Who doesn’t love a great little sheath dress? So classy, so wearable, so Audrey Hepburn!
Since my Washington, DC daughter needs relatively conservative work clothing, and she has the perfect shape for it, she has graciously consented to be my
guinea pig model as we search for the perfect TNT – that holy grail pattern that you can always count on to ‘work’ – the “tried and true” for sheath style dresses.
After much perusing – and trying to locate patterns offering small enough sizes – we settled on McCalls 2401, a versatile little pattern that includes everything from a sleeveless dress with a boat style neckline to a v-neck with long sleeves. Just 5 pattern pieces, a zipper, easy back slit…lookin’ good!
This was originally intended to be my first sewing attempt, and it was…however, actual completion proved a bit more complicated than anticipated due to a few fit issues. In fact, the navy mystery woven stretch fabric used on the New Look 6103 pencil skirt was leftover from fabric purchased for this dress. We first did a muslin, which ended up marked all over the place for “take-ins”. Waist and back length were perfect, but overall it was just too big for my size 0/2 daughter! The darts and seams all needed adjustment. Several times. Sizing ready to wear versus pattern sizing is really a project!
Sewing Thump on the Head #4
- ALWAYS go by the Body Measurements in the general sizing section of the pattern. Check. Except when that doesn’t work, and the pattern is STILL too big.
AHA. There’s a little section at the bottom of most pattern backs called “Finished Garment Measurements”. This seems to be the best indicator of actual fit, so compare these measurements against those of a similar style dress that fits you well. Simple, right? Except when it’s not…
There’s also something called “pattern ease” that has something to do with the amount of wearing ‘ease’ or ‘movement’ pattern makers build into a garment. I haven’t successfully located that information yet on an actual pattern from the “Big 4”, but have seen it talked on sewing forums and mentioned in pattern descriptions from companies like Style Arc. Of course the amount of “ease” varies depending on the company, the pattern, and the performance of the recommended fabric – knits vs a non-stretch woven, for instance. I’ve also heard the term “negative ease” bandied about. Have mercy! I feel an online class might be called for here! I decide to push on…
McCalls 2401 bills itself as an unlined, “semi-fitted sheath dress”. Since I’m aiming for a nice, professional look that mimics RTW, I decide to throw in a lining. (Think big!) My daughter will be here for the weekend, so with great anticipation, the sheath dress – with lining – gets partially stitched up…and the lining’s too tight. WHAT? How can the lining be too tight? It’s the same size as the dress AND I used what JoAnns calls its “luxury lining” fabric – a sort of silky looking anti static stuff that I used (successfully) to line the pencil skirt. Did. Not. Work. for the sheath dress. Sigh. This calls for the seam ripper! A quick trip to the store, yields a thin, polyester knit lining – to go with the stretchy woven, right? Onward and upward. Sheath dress, take two!
Then the miracle happens. Since I want a RTW look for this dress, I google “lining a sleeveless dress” and miracle of miracles…an incredible video from the talented Colleen G Lea appears in the search results showing how to do exactly that! If you haven’t seen her amazing hat trick with lining, run, don’t walk to the link above and watch it before you sew your next lined sleeveless dress! Thanks to Colleen, McCalls 2401 was conquered:
Front: I’ve lightened this just a bit so you can see details:
Back view: Back closing is a little closer to lining up this time!
Inside the dress. The lining & outer fabric join at the shoulder seams:
…and here it is on my lovely model:
Close up of bodice…
So there you have it…one sheath dress ala Audrey Hepburn. All it’s lacking is a nice string of pearls, some gloves, and a stylish clutch! We still have a bit of nipping and tucking to do fit-wise, but once that’s figured out, I think we might have our first TNT! In fact, we liked this pattern so much I decided to try it in a …KNIT! That
fiasco project is coming up next post!
PS…If you’d like to see another view of this pattern, take a look at Alice in the UK’s version on her blog Moonbeam