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Bridesmaid Deconstructed, Ottobre

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And today, the Bridesmaid Dress Reinvention Saga draws to a close.

Having already made an exceptionally successful skirt, I wasn’t terribly concerned about what to make of the remaining bridesmaid dress fabric. While there was one layer of lining left, I was satisfied that the effort of cutting apart the dress had already been rewarded. Yet the question remained: What do you do with bridesmaid dress fabric when you have already made a skirt? As the earlier attempt to make a strapless top had mixed results, a top of some sort seemed logical.


The pattern of choice ended up being a classic shell with a good square neckline and sensible looking darts.  Nothing earth-shattering here, but a simple and flattering pattern for a classic sleeveless top is an infinitely useful pattern to have on hand. I did not have any delusions that it would turn out perfectly, especially after how fantastic the skirt came out (success like that tends to be followed by disaster). However, I did hope for a wearable muslin, a test run of the pattern, so to speak.

The pattern hails from the Fall 2009 issue of a European sewing magazine, Ottobre. It is alternately referred to as the Carmen top or Pattern #11 in the magazine. Ottobre is one of those sewing magazines with shiny, pretty pictures of people wearing the patterns all sewn up and with the patterns themselves torturously mashed on top of each other on one or two big pattern sheets hidden in the back. For this reason, and this reason alone, nothing had been made out of the magazine previously, despite some very wearable options.


I worked with a color copy of the nightmarish pattern sheet, tracing out the pieces onto a roll of brown craft paper. This was a very necessary step as many of the pattern pieces for each pattern overlap each other. You can see the back pattern piece in the picture above. I was trying to follow the orange lines. I knew that all the orange lines belonged to my pattern pieces which helped… a little. They were utter insanity to trace. I don’t know if these kinds of patterns get easier to work with the more you use them, but it felt like a practise in absurdity. Has Ottobre been conducting a social experiment in which they try to give their readers migraines and seizures?

Certain failures in my pattern-copying skills led to two notable omissions:

1. I left out the paired waist darts on the front piece. This first mistake ended up being a mercy because it helped mitigate the severity of the second mistake.

2. I forgot to add seam allowances to the pattern pieces. For whatever reason, Ottobre and many other European pattern companies do not include a seam allowance in their drafted patterns. The seam allowance is the bit of extra room at the edges of a pattern piece that provides a space for the seam to be sewn. To deal with my lack of seam allowances, I just made the seams as narrow as possible to minimize the amount of fabric taken away from the space of the garment. This isn’t a huge problem for the most part, but the shoulder straps are too short now. Leaving off the front waist darts leaves just enough ease through the torso to make it wearable.


The end result fits better than it has any right to fit. I am reasonably certain that if I had added seam allowances like I should have, the top would have fit nearly perfectly. As it is, the bust darts are too high, the shoulders could use a smidge more room, and overall, wearing it enforces uncomfortably perfect posture. So, it is a wearable muslin. I am satisfied with the project, especially since it’s not as if I lost anything by goofing up leftover lining fabric.


As soon as I finished sewing my new green top, the first thing I did was make new pattern pieces with all of the darts marked, and most importantly, SEAM ALLOWANCES. Thank goodness for big rolls of wrapping paper.


I want to wear my green top a few more times to work out the fit issues. Mostly, the added ease of actual seam allowances should get me to a sensibly fitting garment. I have some drapey magenta  fabric in mind for another attempt at getting this pattern right.

Verdict? somewhat mixed results, but still wearable and useful. The pattern is solid, so next time, with actual seam allowances, should be even better. Working with the remains of my bridesmaid dress pushed me to look at fabric differently, and I certainly learned a good bit about persuading slippery fabrics to behave.

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