Friday, March 18, 2022

Cotton Pinafore Dress + Pattern Mashup

I've been really inspired lately to build out my everyday office-appropriate wardrobe. I'd like to refine some of my "modern" dressmaking skills (it's been a while since I've made clothing suitable for this century LOL) as well. I started with assessing what pieces I gravitate towards wearing to the office: flowy dresses, button-down shirts, and layer-able pinafore dresses!

For pinafore dresses, I like a fitted bodice and a-line skirt, in fabrics that transition easily across seasons with layering. A "neutral" print and full back bodice area are important elements for me - some pinafore dresses I've seen online seem more like aprons, with an open back - definitely not appropriate for an office job setting.  

One of the hardest things for me about sewing historical clothes is the anxiety of cutting into expensive fabrics. I'm approaching my next few "modern" sewing projects as "wearable mockups" in fabrics I like (but don't love) so that I can work on getting over my fabric cutting fears!

For this dress, I used a printed quilting cotton from Joann's. Unfortunately, after I washed the fabric, I saw that it had fold/wear lines across the fabric - presumably from it being displayed on a bolt for so long - but that made this fabric a great candidate for a wearable mockup.

I think the pleats of the finished dress hide the faded fabric lines well. I should've cut out the skirt pieces so that these lines were oriented along the hem...but oh well! That learning experience is part of making a wearable mockup.

Patterns Used

I've been wanting to try the dress in Simplicity 6243 (with a display envelope that says it's New Look S0537) because of the clean, classic lines of the straps and bodice.

I also really like the pleated a-line skirt in McCalls 6503, and felt it would work better with the print of my fabric than the half circle skirt in S6243.

Pattern Adjustments

Simplicity 6243/New Look S0537

I usually cut out a size 10 or 12, but looking at the finished garment measurements on this pattern, I decided to cut a size 8 (the smallest in the pattern). This pattern has an alleged 4 inches of ease, but that size 8, which was less than my body measurements, was massively too big. When I tried on the bodice, it couldn't even stay on my body! The straps needed to be shorted by nearly 2 inches, the center back seam needed to be taken in 0.5 inches on each side, and I needed to add a center front seam to the bodice and waistband so that the princess seam was in the right spot on my body. Thankfully, the print hides that impromptu center front seam well. The finished fit is just right - about an inch of ease in the bodice, perfect for layering.

McCalls 6503

Because M6503 is designed for a side zipper, but S6243 has a back zipper, I had to cut the back skirt in 2 pieces and remember to add seam allowance. Easy peasy alteration. I ignored the pattern's instructions for where to place the skirt pleats, and instead lined up the pleats with the side front and side back seams on the bodice.

For maximum practicality, I added pockets to the side seams of the skirt. I ended up using the pocket pattern piece from Laughing Moon 114, shortened by a few inches, for nice, roomy pockets! Even my modern sewing projects get a Victorian touch!

The pattern called for an invisible zip, but because this quilting cotton was on the thicker side, I decided to top stitch the (invisible) zipper. This zip application worked really well for this dress. 

Oddly, S6243 has you fold in the fashion fabric and lining, then sew in the zip, which in my opinion would leave a lot of raw edges - why add a lining if there are shredding raw edges along the zipper? I ended up adding a waistband facing to the lining (again, why leave the interfacing and waistband raw edges exposed?). I sewed the zip to the fashion fabric, then hand stitched the lining to the inside of the zip. This was an easy and fast detail, and I think it really improves how the dress fits and feels. This bodice has a lot of seams, so it was great to conceal them all with a lining. 

Final Thoughts

I absolutely love how this dress turned out! It went from "wearable mockup" to "I want to wear it every week" very quickly. Though the fabric quality isn't great, the print fits in perfectly with my existing wardrobe. This dress is practical, comfy, and cute! 

I really love the skirt of McCalls 6503. The hem is at the perfect height, the fullness is flattering - I think I'm going to make a few stand alone skirts from this pattern in the future.

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