Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ana's Navy Bridesmaid Dress - Simplicity 2338

In the beginning of June, at Jeff and Jen's wedding, I got a chance to hang out with my friend, Ana, and her daughter, Kiana.  Ana asked me if I could make her a bridesmaid dress for a wedding in September.  She was tired of buying dresses that didn't fit her right.
It's fitting that I'm introducing you to Ana with a picture of me in my turquoise satin dress.  I love this satin, and I knew I wanted to work with it again, so I went to Davey Fabrics to find some in navy blue, the colour Ana's dress needed to be.  They happened to be out of navy, so I asked them to order it in, and I checked in with them for a couple weeks, and got my hands on it with just enough time to get the dress done a week before the wedding.  

Other than the colour, she gave me free reign to choose a design that would be flattering to her figure.  I browsed through the pattern catalogs and picked out Simplicity 2338.  I liked that the dress had lots of seamlines to make adjustments on.  We chose the long, sleeveless dress with the shawl collar (the red one).
I wasn't sure what fitting issues we would have, but I knew I needed to do an FBA (Full Bust Adjustment).  I found some great tutorials.  One is from Sew Mama Sew, and the other is from Debbie Cooke at Stitches and Seams.  It was surprisingly easy.  I've never done an FBA before, but I did learn how to slash and spread patterns in Fashion College.  I cut the bodice one size smaller and did a 2" FBA (1" on each side). 
I sewed up a muslin, and for the most part, we were in the right ballpark.  It was a little too tight, the armhole needed to be filled in, and I made a little fold in the middle of the armhole.

Here you can see that the dress fits her, but there is no ease.  I also released the pleats so they would start at the empire waistline instead of being stitched down for several inches.  If you look really closely, you can see on the left side of the back of the collar, I made 2 slashes to spread out the collar, as it didn't have enough curve to fit over the shoulder and lay nicely.
These are the changes I made to the side front bodice piece.  I folded out the tuck in the middle of the armhole and released it into a dart at the bottom, I filled in the armhole, and I added 2" of ease to the bodice by adding 1" to the side seam of this piece only.  If you look at the side shot above, you'll see that it pulls to the front, so this seemed logical to me.  I also added 1" to the side front skirt piece at the waist, since it was doing the same thing.
Here is Ana at her second fitting, the lining stage.  I used cotton/poly broadcloth for the bodice, as I always do for linings.  This lining is the same as what I used for my turquoise satin dress.  I happened to have scads of it, so I got to use it for 2 dresses!  I still have a bunch left.  As you can see, the center front waist seam is dropping down a bit, so I took that up by 3/4" at the center front.
The bodice fits quite nicely now!  
Adding 2" of ease made a huge difference in how this dress fits.  Doesn't that look so much better?  So, there you have a simple lesson in what 2" can do.  Amazing.
Here is your first look at the muslin of the shawl collar.  I added 2" to the bottom, which was quite a brain teaser, let me tell you!  That pleat was confusing!  I adjusted my pattern piece 3 different times, which included cutting, slashing, taping, cutting, slashing, and more taping.  I'm not sure if I even know if I learned how to do it the right way is now that I'm done.   Oh well!  I achieved the length I needed, and that's all that matters.
Here you can see a little more clearly the slashes I made to the back of the collar.  I spread 1" at the shoulder, and 2" closer to the back.
I know this looks like a finished dress, but looks can be deceiving!  This was Ana's second last fitting, the satin stage.  I have the satin assembled, but there are many finishing details that are not done.  She's not even wearing the lining layer here.  I had to take a few pieces apart and put them back together with the lining in the right order.  But look how nice it fits!  And now that she's wearing heels, we got to see how the dress hung without getting caught on the floor.  I was so excited to see it turn out at this point!!!  I just love this satin.
After spending a few more hours finishing said details, here is Ana in her finished dress.  I was happy that this shot shows off the shawl collar quite well. Shiny satin is kinda hard to photograph.
I'm very happy with how well it fits, and the waist seam actually sits parallel to the floor!  I'd say that's quite an achievement!  The skirt hung so straight, I didn't have to pin it, I just measured an inch all the way around, and it was perfect!  I love it when that happens!
And last but not least, the back shot.  I don't know why, but I really love it when garments fit perfectly at the back.  Maybe because it's difficult to acheive, and when you see it, it's a thing of beauty.  I just love this dress, and Ana looks absolutely gorgeous in it!


  1. I agree, Ana looks lovely in her custom gown, and it shows that you enjoyed the process. I love the design lines on this dress and have added it to my list. I think the day version (with the little chain belt, so cute) would look great in a ponte knit, or a small plaid as shown.
    Thanks for posting all your alterations, they were very clear to follow!

  2. You did a great job and it looks great on her.

  3. Just how lucky is Ana to have such a talented and committed sewing friend like you. Your detail to making this dress fit Ana perfectly is testimony to your sewing skills. Well done!!!

  4. She must be thrilled to have a well-made, custom dress that is awesome!