This just might be my new favorite handmade garment. This might be my favorite garment, period. It is that good.
This is the maxi version of the recently released Southport Dress by Kelli of True Bias. And despite how good it looks in these photos (can I say that?), getting to this point was a challenge.
No, there was nothing wrong with the pattern. Quite the contrary - it was perfection. However, a combination of little sleep and my constant need to hurry through sewing tasks to finish before a baby needs to be fed or a bottom needs to be wiped caused me to make several newbie mistakes along the way.
I kid you not; I made a total of four trips to two separate Joann Fabrics locations to get all the fabric necessary to complete this dress. But lucky for me, it still cost me less than about $25 since the fabric was half-price for just $4.99/yard. And coincidentally, I had a huge piece of thrifted turquoise challis from which I made the bias tape. I knew I was saving that fabric for something!
What were these mistakes, you ask? First, I started with a size 8 bodice which turned out to be waaaaay too big. I went by my full bust measurement which honestly varies between about 36 and 40 depending on the time of day. But the 8 was just too wide in the shoulders. So, I scrapped that bodice and started again.
I decided to live dangerously and go down to my normal size, a 4. I considered doing a full bust adjustment, but because this challis has a little crosswise stretch, I figured I'd just wing it - especially since this dress is drafted for a C cup. I'm normally a B but currently C-D-ish.
I set to work cutting out my size 4 pieces, and then, I noticed some unfortunate pattern placement. This fabric has these large, dark-blue splotches that are lovely but a little unfortunate if placed on the chest - especially given my current state of lactating. So one side of the bodice ended up looking like I'd heard a crying baby and seen a photo of a newborn times a thousand. Yep, you mamas know what I'm talking about.
Back to the cutting table it was. I finally got my pieces sorted, and I started sewing. BUT, I had decided to do French seams throughout, and I forgot to do it on one of the side seams. I ended up serging it, but couldn't get it out of my head that I'd made that mistake. And then, I forgot one of the steps that gives the neckline/button area such a nice finish, and I ended up prematurely chopping off the corners that form the lovely lines at the center front. I managed to kind of fix the front, but the perfectionist in me said NOPE.
So, I cut out the bodice a third time, carefully considering the pattern placement. Everything looked good. And the French seams were perfect. I even clipped the corners from the seam allowance instead of the actual center front. All was well...
UNTIL...the BUTTONHOLES!! I practiced and practiced. I used good interfacing. I put Solvy on top of my fabric when I sewed. I DID EVERYTHING RIGHT. But, my placement was off. I didn't use the template since my buttons were a little bigger than what the pattern called for, and apparently I am bad at measuring and marking because it just looked all wrong.
I had a hard time sleeping that night because I wanted to figure out a solution to the buttonholes problem without cutting out a FOURTH bodice. It took everything in me to not get up in the middle of the night and fix that thing when I finally had my AHA moment. But, I waited. And the next day, I used a rotary cutter to cut off the center front of the right bodice piece as closely to the defunct buttonholes. That left about a quarter inch to which I could attach a separate placket piece. Measuring carefully, I created and attached a separate piece of fabric to replace the piece I'd chopped off. It worked brilliantly, and it looks as though it was meant to be that way. I even enclosed all the raw edges to keep with my French seams/no-seam-left-unfinished strategy.
Oh, and I checked my sewing machine manual and realized I was using a buttonhole designed for medium- to heavy-weight fabrics, so I changed it up and did one for lightweight fabrics instead. The new buttonholes have lovely, feminine, rounded ends.
Whew. Okay. So the bodice was complete. What else could go wrong?
Well, I'll tell you. I cut out the short skirt pieces and stuck them to my dress form with the bodice to see how they looked. And remember those big blue splotches? Yeah, I ended up with one on one side of the front skirt. It just looked weird - kind of like it was a different fabric.
So, I decided to baste the skirt together anyway and quickly attach it to bodice #2 (the one with the chopped off corners) simply to create a full muslin and see how I liked the overall dress. I mean, at this point, I was going all-out. So I decided to REALLY make sure I liked this dress.
I put on the muslin and walked into the living room to show my husband, and I was met with a kind of "meh" look. And I admit...when I looked in the mirror, I was underwhelmed. I think that because I'm a little top-heavy at the moment, and my legs are still really thin, everything looked a bit off-balance. I decided I really wanted to go for the maxi version.
Back to Joann Fabrics I went. Oh, and if you're wondering, YES, (at the time of writing this post) this fabric is still available online and in stores. You're welcome.
I got back home with my fabric and anxiously threw it in the wash. I cut out the maxi skirt pieces and again stuck them to my dress form with the bodice to see how they looked.
I cannot make this shit up; I ended up with one of those blue splotches right on the butt. Scott walked in and said, "Your dress form has butt sweat."
DAMNIT. I'm sorry for the language, but this was really getting out-of-hand. I came THIS close to scrapping this project and moving on with my life. But thankfully, I persevered. With a little creative cutting and one final trip to the fabric store, I finally had everything just perfect.
I sent about my merry sewing way, finishing the skirt with French seams at the side and where it connects to the bodice. I used a clean finish at the front slit and tried it on with my Swedish Hasbeens. I hemmed the dress the recommended amount, and it's perfect with a small heel. For reference, I am 5'6".
After consulting the Instagramz about my button selection, I went with these silver ones I got for a couple bucks at Joann Fabrics. They are a little bigger (5/8") than what the pattern called for, but I think they are perfect.
OH, AND DID YOU KNOW YOU CAN TOTALLY NURSE IN THIS DRESS? Oh yes, all I have to do is undo the top two buttons and VOILA, instant boob access. New buddy thanks you, Kelli.
Okay, so that was pretty much the longest sewing-related blog post EVER, but I just had to tell that story. It was like a birth story...only for a dress. It was long and somewhat painful, but in the end, I got this great DRESS out of it! And I'll probably do it again sometime soon! Hahaha. I kill me.
Also, foreshadowing. I mean, yeah...no.
As for the nitty-gritty details, no item-by-item is really necessary because this pattern checks all the boxes - good drafting, good instructions, good illustrations, good fit, good style. It includes print-at-home as well as print shop files.
As previously mentioned, I am 5'6" and was about 36"-30"-38" at the time of these photos. I'd recommend sizing down if you're in-between as the fit is very forgiving and can be adjusted with the drawstring. Getting a good fit in the shoulders is really the most important. Kelli recommends making a muslin, and so do I!
Oh, and how do you like my much better photos today?! It seems that when I don't pick up my camera for a while, I forget how to use it. As suggested by my husband, I downloaded this phone app which basically tells me all the settings to use, and I realized I had so many things set improperly. Thanks to the new settings, this photo shoot was a breeze! I'm hoping that with continued practice, I won't have many more terrible shoots like my last two. :)
What do you think? Is a Southport Dress in your sewing queue?