Monday, July 22, 2019

My New Bib-Front Dress

This dress was quite a journey!  I bought this beautiful fabric from someone's Facebook destash sale, oh - three or four years ago now.  I don't remember who it was, but I loved the fabric so much!  I immediately knew it would be a beautiful Regency dress someday. and that I wanted it to be a bib-front style with long sleeves.

Well, the fabric languished on my shelf for years, waiting for the right time and the right pattern.  It was on my "To Make This Year" list for three straight years, but this year I decided that the England trip was definitely the time to make it!  As for the pattern, I had something cooking...

I had successfully drafted a pattern for the bodice of my pink bodiced petticoat, which was essentially the inner bodice of a bib-front dress already.  It fits great, so half the work was done already.  There was only one problem - I needed to draft sleeves to fit into this armscye:

Which turned out to be just as tricky as I imagined it would be.  I used the long sleeve from the La Mode Bagatelle pattern as a base shape:

And drew what I estimated the revised sleeve head needed to be:

I cut this piece from my sacrificial mockup fabric, pinned it into the armscye of the bodiced petticoat, and tried it on:

The sleeve head *did* fit into the armscye, but when my arm went in it created these lovely horizontal wrinkles:

I went back to the drawing board (after a couple days away from the project, for my sanity) and decided I wasn't going to get what I wanted by trying to draft a flat pattern.  I needed to drape it.  Also, in the intervening time I had looked at a lot of extant garments on Pinterest.  This image helped me the most:  

Round gown c. 1800

With the sleeves laid out flat, I could see that they really needed to be set in at a right angle to the shoulders, and that was a huge lightbulb moment for me!  

So I found a new piece of sacrificial fabric, and started by pinning the square corner in at junction of the two seams of the side back:  

This time, instead of using the finished bodiced petticoat, I used the unfinished lining pieces I had already cut out for the dress itself.  This gave me usable seam allowances to work with.  

I tried this on, and look how great it fits!  

I was so pleased!  Of course, the weird-shaped scrap of fabric I had used for this second mockup was not wide enough at the bottom, and far too long.  I marked where it hit my wrist:

 And marked where I needed to trim the top edge to match up with the armscye seam allowance:

Then I combined my two partial mockups to create one full pattern piece:

You can clearly see now how I had far too much height at the top of the sleeve, and how the width needed to shift to the right:

I cut the second mockup to the right length and width to match the first mockup at the lower portion of the sleeve, since that part had fit great, and tried it on again:

Good movement...

No pulling at the back, even when I raise my arms:

Yay!  Sleeve pattern accomplished!  I traced it onto newsprint, adding a bit of length because I wanted the sleeve to extend down over my hand.

Now I could finally cut into my beautiful fabric!  I went forward confidently, knowing that the bodice pattern already worked and fit great.  And I had solved my sleeve issues... right?

On to construction!  I cannot tell you how happy this bodice back makes me:

As for the front, I cut a long rectangle with slightly curved sides, tracing a pattern from it for future use:

I hemmed the two short sides, turned the top edge over and made it a drawstring casing, and pinned small pleats into the lower edge:

When I went to add the sleeves, I ran into a problem.

Somehow my armscye was larger than my sleeve head, even after two mockups:

Aaarrrrgh, what to do?  I had already flat-felled the sleeve seam by hand, so I really didn't want to undo that work.  On the other hand, I also didn't want to cut two brand-new sleeves!  So I ended up adding in a gusset.  It only took a scrap this big:

Which was infuriating, because I had gotten it SO CLOSE to perfect!  But alas.  I undid the top five inches or so of my flat-felled seam, did some mental pretzel-ing to figure out how to flat-fell the gusset seams:

But I eventually got it in!

And it fit!  HUZZAH!!!

Luckily, no one will ever notice this tiny little gusset under my arm - even though the stripes are completely off (and I just noticed, upside-down!) :

Oh well.  The important thing is I fixed my problem without having to cut new sleeves.  I had plenty of leftover fabric, so that wasn't an issue, but if I had re-cut them there's no guarantee I would have fixed the problem without creating some new disaster.

I ended up sewing the sleeve in most of the way on the machine, then switching to hand-stitching at the 90° corner because it was just easier to top-stitch it in place:

After that, I had only one small snafu:

I sewed the skirt back to the skirt front upside down!  Luckily I realized my error in time to correct it.

I used a pleating diagram from the Agreeable Tyrant book as a rough guide for pleating my skirt back to the bodice, taking care that the narrow stripe of the design was at the edge of every pleat.  This created a lovely effect at the center back:

I did have to adjust the angle of the skirt where it attached to the bodice in front - a lot more than I had needed to adjust it when I made the bodiced petticoat!  I think I cut the front skirt panel a bit too short for this dress.

The blue marks are where I had pinned the skirt in place while wearing it, to get the front of the skirt to hang correctly:

But it worked out in the end!

I was so pleased with my new dress!  It was everything I had wanted from this fabric.

Let's check out that bodice back one more time:

*happy sigh*  Stripes are so much fun!  I was positively giddy at this point, just seeing my dress on the dress form:  

But!  It was also super comfortable to wear!

I wore it around the house for the better part of an afternoon, even though the bodice lining wasn't tacked in place yet and the top of the skirt was just pinned in place.  I could not wait to wear this dress in England!  :D  And at this point I had only four days left to wait - but so much sewing left to do...  Anyway, it felt good to have this big project (largely) checked off my list!