Hello friends! These latest makes are something a little bit different for me because I didn’t begin with the pattern and take inspiration from there. Instead I sought out a pattern to make a version of a dress I saw someone else wearing and which I couldn’t stop thinking about. A dress which, in turn, had quite strong 1970’s design aspects to it! This is quite an unusual decade for me as I don’t tend to like a lot of the common design elements that pop up in sewing patterns from the time. However, the shape of the original dress, the bell sleeves and the higher waistline of the wrap-front bodice all struck me as going together so very well that I couldn’t get it out of my mind. After much scouring of the internet I was able to secure a copy of McCall’s 8035 on Etsy, and I knew this would be the perfect leaping off point.
I had all kinds of grand ideas in the beginning as to how I was going to construct the dress. First though, I had to work out how to fix the skirt. The original design is basically two rectangles, which in no world was ever going to fit over my hips or suit my particular shape. No, I wanted the more flared skirt of the original dress I was using as inspiration. I cycled through several different style options before decided to test my skills by whipping up a tiered skirt. However, it soon turned out that my maths was well and truly off for making such a design, and the muslin simply didn’t fit outside of the bodice – in a size M. As I was taking it apart though, I was struck at how much I liked the short-sleeved variation with a single hip-length ruffle added to the bodice. I knew then that before I got to making the dress, I needed to whip up at least one tulip-sleeved top with a 12″ long ruffle. So I extended the ruffle from View A to be 12″ long, and eased the bodice to fit. I also lowered the armscythes by about 1″, as they were absolutely chafing my underarm in the muslins. I even had exactly the right amount of elastic for the waist!
I will say that hemming the tulip sleeves gave me no end of trouble. Something about attempting to ease the fullness of a very curved hem simply didn’t work out well for me. But having consulted some tutorials on better gathering techniques, I am pleased with how the sleeve caps worked out and how much simpler that was to gather them. It’s strange to think that I have been sewing for so long and have only recently learned it’s easier to gather using the bobbin thread! For this first version I also managed to squeeze it out of a rather small amount of soft cotton, which I had gotten second-hand at a big craft destash. I’m quite delighted with how the print seems to give it more of a vintage aspect! But I also knew that while this top didn’t end up using a lot of fabric, to make the next version, View B, I was going to need a fair bit more. I raided my stash and came up with another secondhand cotton with a very distinct print (Midnight Garden, according to the selvage), which I had oodles of from an extremely lucky day at the Op Shop. The odd thing is that while there is lots of the fabric, each piece is only about 1.5m long. Go figure!
For this second make, I also made a couple of alterations. I once again kept the lowered armscythe, transferring that onto a tracing of the balloon sleeve pattern. I also decided that the fullness of the sleeves was a little too dramatic for me. Using the slash-and-fold method, where I made three cuts vertically up the pattern piece and then gently overlapped the cuts, I was able to remove about 3” of fullness. I then took the skirt pieces, measuring to about 39-40” long, and slashed and spread them in multiple places to add 9.5” of width (19″ given cutting on the fold). This might seem like quite a dramatic amount in all directions, but I had to consider that the seam at the waist is 1 ¼”, to create the elastic casing. This was the most I could add to the width without causing too much warping up the top, however, I would have preferred it to be even wider. So next time I think I will draft a new skirt. I then added in some side seam pockets 7” down the skirt pieces. Also, it is worth mentioning that I never alter the original pattern pieces. I always trace them and then make my changes. That way the original is well preserved!
Overall, I am so thrilled with how these makes turned out. For a pattern that looks quite simple, I found this to be a fairly time consuming to sew. But this might be because I am putting in more effort when it comes to the finishing touches, so I overlocked all the raw edges, pressed each seam, and never skimped on the basting stitches. As a result, whenever I look at these pieces I’m thrilled with how clean and neat the finishes are. Hemming the tulip sleeves might be tricky, but I still think this pattern would suit an adventurous beginner as it’s quite forgiving for fitting changes.