Added Sep 7, 2010
London, United K...
Variant on AnaJan’s AMC dress, resized and styled to fit a considerably shorter lady! I moved the zip from the centre-back to the side in order to be able to shorten it from 28" to 8", and trimmed the neck and hem with hand-made crochet lace in order to soften the rather square appearance caused by my alterations.
I wanted to find a use for the very vivid print, so chose this bi-coloured dress pattern in order to be able to tone it down a bit with the plain bodice. The pattern supplied in the PDF file was a bit on the big side – AnaJan is four or five inches taller than I am – but how long could it take, after all, to knock a couple of inches off the bust and four inches off the waist and hips? The answer turned out to be a week of daily experimentation, plus months of stitching. (There was almost a tragedy at the start of August, when I accidentally left the half-finished dress behind in a Wilts & Dorset bus; fortunately I managed to leap off the train and catch up with the bus at the terminus in time.)
I printed out the pattern as it was, cut out an experimental version in curtain lining material, and began folding, pinning and tacking by trial and error, while constantly trying on the result: a lot of the seams got re-tacked two or three times simply through wear and tear in the trying on. After carefully consulting my vintage sewing manual on “Dressmaking Alterations”, I started off by taking a vertical slice out of the front and back. I’d hoped to gain the extra four inches in skirt length (the original was a little shorter over the knee than I’m comfortable with) but discovered, of course, that I then had to take out a horizontal section below the top of the bodice to pull the waist and bust points back into position. Despite this, the neckline somehow ended up quite a lot higher than in the original – again, this didn’t worry me as I’m more comfortable showing less skin. After that, it was a matter of taking in a little here and a little there until I had a shape that pretty much fitted exactly.
I couldn’t afford to go out and buy a 28" zip, so I used what I happened to have in the scrap bag, which was an 8" black zip. Used as a side opening this fitted more or less exactly the length of the minimum slit which I’d established as making it possible to wriggle in and out of the bodice!
Then the sleeves didn’t match the pattern, and the back neckline gaped badly. I discovered later that these were issues AnaJan herself had addressed in a second draft – if I’d known there was an updated version I’d have based my own work off it in the first place, but as it was I had to come up with my own solutions. The sleeves I redrafted altogether (I had three goes at them over as many days, and as you can see the result still isn’t entirely satisfactory); not having a zipper up the centre back, on the other hand, made it easy to slant these seams for a closer fit. I also ended up taking a couple of small tucks in the back just above the waistline to make the bodice fit more closely before flaring out over the hip; this doesn’t really show up in the photos, unfortunately, but it gave a nice effect.
The end result in subtle-sheen green curtain lining fabric looked rather good (as others have commented, you get a quite different effect from this pattern when made up in a single block colour), so I decided to keep it for future re-assembly in its own right rather than cutting up the pieces to use as patterns. With the help of some tips from KateXXXXXX I managed to transfer my alterations back onto the paper pattern pieces.
I really will try to scan and upload my altered version of the dress pattern (bust 32"/waist 26"/hip 36") some time….
After that it was just a matter of cutting out the hot-coloured fabric, and months of hand sewing on all those long seams. According to my sewing manual, each backstitch was supposed to be approximately three weft threads in length; as seen in the seam close-up, I did my best! I used run-and-fell seams for all the interior stitching on the skirt, since this is both much quicker and neater than doing blanket-stitch along the edges of plain seams, and used French seams (as directed by my sewing manual) when setting in the sleeves. I’m afraid I left the rest of the bodice seams unfinished, since these are all covered up by the felled-down edges of the internal facings.
I had to go out and actually buy the black fabric and didn’t get quite enough (it was obviously in a different width from the quantity specified in AnaJan’s instructions), so skimped on all the seam allowances and just managed to squeeze the facings in. I obviously needed something to weigh down the hem at the bottom as the finished seam was only about 1/4" wide(!), so after the success of the narrow picot edging pattern I’d used on the neck and sleeve edges – see ultra-close-up photo – I embarked on the more ambitious project of learning how to do ‘proper’ crochet lace from one of my vintage patterns, and making up 64 inches to edge the bottom of the skirt. As you can see from the photo, the lace is somewhat elastic in nature so the bottom hem got gathered very slightly; with hindsight I should have done another repeat of the pattern.
Oddly enough the finished dress came out a little looser in fit than the tacked-up version, despite the firmer seams; it’s a wriggle to get out of, but it’s certainly not tight. In fact, thanks to the high neckline I’m actually posing for the photos with a thermal vest underneath – well, it was only about fifty degrees outside by this point!