April is my Birthday month and as such, I required a suitably fantastical dress for the occasion. While looking for a pattern for my party dress, McCall’s 7835 immediately caught my eye as it has interchangeable elements to create your own finished design. It has a couple of sleeve and bodice options and separate skirt pieces for skirt frill options. Also, I love to line pretty much all my handmade garments, and this pattern has a lining included in the pattern so without wanting to sound lazy, it means slightly less brain power required for me to attached my own! I chose to create a dress using the off the shoulder strap with no additional sleeve or yoke, and the skirt with kick frill at the bottom to take the length to mid calf.

For a while I’ve wanted to try sewing with a stretch cotton and this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do so.  I chose a bold and colourful cherry print Stretch Cotton Sateen Fabric for the main part of the dress and a plain red in the same material to contrast on the shoulder straps and skirt frill. A first for me was using a Stretch Lining which the lovely people at Minerva recommended to me and I’m so glad they did as I would have had problems attaching a non-stretch lining. This lining is so soft and slinky! It still sews easily though and I didn’t have any problems with my machine trying to eat it like I always worry about with very fine fabrics. It is such a lovely addition to the inside of this dress.

When I first opened the pattern and found 6 pages of instructions I got a little concerned but, don’t fret, it’s just appears long as it covers all the different elements of the garment options, plus one A4 side is a model outline so you can sketch out your design first on a ‘body’.

The skirt flew together really quickly as it just requires standard darts on the main fabric and lining, and tacking them together once the front and backs are attached. The skirt frill is a couple of rectangles attached at the sides, and hemmed and gathered at the top. Its so satisfying pulling those threads up and watching the gathers appear! The shape of the skirt before it’s even attached to the bodice is amazing; the shape is so 1950s wiggle, I couldn’t wait to get it finished.

The bodice took a lot longer, but mainly because I had a hiccup whilst attaching the should straps – I managed to attach them upside down, and during the process had trimmed one side so then I couldn’t see where my notches were! My advice for this relatively straightforward part of the project would be, as always, read twice cut once! Problem rectified and it was plain sailing to attach the bodice and skirt and install the zip. I used an invisible zip, as is recommended in the instructions, however I did have to take this step extra carefully as the stretch stitch on my machine is a slight zig zag so I couldn’t get as close to the teeth as I would normally like. I would however still say this is a better option than a lapped zip because the dress is so fitted and you want to keep it looking as sleek as possible.

The bodice has three pieces of boning (centre seam and both side seams) to keep the shape and structure. I hope this step doesn’t put anyone off using this pattern because it really is so easy to install and it makes such a massive difference to the impact of the end dress. I love how it holds the shape of the slight sweetheart neckline and makes the whole dress feel more secure and structured when you’re wearing it. The boning and rubber cap ends I used are in the products list to the side and I would recommend these as I found them straightforward to install. The boning comes already installed in it’s own channels so you can just cut it all to size and sew straight on top of your lining seams (I used a zipper foot to keep as close as possible to the centre of the boning). For reference I needed one metre.

One more note on the bodice I have is that although the instructions advise you to under-stitch just the armholes, I would under-stitch the whole top edge of the bodice just to help keep it really crisp, as its completely on show when you’re wearing it so you want it looking as neat as possible.

The stretch cotton sateen is so lovely to work with. It has all the ‘easy to use’ qualities as standard cotton but the sheen takes it that next level to ‘party dress’ and the slight stretch means you can get the extra snug fit where you want it. It does fray quite a lot though so I would recommend ensuring you remember to finish your seams or after a few outings you might start seeing some unwelcome wear.

The finished dress looks and feels so well fitted and so extravagant and I actually don’t want to take it off! The stretch element means it’s really comfortable despite being so fitted, and the shapes of the design with the flamboyant kick frill and off-the-shoulder shape make it stand out from any ready to wear dress you could buy off the shelf.  Both the pattern, and cotton stretch fabrics are going to be things I’ll definitely be using again for party outfits. Now, pass me my castanets and watch me twirl!!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!

Rebecca

@pretty_handsome_everyday

Pretty Handsome Blog