Whew, it took two years for me to make that decision, but my last go at alterations got me so upset. It is to the point where I doubt I could ever enjoy wearing this dress even if I got the fit perfectly. So, I have taken the entire bodice apart, saving the faced neckline, and will use it to cut out a bodice from another pattern. Here are the gory details:
Pattern: Colette Patterns Pastille* from the Colette Sewing Handbook (2011)
Pattern Description: Fitted sheath dress with sweetheart neckline and unique cap sleeves.
Pattern Sizing: I cut out a size 6 above the waist and a size 10 and 8 below.
Were the instructions easy to follow? Yes. The Colette patterns' instructions take you through each step and have helpful illustrations.
crisp facing edges
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I loved the shape of the neckline and how well the facings for both the neck and sleeves gave a professional finish to the dress and hid the raw workings. Unfortunately, I had other problems with the dress. The back was both too long and wide resulting in excessive fabric in the upper back. The skirt was too wide right below the widest part of my body, basically saddle-bag height. Not good.
Fabric Used: 2 1/4 yards black and white patterned spring suiting (64% polyester, 34% rayon, and 2% spandex) from Jo-Ann for $11.23 (at $4.49 per yard, orig. $5.99), 20" black regular zipper, and Pellon Sheer-Knit fusible interfacing (my new favorite notion!).
Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made: Unfortunately, this pattern unaltered did not work for my body at all. The back had far too much fabric in the upper back. After becoming increasingly frustrated with trying to fit my dress in the fashion fabric version (I even had my sister pin fit me at the holidays to no avail) I finally made the muslin that I should have made months before! After taking my full body measurements, I had discovered that the back neck to waist measurement of a misses pattern is around 16" while mine is almost 1.5 inches shorter. Therefore, I had to take almost 2" out of the back piece (see below). I found that the back pattern piece was already longer than the front, so there was definitely too much fabric.
In the muslin, I was able to see that cutting the back pieces from the bottom or even altering the pattern at the shorten/lengthen line was never going to correct the back length. The extra length was not along the bodice side seam but in the upper back and sleeve area. When you placed the shoulder seams together, the underarm curve of the back piece was far below the front curve. After pinning up 2 inches in the area above the side seams and the start of the cap sleeve I had a corrected back which even placed the neckline lower (see above) and where it properly should lay on the body.
I used a design ruler to redraw the underarm curve. The bodice seam angled down at the sides and then back up to the middle in the back. I sewed in the darts and used a ruler to straighten the bodice seam line so that it would match the skirt. The red lines in the second photo above show where the pattern piece will be altered.
The skirt portion of the dress fit very well at the waist and over the rear, however, the curve below that was too extreme for my body, strangely reminiscent of the now popular By Hand London's Elisalex dress. However, that is not the look I had in mind. So, on the skirt I kept the waist at size 10 but had to shave off the hip curve which brought them to a size 8. Cutting out a hip size smaller than the waist size has never happened to me before since my hips are ten inches larger than my waist. It doesn't seem right.
Marking the precise pleats
However, after all of this, I decided that since I would probably not make this dress again I abandoned the muslin and decided to go ahead and make further alterations on the actual dress.
Therefore, the last alterations I subjected this fabric to were: taking the back in with two vertical tucks, essentially connecting the waist and shoulder darts and disguising them as princess seams. I cut an inch off of the back bodice length. In the front, I moved the waist darts closer to the center and used a high side bust dart to take up some more fabric. The final bodice change was an attempt to cut off the cap sleeves which were a bit awkward and didn't fit under my cardigans.
And the result? Project Fail!
Conclusion: I loved this fabric, the weight was perfect for a three-season dress, it took to pressing wonderfully (check out that crisp sleeve facing above) and the 2% spandex was very much appreciated as I could put the dress on without a zipper. So, I may not have a completed Pastille, but I'm also not giving up on making a dress out of its remains.
* Was meant to be item 4 of the 2011 Palette Challenge.