The Wiksten shift is a pattern that has been super-popular this year. When I first saw it, I was definitely like, “Meh”, because , as mentioned in previous posts, the boxy shift silhouette has never been part of my repertoire, owing to a curvy figure that needs some definition. However, my feelings started to change when I saw my friend Melizza (@melizzamakes), who tested the garment for Jenny Wiksten, fashion not just one, but multiple gorgeous versions. Still, I thought, maybe it just looks amazing on Melizza (which would certainly not be out of the question). Then I saw other versions pop up – on all shapes and sizes – and, I kid you not, EVERYBODY – and I really mean everybody – looks fantastic in this dress. Check out #wikstenshiftdress on Instagram and see for yourself.
There’s something about the proportions of the dress: the neckline and sleeves, versus the length and width; I can’t say what exactly, but Jenny Wiksten got this draft bang on. I reached tipping point sometime in June and went from being indifferent to this pattern to being practically desperate to make one overnight. I had a few other garments in my queue to finish first, but browsed through my stash and, because this shape is such a vehicle for showing off a fabric, had literally dozens of suitable pieces I wanted to use.
I decided that I really, really wanted to use this beautiful piece of Nani Iro/Kokka watercolour fabric that had been in my stash for a while: Nani Iro Kokka Ripple A from Miss Matatabi (sadly sold out). It’s a double gauze and was exactly 3m long and the usual Japanese 40″ width, and I managed to cut out the long version in a size 14. There wasn’t much left I can tell you, but for your info, if you only have 3m rather than 3.5m, it can be done. I was slightly worried the double gauze would be see-through, but actually it’s okay. It is danged hard to photograph though (I only use my phone; I am definitely lining up a proper camera for a future birthday or similar). We were really lucky with the light when we went out and the brighter sunset snaps really show the diaphanous qualities of the fabric well, while the more subdued pictures are a better representation of the colours.
I should mention here that the Wiksten pattern comes in three versions: the long shift dress I’m wearing here (I didn’t make any length adjustments and I’m 5’6″ for reference. I was really in the mood for a long dress), a shorter dress/tunic and a top. There are sleeves too, although I’m wearing the “sleeveless” version here. As you can see there are still grown on short sleeves and also a yoke. The long version has a gathered yoke, while the top is plain, but these are all interchangeable.
The size 14 represented a sizing down for me. By the measurement table I would be an 18 for bust and a 16 for hips, but I knew a number of people had done so and felt comfortable going down by the two sizes. As you can see, there is still plenty of ease. I may even consider going larger again for a drapier fabric: a rayon challis, say, but the double gauze, while light and airy, has a certain stiffness to it that led to my decision to size down the whole two sizes.
I made no changes to the pattern otherwise and followed the instructions faithfully. And what a joy construction was! Fast (just a few hours), straightforward and beguiling in its simplicity. I loved making this dress. A beginner would have no issues – that’s how well thought-out it is. I particularly appreciated the flow of simple instructions for the side slit. A side slit looks like it would be the simplest thing, but can actually be a little tricky to get a neat finish sometimes. This method was so darn simple and gave such a neat finish. Bravo! It’s been noted in my “favourite techniques” list.
The dress is finished with a neck facing, rather than bias binding and it gave me another chance to practice after my slight struggle with the Maya top (my lack of skill rather than any problem with the pattern). I definitely preferred the 1/4″ seam allowance on this facing – so much easier to turn and press. And I do think a facing is really perfect for this style of dress. The whole garment is a model of simplicity and it works perfectly.
I’ve read a couple of reviews from sewists who were a little annoyed by some of the details – the fact that there’s no enclosed yoke and that some of the hems are finished in a very simple manner. I guess I know what they mean – I suppose that for the premium indie price of $16, the construction does seem minimal in a way. I have to be honest, though, and say it really didn’t bother me. I do like a clever construction draft – indeed, my recent Perkins shirt and Quincy dress projects both had very pleasing finishing details and really put a smile on my face. But I didn’t really notice with this project. What can I say? Each to their own. I definitely appreciated the speed of this project. It’s a quick sew; I think I made this in a day or so.
Two other small notes: first, I was really surprised that I quite like this dress without the belt. I was 100% convinced that the belted version would be the ONLY way I would wear this. But I have to say I rather like the loose and gauzy feel of this shift – it’s almost liberating! My husband thinks I look like “a hippy” when I let it hang loose. Haha! It’s all relative though, and there are worse things in life to resemble!
My second note is – did you notice I’m sporting not one, but two belts in the pics? I made the pink one first, from the main piece of fabric I have left, but when I put it on, it looked… sooooo girly! And I am not really that girly in real life. So I eked another belt out of my scraps, piecing together some of the green and yellow parts. Of course, now that I see the photos, it doesn’t look as bad as I initially thought, which is just typical. So now I have two belts to alternate with! Jeez.
Look, honestly, I’m at a slight loss to explain what it is about the Wiksten shift that works so well. It’s not a hugely original style – and there are no crazy design features. It just… works. I really urge you to have a shot at it if you haven’t been convinced thus far. I can tell you one thing – I’ve already cut out one another and I can’t wait to put it together.
It’s not a good pattern – it’s a fantastic pattern. 11 out of 10.