Tuesday 6 September 2016

Butterfly ball Cashmerette Upton dress

Alternative title: the 40-darts project. More on that later, let's start at the beginning!
I've been wanting to recreate my all time favourite sundress for ages. Here it is, 25 years ago during a holiday in Germany.

Back then I used a Knipmode pattern. Sleeveless, scooped neckline, fit-and-flare. The fabric was black rayon with a lovely butterfly print.

Two years ago I found this Robert Kaufman cotton. Colourful butterflies with subtle golden details, even the selvedge was pretty.
I kept an eye out for a suitable pattern. The bodice had to be fitted, but I wanted to avoid princess seams for fear of beheading too many butterflies. When the Cashmerette Upton dress was launched it ticked all the boxes. And more, due to the different cup sizes!

Finding the right size was a bit of a challenge. The size charts indicated 1/4 inch of wearing ease at the bust. I don't know about you, but that didn't sound very comfortable to me. Instructions tell you if your full bust could fit into two sizes, choose the size closest to your waist. Nowadays there is no correlation between my waist size and the size of any other body parts but you have to start somewhere, right?

I started with a 20 E/F muslin and it looked horrible. Gaping neckline, wobbly armscyes, pulling at the bust and riding up at the front. All indicating that I should go down a size and up a cup size.

The second muslin (18 G/H) left me puzzled. The neckline was fine, the armscyes couldn't be better, the side seams were hanging straight, yet the overall look was off. What happened?
With my brain already switched to holiday mode it took me a few days away from the muslin to figure it out. I've known for a while now that generic FBA's don't work for me. More often than not it means adding fabric where I don't need it and vice versa, thus adding to the problem instead of solving it. Now what are the odds the built-in FBA of Cashmerette patterns would do the trick for me? Exactly!

I went back to the flat pattern and made some changes using the quadrant method from Joi Mahon's book Create the perfect fit. I shortened the bust darts so that they would end 2 inches away from the apex. I moved the underbust darts 1 inch outwards and shortened them as well. Muslin #3 looked good, except for the shape of the underbust darts. I changed them to a triangular shape and was ready to cut my fabric. The Upton bodice has 8 darts, so by this time I had already sewn 24 darts. Plus 8 for the final garment and 8 for the lining and you see why this was a 40 darts-project!

Next hurdle: I only had 3 meters of 110 cm wide fabric and I needed 4.10 m.  By comparing the cutting diagrams for various fabric widths I noticed folding out some of the pleat depth would enable me to cut the front skirt on fold and back skirt pieces next to each other. Suddenly I had enough fabric.

Still wide enough!

I lined the bodice with black cotton batiste. The skirt is unlined as per the pattern instructions and I finished the hemline with hand stitched satin bias tape.

Too pretty to keep to myself!

When the last stitch was done I put on the dress and...surprise! It was way too big at the waist. Apparently  making a muslin for the bodice and a quick quarter skirt to check length and pleat depth wasn't enough. The weight of the skirt changed the fit. Back to the sewing room as of course a well fitted waist is crucial to the success of the fit-and-flare style.

I'm pretty happy about the fit now. The only thing I will change next time is to remove another wedge from the upper back. It's my experience that Cashmerette patterns are wide at the upper back and short in the bodice. I already made adjustments but as you can see there's still extra fabric round the top of the zipper and the back neckline is not completely flat.

For the sake of a fair pattern review and for future reference I will distinguish different types of changes I've made.

Changes I always make:
-lowered the bust dart by 3/8 "
-3/8 " low neck base adjustment

Changes by personal preference:
-omitted the pockets (don't like pockets in a dress)
-added 4 inches to the length of the skirt (I like the proportions of the dress better this way)

Changes I always make for Cashmerette patterns:
-add one inch to the front and back bodice at lengthen/shorten line
-take a wedge out of the upper back

Changes I expect to make for all woven Cashmerette patterns:
-shorten the bust darts
-check the placement of other darts

Changes I made for construction:
-reinforced center back with a strip of fusible interfacing before installing the 22" invisible zipper
-instead of trimming 1/16" of the lining front and back bodices around the neckline and armholes I understitched and clipped all curved seams

Quite a list for a simple dress. Was it worth the trouble? Definitely!
When you ignore the changes I always make and the personal preferences all adjustments are quick and easy to make. What's more, drafting appears to be very consistent so you know what to expect.
And think of all adjustments I did NOT have to make!

For me this pattern is worth its weight in gold for the beautifully drafted armscyes alone. No gaping, no bra showing, yet absolutely not restrictive. Makes me look forward to the next Cashmerette release. Woven with sleeves? Yes, please!

This pattern will be put away till next spring, together with a piece of pink Liberty Carline. For now I'm going to wear this dress to the max as we have some glorious summer weather. At last!