If you sew a lot of garments, you possibly have one or two fitting tweaks that you’re used to doing regularly. It can take some time to get there to know what you need to do, and it may involve some false starts, too.
For me, the biggest thing that transformed my sewing—specifically the fit of my dress bodices and blouses—was when I realized I nearly always needed to shorten bodices, especially for vintage patterns. Up to a whopping 1.5″, typically less with modern patterns (though I have less of them for comparison since I sew so many vintage patterns).
I’ve already blogged about it, but the “aha” moment (more like “AHA!!!!!!”) came almost two years ago when I was sewing a dress from a vintage pattern. I was faced with a dress bodice muslin that looks mostly fine from the front and then I turned around. Whoooa what a difference. It was all puffy and terrible looking in the back. I was momentarily deflated. (Unlike the muslin.)
While it was an extreme example, I had encountered this a lot up to that point. Not always, so it never occurred to me why it was an issue. But the fit was sometimes off in my bodices—blousy, particularly in the back. The same was true with some ready-to-wear (modern and vintage). I spent a long time never really feeling like everything fit me the way it could, but not quite knowing why since it wasn’t as obvious as the fact that I’m 5″2′ and need to shorten all hems and sleeves.
It finally dawned on me while staring at that particular muslin above that the fix was… a shorter bodice!
It wasn’t something I figured out by reading sewing resources for some reason, and I’d actually shortened some bodices before, so I knew I was short-waisted. But the short torso and blousy back hadn’t clicked for me yet. For some reason it just occurred to me during that muslin that the bodice length was the source of the issue, when I yanked the bodice down in the back and the excess fabric went away. I put two and two together and realized it was puffy because there was too much fabric for my torso!
That muslin above eventually turned into this dress with a smooth, happily puffy-free back, after removing some of the bodice length on the pattern pieces:
Now many months before that dress, I’d sewn another dress with a puffy upper back, too. That one was a wrap dress, and I hadn’t bothered to do a muslin. And you know what? Looking back, I’m actually glad I didn’t, because at the time I don’t think I’d have figured out how to resolve it, and the muslin would have ended up in my muslin bin and I wouldn’t have attempted that pattern again.
But because I was being lazy that one time, it worked out in my favor. The back of the dress looked pretty bad, so I ended up adding in some big darts in the dress which made is wearable, but not ideal by any means.
It hasn’t stopped me from wearing that dress, but I definitely was left hoping I could figure out the fitting issue in the future.
Fast foward. The wrap dress was made in 2015 and the checked dress with the “aha!” moment was made in 2016.
Last spring in 2017, I re-visited the wrap dress pattern, taking my knowledge of shortening bodices for puffy upper backs (puffy bodices, not humans, ha ha) to do the same on that pattern, too. Wrap dresses are a bit wackadoodle by nature but I thought perhaps the torso length was the source of the issue on the first dress since I knew so much of that excess fabric was in my upper back. So I did a muslin, cutting 1.5″ off at the lengthen/shorten line (or drew my own… I can’t recall if the pattern had one or not), and the fit was great. I proceeded ahead with some hoarded Gretchen Hirsch cotton sateen fabric.
Same vintage wrap dress pattern (using different skirts), very different fit in the back!
I mean yeah, it’s a wrap dress so by nature since it’s tied at the waist and open at the back, it moves around a bit and wrinkles up. But there’s absolutely NO big gaping back. It’s an entirely different game. Pretty amazing. And I’m still thrilled about it, which is why I’m bothering to share this so much later. 😉
I think the most fascinating thing is that while I unfortunately don’t have a “before” to show you of the Nancy Drew polka dot wrap dress before I put in the darts in the back, it’s stunning how a measly 1.5″ can make such a difference in fit. Especially considering I remember the size of the darts was more than 2″ (so taking up 4″ of fabric). Of course it wasn’t taken out in the appropriate place, so what a difference an appropriate fix can make to a pattern.
Can you tell I’m a little excited about how this epiphany transformed the fit of this particular pattern??
I love a good wrap dress, and having never gotten my hands on a vintage Swirl brand dress, this is definitely the next best thing! Now I can make all the Swirls I want! I definitely envision some in vintage fabrics this summer.
I took these photos in fall (clearly, as we have like 15″ of snow melting in the yard right now ha ha) but I as I said, I sewed this early last spring and took it to London. So below I was wearing it while enjoying a cup of tea in Shoreditch last April. 🙂
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking over the last several months about my wardrobe (can’t quite seem to pull it together in a coherent blog post yet, though I’ve been trying), and one of the things I’ve realized when assessing my last year or so of preferences is that I’m currently just not really into modern novelty prints (vintage, oohh yes). I never seem to want to pull those items out of my closet more than once or twice. But modern florals are fine—those seem to get worn plenty.
I’ve certainly worn this dress loads, which is saying a lot given the fact that I really don’t typically go for purples. But I couldn’t resist this gorgeous Gertie sateen. I love this dress so much!
I can’t wait for it to warm up so I can wear it again. I’m even toying with a bolero idea that would match the green in it perfectly and I think would make for a perfect pairing. Well, once I get through the other two boleros I have on tap. My knitting needles are busy right now while I’m glued to the television watching the Winter Olympics. 😉
vintage wrap dress – made by me
vintage Coro jewelry set – misc. (items acquired separately)
shoes – M. Gemi Stellato