gathered sundress in winter

Of course you make summery dresses in the dead of winter! Why wouldn’t you?

I think a core reason I’ve been knitting so much lately, is the overwhelmingness of my current pile of half-finished sewing projects – none of which have been calling my name lately. The one project I got excited about, was the Gathered sundress by Pattern Runway. And, I had some lovely cotton/silk that I always planned on making into the perfect summer dress, so it seemed like a good match.

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I’ve shared some snippets of this fabric and the making of the dress in several recent posts, and I’ve really been taking my time (and now that I’m finally ready to share, I feel like I have so much to say about this dress!). I’ve come to realize that part of the reason I sew is to do it as neatly and well made as possible. That might not be the driving desire for other people who sew, and that’s ok. But it is a driving force for me, where I really enjoy the process, and adding little construction details wherever I can and want. Of course this means this dress took much longer to finish than I thought – especially when you add the part where I was careful during the cutting process so the pattern would match up, and the part where I decided to have the side front panels and the inside of the pocket cut on the bias.

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I was inspired by Oona’s delightful lace insert version of this dress, where she made some of the panels contrasting. With this kind of busy, but still orderly pattern, I thought it might help to do something similar to break up the mass and create a differentiation. That was also the thought behind the deliciously colored piping I made for the belt and the pockets (my tips for making and using bias tape is right here). I’m not sure it was a roaring success – this print pattern looks much more busy from a couple of yards away than it does up close, so the fabric hides some of the details and lines until you’re quite close. I’m not super comfortable with prints to begin with, so I might be a little biased and feeling in unfamiliar territory here!

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Like I mentioned, I did enjoy adding a lot of touches to the construction of the dress, and a lot of them is due to the sheer and thin nature of the cotton/silk printed fabric:
· Using iron-on stay-tape along pretty much all curved edges, both on the lining fabric and the self fabric. (seen in this post)
· Edgestitching the seamallowance to one side to add some heft and structure to the seams. I was afraid that the light fabrics might not feel substantial enough for a dress of this style, and adding more seams in form of edgestitching, top-stitching, and piping helped with support.
· Backing the bias cut side panels, the belt, and pockets with straight grain organza, so they wouldn’t be completely bent out of shape. I figured the pockets would feel more solid and sturdy (but still light!) with the organza as well.
· Binding the raw edges of the pocket with more of the same green-yellow silk dupioni I used for the piping.
· With the patterned fabric beeing lighter and more see through than I was expecting, I lined the skirt as well for a full lining in a cotton voile. This changed the construction a bit – I sewed the lining as a full separate piece, but to keep the layers together, and again, add stability and a little more heft, I sewed together the seam allowances of the top belt seams on both the lining and the patterned fabric. It’s a technique also used in lined jackets, to keep the outer and inner layers of the collar moving as one!
· As for the fit, I did shorten the bodice by a good inch or so, which seems like a common alteration for this pattern. I also added some width at the princess-seams after a bodice muslin, and pinched off a little on the back pieces for some neckline gaping. I may or may not have overfitted a bit. I intentionally kept the fit a little looser – I wanted an easy, effortless dress, but that doesn’t define the waist as much as this style of dress usually does.
· Finally, not a construction note, but worth mentioning: I had some weird and random problems with these fabrics. I swear I cut out the exact sane patternpieces of the voile and the cotton/silk, handled them with extreme care, and interfaced the edges to prevent stretching out. And yet, sewing the lining to the self fabric along the armholes had me looking at over an inch to ease in on a 6″ stretch! (picture above) I also had an issue with the hem not matching up in a way I can’t even explain, despite being super careful matching everything up while cutting and sewing! To a perfectionist as myself, this was most maddening.

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The sheer fabric also means that the seam allowance shows up, especially having interfaced them first! I trimmed down the seam allowance on the princess seams as much as I could get away with, but a better idea might have been to underline everything instead. Hindsight is 20/20, but I really think I’m going to like and wear this dress, and I do consider that a success – even if it might not have come out as awesomely as I was picturing.

I did have some pretty high hopes for this one – I might have been expecting too much! It’s funny to see a similar sort of feeling discussed by Tasia quite recently – that even if, as a non-sewer I talked to recently put it, we can make things any way and exactly how we want it, not every project is an absolute success. Maybe I didn’t choose the optimal pattern for the fabric or vice versa, maybe I didn’t choose the best combination of fabrics, and maybe I didn’t choose the ideal construction methods at every point. I do feel some pressure to absolutely love everything I make (though I’m not sure to what degree that pressure is external or internal, or some combination of the two). I think I will try to simply accept this as a piece in my wardrobe, and that it doesn’t have to be “the perfect garment” all on its own. If it’s a garment that fits, and I’m happy to wear, that’s a lot just by itself.

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