After a brief look at the pattern layout, I thought making this dress would be easy: two main pieces, (there are seven in total), with a few darts and sewn together at the side seams. Because of this, and because I didn’t know what to expect of a pattern that comes free with a magazine, my expectations were quite low. I was wrong in both respects: the pattern was not particularly easy to follow, but the finished result is stunning.
The pattern assumes prior knowledge of dress-making and would not be suitable for a beginner. Terms such as ‘catchstitch’, ‘narrow hem’ and ‘gathers’ are not explained (luckily I knew from previous patterns how to do a narrow hem and how to gather, but had to look up how to catchstitch in one of my sewing books). The pattern is also incomplete: it tells you to add 16cm to the end of the dress front and dress back (presumably to save paper), and to ‘cut sufficient 3.5cm wide bias strips to join and finish armhole edges’, leaving you to work out the length required! If you’re a beginner, how would you know what a bias strip is, and how to press it correctly? You would have to look it up!
However, detailed instructions of how to insert a concealed zip were included, and thanks to these instructions I was able to do the best concealed zip I’ve ever done. I have never been bothered about stitching showing on the outside of a dress before, as I quite like the uniformity and evenness of machine stitching, but this time I took sufficient time and care to ensure that the zip really is concealed, and the slit at the back does not have stitching either side (thanks to catchstitching). The only place where the stitching shows on the outside is around the armholes where the bias binding is attached, and the hem. The hem allowance was two and a quarter inches, but when I tried the almost-finished dress on, I decided I would prefer it to be a little longer, and so opted for a narrow hem at the bottom instead of catchstitching a deeper hem.
The finished result is such an elegant shape. My hips, bottom and thighs are usually too big for this style of shop-bought dresses, but making it myself allowed me to create a perfect fit. I am looking forward to wearing it as I have nothing like it in terms of style or fabric in my collection. The fabric is 100% cotton and purchased from my local market for £3.99 per metre (and I only needed 1.5m of 150cm-wide fabric). I think the dress has a very Vivien of Holloway feel to it (and in fact is quite similar to a lovely halter-neck Vivien of Holloway dress that Lemonianta bought in March, which is also red and white polka dot). I will definitely be using this pattern again to make variations on the dress, perhaps the next without the bow (depending on the style of fabric I choose, as the bow adds a fun, retro element). I think it would look good in a plain navy with the waist drape in a contrasting colour such as rose pink. I think it would also look excellent in tweed for winter. Lemonianta suggested using duchess satin for an elegant evening dress. YUM.
I will certainly not turn my nose up at Prima patterns in future!