Toiling on Toiles

In pursuit to finally sew and thus own! and wear! clothes that fit I put a party dress on my 2018 Make Nine checkerboard. The prospect of of having a dress that fit my natural waist has always been a sewing inspiration (rtw hits me at the rib), but I had so little need for a party dress and so much love for the rarely-used one that I own that a fitted dress was pretty low on my list.

Let’s address the elephant in the room while we’re at it: I wasn’t ready, yet, to deal with the alterations. I knew I could. I didn’t have the mental bandwidth to start. After making two muslins with plans for a third it turns out I may not have been ready to reckon with my physical form, either.

An invitation to a party! moved the dress idea from somewhere in the back of my mind to somewhere in the peripheral front. Plus that aforementioned party dress is, no joke, 12 years old and my fellow party attendees have seen me in it a million times or at least as often as we’ve celebrated in party dress. Sadly, we may not actually make it to the party, but dammit I was going to have a new dress to wear on the chance we do.

I picked Belladone. Based on my bust measurement I traced a size 42, added an inch to the bodice length, and did a forward shoulder adjustment.

Those barely visible pins at the bodice and waist are where I pinned this muslin to fit my body

It was too big. Everywhere. What the heck? Why did using my measurement produce a garment that wasn’t my size?

I knew some things. I knew:

  1. You should select a size based on your high bust measurement.
  2. Cup size matters.
  3. Patterns are drafted to a specific cup size.
  4. That cup size varies between designers and lines.
  5. My cup size does not vary.

But I didn’t know some things. Specifically, how in the world you would select your size based on a high bust measurement when I’ve never seen one given in a pattern.

And then a series of what felt like epiphanies, but were actually things that I had read and finally internalized:

  1. You can find out the cup size a designer drafts to!
  2. Once you know that you can back into a pattern’s high bust measurement!
  3. Now you know what size to start with!
  4. If you’re me (I am!) you might need to do a small bust adjustment (I do!).

I tried again. A size 40 + 1.25″ length – .5″ small bust adjustment.  And:

Heavenly hats descend upon me. Unintentional and hilarious.

Exciting! So much better. I was so hopeful it would be that easy and it was so much better that it took a few try-ons to accept that it wasn’t good enough. The neckline is hovering somewhere north or my shoulders and those bust darts are in the wrong places.

I made some more changes. Another .25 to the waist. A gaping neckline adjustment. Moved the darts. This is my untested newly Frankensteined bodice pattern piece:


I worry that by making changes to changes I’m over-complicating things. Is there a single step that could have accomplished both the SBA and dart movement? Does it means something that I have to do both? Am I misdiagnosing my fit problems? Will my final result in any way resemble the original pattern? Did the sleeves of my muslin tear because I installed a too-short zipper and struggled to get this over my head the 4 separate times I tried this mulin on or are they too small and I can’t tell? Can I learn to love my “mature female” pear-shaped body? Will taking pictures of myself in profile inspire me to  improve my abhorrent posture? In the future will we all wear paper dresses?

Time and trial will tell.

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