Saturday, October 25, 2014

Pattern Whisperer Selects: Party dress

That last post offering my services as a Pattern Whisperer was a bit of a lark, but whew! The response was quite a surprise. So many of you (including plenty who sew and blog and choose all kinds of good patterns) wanted a little pattern counseling. And after all, for many of us sewing is a solitary sport so to have a friend giving that virtual "dressing room" advice is definitely fun and worthwhile.

I have been collecting all kinds of ideas in the categories of dresses and jackets for casual and work wear but first up is the party dress selection.

So let's turn our attention to the comment from Rachel who blogs at Here is her comment:

OMG! you've answered my prayers. I was just thinking about writing a blog post searching for      inspiration for a very special party dress for my next birthday (a BIG one with a 0 on the end!) I have mainly sewn with Indie patterns except for the        (blank here in her comment)
I am in need of a pattern for:
  1. A party dress with wow factor. Something slinky and figure-enhancing.
  2. I am an intermediate sewist.
  3. I tend to have to add an FBA, and usually go up a size at the waist. 
  4. I love designs that flatter a more hourglass figure. I have found that dresses that accentuate a waistline and are fairly fitted on the bodice look best. I would probably go quite short too. It is my birthday, after all...!

Now who could resist that plea? Not me.  Hopefully she won't regret asking :)
So I took a look at her blog, and thought about shape and style. And thought some more. Then I revisited her comment, (note the word slinky) paired that up in my mind with her shape in this dress - scroll down to see the solid red version - and came up with this. 

Vogue 1342 Donna Karan knit dress.  But please not in that color ! I think in a deep rose or wine color, or maybe a very dark amethyst purple.  OK, it does say advanced pattern, but as you all may know, these Donna Karan patterns are genius. It is the lining that does all the work.  As regards fitting: Hopefully they have the finished garment measurements on the pattern tissue. So far all Vogue patterns do, even these form fitting twisty knit ones. So go by your measurements to choose the pattern size and use the multi size pattern to help with fitting. I also think the straps will allows some shortening at the back which is a nice feature. I think I would keep this one at knee length. It is certainly figure enhancing and the length of the skirt adds to the drama. I know you said you are an intermediate level sewist but I think jumping to the advanced level with a knit dress is a good way to go.  Our pattern requester (willing victim) Rachel has a great figure and could wear the heck out of this dress - so be brave!

Vogue 1342 dress

Vogue 1342 drawing

OK, now that I have shocked you with my first recommendation, how about another one?
Up next is Simplicity 1778 which is one of those pattern envelopes that suffer a bit from either hideous fabric choice or prints that obscure the details. If you don't think this one can be a WOW then check out this version I found.

Simplicity 1778 dress pattern env
I am including the line drawing so you can the seaming. this dress has A LOT of fitting opportunities.
what am I talking about?  Princess seams - front and back, perfect. Under bust seaming - very useful for lengthening or shortening. Clever pleating across the front - adds to the slinky and still leaves space for some drinks and nibbles. Love that.  I am a fan of the square neckline, I just think it is really pretty but some people don't like it. Also allows you to easily raise up the neckline if it is a bit too low which you can't as easily do the the sweetheart wrap neckline. My choice, I would make the square neckline, sleeveless version, in a good quality ponte or other knit. Whatever choice, an quick  muslin in a similar weight and/or stretch fabric would really help you to get the fit just right. I am not always a fan of the super tight dress - but as shown in that link in the previous paragraph, when fitting right they look hot!

S1778 tech drawing

Rachel, here are two more suggestions that may be closer to items that you have previously sewn. And slightly less va-voom.  But who wants that for the special birthday...not you, right?
This New Look 6123 pattern has a standard bodice and attached skirt, so if you have made a dress with a bodice with bust and waist darts you can compare for fit. I like the V-neckline version - sleeveless or the cap sleeves, and the draped skirt. In a solid color it would be smashing,

New Look 6123

And one more suggestion, this one may be a bit random but how about Lekala 4078. This is quite an easy dress to sew, I would leave off the sleeves and narrow the width of the shoulder portion a bit - my favorite adjustment for portion - always looks more elegant. If you leave off the sleeves you may need to raise the bottom of the armhole. Or with sleeves - great for winter. You are in the UK and this would be a very quick and economical option  - pricing for us here in the US is around $ 3. They send the PDF quite fast (it has always been in less than an hour for me) and since you put in your measurements you probably won't have to do an FBA. 

Lekala 4078 pattern and drawing

So those are my suggestions for a WOW dress for you, Rachel. I will be so interested to hear what everyone thinks. And if you go in a different direction that is OK too - find something that will be fun to sew, don't stress over it and my biggest suggestion is to pick a color that you LOVE to wear and you will shine. other piece of advice for party dress sewing. Treat it a little bit like a costume. It doesn't have to be perfect on the inside. You are going to wear it a few times, styles will change or fabrics will go out of favor. It's not a coat you will keep for many years or a pair of jeans that get every weekend wear. A party dress is almost like a party itself, a bit ephemeral - something to enjoy, remember and on to the next thing.

I hope you have a wonderful birthday!

Happy sewing, Beth


  1. WOW! I absolutely love your Vogue choice Beth! What a simply stunning dress!

  2. My fingers are crossed that Rachel picks the Vogue dress as well ~ just love it!

  3. Thank you a million times over! I love each and every one of them, but as soon as I saw the Vogue 1342 Donna Karan number I wanted it immediately (assuming the ruches flatter my small mum tum!!). I will have a look in slower time at each and every suggestion and do some online fabric shopping. I will report back forthwith! Thanks again, love Rachel.

  4. Fabulous!!! Nice choices, but yes, that DKNY, fabulous - and I really love your hints & colour suggestions, what a wonderful service Beth ;)

  5. How fun, Beth! That is quite a dramatic dress! I hope she makes it up and that you post a link to it! (And it was great to see you yesterday!)

  6. Wow on that Simplicity dress! I may go pick that one up. As you say, done in the right fabric and fit well it is a real showstopper!

    NL6123 is a great, versatile dress but not special enough.
    I like that Lekala as well and the Vogue pattern is super interesting visually.


  7. Really great advice! I like all but the last one. If the DK seems to much for her the Simplicity dress as the blogger made it is gorgeous. Not being a fan of sweetheart necklines I think the square neck is the one to go with. As you mentioned easy to raise or lower. I'd lower it myself and show a little cleavage. She has a great figure and any of these dresses would look great on her.

  8. A question, on the Lekala dress, I didn't buy this because Shams had reviewed a top or dress from them that made a very weird shape for her large bust. What have you seen or heard about fit for these patterns/

  9. Love all the possibilities of the Simplicity pattern and not just the neckline are absolutely correct in pointing out that with princess seams you get the best fit of close and ease that your body needs. If you need more volume in the bust area you could make the insert in a shiny or sequined fabric and leave the rest in a more matte fabric to minimize those areas or reverse that to minimize the bust...fabulous for choices! The DK is drop dead gorgeous but my worry is always getting the right fabric for all those drapes...too thick fabric and you add pounds, too thin and it looks cheap...just right and everyone in the restaurant will stop and stare and say, "WOW!"

  10. Love all your suggestions! I have a hourglass figure, so useful and much appreciated whispering for me too. Dkny is always on my radar, but the simplicity pattern is a nice surprise. The pattern companies are doing themselves such a disservice with those hideous pattern envelopes.

  11. I can't get over how reading recommendations for someone much younger and in much better shape than me was so much fun. Please keep doing these posts! I love every part of this but especially the chatty remarks about different patterns and their designers. I learned a lot and can't wait to read more posts like this one. Thank you!

  12. Wow, wow, wow! All of these suggestions are great! I was blown away by the Vogue dress, but only a bit less so with the others. I too am an intermediate sewist but on the beginning level of intermediate. I used to be brave but now at 57 and mostly sewing quilts, I've gotten away from clothing (but have lots of patterns when I get around to it) and seeing these figure flattering patterns makes me want to dive right into one of these beautiful knit dresses. Thanks SunnyGal!

  13. I also love the Donna Karan. I didn't know that the lining does the work, so interesting.

  14. Lekala 4078 is a fantastic pick Beth. Never heard of them but sounds great.
    Lets hope sewsouthlondon posts a picture, she sounds great.
    I think these picks are excellent.

  15. That DNKY dress is amazing and I will be very interested to see which one Rachel picks as they all have a something unique about them. Loved reading your insights in this!

  16. That Donna Karan dress is amazing!