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Faux Leather Ultimate Shift Dress

Hello there! I’m excited to share a fun project with you today.

I found this lovely classy Fabric at Minerva and jumped at the chance to work with it!

It’s a really unique and dressy fabric. The composition is black tulle (as the base) with cut out pleather pieces layered with intricate silver thread embroidery on top.

The pattern that I paired with this project is the Ultimate Shift Dress from Sew Over It. I picked the pattern as I love the simplicity of the dress. There are only bust darts for shaping, no front or back darts (so that a printed fabric can shine).

Seam allowance: The pattern calls for 1.5cm (or 0.59”). When I made my first two muslins, I rounded down to a ½” Seam allowance (or 0.5”). After I finished the second muslin, I contacted Sew Over It to double check the English conversion for the S.A. They suggested to use 5/8” (or 0.625”) for the seam allowance. As my muslins were made with ½” (and a few alternate seam allowances), I did not follow the suggested 5/8” S.A. so I wanted to note this here. I share my alternate seam allowances that I used in the Final Dress section of this post.

Muslin #1: For the first muslin I used a fun mustard printed bedsheet from my stash. For woven patterns I usually enjoy repurposing poly/cotton bedsheets for a quick & cheap muslin, to test fit. If the muslin fits well in the first go around, it becomes a wearable muslin. If it doesn’t fit well, then the investment was low.

For muslin #1 I made Version #1 and I selected a size 8 for the sleeves. I also picked a size 8 for the bust, graded to a 10 at the waist and a 12 at the hips.

Modifications:

The arms were too tight at the biceps. I also saw that there were drag lines at the bust. For the next muslin I want to go up to size 10 for the bust and arms.

The hips area was slightly small for comfort. I had an interesting discovery with this project. I’ve sewn for many years and have enjoyed making garments for myself (but this is the first straight cut, woven dress that I’ve made). All other woven garments that I’ve sewn have had an a-line or gathered waistline. I thought the widest part around my waist was around my backside but I found that there is a slightly wider dimension measuring slightly lower around my hips. This was a fun discovery to sew a garment shape that I haven’t worked with yet on my own body. I need to go up to a size 14 at the hips.

Muslin #2: I decided to try a top for this muslin (Version 3), to save use less fabric/sheets.

Modifications:

The bust looks much better at a size 10.  I need to do a full bicep adjustment for the sleeves in the final garment (to gain slightly more room in the biceps). I used this helpful tutorial to widen the bicep by 1.5”. This modification is quite helpful to keep the fit the same at the shoulder and wrist but add more ease around the biceps. If you’ve never tried this modification (and you think you might need to) I highly recommend you give it a try!

I found that the under arms had slightly less movement, for my comfort level. You can visually note the smaller arm movement on me in the pictures of muslin #1.  To increase the arm movement I found this helpful tutorial. This technique is to add a gusset to the underarm, without making any other modifications to the pattern. I drafted a gusset pattern (image below) if you would like to experiment with it for your dresses as well.  
Something I tried as well was to trace this new gusset pattern onto a piece of watercolor paper. The paper is quite stiff and will be handy to keep and use for future pattern modifications. I tested this gusset pattern piece on muslin #2 in both underarms.
I was really happy with the result of adding the gusset! I followed the suggestions in the tutorial and also sewed a ¼” seam allowance (6mm) around the armhole and underarm gusset (to give more room around the armhole).  You don’t notice the gusset when the arm is laying flat, in the natural position but you can see this added material under the arm, for reference.  I basted the gusset in for a quick test for fit.
I did not include the keyhole back for this muslin.  I have read a few pattern reviews on this pattern and learned that the keyhole feature in the back is for the look and not necessary for the function of getting the top/dress on and off of your head.  Although I think it was fun to remove this feature in this muslin, I’m going to add it back in for the final dress (as I like the classier look of the keyhole).

Final Dress:

Materials:

  • Silk head pins

  • Fabric clips

  • Black Poly Thread

  • Yellow Poly Thread (for taylor’s tacks)

  • Hand sewing needle

  • Lining fabric, I used a similar Rayon Challis

  • 1 Button (similar to this one)

  • Elastic cord (similar to this one)

  • 80/12 universal sewing machine needle

  • Roller foot or walking foot (for a sewing machine)

  • Underarm gusset pattern

My final seam allowances (per my fit preferences):

  • Bust dart: 1/2”

  • Back Seam: 1/2”

  • Shoulders: 1/2”

  • Side Seams: 1/2”

  • Neck facing: 5/8”

  • Arm hole: 1/4”

  • Gusset: 1/4”

I used both fabric clips and silk head pins in this project.  You typically don’t want to use pins when working with pleather but in some parts of the assembly, I liked the stability of using pins (and the holes weren’t noticeable with the tulle as the base layer of the fabric).

After cutting out the fabric I marked each notch and the bust darts with a needle and thread via Taylor’s tacks. I’ve not yet utilized Taylor’s tacks in a sewing project, I’ve just heard them mentioned online.  They do take some time but are quite worth the effort, in the end.

I decided to do a lining at the bodice of the dress (but I decided to leave the sleeves unlined). I could have sewn the lining separate from the bodice and attached them together at the neck facing but I decided to attach the lining to the bodice by serging around each piece (the bodice front and two bodice back pieces).

I’ve started using a headlamp (even during the day) when working with darker colored fabrics.  It’s become a much handier way to see as I’m cutting or marking a garment on the cutting table.

I serged around all sides of the bodice front and back. One positive with this choice is that it made the fabric more stable.  The taylor’s tacks were also captured in the serging so I could still see the markings/notches via the yellow threads to sew the garment together.

One negative with choosing to attach the cut out tulle fabric to the lining (in the first step) was that it changed the drape of the end fabric in the way the dress hung. I love the dress but if I had it to do over again, I’d enjoy keeping the lining separate from the tulle fabric and only attach them at the neck facing, for the drape.  

I enjoyed the the back bodice with the keyhole and button feature.

I was so happy with the added movement that the underarm gusset brought.  It made the end garment so comfortable to wear and the full movement range with the armholes made the end dress very versatile for me.  I like having this little pattern piece now to keep in case I want to modify another pattern in the future.

Speaking back a few steps, I did want to note that I sewed the bust darts separately before I attached the lining to the front bodice, at the edges. I’m really happy with this pattern pairing for the fabric.  Minimizing the number of darts is so nice, to not interrupt the lovely embroidery features. I am wearing a belt with the dress in the photos. I like how a simple belt can bring in the shaping a bit at the waist.

In the end, I’m really happy with the dress. The fabric wasn’t too difficult to work with and I love the uniquness of the fabric.

I think this fabric would also be very fun to wear as a skirt.  

I wanted to share about another choice that I made in the sewing process that I would do differently next time.  I chose to not trim the inside seams. First I finished the edges of the fabric before sewing the seams (by serging).  In the back bodice, after sewing the seams I left the seam allowance and sewed two parallel lines along the seams, to help keep the seam flat.  I may go back and serge the seam allowances shorter at the side seams, to take out some bulk.

I really like this dress and I look forward to wearing it out, a lot.  If you’re intrigued with this fabric and want to give it a try for your own project, I highly recommend it!

I wish you all a very happy day with your own sewing adventures!

Rachel (@oakbluedesignswww.oakbluedesigns.com  

Comment (1)

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Diana Castillo said:

Wow! I??m so impressed by the final outcome. I am not one to make multiple muslins but I can see how helpful it is. The fabric looks intimidating but I guess you can??t judge a fabric by just looking at it. It is a beautiful fabric for a beautiful dress. Great post! · 3rd Nov 2018 05:49pm