Since becoming a mother, I've added restrictions to my wardrobe choices. I open the closet and my first question does not relate to the occasion, weather, or my mood, but plain and simple, "Can I nurse in this?" Which is at least better than, "Does this fit me yet?" So aside from having easy chest access, my clothes also need to be cool (because I am always hot, regardless of the temperature), stylish (obviously), comfortable, and safe--as in, not making me trip and fall whilst carrying the baby who refuses to learn to walk. Enter the halter top, short maxi. Or is it a long midi? I'd like to say I accidentally hemmed it too short, but no, I actually thought this length would be a good idea. I see plenty of oh-so-chic women floating around in floor-length jersey maxis, but really, when I try such a stunt, I usually just trip. The alternative to stepping on your maxi all day? A short maxi.
The dress is made from a lightweight linen which behaved itself well during construction. What a joy to sew linen! The lining is a lightweight cotton batiste leftover from the baby's christening gown lining. It feels like buttah against the skin. Many argue that lining linen cuts down on the wrinkling, and I think it's true. I've lined two linen dresses, and both dresses stay relatively wrinkle-free during wear.
The V-neck halter top is a style I have loved for so long. The dress is designed with underbust pleats for fitting; instead, I used gathers. A past linen dress with pleats reminded me that I'm not crazy about that look anymore. I think linen is a great fabric for showcasing fabric manipulation such as pleating, and in this case, it's almost too good at that. I just wanted a nice fit without drawing too much attention to the bust.
The back of the bodice features elasticized channels providing a close fit and some stretch. I used 1" wide elastic in six channels. This was indeed the most fun part to sew. It makes me want to experiment with shirring elastic in the bobbin for a cute baby dress.
I added a short lining to the skirt because the linen is slightly sheer, and I didn't want to worry with a slip. I spent quite some time trying to decide whether to make the lining extend the full length of the skirt or to just make it knee-length. Since it was just for modesty, and it's been 95 degrees every day, I went with a shorter length, and I'm glad.
I had a hard time figuring out which size(s) to cut the pattern pieces. Ultimately, I constructed the entire front of the dress, the entire back, then put them together at the side seams to finalize the fitting. (Rarely do I make a muslin.) I did have to tweak the side seams because of some gaping under the arms.
I had anticipated having to shorten the midriff at the waist seam, but for the first time in a long time, I did not have to shorten the bodice--my usual petite alteration. This is probably because of the halter straps around the neck which make the fitting easier, or it could be my temporarily larger bust measurement (while I'm still nursing my baby). I still don't really know.
A few years ago, I took a class at the Sewing Studio New York with Gretchen Hirsch (Gertie). She helped me custom fit a muslin sloper so that I could use it for future designs, drafts, and general reference. Although it doesn't fit me anymore, I was really happy with that sloper because it helped me to solidify the knowledge that my torso is quite a bit shorter than average. I used that sloper to modify numerous patterns, but unfortunately, those dresses all have waist seams that feel way too high. Yes, the waist seams do meet exactly where my natural waist really is, but it just doesn't feel good. And it looks even worse. Those dresses are very unflattering and emphasize my short torso. Having said all that, this time I did not raise the waist seam on the pattern, and although it may not hit me right at the natural waist, I like it better a little lower.
Nursing accessible? The halter top makes it easy. Cool? The linen and batiste lining are super cool. Comfortable? I shopped for 3 hours with maximum comfort. Safe? I doubt I could trip on a long dress this short. Stylish? Yes, because picking yourself up off the floor is out of style.
- The pattern is Simplicity 2401. If I have time this summer, I'd love to make another one in a shorter length.
- I used the Colette Sewing Handbook as a guide for installing the centered zipper at the side seam. I always interface the seam allowances before installing a zipper, and it works wonders for me!
- I'm so proud of the narrow hem on the curved hemline! See Gretchen's awesome video tutorial on hemming a circle skirt. I'll never fight with my narrow hem foot again.
"Lullaby for Wyatt," Sheryl Crow