Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Three-Pattern-Mashup Dress

My version of Colette's Ceylon has been a long time coming. It's one of those patterns that I ordered immediately upon its publication (three or more years ago?), and that I subsequently developed serious reservations about.

The good: Yoked bodice! Neckline darts! Strong early forties vibe!

The bad: That infernal midriff section. It's portrayed as a nice smooth expanse of fabric in the illustration, but I could never fool myself that it would flow effortlessly over the topography of my abdomen and upper hips. It's so long! It runs from right under the bust to several inches below the natural waist. I'm also becoming less enthusiastic about dresses with full length button bands down the front--that would be shirtdresses, I suppose--because even when they are well-fitted with plenty of ease, there is always that awareness of the closure and how buttons can open up or pop off.

So I had to wait for my skills to catch up with my love of the best elements of the design to make a version of this dress that suited my preferences.

Bodice: Colette Ceylon + Waistband: McCall's 6503 + Skirt: Colette Parfait
My little sketch of the pieces together

To my surprise, assembling the different components of the dress really didn't turn out to be very difficult, probably since I had already fit the waistband and skirt.

Bodice: Ceylon
Fitting and sewing the bodice took a good bit of time. I worked in my fashion fabric, a rayon challis from FabricMart, right from the beginning of the project. I had at least an extra yard of fabric (three yards of 60" wide fabric total), so I figured I could start over on the bodice if my first attempt went far wrong. As it happened, the first try worked out, so the dress used about 2 1/4 yards of fabric, including facings and inseam pockets.

Size 0 was used at the upper shoulder and along the yoke edges, transitioning to size 2 at the bottom of the armhole and then up to the width for size 6 at the lower edge of the bodice. I checked the length of the bodice, which I had expected to be too short, and found that it was actually a little long compared to the recently-made bodice of McCall's 6503. So I shortened the bodice about 1/2" generally and 1" at the center back (which was too blousy).

Because I was using a side invisible zipper rather than a full length button opening, I had to change the order of construction to allow me to complete the bodice, stitch the buttonholes and overlap the front placket before attaching the bodice to the waistband.

The yoke sections were underlined in silk organza (scraps), which turned out to be a little less stiff than ideal. If/when I make this bodice again, I will add interfacing before cutting out the yoke pieces (to avoid distortion in cutting) and then mark the curved stitching lines on the wrong side. This time around, I found the inner edges of the yoke to be too wide for my narrow shoulders; the edges met my neck and flared out unbecomingly. I removed them and reshaped the curve, making a paper template and tracing the seamline on both sides to achieve a symmetrical result.

Colette's instructions for stitching the yoke to the bodice sections are ridiculous. They have you turning under that front curved edge and edge stitching it to the lower front bodice section. Luckily no color of thread looked good for topstitching on this fabric, so I had to find another way. I don't think I have a good step-by-step description of this in me, but it boils down to sandwiching the lower front piece (with its facing piece already attached) between the yoke and the yoke facing and stitching the whole business together in a more conventional enclosed seam.

In any future versions, I plan to gather the upper edge of the lower front bodice pieces more, thus moving the outer edges of the V further toward the armhole. This would narrow the front a bit, which I need, and would also make the V more dramatic.

The buttons are 1 1/8" faceted black plastic from FabricMart. They probably cost as much as the fabric for the dress, but I love them.

The back details are hard to make out in this print, so you'll have to take my word for it: they are nice. The back neck darts do their job and make for a trim and comfortable fit. The back neck facing is long enough to reach the yoke seam. I hand tacked the facing to the yoke seam allowance, so it is totally secure and cannot flip up. There is a little blousy-ness at the center back, created by gathers at the bottom of the shoulder yoke and at the center of the lower edge of the back right above the waistline. This looks pretty and allows for movement.

As Zoe points out in her post on making the Ceylon, the sleeve is drafted oddly. There is not provision for turning up a hem smoothly (the angle at the lower edge is wrong for it) and the gathers are concentrated heavily to the front side of the sleeve, which is unusual if not an actual mistake. I didn't worry too much about it and all worked out okay, but in a solid color the unbalanced nature of the gathers would be more visible. I would either decrease fullness in the upper section of the front of the sleeve or add fullness to the upper section of the back of the sleeve. Do not simply reposition the location of the notch at the top of the sleeve! That will make your sleeve hang off-grain.

Waistband: McCalls 6503
Not too much to tell about the waistband: it fitted nicely with the bodice pieces and the skirt pieces. I interfaced the waistband (and the front placket facing) with sew-in woven cotton interfacing, which I worried might be too stiff, but it ended up being perfect. Plenty of support and, since the waistband is fitted loosely (size 12), not constricting. The shape of this waistband is nicely curved to be a bit higher at the center front. Oh! That's why I had to remove more from the center back of the bodice than from the sides! Blogging realization.

Overall, I need to reduce the height of the waistband 3/4" to 1" for future versions. For this garment, I deepened the seam attaching the waistband to the skirt by 3/8", for a full seam allowance of 1". That also shortened the skirt length (unwelcome side effect), and it would have been a better proportion to shorten the waistband.

There is an invisible side zipper which is, well, invisible, so you really can't see it. It isn't very long at all, just 10" or maybe even less. I don't like the zipper going over the fullest part of my hip.

Skirt: Colette Parfait
This is a pretty six-gore skirt with a fairly slim cut. It has a vintage, we-are-using-narrow-widths-of-fabric feeling to it, but it is comfortable and allows free movement. I used the pattern pieces for size 4, since they were already cut out from a previous make of the Parfait dress. Perhaps I could have taken 1/2" seam allowances rather than 5/8" to give just a bit more ease to the skirt. That would make the invisible side seam pockets lay more nicely. That, and/or I could omit the pockets next time. It's nice to have them, but they do add a bit of bulk and I wish I had saved myself the trouble on this somewhat dressy dress.

The hem is finished with a vintage rayon bias binding tape, turned up and topstitched. I was ready to be done with the dress and decided I wasn't bothered by a bit of visible stitching in that location. There was not enough length for a turned-up hem. Another 1" to 2" of length would have been welcomed.

Sketch for a future variation without a buttoning placket. Need to find a sleeve like this one!


  1. It is very pretty. You done a nice job combining patterns :)

  2. Lovely. that's a great franken pattern and you got a fab fit!

  3. Lovely. that's a great franken pattern and you got a fab fit!

  4. I like the style you've achieved and that fabric is a perfect dressmaking print.

  5. Love that you took 3 and turned it into the perfect garment for you, thanks so much for the advice when combining patterns, I am in the process of doing that and your post will certainly help me achieve my goal. Great job. So well designed, fitted and made. Beautiful.

  6. You ended up with a gorgeous dress, but I am pretty confident that the Ceylon is not in my future:) And I love that fabric!

  7. Great dress and good job on blending the patterns together, I often do that and it's such a great way to get the style you want :)

  8. Such a lovely dress! Great job with the mash-up!

  9. Hi, I really like your idea of morphing the pattern. Your frock turned out looking fabu! I am contemplating to opt out of the 16 buttonholes- its a bit too busy.

  10. This dress is gorgeous and you look equally gorgeous in it! Great pattern mash up and the fabric and color you chose is beautiful!

  11. Love the dress! Is sew-in woven cotton interfacing something special, or just a piece of regular cotton fabric that you cose to suit?

    1. Thank you, kushami! In this case, the sew-in interfacing was something designed just for this purpose. I got it from www.fashionsewingsupply. All of their interfacings are wonderful. But one certainly can use a regular piece of cotton fabric in an appropriate color and weight.