The MISSIE Dress

I belong to the Atlantic Sewing Guild. Last year, they had a mentoring program where members were matched between mentor and student pending on who wanted to learn certain things, and who could and would be willing to teach it. One thing I knew I needed to learn was how to bust fit garments for women. I didn’t want to be limited to making dresses only of pattern sizing, or be helpless when even that doesn’t work well. Mary Baxter of the Guild was very kind to step up to teach me and here is the result!

I started by picking a dress pattern with a wide variety of busts sizes so I could see how the lines among the cup sizes varied, to understand the changes being made. McCall’s 6647 was a nice and simple dress that suited my needs. Then, I was going to do the bust fitting on top of that and see how that end result compared to the original. To add some stakes to the project, I had a friend with a bigger bust than the pattern allowed for, who was willing to be fitted, so I had a real life test with the project. Dress forms won’t get disappointed if things don’t work, not that I have seen many suitable for this exercise, but people, they’ll hold you accountable! ūüôā

After Mary’s teachings, I measured my friend Missie and made a mock to test whether or not I understood what needed to be done. I am happy to say I got the bust fitting right on with the first try. However, I forgot to make the height adjustment since Missie is not 5’7″ as the typical pattern is made for. Fortunately, Missie knew what the problem was exactly right away and we got a nice fit easily just by pulling the dress up and reducing the strap length.

For the real garment, I asked Missie what colours she wanted. While it was going to be my design for portfolio building, I wanted to be practical to design something a “client” would like. That’s how it’d work in the real world in most cases, that I won’t have an open book on all features. Since the pattern had been picked out and Missie did like that, I asked for colours. She said black and pink, which was fine with me, but given I thought in three colours, I added some white. The rest of the modifications were as follows.

  • The original dress had an open back, requiring it to be worn without a traditional bra with the strap going straight across the back. Missie was not fond of that so I adjusted to cover up all the back except for a little heart hole above the bra strap.
  • I removed the bottom back opening from the pattern and swapped in a full white belt style. There was a piece for the front that wasn’t accentuated much in the pattern. However, given Missie was very well proportioned, I figured I gently show off her thin waist with that white belt that also divided the black top from bottom hot pink skirt for a less than common seen black, white and pink colour scheme.
  • Finally, I put the zipper on the left hand side, Missie’s less used hand. While I tried to make it look as much like a seam as possible, it would not be that nice. As a result, I put it on the side covered most by the weaker arm. That’d be the arm Missie would not¬†usually wave, handshake, raise,¬†etc. Practicality!

For fabrics, with the punch colour scheme, I wanted to add interest by having gentle texture or visuals on the fabric. For the black top, I went with a Chinese brocade with subtle, well spread out designs of plants and Chinese symbols on it. Just enough design to make you want to look at it a little longer to see what it is on that black top. It was also bold enough someone could think I asymmetrically cut out the designs to give an asymmetric feature, rather than just use a cluttered pattern for which I could not avoid asymmetry if I tried.

The white piece was small so I just went for a flowery white jacquard.

Pink jacquard, or nice brocade, was impossible to find in the Halifax area where I lived. I would bet it was all east of Montreal! Fortunately, I had a trip to New York and spotted some nice pink jacquard for cheap ($3 a yard) in Queens at Jackson Discount Fabrics. I got a ton of stuff there great dirt cheap fabrics there for my own stuff, too!

Finally, I trimmed the dress in white lace for a sharp looking edge visually with the contrast, but detailed with the flowers and holes in the lace for the pink to show through. I’m not sure the lace will hold up well in the wash, but this was not for a lot of wearing in being part of my portfolio. Missie will get her own version when she brings me her own fabric combination. I’ll find something similar in white, but more sturdy, for a trim on her version meant for a lot more wearing.

As for the pattern, I messed with it enough not to be able to really give a review. Besides, it’s not like I did things the way it was recommended. That’s just not how I roll. I lined the top since the brocade frayed. I trimmed the heart hole with drapery trims, and I interfaced the belt piece since a wrinkly belt isn’t terribly flattering for a wrinkled tummy look.

Now for that scoring of the garment.

ELEMENTS

SCORE

1.   High contrast 9
2.   Non-generic colours 7
3.   Interesting colour combinations 8
4.   Tone or big bold prints 10
5.   Symbolism 7
6.   Good fit 10
7.   Asymmetry 6
8.   Creative cuts 7
9.   Practical wear and care 4
10. Memorable look 9
TOTAL SCORE 78
  1. It’s definitely punchy in contrast.
  2. Only the hot pink is non-generic, but the black is shiny and the white is resilient white.
  3. It’s rare enough.
  4. There’s tone everywhere, with a little print.
  5. There’s a heart hole, heart collar and lots of flowers.
  6. Fits quite well. The non-horizontal skirt is part of the pattern style so far as I can tell. I didn’t go leveling it, though to keep things a little interesting.
  7. The brocade was picked to be visually asymmetric with few elements and different ones centred in the pieces rather than any old cut. Skirt also left not leveled.
  8. I added the belt and left the skirt not leveled, as well as really cut out a heart hole in the design.
  9. A little on the delicate side.
  10. While not looking ridiculous, it’ll definitely stand out in a crowd.

Thanks to the Sewing Guild for having the mentoring program. Definitely thanks to Mary Baxter for showing me bust fitting adjustments to patterns. And especially thanks to Missie for volunteering and helping me as a model! You try being a straight guy and asking an overly busty woman if you could use her boobs for your fashion learning!!! ūüėČ

Please click here to read more of my fashion writings and garment making.

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