The pattern I've decided to use is Butterick 4443, aka the very first dress pattern I ever used. I made three versions one after the other, and they all fit badly in very different ways: version one was pushed and pulled and hacked at and randomly sewn down to within an inch of its life and the inside was a somewhat uncomfortable fitting war zone; version two (the only one that still survives in my wardrobe) was way too big but also made of viscose so it was less of an issue, and version three was so big in the shoulders that it practically fell off and I never wore it outside my back garden. I thought returning to that pattern and trying to get a good fit would be a nice way of demonstrating to myself how much I've learnt.
Spoiler: fitting is hard.
Before we get to that, I made another version that I never got around to blogging:
I made this using the same sizing as my previous attempts because I get a lot of wear out of that orange viscose one. I cut the back pieces on the fold to make it a pullover dress, and I really like it. It looks good, it's comfortable, it's a summery floral dress that isn't overly girly, and it's one of my go-to dresses when it's hot out.
It's also enormous.
Look at the back of that. I could be smuggling oranges.
Here is version five, or my first proper fitting attempt:
You will note that is definitely not a perfect fit, and also that the neckline seems to have risen several inches. We will get to that. But you will also note that there is no orange smuggling and I am not wearing a box anymore.
I bought a second version of the pattern and traced it off like a sensible person. I traced a 16; my previous versions were all somewhere between a 20 and a 22. My measurements when I first started sewing put me into the size 20, but I was terrified of my first dress not fitting so I sized up. In a big 4 pattern. It's fine, you can laugh.
I did an FBA of an inch and a quarter on the 16. Quite naively, I thought that once I'd done that, most of my fitting issues would be solved. I got my boyfriend to pin me into the dress before I put the zip in because I often have gaping at the back neckline, and sewing the zip with a 4cm seam allowance at the top tapering into the regular seam allowance at the bottom. Having done that, I did indeed have room for my boobs and no back neckline gape. However, I also discovered the following:
- the 16 was still too big a size for my shoulders, and since I'm working from the 16-22 pattern I'll need to grade it down
- my waist is higher than the pattern's waist, which I hadn't noticed before because the waistline was being hoicked up by my boobs
- I still had a ton of excess fabric in the back (not smuggling oranges, but still noticeable bagginess)
- the neckline was doing this weird cowl neck-looking thing that my orange one also has, but because of the way that fits it looks deliberate, whereas this didn't
- there was excess fabric between my bust and my waist, creating some awkward blousing
Some of this was fixable. I really like this fabric (the same fabric as my Eve dress in another colourway) and I wanted a wearable dress, so I did what I could. By taking in the back princess seams I got the back to lie flat, and by taking a bigger seam allowance at the waist I got that sitting in more or less the right place. I also got most of the blousing out of the front by taking the front seams in a bit.
It was less easy to fix the shoulders, and basically impossible to fix the neckline. It's now much higher than it should be because I had to take it up at the shoulders, and it's still doing a tiny bit of the weird cowl thing. I'm guessing it's because the neckline is too big a size for my high bust, but I'm not completely sure. There's also still a bit of weirdness going on across the bust; I couldn't find a way to get rid of the excess fabric in the centre without making it slightly too tight. More research needed.
All this aside, I have a finished dress that I'm totally happy to wear. The waist is right, I have zero underarm gape (which is a novelty), and after about six alterations the back now fits beautifully. I'm going to have a few more goes at the same pattern, and by the end I want to have a flat pattern that I can make up into a well-fitting dress. Phase two is to try the same thing on a different pattern, and phase three is to attempt something with sleeves. Erk.
For my second go at fitting this pattern, I'm going to try the following:
Making the dress in cotton/other less drapey material to see if I can work out what that neckline thing was
Grading the pattern down a size or two at the shoulders
Either a narrow back adjustment or cutting the back pieces in a smaller size
Taking the waistline up
Not perfect, but a pretty good start.
Note: The number one goal of this series of posts is for me to learn and improve. If anybody has advice or suggestions, has spotted an issue I haven't spotted, or anything else which would help me get a better fit, I would welcome it gratefully.
I won't be posting next week because Patrick and I are going to Portugal. It's our third anniversary on the Tuesday, which is definitely why we're going on holiday and not because we just booked our next free week and then remembered we were having an anniversary. We're going to eat seafood, sit on a balcony, and drink a lot of port. I am very excited.