What do all of these dresses have in common?
They’re all variations of the same pattern, of course. With some slight alterations along the way.
I started with the free and wonderful Garden Party Dress from honigdesign. The first version I made without any changes (okay, I added some inches to the skirt and added pockets, but those don’t count, right?)
I’ve since given this version to a colleague; it fits her body and her style a lot better than mine. But no problem, I have several more of my own…
Soon after came a sleeveless version.
Other than omitting the sleeves, the major change here was to change from one large bust dart at the waist to two smaller darts at the waist and side. I did this by reading a bunch of dart manipulation tutorials, waiting a few weeks, and logic-ing it out based on memory.
Next came a failed version and a semi-failed version, neither of which was in any way the pattern’s fault. First, I tried to make a black-and-white version, but it failed on many levels – I cut the neck too low; the fabric was low-quality; the zipper stood weird at the neck (I’m still not sure why this was, because the other versions were fine. Combination of bad fabric and reshaped neckline, I guess?).
Even the cat was horrified.
Then I wanted to make a version of this wrap dress (Crepe by Colette Patterns):
And instead of paying for the pattern, I figured I could draft it myself based on the Garden Party Dress. Wrong! I did something wrong with the back darts and it was a mess. I tried a number of ways of fixing it, I even took the whole back out and replaced it with a shirred panel, but in the end I could only save it by cutting it down into a skirt. A skirt which I don’t even like that much.
Two wins and two fails, and here comes version five: I lengthened the bodice by two inches because the original pulled on my rib cage. I was getting tired of zippers, so I cut the back as a solid piece (adding a few inches) and shirred it. I changed the pleated skirt to gathers to match the shirring. The collar was a lazy way of not having to finish the neckline.
This is one of my favorite versions, although I can’t get over the feeling that adult clothes shouldn’t really feature shirring. Silly, I know. At some point I want to remake the neckline an inch or two lower, because sometimes it feels a bit chokey.
The next version (#6, if you’re keeping track) was a case of the fabric dictating the dress. I had bought a 500 forint ($2) remnant of a lovely gray heavy stretchy fabric, but it wasn’t enough for a full skirted dress. So I Frankensteined together the bodice of the Garden Party Dress with a pencil skirt pattern and voila, sheath dress:
I had a small problem with this version with the side bust dart not sitting well, but I chalked it up to the stretchy fabric and my not being careful enough to taper the point.
(Since this first one, this sheath dress pattern has evolved in several ways as well – some of which you can see in my Summer Dresses post.)
The final dress was this black and white version. It’s basically the same as the sheath dress, but the vertical darts have been removed by distributing the fabric into the lines between black and white, and the rest of the fullness is taken up by gathers at the front neckline.
Here’s a truly high quality rendition of how I absorbed the dart lines into the black-white line (the red shows the line I cut on).
And this was the version, 7 dresses in, when I finally realized that the bust darts are totally in the wrong place. What can I say, I’m a slow learner. It’s easy to show on the gray dress; I’m pointing to where the dart ends and where it should end. Yup, that’s a good 3″ – 4″ there. Ditto the side dart (where my thumb is) should be 1″ – 2″ lower.
So, lesson learned – be sure a pattern is really truly fitting perfectly before copying or altering it (seven times)! But really, it was interesting to look back and see how many different garments I could make from one free pattern. And these are all using just cotton and cotton blends! Just think how many more variations could I make with some shiny taffeta, large-scale plaid wool, a big flowery print …