One of the things that is so brilliant about the online sewing community is that you get to check out of all kinds of patterns and makes that you might not ordinarily look twice at. Given the ‘Stepford Wives’ styling that some of the pattern companies adorn their pattern covers with, I am often astounding how appealing garments can be when made by real people, styled in an everyday way. I’ve decided this is why seasoned sewers spend much more time pouring over the technical drawings on patterns rather than being distracted by the pretty pictures (a skill I am still mastering).
Certainly when this McCalls Fashion Star pattern first appeared it didn’t even raise a mini blip on my sewing radar. Thankfully, other sewers are not as shortsighted. When I saw the lovely version that Funnygrrl made I knew it had to go on the list.
Now, sundresses can be tricky business for someone with a plus size frame. I am generally not a fan of spaghetti straps (or even linguine thickness straps for that matter) on a straight across bodice as it’s a style I never feel comfortable in. I am much more at ease in a gently shaped sleeveless bodice which is easier to fit and vastly more comfortable to wear.
Let’s have another look at that pattern envelope – did you notice the lovely addition of a centre front pleat on the skirt? Nope, neither did I when I checked out the pattern sleeve. However, let me tell you that underneath that jazzy black and white print this pattern is a total winner. It has all my favourite details: a nicely shaped neckline, simple bodice darts (easy to do a FBA on), an empire line bodice, a beautiful A line skirt with plenty of movement, and … my absolute must have in sewing patterns … pockets! The pattern is available in a range of sizes, from an 8 to a 24.
My first incarnation of this was for a summer party. I made a muslin of the bodice and had to cut the between the size 16 and 18 for my shoulders and back and then do a full FBA. If I had cut to my full bust size it was enormous across my back and hung off my shoulders. I measured myself on my high bust (that measurement just underneath your armpit) to choose my size. Other than the FBA I made no adjustments for this version – I kept the square neckline and decided to use a contrast polka dot to highlight the centre front pleat detail.
There is some hand stitching in the finishing of this bodice (in order to get the lining into the bodice), but it does give a lovely finish. I also lined the skirt fully in this version so that the skirt hung and moved well.
This lovely teapot fabric from Michael Miller is still one of my favourite ever fabric purchases. I only wish I had bought more of it. I wore this dress a crazy amount all summer long. I could wear it casually, unbelted with flat pumps for every day, or dress it up with heels and scarlet belt for evening. As you’ll see from the photo, I even took it through autumn pairing it with tights and a jacket or a cardi.
Spurred on by my success with the pattern I soon made version 2, a lovely Rowan printed cotton from Kaffe Fassett. I’m not going to lie, I was short of fabric with this version, so the print matching was not all it could be and I ended up edging it with a contrast mini polka dot bottom band. For this incarnation I softened the neck to a gentle curve, but be warned … it was a little on the loose side, so if you plan to do the same I would suggest creasing out the extra width (around 1/4 inch) on each side of the front neckline before you cut out.
I fancied a slightly more fifties silhouette for my next version, in a summery Parisienne Michael Miller print. I kept the softer curved neckline (pinching out the excess this time) and then lengthened the bodice around two inches so the waist seam fell just above my natural waist. Because this was quite a genteel print I kept the detailing to a minimum.
In summary, this is a fantastic summer wardrobe essential. The A-line skirt hangs beautifully with the centre front pleat bringing a little added swoosh as you walk. Perfectly placed and drafted pockets mean you don’t get excess width on your hipline but you do get somewhere to hide treasures, while the simple lines of the garment mean you can go fairly wild with your print selection. This would also make a fantastic pinafore dress for autumn in a thicker fabric or soft wool, paired with a thin knit sweater or shirt underneath and tights.
TNT Pattern Details:
Sizing: 4 – 24. The largest size fits a bust measurement of 49.5″.
What size did you make? I cut between the 16/18 for the upper bodice fit. My measurements are 47-38-49.
What adjustments did you make?
- I did a FBA to fit my 47″ bust.
- I did a version with a scooped rounded neckline which I then adjusted to reduce the width (so it doesn’t bag at the front)
- I made a version with a lower bodice fit to my natural waistline.
Fabric and Notions required: From 2 to 4 yards of fabric depending on width. Don’t forget you will need more if you are matching a large print.a 20/22″ invisible zip, a hook and eye.
Curvy Rating (1-5): 3.5 – This dress would score higher if you didn’t have to fiddle around with the FBA so much. Do make sure you cut a size to fit your upper bust measurement, otherwise you’ll end up with shoulders that fall down all the time and a baggy neckline. It is worth the extra time to get the bodice fit right though as once mastered it quickly becomes a wonderful summer wardrobe go to pattern. The skirt is wonderful, easy to wear and good on many shapes. It would probably make a wonderful skirt pattern in its own right (remember to drop the top line if you do this as this is cut for an empire bodice).