This is a new pattern release from Simplicity for spring 2016 and the pattern includes a dress with two different sleeve lengths (as well as the option of a long line or short a-line jacket). I chose to make up the dress with the longer length sleeves, just on the elbow (ok so I confess I'm not THAT much of an optimist, I want some arm coverage against the spring chill, and if only to save myself the effort of fake tanning my Persil-white upper limbs). It has a back vent, soft pleats at the neckline and raglan sleeves.
I bought the fabric and pattern together during a week away on the English coast after Easter and perhaps the sparkling blue, north sea and merest hint of warm beach days to come inspired me to purchase a couple of metres of this tropical, palm leaf print fabric. As it was the end of a bolt, I actually came away with 2.8 metres in all. It's a reasonably substantial weight viscose with a pattern of deep blue and sea-green leaves on a white background with blue flowers. I've never worked with viscose before I don't think, or at least can't remember ever have done, as I usually like to work with cotton, linen, silk and wool as my first choice. However I think this will be perfect for a quick and easy everyday dress and hopefully this material will withstand being thrown in the washing machine regularly too. I was interested to see how it handled and was pleasantly surprised, viscose is a really nice fabric to work with. The drapey-ness meant it was quite wriggly on the cutting mat, and when sewing up though, so I did use a lot more pins than usual to keep it still.
I cut a size 12, as the dress is fairly fluid and unfitted with no sleeve insertion, so I reckoned there would be plenty of ease. I seem to be coming in slap bang between a size 12 and 14 with commercial patterns just now, but as long as it's not a very fitted design, I can usually take in or let out at the seams or darts for minor adjustments along the way. (I'd still do a full or partial toile for any fitted garment or trousers though, to be on the safe side).
The dress came together in no time at all, with only 4 main pattern pieces to cut and one simple neck band. Raglan sleeves require very little effort indeed to attach and there are no darts or fiddly fitting processes. I did decide to line the whole thing which took a little longer and which isn't included in the instructions. Lining always gives a better finish to a dress I think and definitely feels nicer to wear. I've used a lightweight polyester lining in off-white and cut it exactly the same as the outer dress pieces. It's very thin and floaty, so just enough to stop the white areas of the dress from being too transparent in sunlight but it won't drag the dress down too much.
I put the pleats in the top at the neck edge of the lining, same as for the outer dress, and then simply put together the front and back pieces of lining and inserted the sleeves the same as the dress pattern. I then attached the lining to the dress at the neck band. You can just see the raw edges of the dress and lining together in this pic, with the neck band pinned in place over the top. It was quite a stretch to get the neck band piece all the way round, and it actually turned out to be quite a narrow binding in the end. If I do this again, I'll cut the band a little wider to allow for a bit more seam allowance after it has been stretched out.
Dare I say that it might be a tiny bit warmer to have a fine layer of lining material underneath. But we're not talking about warm layers here, are we? Noooo! Moving on then....
The instructions call for a 20 inch concealed zip at the back. But when zips come in all the colours of the rainbow, why waste a perfectly good design detail I say. This one is azure blue and is exposed. It is also only 12 inches long, as I didn't really need to have a 20 inch opening to get into this loose fitting dress, so just inserted the zip into the top section of the bodice and closed the back seam as usual for the rest of the way to the back vent. I basted the back seam together first to check I could wriggle into it before finally inserting the zip and stitching.
Another slight alteration, the instructions suggest a hook and eye at the back of the neck, but I've attached a button and loop closure here. Just because, well that thing about liking design detail again, and also I am fortunate enough to have gazillions of lovely buttons to choose from and need no excuse to use one. This one is faceted blue and has a gold rim with a tiny leaf design.
I've gone for a hem that finishes just on the knee, as the most flattering and wearable length for me just now. You could make this dress super short though, as the proportions would look good. With the loose style and high-ish neck, adding a high hemline to the mix would make this dress perfect heatwave or holiday attire. Excuse the lack of lower legs and feet in any of these shots, my 7 year old photographer did extremely well, but omitted the footwear! You can just make out my furry assistant sneaking up at the bottom of this shot though.
So there we are, a tropical, south seas dress, inspired by the north sea coast! All ready for when the jet stream/gulf stream (or whatever it is that brings a 'warm front' to the British Isles) finally gets its skates on and rolls up on our shores. Snow this week meanwhile for some of us folk in the UK.
While mooching around York earlier this month on a day out, I noticed lots of botanical prints on the high street, and that Reiss has a number of items in this season that use a very similar palm print fabric, including a sleeveless dress and a pair of slim trousers (I was looking at the 'Selena' print range specifically). I love their clothes, although it's too high up the price bracket to be everyday wear for me. But it's nice to use the high street designs for inspiration and to see how they style them with other pieces such as jackets, shoes and accessories. And experiment with colours.
I like the idea of pairing my new dress with contrasting orange shoes and or accessories for dressing up.
I could smarten it up for work with a dark blazer, tan sandals and bag, or soften it for weekend wear with distressed denim jacket and any old pair of flats. I can see this being a hard working garment indeed in the very, very near future. When it stops snowing. Ever the optimist.