I Made a Dress That Fits!

M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress
M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress

I've been sewing for probably close to seventeen years now, wait, WHAT? How am I that old? My foray into the ancient practice began as a meager attempt to customize ill-fitting ironic thrift store t-shirts. It's been mostly a learn-as-you-go useful back-pocket skill ever since. Although, over the past several years I can't think of a single completed sartorial project, just a myriad of home decorating projects comprised of throw pillows and curtains and more throw pillows. 

But occasionally I get the itch, usually accompanied with some upcoming event, to make a piece of clothing. The times I've actually completed one of these projects and not been forced to ransack my closet for a last minute day-of outfit are slim. This dress is one of them. The event at hand was last week's 80/35 Music Festival in Des Moines, IA. Luke was playing which meant I got to tag along. It also coincided with my birthday weekend (you can still claim those post-Thirty, right?).

M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress
M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress at 80/35 Music Festival

The thing is, at the start of every summer I always overly romanticize the season (see this post for proof) but every year, I forget I have no idea how to dress for the heat. I like layers. Wearing a lone t-shirt and pair of shorts feels utterly spartan to me. So instead, I miserably wade through summer on the verge of heat stroke in rolled long sleeved button downs, jeans, and sometimes a cardigan for good measure. And yes, there's definitely a smorgasbord of body dissatisfaction influencing my summer wardrobe decisions as well. It's hard to care so thoroughly about composition and design and not have the, uh, perfect canvas to decorate, am I right? This is when sewing most often becomes a viable option.

M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress

I wanted to make an easy summer dress that had some interesting stylistic aspects, but overall was just incredibly comfortable. I'm so picky. I hate things that are tight, clingy, low cut, show my shoulders, too short, blah blah blah. For the record this has nothing to do with modesty, and everything to do with C-O-M-F-O-R-T. I'm basically a five year old. I'd had some denim floral fabric sitting around in my stash for years, so long that it was now sun faded along all the lines where it had been folded, but still thought it would be a good contender. The floral side seemed like it might be too much print when the dress was finished, however, so I opted to use the underside. I like that you can see a hint of the pattern peaking through, but it's subtle. 

M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress Closeup
M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress at 80/35 Music Festival

I adapted the design from this shirt pattern, and drafted new pattern pieces to accommodate the changes. The bulk of the alterations included adding kimono sleeves, side pockets (yes!) and overall length, while ditching the original longer in the back shorter in the front scheme. I don't totally know what I'm doing in this realm so this process involved a ton of googling and Reader's Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing sourcing, oh yeah, and time.

Pattern Making

There were definitely hiccups along the way. I started by making a practice version first. It always feels like such a waste of time to basically make two dresses, but it inevitably saves me from a train wreck because I've had time to sort out the fit issues beforehand. And there were a ton. The sleeves probably took me the longest, and let's be honest, they're not perfect on the finished dress either. But they're much better than the bondage straight jacket first attempt, and the fluttery butterfly concoctions of my later tries.  

M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress at 80/35 Music Festival

I'd never made pockets before so that was a journey, not too difficult, just a little meticulous lining up the fabric and trying to think through the sewing steps to ensure the dress sides were closed properly, while leaving the opening to the pockets unscathed. I chose to use the right side of the fabric for the pockets, and it's one of my favorite touches on the dress, that little sliver of floral you can sometimes see poking out. 

M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress at 80/35 Music Festival

The original pattern called for hem tape to be used to finish the neckline, but I didn't really want to add anything that would contrast, and I thought it might make it look kind of cheap. Instead, I made a neckline facing for a more seamless finish.    

M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress at 80/35 Music Festival

The only major mistake on the finished dress is the skirt front. Because the fabric had so much sun fading I couldn't lay out the pattern pieces in the most effective way. Basically, I had to put them in a position in which the sun lines wouldn't be super obvious. I focused on making sure the back of the dress was good. Unfortunately, this meant there wasn't enough fabric left over to make the full skirt for the front of the dress. I had gotten this far and didn't want to give up so I just decided to sew three separate pieces of scraps together to make one skirt front. Grrrrrr. 

Sewing the Skirt
M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress at 80/35 Music Festival

I'm happy with the finished product. It's probably the only piece of clothing in my closest that actually fits without any issue and is comfortable and stylish at the same time. Sewing isn't a passion of mine, so it will probably be a bit before I tackle something new, but it's the end result that always keeps me coming back. 

Do any of you sew? I tried to keep this post light, less technical (i.e. boring). But what do you think? Is this the kind of DIY/design you find interesting? 

M Pettipoole – Chambray Dress at 80/35 Music Festival

* Pssst, look closely, it's Luke's cameo. Thanks for the photos, dear!