Here’s the dress on Gene:
As a reminder of where it all started, here’s the mood board.
The Clara is a shirtdress with an elasticized waist. It has a collar, front plackets and short sleeves with an interesting keyhole detail. (My 10-year-old son did not appreciate this detail at all. As he was being a good sport and “admiring” my newly finished dress, he pointed to the keyhole and asked, “What is this hideous thing?”) Oh well. I like it.
Alterations I made
To fit and flatter my figure, I made the following alterations to the pattern:
- Adjusted for a full bust
- Lowered the bust point
- Added 8 inches to the length
- Increased the overall bodice length (too much, as it turns out)
I find bodice length impossible to determine until the skirt is attached. On a hunch, I added 1 inch to the bodice length instead of the 1/2 inch I usually add to the Big Four patterns. When I tried on the completed bodice, I was absolutely sure it was still too short, but when I tried it on with the skirt attached, it was a 1/2 inch too long! This is not the first time this has happened to me. I cannot explain why the bodice seems longer when the skirt is attached.
Changes I made
Since putting my own stamp on a pattern is part of the fun of sewing, I made the following changes:
- I added a white braid trim to accentuate the collar and plackets.
- I sewed the bias trim fold to the wrong side by hand.
- I sewed the double fold hem by hand.
- I changed the elastic technique at the waist.
- Bonus: I added a matching belt.
Because of the blouson bodice and waist elastic, Clara reminded me a bit of shirtdress patterns from the 1980s (minus the ubiquitous shoulder pads I was always altering out of patterns). Yes, I was sewing back then. Here’s the proof:
Because of the waist’s similarity to shirtdress patterns from my youth, I decided to use the waist elastic technique I remember from back in the day. The Clara pattern instructions called for sandwiching elastic between the waist seam allowances and sewing it in place with a zig-zag stitch while stretching it, but I didn’t like the idea of that seam allowance flopping around inside. Instead, I opted to trim the waist seam and sew single-fold bias tape over it. I opened one fold of the bias, and sewed it over the seam on the bodice side. Then I pressed the tape down over the trimmed seam allowance (which was then hidden underneath the bias tape) and sewed the other fold down onto the skirt. I inserted 3/8-inch elastic into the channel created by the bias tape.
As I was inserting that elastic, I remember what a bother that technique is. It’s pretty difficult to get that elastic all the way around, even with a bodkin. (Click here to see the kind of bodkin I used.) But once it was done, it looked nice and tidy inside.
As for the belt, I had no intention of making one. I have a navy leather belt that I was originally planning to wear with the dress, but I HATED the way it looked.
So, I decided to make one using a vintage buckle in my stash that was a pretty good match for the buttons.
Alas, I had no belt backing in my stash, and my Jo-Ann’s doesn’t seem to stock it. Instead, I used ribbed nonroll waistband elastic. It was no picnic to pull elastic through the tight tube of fabric I made to cover it. There are still a few spots where the fabric is gathered a little on the elastic.
It was the best I could come up with on short notice, and it did the trick; but I’m planning to order some belt backing and buckles to cover for my stash.
And here’s the dress on me:
This is a really comfortable and pretty dress. Nothing is too tight anywhere. It only really sits on the shoulders and at the elasticized waist. As a bonus, the keyhole detail makes the sleeves adjustable in width. Adding the extra length really worked for me. (My girlfriend and I were lamenting on Facebook this week the lack of calf-length dresses. Everything is at the knee, mid-thigh, maxi, or hi-lo. Not flattering for us suburban moms in our 40s!)
Gathers at the waist — even slight ones — are not my best look, but boy the comfort sure offsets that. All in all, I’d call this dress a winner. I’ll wear it later this month when I have dinner with another girlfriend.
Happy Fourth of July to my fellow Americans!