This project has been a long time coming so I'm excited that it's the first proper pattern review I'm sharing here. It started when I picked up a few yards of floral (gasp!) rayon last December at Michael Levine with a summery dress in mind. I'm so fickle when it comes to prints that I usually fall in and out of love with them before I even reach the checkout. But this one seemed different and it fit in the budget, so it came home with me. Fast forward to the end of March just before it was announced that the #sewtogetherforthesummer theme would be wrap dresses. I came across this one in an Anthropologie ad and I immediately thought of that floral rayon I had.
Spurred along by my ever-resourceful Instagram pals, I suddenly had several pattern options that could help bring this inspo photo to life. I went with Vogue 9251 after seeing it's versatility in versions from Jessie and Bryanna. There were quite a few changes it needed in order to match my inspiration and seeing their hacks was really reassuring.
Pattern: Very Easy Vogue V9251. I've only ever made a couple of Big 4 patterns, but I'm guessing this one was categorized 'very easy' because there are very few pattern pieces. In my opinion that's a bit deceiving. Especially since it's recommended to be made up in rayon, the instructions are sparse- almost cryptic and some of the methods a little tricky. There's also no reminder or indication of when to finish seam allowances. I think the indie pattern-maker favorite skill level "adventurous beginner" is much more accurate. That said, I found the pattern to be very well drafted and final product matched the illustrations beautifully.
Fabric: Paradis Woodland Art Gallery Rayon from Michael Levine (out of stock there, but still online in other shops) This fabric is sooo dreamy and buttery, assuming you dream of butter *or like me a really good plant based alternative*. This is a bold, saturated print but to me the design and color pallete are sophisticated and refined.
Size: I made the size 12 based on the finished bust measurements. I could have graded down slightly at the waist but figured I'd just cinch it in with the ties. A quick look at the cut of the skirt indicated it was generous enough to graze my hips freely so a straight 12 it was!
Fit: I'm very happy with the fit and fortunately the adjustments I made worked out great. The waist does not tighten as snugly as I hoped, but I'm okay with it. I really love the way the bodice hangs delicately with the perfect amount of ease. The curve of the wrap skirt is something I was concerned about for modesty, but actually it has great coverage. I can't say as much for the top but that might just be me (not a fan of cleavage). Fortunately a safety pin is enough to keep the girl's out of sight. I'll put a snap on soon to avoid snagging the fabric.
Changes: So many! Starting from the top I raised the back neckline 1/2" which I think is more flattering on me. The plan was to omit the sleeves so to keep it from being too restrictive I deepend the armscyes by 3/4", then finished them with bias binding. There are options for two skirt lengths but since I wanted mine knee length I was on my own in adjusting it. I know you're technically supposed to us the lenghten/shorten lines for this kind of change, but the placement of these made no sense to me. Had I done as instructed I would have ended up with a waaay more voluminous skirt than I wanted (half circle skirt status). I went rogue here, managing to preserve the curve of the of the front hem without adding on anything to the width. I think I ended up shortening the midi version by about 11 inches. I did not make a muslin, but I did carefully consider the impact of each change and made them to the pattern pieces before I cut into my fabric. Holding the pieces up to myself and my dress form helped me feel confident I was on the right path.
The Frill: As the main feature in replicating the look of the Anthropologie dress, this beast gets it's own section. Truth: I own nothing with frills and invariably replace gathers with pleats in all skirts so the extent of my experience up to this point was gathering sleeves for insertion. I'm sure there are better ways to have done this, but this method got the job done. I sewed together 4 inch wide strips of fabric totaling the required length plus roughly 50% extra for gathering. I folded the one *very long* strip in half, stitching each end closed and sewed gathering stitches. Gathering 195 inches of fabric was a way bigger undertaking than I imagined, especially since I thought I could do it with only one row of gathering stitches- a total ruffle rookie mistake. If you attempt this, please save yourself some grief and use two or even three rows to keep everything in place. Once the gathered frill was pinned on I attached it beginning at the outer waist tie, all around the hem and back up to the inner waist tie. All three layers of the seam allowance were serged together and pressed toward the skirt.
Construction: The construction was pretty straightforward, but the wording in the instructions and minimal illustrations left me overthinking what was to be done. In the end I did what made the most sense to me, which may or may not be correct. I think the look of self bias binding is so much more refined than pre-made, so I made it in the continuous loop method with this tutorial from Itch to Stitch. For reference I used a 12" square and cut 1 inch strips and I had enough to bind the armscyes and all around the wrap and back neckline of the bodice with about 12 inches left over. Making bias tape with such delicate fabric is a real pain and mine is far from perfect. The same is true of my application of it. I regret not making my strips 1.25" instead of 1" because I think those extra millimeters added to the folds would have made the binding sturdier. Added to the fact that I'm super rusty at bias binding in general, I'm not certain it'll hold up in the washing machine so I'll probably stick to hand washing. One thing that did help in making the bias tape was *heavily* spray starching the fabric square before cutting and again when putting it through the bias maker. On that note, my top tip for working with shifty rayon in general is to handle it minimally. The cut fabric loses it's shape very easily, so never stretch or pull on it in the slightest and to never let your cut fabric hang off the edge of your work surface or even from your hand until you've got it all stitched together.
Verdict: It's floaty and romantic and swishy and breezy. Definitely not a look I'm known for, but I'm really pleased with it. It had been ages since I made anything other than a simple skirt with rayon, and I had forgotten how hard it is to wrangle. And with so many changes and fiddly finishings it took me ages to complete but it was all worth it in the end. Stay tuned, I will be making a short sleeved version of this pattern soon sans frill very soon!