Monday, January 2, 2017

A Perfect Wrap* Dress & a Not So Perfect Photo Shoot (Simplicity 1653 review)

Do you hate taking garment photos as much as I do? It took me 30 minutes to get this underexposed pixilated shot, all the while dreading the awkwardness of having to explain to our new neighbors why I was preening and fake laughing in a shared hallway.

Yesterday, I finished a happy dress. A dress that hugs, but doesn't squeeze. A dress that drapes but doesn't gape.

A dress that makes you want to touch your hair for no actual reason.

Today I tried to photograph it, and my happiness turned to ANGRY TEARS.

Our new apartment faces an alley. So even squeezing myself against the window on my tip-toes at the brightest part of the day, I can't get enough natural light to take a proper indoor picture. So I covered my flash with some white interfacing to soften it, with mediocre results.

Also, my old Canon Rebel XSI hates me and refuses to autofocus in self-timer mode.

Also, I have covered every wall of our apartment with bright paint, cartoons, and sci-fi art, leaving no neutral backdrops to be found.

I extended the self-fabric belt around the back for more waist-hugging points (as recommended by the Slapdash Sewist in her review).

But I digress. You're here to make yourself an amazing happy dress, not to pity my photographic incompetence.

The Inspiration

Diane von Furstenberg-style wrap dresses—a cornerstone of my Personal Style Uniform #1: "The Dress That Always Fits."

Amy Adams rocks a green DVF wrap in American Hustle.

The details:

Pattern: Simplicity 1653 Amazing Fit mock wrap dress, picked up for free at a Brooklyn Sewing Club pattern swap.

I stand in awe of this woman's ability to stand in such shoes. I can barely handle kitten heels for a few hours.

Fabric: $6/yard ITY jersey from Spandex House (where else?)

Notions: foldover elastic (to bind the neckline and crossover for a snug, no-gape effect), 1/4" Steam-A-Seam Lite (to hem the sleeves and bottom).

Sizing: This is one of those heavenly patterns with multiple cup sizes in the package. I made the size 12 with a D cup bodice and the "Slim" skirt based on the stretchiness of the fabric, my love of negative ease and my hatred of gaping loose necklines. (By my actual body measurements, I would have made the 16. Also, I may not be actually "Slim" but I have narrow hips in relation to my frame).


I bound the neckline with tightly stretched foldover elastic (FOE) instead of just folding over and stitching, which would have been a sure recipe for gape disaster.

100% gape-free neckline. You can do this.

I'm not sure FOE is the best elastic for this, but it's what I had lying around. I serged and stretched it, then folded it over and topstitched with a zig-zag. Here's the underside—kind of hard to see, as the FOE is gray.

Even my FOE wasn't quite snug enough at the back neck—I ended up making a giant (4") dart in the center back to make it lie flat. (Husband helped me pin out the bubble, since I couldn't reach).

I also found the order of construction in the pattern baffling. So I came up with my own:

Good thing I wrote this down, since I started this dress in May... and didn't get back to it until December

I extended the self-fabric waist belt around the back for extra waist-hugging points as recommended by the Slapdash Sewist in her review.

Construction Notes

  • I used my sewing machine to baste, top-stitch and sew darts, and my serger to sew the final seams.
  • I basted the sides and back to check fit as instructed (it is an "Amazing Fit" pattern, after all). It felt like Too Much Work at the time but I'm glad I did—it was just a smidge tight, so I went with 5/8" side seams instead of the 1" built in.

Wear for...


Why yes, this is a perfect hallway in which to have a pretend phone conversation.

...Date Night...

My knitting is NOT going to fit in this vintage purse.

...And occasions on which you randomly jump up and down in hopes of getting a funny photo...

I do not advise doing this in heels. Luckily my ankles are still intact.

In sum: make this dress for yourself!

If wrap necklines are your thing, please go make yourselves this perfect knit happy dress right now. It has a great flexible fit system and fun details: raglan sleeves! a self-fabric belt! cool waist pleating!

Plus it's as adjustable as a wrap—minus the risk of your skirt blowing open in the middle of a crowded city crosswalk (ask me how I know).

Bonus photo: Z helps me with some pinning!

*Mock wrap, actually.


  1. So nice to hear from you again. I have this pattern on the table (floor really- ha ha). I've read lots of good reviews so it may have to be next. I love the colours in yours - I normally hate colours with black and white but I always get attracted to the greens with it.

    1. Ha, I think it was on my floor too. Would love to see your version!

  2. Love the dress and thanks for the tip about the fold over elastic! Great job!

    1. So glad to hear! I'm not sure that FOE is the BEST for necklines, but I find it so easy and stable to work with... a lot of people use clear elastic instead but I find it stretches or twists and I can't keep it in place.

  3. Thanks for the tip with the FOE, I'm gonna use that on my next wrap dress. I love them so hard, I have bunches...

    1. They are the BEST. I have sometimes left the FOE exposed (i.e. wrapped it over the neckline) for a contrast/piping effect but it seems to work just as well as hidding binding...

  4. Your dress is beautiful! And I enjoyed seeing you using your sewing expertise to solve potential problems!

    1. I am shocked to hear it called expertise, but I guess I have been sewing (if only sporadically) since 1998 so I think it's all finally clicking. Thank you!

  5. Great dress! I struggle in kitten heels too, LOL!

    1. Yeah, I pretty much wear flats always but enjoy putting on heels for photos. It's all LIES.

  6. Oh hey!!! I have this pattern! And now I have your excellent and thorough notes. AWESOME! This is super super flattering on you! And winter photos are the WORST, I feel you.

  7. This is gorgeous! And it looks perfect for you.

    I feel your pain on the indoor photos. Our house has no good light anywhere and in winter it's either bathroom mirror selfies or timer shots in front of my closet door, and I'm slowly realizing my iPhone actually takes better photos indoors than my "good" camera. 😂

    I often use clear 1/4" elastic for reinforcing turned edges on knits---lightweight and low bulk but great recovery. The FOE looks great though!

  8. We have a plain wall in one room so that my spouse does not lose his mind.

    I have come to the conclusion that my 'me made photography' is just going to look like my home: cluttered and badly lit photos of novelty print clothing. It's who I am.

    Your hallway is just lovely, but your dress is lovelier.

  9. So exited to see you sewing and posting again! I adore your style! That green is quite pretty and I think I will keep and eye out for that pattern, I have Designer Stitch's Pippa Wrap Dress for wovens cut out right now. I have been procrastinating because I need to iron the cut out fabric pieces and true a few due to some shiftiness (also possibly my toddler walking on it while I was cutting them out) and I just grabbed Style 2983 uncut from my favorite thrift store for a quarter, it says to use knits and is a wrap dress but I'm not sure yet if it is a faux wrap or actual wrap dress-it has fish eye darts too! I've never attempted those but I am going to try :) Anyways, sorry for the rambling-love your dress! And those lovely happy bright walls :)


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