You may recognize this dress if you follow the Sewcialists blog as I made it for the currently running “Stripes” theme month. I ended up with two garments for the post in the end (you can read why on the original post here) but I wanted to also post about them separately with a bit more on the construction and sewing, since the original post was meant more as a summation and I didn’t want to bore the pants off people stopping by for a bit of picture-fun.
To cut a long story short, I was aiming to make some woven striped pieces, since I’d only used knits before, and this blue seersucker from Robert Kaufman was one of my only suitable pieces (I’m trying to use up stash this year, like so many of us). This is a classic fabric with the potential to look incredibly sweet and girly – and, honestly, that’s just not my personal style – so I decided to try and use it in a more tailored garment and decided on: the Penny shirtdress from Colette Patterns. I decided to make Version 2 with no sleeves and a belt, which could add a nice bit of contrast. I also decided to add the pockets from Version 1, for further contrast, plus I just really like pockets on a shirtdress.
The pdf from Colette is quite large at 61 pages, but I must say it’s much more economically laid out than some of the others I’ve used from them. Most of it is skirt, which is understandable given the fullness. Now, there is one big problem with this dress and me, which is something I should really have thought about in advance. I did, in fact, make a muslin in a size 16, which corresponded to my current measurements, even thought I normally use a 14 with Colette. The 16 fit very well around bust and waist, but I had some diagonal draglines from shoulder to waist and the shoulder looked a little long. I pinned the shoulder according to the seam allowance and thought the draglines looked ok. The shoulder still looked wide but the armhole looked good, so I decided to go ahead with a 16 rather than 14 plus FBA.
Those last few sentences are from my notes and I don’t really know what happened, because yes, the shoulder is too wide for me (IMO, but, you know, the more I look at the official Penny pics, the more I see a wide shoulder on the models too – a little different from the line drawing, so perhaps it’s a pattern issue) but, more importantly, the armhole is HUGE. I’m not sure how it could have looked okay on the muslin, because it is a good way HUGE. Even worse, I had this exact same problem with my Seamwork Gretta top, which was the first thing I had made with Colette’s redrafted block and I completely forgot about it. GAH! It’s such a shame, because Colette’s old sizing was great on me (obviously I was in a niche minority, because that’s why they reconfigured the block), but I must remember this in the future.
Admittedly, it’s worse in the final garment because the waviness of the seersucker style adds quite a bit of stiffness to the armhole area which, coupled with the facing, makes it stand quite rigid. I’m telling you, you can see all the way to Canada through my armpit area if you happen to be at the right angle. I’m not sure how to fix it either. How do you fix a negative space? Maybe I could remove the facing and then use bias binding, flipping it to the outside somehow? I’m not sure.
The fabric also wasn’t the best choice for the ruched belt, which is just too bulky with the rigidity of the seersucker. It didn’t feel so stiff on the flat, but I suppose that’s where experience gets (or doesn’t get) you. It’s a shame really, because otherwise the dress fits me rather well and I do like the style.
As you can see, I decided to get slightly experimental and add some bright yellow piping to the yoke area to break up that pinstripe a little. It was fairly straightforward to do (although I really would like a piping foot) and I like the effect. It made the buttons incredibly hard to match, so I ended up painting my own. I had some clear buttons and simply used masking tape to mask off a straight line, before painting the area in hardware paint. I let it dry a little and then varnished the buttons. They came out pretty well I think, although I’m somewhat dubious as to how long that paint’s going to survive.
Construction-wise I thought the instructions were good. The Penny is a fairly challenging dress with a number of pieces. Watch when you’re cutting pieces and check the layout guide as some pieces are reversed. There’s a lot of staystitching and interfacing to start, which is all good, necessary stuff. I would use a lighter interfacing next time as I picked something a little heavy I reckon. The pockets were okay, although I think I prefer the Melilot style of pockets now. I made a little cardboard cutout to help with pressing those awkward curves up and it helped, but it’s not my favourite method of pocket forming.
Some people had issues with forming the placket and I did also come a little unstuck. Unfortunately I wrote notes on my paper instructions to add here and I can’t find the notes! I know it was mainly to clarify one of those instructions, but I’m afraid I’ll have to claim ignorance now. Here are my pics if it clarifies anything for you?!
It’s a shame the armhole is too big as the facings actually went on very neatly, as did the collar and stand. The instructions were very good here and resulted in a nice finish.
One thing that I’ve seen people miss is the instruction to add snaps on the botton half of the placket (from the belt downwards). This is what keeps the lower half in place! It’s a bit fiddly but has the desired effect.
So, overall, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. My fabric wasn’t quite the right choice and the armhole needs some work, but the pattern does has some nice features. Whether I’ll fix the issues and wear it much remains to be seen, but I can imagine a version in a finer fabric would be lovely. I have a number of shirtdress patterns in my collection, however, so I reckon I’ll probably try one of those first.