When I don me-made modern wear, I really prefer it to be every bit as interesting with the details and design as the vintage pieces I normally choose. Even though my vintage outfits can be styled in a very appealingly modern way, I do find that my current designs do come in handy within professional spheres such as University conferences and research visits, for nights out with hubby at the ‘hip’ spots in town, or just to stay in touch with the sewing world of today. This post is presenting what might be one of my favorite pieces of modern sewing – a Melissa Watson wrap-on dress tweaked with my own custom-drafted sleeves added, contrast hemline fronts, and a cool, contrast, full body lining.
This dress is for the outgoing personality in me, the side that is not at all afraid to stand out. It is bright enough to stop traffic and classy yet smoldering all in one awesome, easy-on dress. I do not really mind the bit of leg flash this dress displays, even though it was unexpected coming into the pattern! Now, I know wrap dresses are generally asymmetric by nature – and I do positively love asymmetric styles – but this is even more so due to the one curved and one angled front arching hemline. Combining those gradients with the geometric print and the 90-degree points on my sleeves and I am in a seamstresses’ mathematical, creative heaven! I hope that by pairing it with some black boots and a cardigan, I can enjoy this dress for more than one season.
FABRIC: a polyester peach-skin print lined in a poly-cotton broadcloth
PATTERN: McCall’s #7246, a Melissa Watson design from 2015
NOTIONS: just some thread and a little interfacing
TIME TO COMPLETE: The dress was made in about 10 hours and was finished on May 2, 2019
TOTAL COST: The geometric poly has been in my stash for about 7 years now. It was bought from Fashion Fabrics Club along with a bunch of other fabrics when I started to get back into sewing after my son was born in 2012. I had 3 yards of this, bought for about $7 a yard, I believe. The broadcloth was a few dollars cheaper a yard, so my total cost was about $35, spread out over many years!
For being a general quick-sew and de-stashing project, this turned out fantastic. I kind of suddenly jumped into this project idea at the last minute before a Kentucky Derby Day watch party and wasn’t sure what to expect of the finished look. That day, I received so many compliments and curious questions as to where I got my dress. Sadly, too many ladies only bemoaned the fact they don’t sew or – for the funnier reaction – they were surprised my dress wasn’t actually a vintage design! Using this Melissa Watson pattern has been on my “must-sew” projects backburner since it came out, and I am so glad the perfect fabric combo for it finally struck me.
Melissa Watson is the daughter of the renowned fit expert Pati Palmer, so of course there are very thorough and exhaustive fitting guides in with the instructions to the pattern. This is all well and good, and a nice change versus the normal McCall’s issues. However, all clumped together on one or two sheets and printed busily over every pattern piece seemed just overwhelming and confusing for me (and not to brag, but I feel like I know more about fitting adjustments than any average home sewer). I think all the info just made it hard to figure out what actually needed to be done for a good fitting finished dress, and just made the ‘work’ of it seem harder than it really is to do. How does a beginner really know exactly which fitting tweak to enact with all the info laid out on how to do them? ‘Reading’ the signs of a bad fit is a difficult and not instantly acquired talent that no ‘quick cheat sheet’ can teach. As the dress turned out for me, I wish it had slightly better reach room in the back and lower half of the armscye (sleeve). I was literally too exhausted by the complications added to the generally simple design to remember to check that spot before cutting. So – the bad drawback from a great pattern is actually too much good information. Trying too hard does not necessarily make anything better.
That off my chest, I liked (and kept) the slight blousiness of the tucked darts to the waist of the bodice, but I couldn’t just make your normal, classic plain-Jane sleeves here. There were too many angles going on and not enough playing with them! Specialty sleeves are so unrated. With all the over-information on fitting in the pattern itself, I would like to say that sleeves – in my opinion – are an excellent place to start with tweaking, experimenting, and understanding patterns. They elevate a garment to the next level when they are outside the norm, and drafting unusual sleeves is such a relatively simple, low-risk, and easy-to-understand tweak.
I merely started by finding an inspiration picture on Instagram together with a simple deconstruction layout. I thought backwards from there to fill in the blanks of how to do that myself. You have to think in 3D, and reverse engineer that into a flat lay or simply start from the basic paper pattern and slash and spread where you will be adding new folds and fabric depth. I’m equating my new drafts to being a version of an upside-down, folded petal-style sleeves. They call them “envelope sleeves”. I personally love the 90 degree angles it creates and the lovely sleeve cap it forms. It made for a very thick hem that needed lots of clipping and hand stitching to look nice and turn out smoothly.
Talk about having things turn out smoothly, I just freaking love full body lining, especially when the inside is made visible by the design! The pattern does not call for lining, but mullet or hi-low hems (like on this past make of mine) make the underside of the fabric particularly visible, even more so when it is a wrap dress like the one here. Why not go for the fully fashionable play with the opportunity?! Not only does lining the underside in a contrast look so pretty and make the garment pop, but the added wrap dress factor is just screaming for the opportunity to make the entire insides so very nice. No way was I going to make a tiny hem all the continuous way around the wrap’s edges, anyway…enclosing it and all the raw seams inside the lining puts my mind at ease knowing I can beautifully cover-up any messiness.
Sure, it was like making two dresses, after all. Yet, there is nothing equal to a personal happiness that comes from lovely insides meant for only you to see as you get dressed in your handmade clothes. I, however, did have further ulterior motives for the full body lining. I hate the feeling of polyester on my skin and the pretty print was far too lightweight and unsubstantial on its own to be a dress. So – all these many reasons, it absolutely needed lining here. I chose a solid cool mint green/aqua underneath to tame down the bright colors on the dress’ outside.
Beside the new sleeves and the added lining, the front hem is something subtle I changed, too, as mentioned at the posts beginning. The right side has the angled hem while the left slides under along the 115 degree point with its curved hem. It is subtle, which I wanted, but it adds to the whole play on the geometrics here and makes this so much more of an individual creation for me. I sort of feel a silly guilt when I go line-for-line or fabric-imitation copy of a pattern with no personal changes. Look – I even tie the ties around my waist like a belt to end in a cute little bow in front rather than a traditional wrap dress back knot or bow with streamers. Oh my goodness, do I dare tell you I used my fabric pens to color in the top stitching along the edges so it blended in with print and becomes invisible?! Yes, I do love to spare no detail to satisfy the perfectionist in me sometimes.
A big reason for my sewing is of course the creative outlet of it but also the opportunity to personalize my wardrobe and do that in better quality than can be found in most RTW. Making sure to think about what is really coming from my creativity versus just going with what I see isn’t always easy but makes me own what I sew and feel more like me in the handmade wardrobe I wear. That is the key to home sewing patterns and patterns available for the public to buy – they are tools that can be built upon to make your wildest clothing dreams come true. This dress pattern might not have been the best tool – it was rather confusing in an unexpected way – but it helped me make a modern dress that even my vintage inspired heart loves!