Recently I’ve been watching the television series Suburgatory. It’s a classic fish out of water sitcom about a single dad and his teenage daughter who move from New York City to the suburbs. One of the supporting characters is named Dahlia. She’s your stereotypical plastic consumerist teen, always clad in tight, short dresses, the pinker the better.
This Dahlia is not a bit like her.
I sewed up two of Colette’s Dahlia dresses in quick succession as some of my first makes this year. I was attracted to this pattern for the sleeved, wintery version but it’s the summer frock that I’ve actually made. Both have had a fair bit of wear so far; the style is perfect for my lazy summer holiday mood.
The first version is sewn up in a fantastic Wonder Woman quilting cotton. I’d admired it in Spotlight several times but not been able to think of how to make it work. Then The Monthly Stitch announced its G33k Out challenge for December and gave me the excuse I’d been looking for. However, it took me a while to find a pattern that addressed my concerns that a whole garment of Wonder Woman going BAM! would be a bit … in your face. Add that to the time eaten by the sewing of several Christmas presents and, well, December flew by and I missed the challenge.
In the new year I re-contemplated the summer dress version of Dahlia, discovered the TMS January challenge was all about denim and found some chambray/denim scraps left from a skirt that looked good with Wonder Woman. BAM!
This was a nice and easy pattern to sew up – though I did my usual trick of mixing it up straight out of the packet and combined the View B bodice with the View A skirt, mainly because I wanted the fabric to feature so I preferred not to cut it up into panels. The gathering (and advice in the instructions about sewing three rows of gathering threads instead of the usual two) was an interesting and different-to-me way of shaping the bodice and was very easy to do. I also like the method of attaching the waistband lining.
I made my own bias tape out of the denim which was a bit wider than the recommended 1/4″. For the second version of this dress (that’s the pinkish one up top) I used store-bought bias tape of the “correct” width but I actually like the look of the wider binding better.
The only difficulty I had was because the way the neckline binding forms the straps, I found it impossible to fit the dress properly until right at the end of sewing (I cut a size 12 bust and size 14 waist based on my measurements). This wouldn’t be a problem if I’d made a muslin but, of course, I didn’t. As a result, this one is too long in the bodice for my liking and it gapes a bit under the arms. You can see in the picture above how it’s all blousing out. I’m not too concerned about the loose fit because, realistically, having Wonder Woman suddenly faced with a decision and BAM!ming all over the place means this dress was always going to be a casual garment. But I wanted to get the fit better for the second one.
This time round I shortened the bodice by 3cm and took about 1.5cm off both front and back side seams at the underarm, grading it back out to the full size at the waistband. This largely fixed the problem of the bodice blousing out excessively, but has created some funny pull lines from the top of the bust to the top of the arm hole. If I make it up again (a distinct probability) I’ll try reducing the side seams a bit less. (This fabric is a lightweight printed cotton, also from Spotlight, BTW. A good weight for sewing this pattern.)
The other modifications I made were to add bias tape to the waistband seams (like piping but without any cord) to define them a bit in this busy fabric, and including inseam pockets. Because, pockets. I can’t not have them. I’ve never done inseam pockets with a side zip before (in fact, this is the first pattern I’ve sewn that has a side zip and I like it a lot) so there was a bit of swearing, unpicking, googling and checking RTW dresses in my closet to work out where you’re supposed to put the pocket bags. I initially sewed them one on each edge of the skirt pieces, like regular pockets, then realised that would mean you’d have to unzip the whole dress to use the pocket. Not so sensible.
The answer was you sew the pocket bag together (around the curvy edge) then attach one part of it to the skirt front. The other edge folds back and becomes the seam allowance for attaching the zipper to, instead of the skirt front being the seam allowance. The opening of the pocket ends up on the front side of the zipper. Naturally, I didn’t take photos while puzzling this out.
If there’s one big thing I’ve learnt over the past few years of sewing, it’s don’t stitch to a deadline. It never works out well. Of course, I ignore this much of the time and impose (often arbitrary) deadlines on myself. So it was with this dress. We were headed interstate for the weekend and I thought it would be nice to have a new summer frock to wear. But there wound up being a lot of unpicking involved – working out the pockets and also attaching the piping neatly to the waistband – and it wasn’t finished by the time we had to walk out the door. There was still the bias binding to attach to the neckline and armholes, and hemming. It would have taken maybe 30 or 40 minutes at the machine.
That was time I didn’t have, so I packed up the binding, scissors, pins, needle and thread and took the show on the road. And the train after the road. It took more than seven hours of hand stitching but that labour means I love this dress all the more! I added length to the straps to make the ties because I was worried a hand-stitched join at the shoulder wouldn’t be strong enough. I did intend to re-sew it properly on the machine later, but now I’ve decided I like the bows so I’ll keep them. I’m looking forward to trying out the sleeved version of this pattern now!