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.