Posted on Thursday the 25th June 2020 by Sew Mama Bear
As with all the best laid plans… things don’t always go smoothly. When I made the decision to make Ally (my photographer extraordinaire) a dress for a wedding she was due to attend in May we could never have anticipated the event being cancelled, lockdown or social distancing… however, never one to give up we decided we were just going to need to get creative.
McCalls 7745 is a wrap dress pattern with ribbon ties. It contains 2 different length and front opening options, 2 sleeve options, and an optional flounce. The pattern also includes cup options on top of the standard sizing.
The fabric suggestions for this dress are; Crepes, Challis, Crepe de Chine, Stable Knits. I always think they should provide a translation for this information on patterns… it should read fabric with some stability but a good drape. This viscose was absolutely perfect for the job, it drapes absolutely stunningly but isn’t slippery and holds its form really well. Spots are utterly timeless, which for occasion-wear is often so important to enable it to not just be a one-wear-wonder. As it was planned to be worn to a wedding black was a no-no, so navy was the perfect choice.
Viscose is one of those fabrics that can take several forms, sometimes silky and other times with an almost cotton like feel… this one is the later. It feels like a cotton but with a greater lightness and more open weave and absolutely no shiny quality at all.
The first challenge of this make was how to make sure it fit someone I couldn’t come within 2 meters of… a toile was the only answer. So, using an old duvet cover (my go to for toiles and test runs) I whipped up a simple version in her size. Ally then tried it on in my garden, popped a few pins in under the arms where it was a little loose across the bust and voila a socially distanced fitting had been completed. This is not something I hope to have to do many of, it’s all very strange and challenging. (Fortunately, with this style of dress the fit across the bust and length of strap was all that I needed to check)
The maxi version of the skirt has very large pattern pieces that will not fit on your standard table. With drapey fabrics you want to avoid cutting with any part of the fabric hanging off the table and moving it to pin the other half will be challenging… I used the floor of my studio. There aren’t a huge number of pieces to cut, its only managing the cumbersome skirt pieces that is tricky here.
The bodice is constructed first, and this section of the dress is lined. The lining is how the neckline and underarm edges are finished so is needed and it creates a really beautiful finish. I have a used a navy lining fabric, but you could if you wanted to use the same fabric as the outer if you prefer. When stitching the panels together 2 of the ribbon ties get enclosed in the side seams (1 in the outer and 1 in the lining). The instructions make this really clear as to which one to do, I just laid the pieces out as per the drawing to avoid getting my lefts and rights confused. The ties on a wrap dress take a lot of strain (I mean they literally are the fastening) and you want to make sure they’re secure, I like to do a 2nd line of stitching in the seam allowance to do this.
When constructing the bodice lining the instructions ask you to press up the bottom edge by 1.5cm and then trim it back. This is to make the finishing where this is handstitched to the outer at the waist seam much easier to do and is well worth taking time over. My favourite tool for this type of job is my sewing gauge… the red arrow can be set at whatever measurement you’re working with so that you’re not searching on the tape measure for the allowance you’re using. , Then for pressing I find it helps hold the turn back in place whilst I iron along next to it. It is an absolute game changer of a tool and makes these sorts of instructions a breeze to complete.
Now in the interest of honesty, if you’re not a fan of a narrow hem this probably isn’t the project for you… because there is a lot to do! The flounce that runs around the bodice is a long curved narrow hem finish and so is the hem. I will say though, the patterns instructions give some helpful advice for doing these without too much grief.
For the flounce hem they suggest making a line of stitching that you then press along folding the seam allowance to the wrong side. You then trim back before folding the pressed edge in and stitching in place. If it sounds complex its just the way I’ve explained it (although still a lengthy process, as it’s a long length to hem) because I found it worked like a dream.
The hem (for the curved version that I did) is then done in a similar way in that you run a line of stitching around first, although this time it’s an ease stitch you’re doing so that you can pull the stitches to ease the fabric in around the curves. Now, I didn’t actually find that I needed to use the ease stitches as the fabric happily manipulated into the narrow hem around the curves, but this will vary from fabric to fabric and the stitch line really helped me keep the hem the right width throughout.
For me, the hemming wasn’t the problem… the part I found tricky was the spaghetti straps. They were fiddly (they always are) … and took me a while to turn… although the dress would have looked strange with anything else, so I do concede that they were worth the trouble.
Once hemmed, the bodice and the skirt just come together at the waist seam, the lining is then whip-stitched onto this seam to contain all the raw edges of the bodice within it. I only neatened the side seams on the flounce and the skirt because of this, the others aren’t visible at all.
The finished dress has filled me with so much joy… as sad as I feel that the event it was made for isn’t happening right now, the dress itself is so stunning and suits its new occupant to a tee. The wedding will of course be rescheduled too so it will get its day out soon I’m sure. It also fits her fabulously which I am very thrilled with given the hilarious fitting conditions we had to work with.
The fabric on the skirt moves with an effortless fluidity in the most wonderful shape. The flounce that goes across the bodice that turns into the off the shoulder sleeve just looks so beautiful I really couldn’t be more pleased with it.
The rogue choice I made with this dress is the colour of the ribbon ties… of course the natural choice would be a navy, but I decided upon this coral pink. I think it adds a little pop of colour that really lifts it, and I’ve always liked a little quirky detail.