Every woman has silhouettes she avoids. Some people dislike the sweetness of fit-and-flare dresses, while others would never be caught dead in something with a high-low hemline. Personally, my age old wardrobe nemesis is the shift dress. While I adore them on other people, I’ve never liked them much on me. As someone with a large bust and hips, but small waistline, it’s too easy to lose my shape in all those straight lines. I prefer seaming and darts and giant, poofy skirts that emphasize my curves.
And then, the Leralynn debuted. This is Blank Slate’s newest adult pattern, an A-line shift dress with cut on cap sleeves, a slash neckline, welt pockets, and darted bodice. From the line drawing alone, I was intrigued. Not only does it have an interesting neckline, which I’m always a sucker for, but it looked like the perfect loose shape for summer.
What’s more, the gorgeous Susan (of Moon Thirty) modeled for some of the official pattern photos. Seeing the dress on someone with similar proportions to my own changed everything. Not only did it look sensational on her curves, but it was such a modern silhouette! Maybe I could give shift dresses another try. After all, I’ve experimented with tent dresses and asymmetry recently. As I enter my thirties, taking more risks with style is part of what keeps sewing fun. Why not take a chance on the Leralynn?
Pattern Name: Leralynn Dress from Blank Slate Patterns
Size Range: Up to a 3X, or measurements of 53″-44″-55″
What are your measurements, height, and body type? My current measurements are 47″-37″-48″, or a plus size hourglass. Blank Slate provides high bust measurements on their size chart, making sizing decisions so much easier for the bustier among us. With my high bust of 41″, I was between two sizes, but opted for the larger size and cut a straight 1X version of this dress.
Fabric used: Nani Iro cotton double gauze, from my stash. I bought this fabric years ago, but never found a use for such girly, pastel fabric. It’s beautiful, but felt a bit juvenile for me. However, a double gauze Leralynn sounded gloriously breezy and its simple lines helped cut the sweetness of this print. The softness of the fabric certainly made this one of the more comfortable dresses in my closet!
What adjustments did you make and how long did they take? Y’all, I pretty much cut out the straight size of this pattern. Apart from Cashmerette Patterns, I can’t remember the last time I did such a thing! The only true adjustments I took were lengthening the hem by two inches, to make up for my height, and narrowing the waist by an inch after an initial fitting. That’s it.
What was the construction process like? Did the instructions make sense to you? The instructions for this pattern are absolutely aimed at beginner sewers, with thorough directions and diagrams for every step. I was particularly impressed with the welt pocket instructions, though I skipped that design detail on this version. The front seam is top-stitched, lending it a little extra interest, and the rest of my seams are French seamed for a beautiful inside finish.
The major quibble I had with construction was the way the facings are attached to both the neckline and each other. It does a nice job facing the split neck, but leaves the inside shoulder seam much messier than necessary. In the future, I will go my own way with those facings and have a completely clean finish on the inside. Everything else about this dress is a cinch to put together, though. If you have a couple of hours, you could easily have a completed dress in one sitting.
How do you like the pattern’s fit? Do you think the design works well for your particular body shape? Objectively, the Leralynn does a much better job of retaining my shape than other shift dresses I’ve tried, thanks to the darted bodice and A-line shape of the skirt. My waist is hinted at in the front view of the dress and the hips aren’t so loose that it looks like a sack. However, the lack of shaping in the back doesn’t work for me. I have what my mother refers to as a “bubble butt,” and you can see my body causing fabric to pool right above it. With a few double-ended darts in the back, this could be easily fixed.
There are a few things I love about this pattern, though. The cut on cap sleeves are easy to sew and a nice break from my usual sleeveless summer dresses. I also love that slash neckline–it’s a flattering depth and adds visual interest to a simple dress. The upper bodice just fits me well, all around. The darts sit in the right place, the neckline lays flat against the body, and there isn’t a ton of excess fabric caused by the sleeve area.
All that is to say though, that I mostly like it. This is a dress I’ve taken on and off a dozen times, deciding how I feel about it. Initially, it was a shock to wear something of this silhouette. I didn’t like it all and told my fellow editors that I might not even finish it. A week later, I tried it on again and actually loved how the front of the dress looked. In pictures especially, it’s a decidedly modern little dress and not nearly so loose as I imagined. With a longline cardigan, tights, and boots, I could actually see loving a style like this in the colder months. Imagining it in a darker, more womanly fabric changed how I felt about it altogether. It’s certainly outside of my comfort zone, but that’s not a bad thing.
Will you make the pattern again? If so, what fit or design changes will you make? I actually do think I’ll make this pattern again, but in a very different fabric choice. In a plaid flannel or dark, jewel toned cotton, this would be an ideal layering piece for fall. Add a few darts in the back and I’m set, fit wise. There’s also a hooded version of this pattern, which might be up other people’s alley, though I can’t see opting for that one with my more traditional style.
Do you have any advice on this pattern for other curvy sewers? Are there any resources (blog posts, fitting books, tutorials) that helped you sew this piece up? Definitely pay attention to the bust dart in this pattern. I have a high set bust for my frame and it was almost too high for me. The directions are great about discussing fit changes, including how to alter the position of this dart. This is a pattern that could benefit from a quick tissue fit, before you cut any fabric out, if you’re not planning on making a muslin. Additionally, I would think about adding those two back darts for hourglass and pear-shaped figures. There is a fair amount of blousing back there, otherwise.
Size Range: 4 — Blank Slate has expanded their size range fairly recently, I believe, and it now covers a good portion of the plus size range. There’s also a change in cup sizing from their standard to plus sizes, making it easier to fit a full bust.
Instructions: 5 — Thorough, detailed and with clear pictures to aid even the most beginning of sewers.
Construction Process: 3.5 — There are a few things I changed or would change for a cleaner finish on the inside. There’s nothing terribly hard about the construction, but it’s just not how I prefer to do a lot of these steps. However, I think for beginners, the methods detailed in this pattern might be easier, and explain that choice.
Final Fit: 3 — The bodice fit is really really nice, but the back fit doesn’t do me any favors. However, this is probably due to my dramatic waist-to-hip proportions and own personal fitting preferences. It certainly won’t keep me from making another version of this pattern for autumn.
Overall Rating: 3.75 — As far as shift dresses go, this is a quality pattern for curvy figures. There is thoughtfulness in the design, an expansive size range, and some interesting additional design features. The fit is okay for a straight-from-the-envelope pattern and would be simple to fit to a variety of figures. Points are deducted, however, for some construction issues and lack of back shaping.
Disclaimer: Susan actually sent me a copy of this pattern, after I loved her version so much. However, I was set to buy this pattern anyway and all opinions are my own!