred. Kind of takes the edge off the 3 hour project. This one clocked in at 20 hours if you consider the pattern drafting.
  • K doesn't care if Wendy suggests that the loose shift will skim curves attractively. She says, if you have boobs you should consider proactively showing off your waist.
  • The boat neck - her choice to construct, of course - is really not a good look. She did narrow it to suit her frame - nothing worse than the boat neck that highlights the bra straps - but still not so flattering.
  • The fabric was vaguely nightmarish to work with, for no discernible reason. It's fraying right through the overcasting stitch that runs over absolutely every raw edge. Yes, that did add a lot of extra time to the project - especially as the tension on K's machine opted to go all insane for a few hours - and it will probably go stringy after washing 2 times. Dry cleaning, anyone?
  • It's kind of monolithic - at least on the hanger, without bare legs to provide contrast. It really is one of those dresses that looks horrible unless it's on.
  • The invisible zipper - albeit her first ever - was a freakin' bitch and without constructional merit. Don't need it. But it was a great learning experience. K suggests when you decide to sew in your first invisible zipper, don't make it 22 inches long. That's a lot of stitch ripping. Note also: K read many sources about this application, before giving it a go. Turns out it's critical to understand the term "wrong side of the zipper" before getting started. Also key, pick a source and stick with it. All the gurus use their own methods, and those don't converge well.
Has anyone else made one of the Wendy dresses from this book? Thoughts or feelings? How would you style this?

Update: Just tried this thing on again and I have to say the fit is NOT GOOD on me. I really need to take another inch off the back seam but that would mean having to rip out the invisible zipper yet again and I don't think I have it in me. Also, the boat neck pops out a bit at the centre chest (above the breastbone). It needs a small dart - but that would look totally weird on the front of the dress collar. Sewists, pls advise: That would look weird, right?

Never mind this is made in stretch fabric - I should have cut the small - or at least, next time, I should cut the seam allowances off of the pattern I drafted. On the centre back, I probably need to cut off the seam allowances and then some. Oh, I should mention, I already cut an inch off of the back for this pattern - based on the sloper back being too puffy. If I need to cut 4 inches off the back centre seam, it stands to reason I''m in the wrong size altogether, yes??


  1. You're such a tease. I was hoping we'd get to see your bodice in this post.

  2. Could you put a couple of darts at the front and 2-4 at the back to take some of the extra fabric out and create more shape without having to take out the darn zip?

  3. You are so adorable and hilarious! I was scared to read the post when I saw the title -- I thought you went crazy and started ripping the seams apart! I know I have done that. I love the name you've given this beautiful piece... "Urban Caftan." Fantastic. It's sooo J. Peterman!

    By the way -- stretch fabric will continue to stretch and it stretches as you sew. Next time, make it smaller than the pattern calls for (if it's assumed that the pattern is a woven sloper). And --- NO to the dart in the neckline. Just smooth out the excess toward the shoulders and take it out of the shoulder seams. Does that make sense? If not, email me and I'll explain further! :-)

  4. Would a couple of back & front darts give you a more flattering fit? As for the neck, I think a short slit cut in the front, trimmed in the same mustard as the sleeves could be flattering. Or, give the dress away and make a new one, implementing all you have learned!

  5. Stretch Denim, and Zippers, and A-lines, Oh My!

    Probably too big. I have to take a dart at the center neck of most things, best done to the pattern before cutting fabric. Can you take a bigger piece, insert trim or a contrast fabric like a V and make it design detail?

    A-lines might work best if they flare out from the ribcage below the bust, which I suppose is not a true A-line but works for me. Such a fit would of course require the zipper to avoid the dress looking like a tent.

    Despite all that, in the photos at least, it looks good, and you've made great progress, though I suspect you will be happier when the projects are less learning experience and more success.

  6. "Urban caftan" love it. Sorry it is being such a bear to get right but when it is right it is going to be gorgeous.

  7. I'm liking urban kaftan (sorry it is so a k in the UK!)

    I looks great and you could wear with leggings surely??

    Sorry can't type much so can only add agree with stacey x

  8. Ah... you have joined the coven of bias tape lovers... welcome!

  9. "This zipper took 3 hours to insert." I shuddered when I read tihs sentence. I have so been there. The worst.

    But congrats on inserting an invisible zipper for the first time. Even if you aren't in love with the final project. Hopefully you can salvage it somehow. Perhaps since you are not in love with it: cinch it with a belt, toss on some long chunk necklaces, and call it day, hehe?

  10. For starters, THANK YOU everyone for your thoughtful suggestions. I have been mulling each and every one over.

    Monkey: Haven't there been enough occasions lately :-)

    Imogen: On balance, I think that's what I'm going to try.

    Wendy: I'm not really, I'm so tired of it. But I can't wear a crappy fit - and I'm not letting this sit in a closet.

    Stacy: I'm so glad you like the name! I did think it was snappy. And about your idea about removing the extra from the shoulder seams: When I look at the fit, secretly I know that's what's going to work best. I just don't know if I can get it up to do the work. Maybe I need to rest on it for a while.

    bushra: Great suggestions - and don't think I haven't considered giving it away. Just cuz it doesn't fit me, doesn't mean it won't fit someone else :-)

    Mardel: I will def enjoy things more when it stops being all about the learning! And thank you for your suggestion about the A line. I don't think this is the shapliest option for me.

    Bel: That's what I tell myself!

    Kate: Everything looks better with a K! And I will wear it bare legged, I think. It will distract from the monolith that is the too-large denim. Oh wait, I'm supposed to fix that...

    Nic: Ha! I am a convert...

    Sewn: I knew you'd be able to relate. The travails of the new(ish) sewist. Everything is such a production. On the plus side, everything looks better with jewelry. :-)