When I first ordered a Craftsy kit for a dress, I really had no idea what I was getting into…
It was the Simplicity 1652 Dress Pattern – part of the Amazing Fit collection. There are included pattern pieces for different bust sizes, and the length of the bodice and skirt can be either shortened or lengthened. The dress can be made in several different options – short sleeves, sleeveless, a keyhole back, tabs or a chain at the waist. It also factors in a one inch seam allowance to leave lots of room to adjust the fit. It features gathered panels for the skirts, hidden slip pockets, princess seams, and facings.
While the kit came with navy blue chambray, I thought I would instead try to make it with quilting cotton. That was a total disaster. The fabric I’d purchased was faulty and I had to throw in the towel after investing 20+ hours of my time.
Perhaps I’m insane, but I decided to try it again – this time using an Art Gallery Fabrics print called Triangularity Topaz for the Urban Mod collection. (Is that not a fun name for a fabric or what?) I felt the AGF cotton might be better suited for garment making because it has a “finer” hand to it.
In order to do it right, I purchased a Craftsy class called Couture Dressmaking Techniques – which focuses on traditional methods of dress construction. The British instructor Alison Smith is an extremely talented seamstress. It was fascinating to watch her demonstrate ways to underline bodices, shape, create princess seams, and hand finish seams. I’ve watched each lesson several times, and need to re-watch because I’m running into a bit of a learning curve.
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I chose to tackle the version with sleeves, but omitted the waist details. The Triangularity Topaz fabric is so beautiful – the colors are totally up my alley. However, it was slightly see-through so I felt I should add a lining. Mine is Robert Kaufman cotton voile in white.
Basically, I made two separate dresses – one of the actual dress fabric, and another out of the lining fabric. I did cut out the facing pieces and fused interfacing to them – then sewed them to the lining pieces.
It was somewhat tricky, but not as difficult as I expected. I placed the facing pieces over the lining, traced the edge and then basted a line of stitches a 1/2 inch toward the top. Then I pinned the facing piece to the lining using the basting stitches as a guide – and sewed it on with a quarter inch seam allowance. This made the facing fit perfectly into the lining piece.
While there are countless tutorials for adding a lining to a sleeveless dress, ones applicable for dresses with sleeves were hard to come by. Luckily, I found this Sewaholic one on Pinterest. It was nerve wracking executing this part of the dress. Mine came out decently, but my neckline could use more support (interfacing on the bodice piece?) as it’s somewhat puckered. I pressed it well, but it still has some issues.
- Sew invisible zipper to back opening
- Attach at neckline
- Baste dress to lining at shoulders
- Set in sleeve to shoulder (do not attach sleeve lining)
- Hand sew sleeve lining to bodice lining
- Lining back opening
- Dress back opening
- Hem lining
- Hem dress and tuck lining into
Most of this went smoothly – except for the very end. I envisioned the lining being completely encased. The voile is a rather delicate fabric and there are raw, pinked edges on several seams because the serger would eat it.
It wasn’t until I put on the dress for these photos that James noticed it was bunchy on the bottom due to both my hemming method and the material choice for the lining. Lesson learned – next time I’ll use a slippery fabric for a lining – like polyester or pongee. Plus, I could always do some seam ripping and attach the lining higher up.
Watching the couture dressmaking class certainly paid off! I was able to finagle a way to fully line a dress with sleeves with only ONE part involving hand sewing.
Quite honestly – I’m really surprised I managed to make this dress without more major mistakes. (Although to be fair, I did have some previous practice…) I really took my time and there were several steps that were painstakingly slow, like the princess seams. Not to mention the fact that my sleeves are longer than they probably should be.
Adding the lining really takes Simplicity 1652 to another level. It gives it the look of a designer dress. I’d seen other reviewers online criticizing the pattern only utilizing the facings to finish the neckline, and I agree. Even if I use a fabric that doesn’t need a lining, I’d prefer to at least line the bodice.
Definitely a fan of the “Amazing Fit” line – the bodice fit just right when I mostly used a 5/8 inch seam allowance. Used a 1/2 inch seam allowance on the back and setting in the sleeves.
Simplicity 1652 is not for the faint of heart. I’d recommend it for the intermediate to advanced sewist – especially if you plan to deviate from the pattern like I did. Choosing this as your foray into garment making may be frustrating for you.
Looking forward to wearing my new dress, possibly to the Haven Conference later this week? The style reminds me slightly of fashions on Mad Men – very Betty Draper. She always had the most fabulous outfits on the show!
I can’t tell you how good it feels just to have my first dress finish behind me now. Well, at least for a few hours – I completed it this morning! A few months ago, sewing five pieces of clothing seemed like such a pipe dream, but I realized that I’m done with four out of the five! Only one left now is the Lela Tunic by Green Bee Patterns. The Cotton + Steel fabric is already prewashed and pressed. Now I just have to get started…
See you next time!