When my sewing students told me they wanted to learn to make a dress, I knew finding a pattern would be a challenge. After all, they're a diverse bunch of ladies, each with her own style. How can you possibly pick a dress pattern to please more than one person?
So first, we settled on some musts we could agree on: sleeves, a simple neckline (no collars or button plackets), and a zipper closure. I also wanted to include a few key techniques: how to sew princess seams and attach a separate bodice and skirt (Sorry, no shift dresses!). It also needed to be a Fall/Winter style.
I searched and searched...and then one day I got an email: Simplicity had released a new Cynthia Rowley pattern — 1314, a Fall-friendly dress with elbow-length sleeves. It can be made in a woven or slightly stretchy knit like ponte (forgiving for the new sewer or the easily bloated!), and you can mix fabrics for a contrasting center front panel. It's simple, has slimming princess seams, and is classic — though you can make it really modern. I even love the styling on the pattern envelope. Look at her, she's wearing sneakers with a dress. I love sneakers with dresses. Always have. I also love faux leather:
I tested out the pattern twice — and I love it. LOVE. IT. I think it is so, so flattering. I love the neckline, wide-at-the-elbow sleeve and the cut of the skirt. I made it in black ponte (from Chic in NYC's Garment District):
And in cream ponte (Metro Textiles) with quilted center front and center back panels:
The fabric I used for the contrast panel really is a thing of beauty. It's a cotton blend quilted sweatshirt fabric I found at Paron's on sale a few weeks ago. I may just go back and buy the rest of the bolt. Here's the detail shot you've been waiting for:
Of course, the great thing about a princess seam is the fact that you can achieve a great fit through the bust.
I had intended to cut the above black dress with a contrast faux leather center front panel just like the Cynthia Rowley sample, but it turned out the piece of faux I had in my stash was not enough. It worked out though — now I actually have a basic black dress in my wardrobe:
I didn't make many changes to the pattern. I graded out to a larger size at the hip and reduced the back neckline and armscye (which I usually do because I have the back of a 90-pound weakling and the hips of a mother of six). I also ended up taking out some ease at the side seam, though if I had sewn a woven, I probably would have left that in. I think for many women, this pattern would fit great straight out of the envelope.
I also trimmed a couple inches off the length of the skirt because I am 5 foot 3 and wanted to maintain the right proportions.
I chose pretty conservative fabrics for my two versions of Simplicity 1314, but I think there's so much room for working with color, texture, and even print with this pattern.
What fabrics would you choose? And how would you style this dress?