It's probably silly calling this garment my 'nautical sundress'. Let's be honest, it's unlikely this will be the last creation of mine that could be referred to as such. But currently it is the only one and I can't think of a witty name or blog title, so I'm just going to crack on with telling you about it.
This was a project that needed little consideration. The pattern, fabric and notions all seemed to come together at a point when I had a window of spare sewing time and a BBQ invitation to spur me on towards a rapid completion. This dress is based on Simplicity 4930 (pictured above). Actually, the pattern pictured above isn't my copy. I can't find mine at the minute, and anyway the front cover of my copy is all ripped, which is probably why my ebay bid went uncontested. The picture above came from a vintage sewing pattern wiki.
Anyway, I digress. We decided to make a dress design at work based on my copy of this pattern (accept I added a lace panel in the front neck scoop for the work ones) so after I made some, I tried on the version that I assumed would be the closest to my size. OMG! This pattern is meant for ladies rocking serious girdles. That or it's meant for women who don't eat yet possess full busts. Let's just say the ratio between bust and waist was somewhat extreme. What I did love though, is that it has a lovely deep scoop back, but your bra is still completely covered. When I decided to make my own version, I redrafted the bodice to allow a touch more space in the bust and a hellofalot more space around the waist. I also pinched a tiny bit out of the shoulder straps so they wouldn't slip down my shoulders.
I've been sitting on this fabric for about six months now (not literally). It's some Laura Ashley stuff that was probably produced for curtaining or soft furnishing, it's a medium to medium/heavy weight cotton with a little chain style repeat print running along the grainline. I've nearly deployed this fabric so many times with different sewing patterns, but I'm really glad I had to sense to wait until the project felt 'right' to bust it from my fabric stash. I was hoping to do something clever with the direction of the chain print, maybe horizontal across the bodice and straight down on the skirt, or vice versa. But I didn't have enough fabric to mess with the grainlines like that unless I added a deep contrast band along the hem. With no suitable contrast fabric availing itself to me, I decided to have both sections on the cross-grain with the skirt a bit less full than I would usually go for.
I decided it was thick enough to not bother with neck or armhole facings and planned to do some sort of invisible binding finish instead to avoid all the bulkiness (and let's face it, effort) that facings would mean. Then I have a look in my notions stash and rediscovered four or five metres of this incredible anchor bias binding which I got in Paris, you know, when I dragged Pat who was feeling ill (though I didn't know) round every fabric and haberdashery shop in Paris for an entire afternoon and walked away with just this binding. Well, it just looked amazing with the blue and white fabric, so I trimmed away the seam allowance around the neck and armholes and applied it carefully. Then I realised I had just enough to edge the hem too, which was a total score as I hadn't left myself much hem allowance.
What you can't really tell from these pictures is that, despite my deadline, the finish on this dress is actually pretty good, if I do say so myself. I hand picked the zip and it's my best attempt at that yet. The bias binding is generally very even. The frikkin chains even meet at the side seams on the skirt.
Which is not to say this dress is perfect. Sadly, despite having tried on a version and made the small pattern adjustments that I felt were required, the fit of the bodice isn't spot on. By adding only about 2cms in total round the bust, it's somehow made it a bit too loose and it doesn't fit as snuggly at the shoulders as I'd hoped (despite the shortening of the straps at the shoulders, damn it!). My bra straps are slightly visible at times. The tightness of the initial work version I tried on had prevented, and therefore I didn't foresee would be an issue in my own version. The waist adjustment was well judged however, and eating almost my own body weight in amazing food at this BBQ was the test that proved I'd allowed enough extra.
My one other issue is the skirt can, at times, sit out a little strangely. I'd say that was due to the stiffness of the fabric combined with either too much or too little fullness in the skirt. But I'm not that bothered by that as a quick smooth down when I get up and it seems to sit ok.
On balance, although a little disappointed, I am really pleased with my nautical sundress. And the sun really doesn't shine that much in the UK to not require a cardigan most of the year. I recently snapped up a little red low necked cardigan from a charity shop in Leigh, Essex, to go with my Summer Holiday dress which also looks fantastic with this sundress, so that kind of deals with the bodice fit issue whenever it's not blazing sunshine.
So there we have it. The latest garment to spring from my nautical obsession. Don't think that's the end of it, there are plans for more....