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An Aurora in Voile: The Muslin

November 19, 2013

Sew Well - An Aurora in Voile Muslin

Okay, I’m going to brave posting pictures of my muslin since I’m curious about your input.  Here is Simplicity 2145 straight out of the envelope in a size 10, although I left most of the length in the front pleats unsewn.  I would typically cut a size 8, but my body has changed a lot these past few months from the pregnancy.  Now, can we pause for a second right here?  If you’ve been following along for awhile, you’ve probably realized that I don’t have any other kids – this pregnancy is my first.  While I’m excited for why my body is changing, I’m also having a tough time watching all of my measurements creep up.  My bust and my waist were the first to go, and now my hips are also gaining in circumference.  It’s just that I’ve had the same measurements for so long, and now I look down and I don’t recognize anything!  Then I see a little heel or elbow or something push out from my belly, and I really start to wonder what kind of alien has taken over!  No, really, the whole thing is pretty magical, but this past week of working in a woven fabric has really brought to my attention just how much my body has changed.  And, I’ll admit there’s been a small amount of panic over whether I’ll ever see my old body again.  I’m sure it’s okay if I don’t; it’ll just take time to get used to the new me.

Now, before I begin to express my own opinions about the fit of this muslin, I wanted to first remind you of the fabric the real dress will be made in.  It’s a soft and supple cross-dyed cotton voile, so it’s much more forgiving than the stiff muslin I’ve used for this toile.  I took another photo of the fabric this week that shows off the cross dye on the corner where last week‘s untreated swatch was cut.  I hadn’t noticed how cool it looked with the purple threads come off one side and the emerald off the other until I was laying the fabric out to give it a good press.

Sew Well - An Aurora in Voile

Now on to the fit of the muslin.  Let me start by reminding you I am no expert in fitting.  If I were, I’d probably be cutting my fashion fabric right now instead of writing this post!  No, I’m just beginning to learn how to assess different issues, and I imagine I’ll still be learning years from now as well!  That’s why I’m turning to you.  If you see things I don’t see, or disagree with things I do see, please speak up!  I’d love to hear your opinion.

My initial reaction was that this muslin was not so bad.  There’s enough fabric in the skirt portion to expand around my belly, and overall everything seemed pretty decent.  The most obvious fitting issues to me were the small amount of gaping at the neckline and the drag lines pulling from the empire waistline to the side seams.

Sew Well - An Aurora in Voile Muslin

But, before starting to mess with any of those issues, I tried to channel all the little lessons I learned in Lynda Maynard’s Sew the Perfect Fit Craftsy class.  First up:  the shoulder seams.  And, would you believe it – the front shoulder seams seemed to be pulling a bit forward at the neckline.  In the photo below, the top of my shoulder (as my husband and I saw it!) is marked in blue.  You can see that while the shoulder seam meets the blue line pretty closely at the sleeve, there’s at least a centimeter difference at the neckline.  Lopping the difference off the back bodice seems to do the trick to bring the shoulder seam up to where it should be.  Then, without making any changes to the front, the front of the neckline is tightened up since it is pulled that centimeter or so tauter when sewn to the new back.

Sew Well - An Aurora in Voile Muslin

That said, I’ve never had this large of a bust before.  Is the shadow running from the shoulder to the side of my bust in the first and third photos in this post indicative of needing more adjustments in that area?  I was just planning on adding a little extra to the side seams from the bottom of the armhole down to my hips (which I’ll discuss more below), but I figured I’d at least throw out the possibility of potentially needing to do more bodice adjustments just to see what you all thought.  Though I remembered to add the grain line to the bodice pieces (and both the grain and cross grain lines to the dress pieces), I forgot to add the horizontal cross-grain lines to both the front and the back bodice pieces, which means I can’t follow Lynda’s method of determining fit through this region.  Perhaps forgetting those cross grain lines this time means I’ll always remember them in the future!

Next up:  the pleats at the top of the front dress portion.  Though I was hoping to keep at least the top of the pleats so that I could quickly sew down their entire intended length when I want to turn this dress back into the non-maternity dress it was meant to be, I don’t think even the tiniest hint of the pleats work for my belly.  There’s just too much pulling going on from the top of each of the pleats to the side seams.  My current plan is just to gather the dress to the waist instead to help more evenly distribute the fabric.

Sew Well - An Aurora in Voile Muslin

And, though the dress zipped up just fine, I plan to sew the side seams with a smaller seam allowance from the bottom of the sleeve to the hip since I think a bit more ease through that area will help things out a bit.  Going down to a 3/8″ seam allowance will give me 1″ extra all around.  I hope that’s enough, though now that I think about it, a safer bet might be to actually widen the dress through that region to give me plenty of fabric in case I end up liking even more ease.  What do you think – will 1″ extra be enough?

I think the back looks pretty good.  All the marked grain and cross-grain lines seem straight (though, just as with the front, I forgot the cross grain lines on the back bodice).  I also think the extra ease I’m already planning on adding through the midsection of the dress will help erase any snugness in that region of the back as well.

Sew Well - An Aurora in Voile Muslin

Now, one final decision:  the sleeves.  The long sleeve pattern pieces come with these tuck-pleat details right near their hem.  I can’t decide whether I like them or not.  They’re kind of fun, but they’re also kind of weird – at least in the muslin.  And, I’m having trouble imagining how it’ll look in the voile.  I could just pin or baste them into the voile to check before stitching them up, but if I don’t like them, I’ll probably want to narrow the sleeves the amount they’re narrowed by the tuck in the pattern, which means some extra work down the road in the voile.  What do you think?  Are the tuck-pleat things a plus?

Sew Well - An Aurora in Voile Muslin

Now one last photo from the side to show off my ginormous belly.  I can’t believe it has to get even bigger than it is now before the baby is due!

Sew Well - An Aurora in Voile Muslin

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2013 1:34 am

    More ease needed – especially in the front. You’re going to get even bigger out front, not so much in the back. Just sayin’. Been there and you need room for those feet and elbows!

  2. Judi permalink
    November 19, 2013 1:42 am

    Amy, I think that dress looks very nice and I didn’t notice the fitting issues until you pointed them out. Others will be able to help you more. Yes I do think you would be better off widening the dress just a little in that area, that way you can always take it in more if you want to, but just a narrower seam might not be quite enough. Also, if you widen it just a little you would be able to keep the pleats if you want them…they do look nice. The tuck in the sleeves is cute.

  3. November 19, 2013 1:53 am

    i think it’s a great start! i would say that the drag lines from the shoulder mean you need a bit more room in the bodice. i’d also narrow the sleeves overall as i think they drown you a bit (altho it may be less noticeable in a drapier fashion fabric). i like the pleats but i don’t think it will fit you for long. if your fashion fabric is precious to you would you consider making a knit version for now and saving the voile for after you have had the baby? as i suspect you might have quite a lot of alterations to make in the bust area as well as the tummy if you make it now, which may be quite difficult!

  4. Shams permalink
    November 19, 2013 2:08 am

    Amy, you are looking great! I can’t remember your due date, but I agree with sewlittletime. If this fabric is special, you might want to use another for the maternity dress – particularly a knit, which will be more forgiving in your last months. The back looks snug to me, already, and your boobs will be getting much bigger,especially when your milk comes in. It’s temporary, of course.

    Some women regain their pre-pregnancy shape – or mostly so. You may well be one of those women. Look at Kate Middleton. ;) The fact that you had healthy habits before pregnancy (eating well and exercising) is a big factor.

  5. November 19, 2013 3:09 am

    Hi Amy,
    I clicked over looking for some insight into the shoulder seam thing since I get that too! It has definitely got worse since being pregnant then breastfeeding. I *think* in my case it is to do with a combination of narrow back, forward shoulders and full bust – but I would love to know for sure.

    To fix it I lay my front and back pieces together at the shoulder seam then trace a bit extra onto the front and remove it from the back (remember to add seam allowance back on!). For me this has the added bonus of lowering the bust point a bit which I need these days :(. To alter the sleeve I slice off the top, slide it forward by the required amount and redraw the curve, but there are a few different ways to do this alteration so you might need to experiment.

    You look great. It is hard to feel so out of control over your body though. I got huge early on, but I found at the end I seemed to level off so don’t worry too much!
    All the best
    Josie

  6. November 19, 2013 3:12 am

    Amy, You look fabulous The muslin is looking good, but I’m not sure when the baby is due. You are going to get bigger and I’m afraid the dress won’t fit by the time you finish it. I know it’s hard to believe but it’s true! I would replace the pleats with gathers and add some room to the back of the dress and the skirt.
    I love seeing your pictures and you WILL get your pre-pregnancy body back!

  7. November 19, 2013 5:32 am

    You look great, and this style is oh so cute on you! I do wonder if you could sort of split the difference between knit and woven and use a ponte or maybe even a stretch woven. I’m not nearly as experienced with fit alterations as you are, but I’m wondering how tedious it will be post-pregnancy to alter this dress– I’d worry a little that you might end up with the neckline gaping or something when you get closer to your pre-pregnancy size. But, if you’re enjoying the process, you should keep going with it!

  8. November 19, 2013 5:38 am

    You look gorgeous and I can totally remember the feelings you describe during pregnancy! You are fortunate to have height. Being short (and short waisted to boot), I was all belly! Making a muslin for a maternity dress seems rather like trying to shoot a moving target. I admire the effort, but it seems like perhaps the end result might be a dress you can wear only once or twice before things change again.

  9. seweverythingblog permalink
    November 19, 2013 7:37 am

    You look beautiful in the muslin! I would say that if you love the shaded voile so much use it right now!
    I think that the skirt should be made wide enough that the pleats lie flat and vertical — as much as possible :). That way you have room to grow.
    It would be a great idea to make the top a little bigger, too by doing a full bust adjustment or any other method to accommodate your growing – ahem – boobs. To control the gaping at the front, you can ease stitch on the bias neckline,, or use stay tape — or even clear elastic to keep it closer to the body.
    Good wishes to you as you go through your first pregnancy, the most thrilling time of your life!

  10. November 19, 2013 9:09 am

    You look fabulous in your new pregnancy body. Things are still changing and it’s hard to believe you could grow any more but you will. If you. I agree with sewlittletime, you may want to make it in a knit then save the fabric and make it post baby. You will still want new things to wear as your body adjusts back to its new shape.

  11. November 19, 2013 9:21 am

    first of all–hon, you look amazing. i totally remember buying my first round of maternity clothes, not believing i would ever actually fill them out, only to barely be able to squeeze into them later! i second all the knits suggestions. things get so uncomfortable that anything without stretch feels like a torture device! i think you would want to add to the top of the front skirt panel and probably stick to gathers. you’ll get your pre-baby body back, it just won’t happen overnight. as shocking as the expanding was, even more shocking was how unrecognizable my body was the first few weeks after birth. nobody ever warned me about that!

  12. November 19, 2013 9:50 am

    KNITS. Although the muslin does look fabulous on you. And, much as it sucks to hear, your body is never going to be exactly the same. Good, yes; lovely, yes; the same, no. You’ll still look fantastic, but you are very likely to be differently shaped. I *weigh* what I did in high school, but with a few exceptions, I can’t wear anything from back then. My bust is two cup sizes bigger than it was before I had kids, and there is some permanent extra skin on my belly from having stretched out to the size of a party-sized watermelon. Twice (I had big babies). On the plus side, those two things can make your waist look itty-bitty:). You’ll still be in great shape, and you’re going to be just as pretty, though. So, lucky you! Oh, and I vote boy :)

  13. November 19, 2013 10:22 am

    Things look pretty good. Have you thought about making the pleats smaller and moving them closer to the center (where the bump is :)) I would also fold the pleats toward the side seams, I think they might look better. One way to keep the neckline from gaping is to take a tiny pleat in the pattern before cutting out the fabric. If you plan another pregnancy, I would go forward with the fabric. As they say, life is short, so enjoy yourself along the way. Good luck with the project.

  14. SKP permalink
    November 19, 2013 2:41 pm

    I agree with the people who said to consider when you’ll be wearing the dress. It might be a lot of work, or impossible, to make something that will fit well now AND for the rest of your pregnancy AND after you have the baby. On the bright side, while your shape is changing unpredictably, you’ll fit into it at least some of the time, and it will feel good to have a special dress in a fabric you love.

    Alterations-wise, I vote for taking out the tuck-pleat detail. Also in favor of more ease in the back and maybe at the bust too.

  15. November 19, 2013 4:04 pm

    I agree. This is a great style and the dress should give your some more growing room. This dress may end up being your ‘go-to’ dress for the next 4 months and that’s a good thing.
    The sleeve detailing will give this dress a bit more softness during this wonderful period in your life.

  16. November 19, 2013 7:53 pm

    If your heart is in the woven fabric then think about adding breathe out space to your back and maybe deepen the pleats at the front. Post delivery and you can stitch them down. Or keep it for baby 2, or give to someone else if you are “never doing that again!”
    All my babies were summer births, during the hottest summers on record here in Oz. I found woven fabrics so much cooler than knits. I made nearly all my maternity clothes too, and have handed them on as we have just the right number for us.

  17. Pam permalink
    November 19, 2013 9:19 pm

    Once I was done being pregnant I wanted NOTHING to do w my maternity clothes. And the other thing that I didn’t realize the first time around…is that dresses are incredibly hard to nurse babies with. I was so over the struggle that non-nursing dresses gave me that when I had lost my baby weight I had no difficulty ditching them…even though I’d lost the weight, my body was shaped differently (where I’d barely been an A cup, I’m permanently a DD now…everything’s just changed a bit. Mostly better really..) But the main thing to know is that right after you give birth you will have nothing to wear. Your maternity clothing will be huge and your body won’t fit into the pre-preg stuff either. So go with knits…they will allow your body to go through dramatic (& often oddly unpredictable) changes that these next 6 months will bring and you can do it comfortably and with grace. But seriously, note trying to access the nursing area in everything you own right now…probably you will have too much skin showing either on top or underneath. It’s just good to notice ahead of time because the baby is enough to have people marveling at…
    Save that pretty fabric for your new and improved bod!

  18. November 20, 2013 9:34 am

    I wish I was this good at making a muslin! I think with all that you are putting into it, you will have a perfect dress when all is done. :-)

  19. November 20, 2013 10:49 am

    I think you are spot on with your fitting issues, but I agree with Sarah, the dress probably won’t fit by the time you finish it up. The boobs and stomach just grow and grow but the good news you will get your body back.

    I don’t care for the tucks and would probably leave them off. Good luck with all the fitting issues and remember room to grow. You could always adjust this dress after pregnancy to fit you again.

  20. November 20, 2013 12:06 pm

    Honestly, I love your maternity version of this dress a LOT better than the version I made for myself. :)

  21. anothersewingscientist permalink
    November 21, 2013 6:58 am

    Another voice of experience here: you will get bigger in the last few weeks that you will believe, you’ll probably be down to 2 or 3 things that fit and they’ll be on constant rotation, and anything that isn’t knit is going to be VERY uncomfortable to wear. And then once the baby comes, you’ll never want to see them again! ;)

    I also second the advice about dresses: I don’t think I wore a dress after either of my babies, until I went back to work after 1 year. You just can’t nurse, and while they’re really little, you’ll be feeding them many times a day, and need separates to deal with that easily. A few tunics and loose tops plus some knit skirts or trousers will go a long way during postpartum!

    Body image and baby making is a tricky subject. I don’t know why we think we need to “get our body back”. (No wait; I do know. It’s because the fashion / celebrity industry tried to make us believe that we all should all look like teenagers so they can make $$$ off us!) Most people don’t go back to exactly the same shape, but you can lose the extra fat that you needed during pregnancy and nursing with a bit of extra effort. I’ve gone back to my pre-babies weight, but I found that the relaxin has permanently changed the shape of my frame. My hip joints never went back in tightly, so my hip measurement is bigger. Keep that in mind if you plan to alter any bottoms you’ve made.

    OK, so this may be a bit rambling because I’m rushing out to a lab meeting, but I just wanted to chime in with a bit of hindsight. Looking good!

  22. Anna permalink
    November 21, 2013 9:33 am

    I agree with the others who have noted that if you intend to breastfeed, this dress will be more useful in a knit. If you make it in a woven, you won’t be able to nurse in it. I had several knit dresses like this one, and I loved them! Also, concerning your pre-baby body: my OB told me that its not unusual for nursing mothers to hold on to 10 lbs or so until their baby is mostly weaned, and I found that true in my case both times. So don’t despair if you’re not back to pre-baby size in 3 months.

    If you intend to nurse and you’re still in love with the voile, you can never have too many button ups. They’re very practical for breastfeeding, and also help to camouflage the post-baby belly as it shrinks.

    Best wishes with the rest of your pregnancy! Have you thought about hiring a doula? (DONA certifies them – do a quick google and you’ll find a list.) I’d never heard of one until my best friend recommended them. It was some of the best money my husband and I spent. He was a lot less nervous to coach me through contractions since he had someone coaching him. We both forgot most of what we learned in our childbirth classes about coping strategies once labor actually started.

    Finally, sew yourself a birthing skirt! I had one and was able to avoid laboring in a hospital gown, which was awesome.

  23. November 21, 2013 10:29 pm

    I know very little about adjusting a garment to fit, but I want to add my 2 cents and say
    I think the tucks in the sleeve look a bit goofy. I’d look for another finish for the cuff area or just do a couple full pintucks.

    I agree with the others who are advising you to save the voile for another project!

  24. Margaret Winters permalink
    November 22, 2013 10:20 pm

    Hi Amy,
    You look wonderful — but you will get bigger, as you know. If you want to, use the voile for your dress, but make it a bit bigger around to allow for extra growth. When I was pregnant, I made one dress with some fabric I loved, and it made me feel good to wear this dress, so I would encourage you to go ahead with it. Chances are that you’ll want another baby, and then you’ll have a nice dress already! As far as the sleeves, I would make them 3/4 length, just simple. You want all the attention drawn towards your pretty face.
    And enjoy these days — they truly are magical!

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