Not too long after I started sewing my own clothes, I started dreaming about having a collection of go-to patterns that I loved making and wearing. A big part of this dream was finding the perfect dress pattern, a dress that would make me want to wear dresses everyday.
Somehow over the years that dream morphed into a need to collect all the dress patterns since I started believing that I must make all the dresses in order to find the one perfect dress pattern. This past week I had an epiphany that should help me bring a stop to this madness!
Ever since I finished my daughter’s Halloween costume, I’ve been working on a dress from the Boundless Style book. If you haven’t heard of this book before, it’s written by Kristin Boos of Victory Patterns, and aside from the basic sewing information found in most pattern books, it offers five different bodice styles that are interchangeable with five different sleeve styles and five different skirt styles, plus variations on each. The choose-your-adventure nature of this book really appealed to me and my quest for the perfect dress pattern. I used the online Boundless Style lookbook app, all of the pretty pictures in the book, and a perusal of my stash to ultimately decide on a combination of the Georgia bodice, the Farrah sleeve, and the Meryl skirt.
I’d hoped to have the dress finished by mid-November, in time to wear to a brunch with some sewing friends, but, as usual of late, my sewing was creeping along at a snail’s pace. I was loving everything about the dress though. The fabrics I’d chosen. The smooth way the neckline came together without gaping. The contrast topstitching on the yoke that I’d actually gotten perfect on the first try. Even the pleats at the hem of the sleeves that I was worried would be too much for me (but that I’d chosen because I thought this particular sleeve pattern best matched the fabric I wanted to use).
Finally, when I got to the point that I only had the zipper and the hem left, I tried on the entire dress for the first time. I was underwhelmed. The dress itself looked great. Exactly like it did in the book. But, it wasn’t working for me. Even with a belt. I wasn’t sure what was wrong.
I went to get my husband’s opinion, and without thinking about what I was saying, the first thing I asked him was, “Is this a dress that I would wear?” And, that’s when I had the epiphany. For the past several years, I’ve been collecting sewing patterns with the hope that one of them will finally speak to me and tell me what kind of dresses I should be wearing. I’d long since forgotten to use all of the experience I’d already gained about what I like to wear from years of trying on clothes in dressing rooms. I don’t really shop for clothes anymore, which means I no longer try on a bit of this and a bit of that to see what I like on me. Instead, I buy a pattern and make a muslin (or jump right into the the fabric after altering the flat pattern), and then hope that I like the finished product.
I ran to my closet and looked through all of the ready-to-wear dresses I’d bought for one reason or another during my pre-sewing years. Nearly every single one of them had some sort of definition at the empire waistline that continued down to the natural waistline. My zipper-less, hem-less dress only had definition at the natural waist. I mocked up what it would look like if I added a band above the natural waist in the same fabric as the yoke and neckline, and my new dress went from ho-hum to hooray! (For me that is. All the rest of you seem to pull off natural-waist dresses with such grace and beauty.)
The dress is now finished, and I’m hoping to get photos of it this weekend. Keep your eye out for a finished-garment post next week! But, since I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit all of my epiphany into that post and since I definitely didn’t want to forget it, I figured it was worth its own post.
So, there you go. Even after all of these years of sewing, I’ve still only barely scratched the surface in my learning. Not only of how to sew, but also of how to sew what I really like to wear. I still don’t have that one perfect dress pattern, but I now know a bit more about what to look for when I’m picking out a pattern for my next dress! (And, since all of the dresses in Boundless Style focus on the natural waist – so that the bodices can easily interchange with the skirts – I now know how to modify them from the start so that they will better work for me.)