I bought this fabric and the book the pattern is from during the same trip to Paris, three years ago. I immediately knew I wanted to pair the two together, yet every year I let fall pass me by without taking the time to materialise my project. So this year, when wondering what to sew next after finishing my Centaurée and thinking I’d like to sew something that would be evocative of the beginning of fall, this old idea sprung to mind.
A few years ago, the Stylish Dress Book series and other Japanese pattern books were very popular on the French speaking blogosphere (about as popular as Deer&Doe nowadays, to give you an idea!). Then they fell out of fashion to the point that a lot of people started frowning upon them, lamenting that the patterns were unflattering and that they made even the thinnest person look fat. Well, I beg to differ!
It’s true that most patterns in these books are all but form-fitting, yet I don’t think they are unflattering at all. Of course, they are not flattering in the sense that they make you look thinner than you are, but does looking good always have to equate with looking your thinnest?
One of the main real problems of the Japanese pattern books was (is?) that the darts are usually insanely high (the other one being that the sizes are very restricted, stopping at a mere 93 cm/36 ½” bust for the Stylish Dress Book!). But this pattern (SDB3 Dress H) doesn’t have any, so I didn’t have to make any fitting adjustments, phew! So I didn’t make a muslin, thinking the fit of such a loose smock would be forgiving.
This would have been such an easy project had it not been for my fabric choice. I thought I knew what I was getting myself into with the plaid matching, but I had not counted on the shifty nature of the fabric… It’s a cotton flannel; I had no idea those could be that tricky, but I swear it had a life of its own! Plaid + shifty fabric = four-hour-long cutting nightmare. I was so relieved (and so proud!) when I sewed the pieces together and every line that could match, well, did!
The only thing I’m not entirely happy about is the yoke: I chose to cut it on the bias (thinking yay, no plaid matching there, then oops, still have to match the shoulders and the button bands!) and added a lining that I cut on the straight grain to stop the bias-cut yoke from stretching out of shape. It didn’t work that well: the fabric is so unstable that it still stretched out a little bit, so it doesn’t sit flush on the shoulders. It bothered me at first (WHY can’t ANY project ever be perfect?!), but having worn the dress a few times already, I had forgotten about it until writing this article.
I made a few small modifications other than adding a lining to the yoke. As you can (sort of) see above, the dress doesn’t normally have any button bands. I added some length (3 cm/1 ¼”) to the front yoke pieces so that they’d overlap and form the button bands. I had planned on sewing some buttonholes there, but when I tried I quickly realised that with that fabric and the fact that that part was cut on the bias, I’d better settle for snaps. And I have to say I really like the result! I loathe snaps for garments that are worn open, but for this dress, which is going to be worn closed at all times, I find them very convenient.
Other things I changed in my version are omitting the yoke ruffles and adding patch pockets. When was the last time I sewed a dress and did not add patch pockets? I think this is the third dress in a row that gets the same treatment… I should rename my blog Rue des Patch Pockets or something. So I added patch pockets. And I love them.
The last change I made was not to add any seam allowance at the hem (I wanted a short dress!) and finishing it with black bias tape.
I took the pictures coming back from work, which is why the dress may seem a bit wrinkled in places. It’s a very comfortable dress to wear, albeit a bit short. If I need to raise my arms (for, say, write at the top of the blackboard), I have to be careful to push up the sleeves past the elbows first, otherwise the whole dress goes up and I risk flashing too much thigh (or worse!). But I’ve worn it at work a few times already, and there have been no problems in that respect.
All in all it’s a very cosy dress, perfect for fall and winter. It took me three years before finally sewing it, but a pattern/fabric match that hasn’t changed in three years could only mean success. And despite the small problem at the shoulders, I’m really proud of the finishing work I did.