Welcome back, wrapalong-ers! Do you have your pattern, fabric and supplies ready? Then let’s get started! Woop! In today’s post we’re going to decide which size pattern to make, and prepare the pattern for cutting our fabric. The full sewalong schedule is included below.
1. Measure yourself!
The good news here is that wrap dresses are *extremely* easy to fit, because there’s very little fitting! As long as the shoulders and sleeves are OK, you have a lot of leeway on bust, waist and hips because of the way the garment wraps around you. I’ve found I can comfortably fit in RTW 12, 14 and 16 wrap dresses, which is fantastic as I can fluctuate quite a bit.
There are a couple of things to bear in mind when measuring your bust for a wrap dress.
If you are using a pattern from the “Big 4″ (McCalls, Butterick, Vogue, Simplicity) they have a *huge* amount of ease in them: for instance, if a pattern was made for someone with a 42″ bust it’s not uncommon that the actual bust measurement of the finished garment would be 45 – 48”! Therefore, you should look at the finished garment measurements (they’re printed on the pattern itself beside a circle with a cross through it, and sometimes they’re on the envelope) and decide what size you want based on that, rather than the body measurements. To decide on your size from the finished measurements, think about how much ease (extra space) you want – for instance, I often aim to have 1 – 2″ of ease on my bust in woven patterns (to allow me to breathe and move!), so therefore I want the finished garment bust to be 48 + 1 = 49″. For knits specifically though, I don’t want any ease, because the fabric stretches, so I would either use the finished garment measurement that was the same as my measurement, or even one that’s smaller.
If you intend to wear your wrap dress with a camisole underneath, which I do because I think it suits me best (the very deep “v” shape it creates helps balance out my top heavy figure), then you can make a smaller bust size than your measurement as the camisole will “fill in” the gap between the front bodice pieces. For instance, my bust is 48 inches but I use Christine Jonson size XL which is 43 inches – this fits well with a camisole underneath.
If you have a large bust but narrow shoulders, you may want to use your high bust measurement to choose your pattern size, which involves placing the measuring tape under your armpits and over your bust (the top measuring tape in the illustration below). You can then do a Full Bust Adjustment (FBA) to add in the extra room you would need for your full bust. Again, because of the options to wear a camisole and the stretch nature of knit fabrics, you may not need to do this – I’ve never done an FBA on a wrap dress, and I’m a 36G/H bra size. However, if you do, you can follow this tutorial, and instead of sewing the dart, you can ease in the extra at the side seam.
- Waist and hips
My biggest tip is: measure when sitting down! Many of us curvy ladies expand when we sit down, and you want to make sure that your dress will fit you well when you’re sitting. To do this, put the tape measure around the fullest part of your waist, and then holding it loosely, sit down and take that measurement; repeat for your hips.
That said: again, the joy of a wrap dress is that there is no waistband and lots of ease! So don’t worry too much about this.
2. Prepare your pattern pieces
Once you’ve got your measurements, you can prepare your pattern pieces so that you can cut your fabric. I like to trace my pieces onto Swedish tracing paper – it allows me to make any adjustments, and provides a more durable template to use in the future. Sunni has a great tutorial on two ways to trace your patterns here. That said, if you’re confident that you’re a specific size and you don’t anticipate needing to use your tissue pattern pieces again, then just cut them out and use them as is!
If you are between sizes on the pattern, you can trace a smooth line between the two sizes (bust to waist or bust to hips) to grade. Tilly has a tutorial on this. If you are larger than the pattern, first of all consider whether the largest size might fit you with a camisole, and check the amount of ease in the pattern by consulting the final garment measurements – again, the Big4 often have inches and inches in there! If neither of this will work, here is a tutorial from our very own Tanya on fully grading up a pattern.
Finally, for the Christine Jonson pattern I realized that the waist seam wasn’t adding much – none of my RTW wraps have one, and it makes pattern placement more problematic. Therefore I simply took it out! I did this by joining the front bodice/front skirt piece and the back bodice / back skirt piece (eliminating the waist seam) and tracing them off into a single front pattern piece and back pattern piece. This also makes the process of sewing the dress up much faster!
Looking forward to cutting out… I’ll be using a lovely St John knit from EmmaOneSock. Do you have any questions at this stage?
- September 29: Measuring and preparing the pattern
- September 30: Cut your fabric
- October 1: Sewing shoulders (and any darts/tucks)
- October 2: Sewing the neckline
- October 3: Sewing the sleeves, using the flat method
- October 6: Sewing the ties
- October 7: Sewing the side seams
- October 8: Finishing the wrap edges
- October 9: Hemming
- October 10: We’re finished!
- October 20: Your wrap dresses! Gallery and contest