It’s summer again. Time for unrelenting sunshine, soaring temperatures, and the utter loss of my sewing motivation. There’s something about this season that drains my creative energy, y’all. Why sew pretty dresses, when just the thought of fitted bodices and tight waistbands sends me into heat stroke? Luckily, a silhouette has arrived to save me.
The tent dress.
Or, you know, a modern muumuu. However you want to look at them, tent dresses are not only on-trend, but wildly practical for a Texas summer wardrobe. Yards of lightweight, swishy fabric that doesn’t hug the body? Sign me up! That’s the kind of garment that has me wanting to sew again and wear something other than yoga pants.
There are a lot of cute tent dress patterns out there, both for knits and wovens, but one stood out to me. The Papercut Sway Dress is a classic version of this triangular silhouette, with two lengths, side seam pockets, a miles long hemline, and a fairly wide size range. Ever since Nicole’s gorgeous linen version, I’ve had this pattern on the brain. While I’m more of the fit-and-flare girl usually, this modern, breezy dress proved too tempting not to try.
Pattern name: Papercut Sway Dress
Pattern format: While I chose the PDF version of this pattern (huzzah for instant gratification), this pattern comes in both print-at-home format and as a traditional folded paper pattern. Though the PDF is well-marked, easy to put together, and fairly small (32 pages + 8 pages of instructions), there isn’t a copy shop option available, so heads up if you hate taping together pages! You might prefer the traditional pattern, instead.
Size range: XS – XL (44″-36″-46″)
What size did you make? XL
What are your measurements, height, and body type?
Bust: 47″ Waist: 37″ Hips: 49″
Body Type: Curvy Hourglass
What fabric did you use? Orange floral cotton batiste from Mood Fabrics, a lightweight and beautifully draping fabric, which works well for the volume of this dress.
What adjustments did you make and how long did they take?
As you probably noticed, I don’t quite fit into Papercut’s size chart. However, with my high bust of 42″ and this pattern’s generous ease through the body, I was confident that the XL would fit me well. To better accommodate my bustline, I did a 1.5 inch Full Bust Adjustment, adding a dart to the side seam of the front bodice.
While that’s a straightforward adjustment, it should be noted that this pattern only has two main pieces: a front dress and a back dress. As drafted, the dress is fully reversible, so the wearer can choose whether she wants a v-neck or a rounded neckline on any given day. This makes a ton of sense in a voluminous silhouette, but my FBA rendered this impossible. I had to choose which neckline I wanted as the true front and opted for the v-neck.
The other adjustment I made was to lower the pockets by three inches on each side. Maybe my height makes this more of an issue, but they sat right at my waistline initially! That might be fine for the true tent version of this dress, but I made the longer view, with a tie that cinches in the waist. Having tie and pockets at the same level seemed remarkably ineffective.
What was the construction process like? Did the instructions make sense to you?
This dress was ridiculously simple to put together. There are only four body seams in the whole garment–joining the sides, front center, and back center–then the neckline and armscyes are finished with all-in-one facings. I haven’t used facings like this in years, but I love the clean finish they give! They’re more fiddly to install than traditional facings, but they don’t flip out while wearing and add a level of sophistication to the garment’s interior.
The two more labor intensive parts of this dress were the tie and the hem. While turning a tie right side out is always a trial, this one is super long, skinny, and made of fairly flimsy fabric. My usual method of turning it around a knitting needle didn’t work, so I switched over to the safety pin method, which sped things along. As for the hem, I used a narrow baby hem, after leaving the dress to hang for a day. Papercut mentions this step in their instructions and I highly recommend following it, instead of rushing through construction. My side seams dropped a good four inches, after hanging.
Overall, this is a well-written and thorough construction process. A beginner might find the method of attaching facings a bit confusing, but if you’ve put in a lining by machine before, you’ll be just fine. If you add an FBA to the pattern, remember to alter your front facing as well, to match the new curve of your armscye.
How do you like the pattern’s fit? Do you think the design works well for your particular body shape?
Ah, the million dollar question. How does the fit-and-flare addict like the tent dress? Well, reach for the smelling salts, my dears. I actually love it! It’s lightweight, breezy, and swishes with every step. When suffering through another triple-digit heat index, those are priceless qualities in a garment.
Admittedly, this isn’t a silhouette I’ll wear without the waist tie or a belt. The longer length of the pattern hits me right above the knee, which is too long to make the uncinched tent shape work. At the shorter length, it would be flirty and kicky, even without the tie. As it is…well, the longer one really does give those muumuu vibes, doesn’t it? My waist and hips are completely lost in the tent’s lines. For my purposes, though, it’s ideal. I don’t mind belting this dress, when it still has tons of ease through the bodice and hips. Trust me, this is infinitely more comfortable than the fit-and-flare dresses in my closet! I’m already daydreaming of a version in lush, green linen with a wider waist tie.
In the end, I think this is an excellent pattern to have in my arsenal. The tent shape is both fashionable and practical, plus it was a snap to fit. Add a quick FBA, cinch the waist if you want to, and you’re good to go! The hips and waist have so much ease that the size range is actually much larger than stated. The tent shape is not for everyone, but I enjoyed straying from my comfort zone with this one.
Size Range: 3 — With the generous ease through the waist and hips, the size range is much bigger in reality than Papercut’s size chart suggest. Still…only going to a 44″ bust? Not so great.
Instructions: 5 — Well-written instructions with thoughtful attention to detail and good illustrations.
Construction Process: 5 — For a simple pattern, the added details like all-in-one facings and belt loops make this pattern a joy to sew up, for seamstresses of all levels. Watch out for the dropping hem and you’ll be fine!
Final Fit: 4 — I mean, it’s a tent, y’all. While I love the swishiness and ease of the final product, it would be pretty frumpy unbelted, at this length. The added FBA was a definite must for anyone with a full bust, to keep the front from riding up.
Overall Rating: 3.5 — This is going to be one of those love it or hate it patterns. Either you dig the breezy shape and modern lines, or you think it’s shapeless and a bit boring. Personally, I like how well the pattern adapts to my own sense of style and that it saves me from the oppressive Texas summer. I do wish the size range were larger, though it would be easy to adapt this for larger sizes, thanks to the ease.