I will admit it; I might have a Simplicity pattern problem. For whatever reason, I tend to find Simplicity patterns more appealing than those from the other Big Four pattern companies (Butterick, McCall and Vogue). There is the added enticement that I have a pretty good idea of how a Simplicity pattern will fit me and what modifications might need to be made. But beyond even my general affection for Simplicity is my specific adoration of the “Amazing Fit” patterns. Amazing Fit patterns come with the standard “average” sized pattern pieces as well as “slim” and “curvy” options and cup-size specific pieces which make getting a proper fit much, much simpler. There are a number of complicated reasons for that, but the most important one is that “slim” and “curvy” pieces fit the same size frame (skeleton) as the “average” pieces while accommodating the various quirks of squishy human bodies. Could I get the same good fit from a standard “average” pattern? Certainly, but I am lazy and like it when other people do my math for me.
I was immediately drawn to Simplicity 1606 when it came out this past Spring. I love the classic lines of the dress as well as the halter neck and lace overlay variations included. It is a multi-tasking pattern which would work for a breezy summer sundress AND fancy formal wear. I did not realize at first that the pattern calls for boning in the bodice, which I will admit made me a bit concerned. But let’s be honest – an exotic new garment construction technique that I know nothing about is exactly what I want. You learn by doing and what’s life without a bit of adventure?
Just to clarify, as this blog post will shortly become rife with double entendres, boning refers to flexible, plastic reinforcements sewn into the linings of garments to provide structure. These structural supports were originally made from whalebone, or wood or similar materials for the purpose of changing the shape of the human form through corsets. The shape of corsets changed with the centuries and the fashions (and theories of health), but they were an important component in supporting some of the more massive skirts that have at times been in vogue. In the case of my sundress, the boning in the bodice holds the dress up; the neckties could be comfortably omitted.
As this sundress was something of an experiment with new construction techniques, I made it with free fabric – always a good idea for experiments. This dress started life as a twin bed sheet which appeared to have been used as a dropcloth at some point. Lucky for me, it was possible to cut around the occasional drop of blue paint. The old cotton is soft and thin from years of use, but the white floral pattern on a buttery yellow background is still charming. I couldn’t find the narrow boning called for in the pattern, which was problematic as the pattern pieces only allowed just enough room for the boning and this style dress needs a snug fit. The pattern suggests using 3/8 inch width boning, but I could only find 1/2 inch width. My potentially ill-advised solution? The boning I used is made with a flat plastic core surrounded by a fabric casing. I ended up taking the narrow plastic bit out of the fabric casing and just using that part. I was afraid it would be more prone to stabbing me in the side when worn, but this has yet to be a problem.
The actual construction was very straightforward. There was very little fussy easing, the seams all matched, the neck ties were simple to attach, and the lining kept the bodice neat without any need to finish many seams. The trickiest part was sewing in the boning, but even that was simple. The bodice is lined and the boning goes in the lining seam allowances. The instructions have you sew the lining together just as you do the bodice, but then you sew your seam allowances together to make a pocket for the boning. You then cut the boning to the length of your seam, slip it in the pocket, sew along the end, and repeat for the next one. Since the boning comes packaged in a coil, it has a tendency to curl, so I just turned the curved piece in to mirror the body line. I am no expert, but it certainly seems to be working! I imagine this pattern would be easy to adjust for a wide variety of different sizes and shapes. The only adjustment I made was to take the dress in a bit at the top of the side seams to get a snug fit and keep the dress in place.
The finished product is shockingly comfortable. I wore it all day at the office without any problems, though that did mean 10+ hours with minimal slouching. Huzzah for good posture! The neck ties are long enough without being too long. The skirt is unlined and my fabric is very thin, so I do need to wear a slip with this dress.
Would I make this dress again? In a heartbeat, but for the sundress version, I might try adding some elastic at the back instead of using boning to hold the dress up. While comfortable, the boning goes against the spirit of an easy, breezy summer sundress. The sleeveless version would be wearable year-round, so I may go that route next time.
For now, the next occupier of this space remains unclear. A busy school year looms ominously, but I’m hanging out in my sundress of sunshine and denial.