I will be attending a high tea later this month and have used it as an excuse to sew up a tea length extra femme dress. The fabric is from By Hand London and I could not resist the little monster faces when I saw it and ordered two metres. I found it tricky to decide on a pattern for the fabric due to the print and weight of the fabric which has a fairly stiff drape. Once I knew I was going to make a tea dress I started looking at shirt dress patterns inspired in part by Mary of Idle Fancy’s autumn of 1,000 shirt dresses. After making a muslin of Mccall’s 6696 sleeveless bodice and planing to narrow the shoulders significantly I changed my plan to Simplicity 1755.
I’ve made this pattern twice before but only ever the sleeved version of the bodice. I dug out my muslin (size 20) and ripped out the sleeves to see how it would fit without them. There was a lot of gaping along the front over the bust edge so I took out a wedge from the side seam taking the top of the front and back side seams to a size 18 and tapering to size 20 at the waist. both front and back lay flat along the skin now though it is slightly tight across the bust. i am happy with the (almost) pattern matching across the front and back bodices. The back skirt seam is totally off but I don’t mind.
I highly recommend this pattern both for the sleeved and sleeveless versions of the bodice. I have not used the skirt pattern pieces however for any of my three versions. For this version I used Victory Patterns Madeline skirt, which I have made multiple versions of, as I wanted a below knee full skirt. My only complaint regarding the Simplicity pattern is the collar. It does not sit as well as it could. If I make the pattern again I will draft a collar with collar stand to improve it. The pattern also does not account for turn of cloth for the collar and I forgot to trim the under collar myself so the under collar edge can be seen rolling to the top.
As I plan to wear this dress in the summer I left it totally unlined using satin bias binding to face the armholes. I made a waistband facing from a scrap of white cotton to keep the insides tidy and long wearing. the button loops are made from the same satin bias binding. Disappointingly the front loop turned out to be too small. As the fabric scars badly I did not want to risk unpicking the collar so I sewed the front collar together instead. I chose the buttons to match the flower’s blue eyes. They are vintage glass buttons from Buttons Buttons Buttons in the Rocks, Sydney.
I chose to flat fell the seams due to the heavier weight of the fabric. The center back seam has been finished with the satin seam binding. The dress is hemmed with a narrow turned hem which I find one of the easiest finishes for a circle skirt.
Here are my previous versions of the dress both are a straight size 20. The first version is made from an African wax print purchased at Marrikville Market with a gridded organza contrast from Tessuti. I omitted the collar and shortened the sleeves to a cap sleeve. I substituted the pencil skirt pattern from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing for the skirt. I have to admit the pencil skirt is the only pattern I have made from her book but I’ve made four skirts from it and used it for a handful of dresses. Sadly the organza at the waist is fraying at the seams despite being underlined and it doesn’t have many wears left in it.
My second version of the pattern includes collar, slightly shortened sleeves and the same pencil skirt. The main fabric is a wool crepe from Clear It in Melbourne. The sleeves are an embroidered organza from Tessuti and collar a white cotton shirting. For this version I lined the skirt with silk habotai as I wanted to wear it with tights.