As I mulled over my options of what to wear this New Year’s Eve, I got so excited at the prospect of wearing this super fun dress that I made for the 3rd round of the Pattern Review Sewing Bee! Then I realized I had never blogged about it, and perhaps there were some people that didn’t follow the Sewing Bee as closely as I assume, so maybe I should share it here on my blog.
I wrote nearly a novel explaining my methods and details, so I am just going to copy and paste the contest entry here. If you already read it, I’m sorry! I had a lot to say about this project that nearly killed me. And it didn’t even get me to the last round! But I am going to rock it tonight, velvet side out probably, with green eyeshadow and black booties. And my fur capelet I only get to wear on fancy occasions! I’ll be able to eat a ton because of the stretchy side panels, and if I spill on myself, like I usually do, I can slip into the bathroom and reverse it!
Pattern Description: Semi-fitted dress has partially lined yokes, seam detail, no side seams, side front pockets, front exposed zipper and topstitching.
Pattern Sizing: 4 – 12. I went down a size to a 12 and lengthened it, as usual for me.
Were the instructions easy to follow? Unfortunately, there were not written instructions for how to make it a reversible dress with a single side panel. Haha! Figuring that out was the Sewing Bee challenge!
What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I chose this pattern for my reversible dress because of the great seamlines and exposed zipper, which makes a perfect reversible closure.
Fabric Used: This dress is designed for knits, but I modified it to incorporate my non-stretch velvet.
The first and biggest decision of a Sewing Bee challenge is what fabric to choose, and in this case I wanted a stand out garment and a big challenge so I paired the moss green knit of the first side with a beautiful but slippery velvet for the other. I knew that the dresses would really contrast by using such different fabrics and it would be more than just a dress with a pretty lining.
Of course it would be a challenge to make 2 dresses and sew them together to make a reversible dress (sewing 2 dresses in a week!) but I wanted to up the ante by taking advantage of the fact that it is reversible. The way I choose to do this is to incorporate sheer fabric, so the reversibilty would be a helpful feature of lining, and by using one fabric in a single layer for the side panels and making it work for both dresses.
An important detail in any dress is the facings and how those might peek out. In this case I decided to use the same moss green fabric around the neckline for both sides to make sure it was nicely finished. I then got to play with the shoulder yoke fabrics, choosing leather for the moss green side and a diamond mesh activewear fabric for the velvet side. I love the leather with the military influence of the green side and the playfulness of diamond shapes goes with the large boho flowers on the velvet side.
I cut the velvet carefully with my flower placement in mind, moving the green stems towards the yoke to tie in the green neckline, and with bigger seam allowances to account for the lack of stretch and the ravelly fabric. I ended up treating the darts differently and lessened my darts on the velvet side to create a looser fit but still with the same shape as the other.
On the moss side, I knew the fit would be forgiving, but I did have to topstitch quite a bit because the spongy crepe texture of the knit didn’t press well. I decided to carry that topstitching through to the leather yoke to add interest. I added the pockets from the Anza dress pattern from itch to Stitch, without the pocket flaps. I love the pleated detail and it really emphasized the overall feeling of a more tailored, serious dress. Also, those pockets are easy to wear backwards when the dress is turned with the velvet side out. It truly is reversible. Of course the velvet is luscious to wear against my skin, too!
The zipper is reversible, but because of the 2 zipper pulls, it is quite heavy. I interfaced both fabrics along the front, but wish I had interfaced the neckline too. It collapses a little when the zipper is pulled all the way up. Next time I use a reversible zipper I’ll remember that.
I struggled and struggled with the single side panel detail. I loved the idea of sewing both fabrics to the one side panel and showcasing that versatility, and needed the knit panel to ensure the fit of the non-stretch velvet, but it was an engineering feat! And finishing! That feature took as long as the whole rest of the dress, and I wondered several times if it was such a great idea. Well, it turned out to be such a great feature because of the way it transformed the fit! The velvet side is looser, but those stretchy side panels keep it very flattering because it doesn’t have 2 layers down my sides making me look wider. I love that. And on the green side, it ties in the black leather detail and again makes it appear so much sleeker.
The whole process of the crazy side panel idea mirrors the creativity process as a whole – “I have a great idea! Oh wait, this is hard, this is crap, what a horrible idea. Oh wow! Now that it is complete, I can see it was a great idea. I am brilliant!” Don’t we all go through versions of this process during sewing?
I know everyone that did this challenge had to deal with the bulky seam allowances. I sure did! I feel like I was trimming and grading seams all day! Of course I had to finish all the velvet seams, many serged and all enclosed. The yokes I could just sew together and trim carefully. Turning those fabrics together would have been a mess. I used fold over elastic under the arms. The hems were tricky with the enclosed side panels, and after a couple of tries, it looked best with the knit side trimmed and a little serged and turned hem on the velvet.
Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? I really liked this pattern and wonder how it would look in a stretch denim. Too bad there wasn’t 3 sides to my reversible garment! I know it is out of print, but I do recommend it.
Conclusion: This was quite a challenge but I really do love both dresses. It really highlights my skills and draws attention to the fact that I don’t know what my core style is! I want to try everything and I love wearing it both ways. Am I a romantic floral dress wearer? It is so fun. Do I love a sleeker style in trendy colors and leather details? That is fun, too! Thank you, Sewing Bee, for the chance to think outside the box!