Bridesmaid Betty – fitting the bodice

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Since my sister asked me to be one of the bridesmaids at her wedding next month, I’ve been pondering what to wear sew. I’ve finally settled on the Sew Over It Betty dress – a full-skirted knee-length dress with a straightforward sleeveless bodice, designed to be sewn in lightweight woven fabric like cotton lawn.

I like the neckline (front and back) on this dress, and once I get it to fit, I’m hoping I can hack this pattern around to make a few variations later. Lisa Comfort has dozens, apparently!

So task number one was to toile the bodice to make sure I could get it to fit. My measurements are currently 39-32-43, so I started by sewing the size 14 with no alterations. Here’s how that looked…

From the front, you can see there’s some puffiness in the front bra strap area, between bust and shoulder. The neckline is sitting quite wide on the shoulders, and it’s obviously too short – take off 1.5cm from the bottom edge and I’m suddenly wearing a crop top rather than something that lands at my waist. On the up side, the bust darts are almost exactly in the right place, so I won’t need to move those.

From the back, again it’s too short; the back looks slightly too broad overall at bust level – a sign that my ‘girls’ are dragging the back piece fowrards; and there’s more sagging at the sides of the upper chest area.

From the side, you can see the side seam is bowing forwards at bust level, but the armscye looks more or less OK, other than the puffiness at the upper chest.

(I’m sorry these photos are a bit grainy – the lighting wasn’t ideal yesterday and I’m still learning how to deal with that.)

Looking at these pictures, I decided to make three changes:

  1. Go down to a size 12, grading out to a 14 at the waist
  2. Add 1″ to the length
  3. Do a full bust adjustment to increase the circumference at the bust back up to the same as the size 14

There’s no lengthen/shorten line marked on the pattern, so I drew my own – about 1″ above the natural waistline (also not marked – grrrr…), perpendicular to the grainline. At this point I also made a note on the envelope to buy a longer zip than it says in the instructions.

For the FBA, I used this excellent tutorial from Mary at Idle Fancy. There are lots of FBA tutorials around, but this one has a kind of all-in-one method so you don’t have to trace off the pattern multiple times. And Mary also reminds you that for a larger bust, you may want to position the dart points further away than the standard 1″ that works well for a B cup.

This time around I also trimmed off the seam allowance on the front and back neckline, and around the armhole to get a better idea of where these would sit on me. Toile number 2 looked like this:

I’m almost happy with this. The length and bust fit well, with fewer draglines pointing to the bust. The only area that’s not working is the upper back at the sides. This could be a couple of things – I usually need a swayback adjustment, but I don’t think that’s the only thing.

In the past, I’ve made narrow back adjustments, but looking at this, I’m wondering if I need a sloping shoulder adjustment.

Or do you think it could be something else?

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The quest for my perfect jersey wrap dress

Woman wearing leaf-print wrap dress standing in garden
Brrr – where’s the sunshine gone?

A well-fitting wrap dress – probably the most lusted-after knit garment for any sewist – or at least for me.

This is my second version of Vogue 8379, a pattern so popular it’s got 136 write-ups on Sewing Pattern review. It’s a knits-only pattern, with a real wrap and a tie belt. View B has longer cuffed sleeves and a collar. I made view A (in a black printed cotton jersey) five years ago, before I’d learnt much about how to fit garments, and I’m relieved to say that the second version has turned out much better. Phew.

Woman standing in garden wearing leaf-print wrap dress. Chocolate Labrador in foreground.
Wispa the dog was dying to get in on the action

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This time I adjusted quite a bit. I:

  • added 1.25″ to the bodice length
  • added 1″ to the waist-hip length
  • added 1″ to the length of the 3/4 sleeves – some above and some below the elbow
  • raised the neckline by 1″
  • added 3″ with an FBA
  • re-drew the facing to match the new bodice shape
  • narrowed the back of the dress by about 1″
  • took some of the fullness out of the skirt at the back panels (but not from the front because I definitely wanted the dress to wrap round
  • interfaced the belt, as it stretched badly in my first version
  • removed 2cm from the centre back seam to make a sway back adjustment.

I used this tutorial from Jennifer Lauren Vintage to do the FBA for a knit top, and then to remove the dart to give a seam-free finish. The bodice is already pleated, so I think it works best without a dart as well. I had to trace the bodice off twice to make multiple adjustments, and the finished result looked like something a cat had chewed, but it did work. And when I get round (I will, I will) to tracing off a fresh copy, it’ll be ready to go straight away next time I need a wrap dress!

Picture of neckline and collar of leaf-print wrap dress.
The neckline is a much better fit after I made some alterations, although I found the facing rolls out in this viscose jersey.

I got to try out some features of my new machine, too. I made version one entirely on Faith, which was a straight-stitch only machine so it was great to be able to overlock (serge) lots of the seams and use a proper stretch stitch for the others with my new machine. I got lots of use out of my walking foot because the fabric was so slippery, and it also helped when the interfaced pieces dragged. Plus, I tried out the understitching foot on the bodice/facing seam. Not so sure about this – I couldn’t seem to get the stitching to land on the correct side of the seam – it kept veering over even though I had the guide on target. And I hasn’t stayed on the underside of the garment!

Finally – a neat hem on a jersey garment
Finally – a neat hem on a jersey garment

The fabric is a green and off-white viscose jersey I bought online from Remnant House (still available as of today), which has pros and cons. On the upside, it’s got great recovery and doesn’t crease. On the other hand, it’s quite slippery, so it’s tricky to cut and it doesn’t really hold its shape when you press it. I’d been looking for a large-but-not-too-large botanical print for ages, and then I spent two weeks deliberating whether to use it for this, or for a Sallie jumpsuit. This dress won out, because I had a wedding to attend this weekend, and I wasn’t convinced I could pull off a jumpsuit.

It’d also be ideal for a garden party – or is that too literal?

Have you made this pattern? How did it go for you? And how could I stop the facing from rolling to the outside?