Let’s talk about bodies. We’re all very familar with the concept of them being all different shapes and sizes and how are own differ from the supposed “norm”. We know that we have unusually short torsos, large waists, narrow shoulders, big bums (and that’s just me!) and as sewists, we learn the tricks of adjusting our patterns to our own shapes.
Now imagine that even the standard toolset of adjustments doesn’t apply to you. You’ve grown up with scoliosis and your spine is twisted in both an S-shape and a corkscrew. That’s the case for my very good friend, who many years ago resigned herself to always having to wear a bolero jacket over her pretty dresses in order to hide the gaping back as no RTW dress would ever hang straight on her.
So last year on her birthday, I promised to fix that. She would have the dress of her dreams and come out with me for a girls lunch on a sunny summer’s day and be able to take off her cardigan when it got hot. Not too much to ask for is it?
I chose the SewOverIt Betty dress for our made to measure challenge. Firstly, because she’s a v glamourous lass usually to be found impeccably togged up in 50s style gear, but also because it’s a reasonably simple dress well within my skill level so a good base canvas for getting funky with the bodice adjustments. Of course, I then went and screwed that up by deciding that obviously the bodice should be lined, despite the fact that I’d never lined anything in my life. Well, we wouldn’t want life to be too easy for ourselves…
So we got to work. And spent many rainy Sunday afternoons hanging out in my sewing room making toile after toile after toile. I exagerate not, it took four in the end! But it was strangely satisfying, we started with a back bodice that whilst technically fitting at the bust and the waist, otherwise had all sorts of strange creases and wrinkles and we one by one eradicated those bad boys. Both back bodice pieces were redrawn over and over to pinch out excess fabric; the back V was also extensively fiddled with in an attempt to get the dress to sit flat across the shoulder blades. Neither back piece bears more than a passing resemblance any more to it’s original and even less resemblance to each other!
In contrast, lining the bodice wasn’t too tricky. I followed this tutorial on the Megan Nielsen blog for how to line it using only machine stitching. I took my time making sure it was an exact mirror image of our modified bodice pieces and ensuring all the darts and side seams would be perfectly lined up when it was turned through. There was a moment of fear when I was reaching up between the pieces to turn it out – but it was so like being a magician and pulling a rabbit out of a hat that I actually shouted Ta Da! when I did it!
My friend is a huuuge Star Wars fan (seriously don’t ever play against her at Star Wars Trivial Pursuit) so I surprised her with 4 metres of this Rogue One themed cotton poplin as part of the present. Because every girl needs a Stormtrooper dress! Plus the colour is fabulous on her. Sadly it wasn’t wide enough to cut the full front skirt piece on the fold, so I had to draw on extra seam allowance and put a seam up the front of the skirt. Plus because of the storm troopers needing to stand upright (unless the Jedi have been in the room with them) I had to cut all pieces in the right direction on the fabric, at which point my 4 metres started to evaporate along with any chance of pattern matching that front seam. Thankfully the fabric is busy enough and the skirt is gigantic enough to not draw attention to the seam. Only I’ll always know it’s there. 😦
This dress was a lot of work but as you’ve probably gathered from the pics, it was absolutely and utterly worth it. What we finished with is probably my proudest piece of work yet – a dress that fits an asymmetrical body as if it was made for her – because it was. It’s by no means perfect, but I don’t think we’re ever 100% happy with our makes are we? What I am happy with is that this dress and my friend were made for each other and we’ve carefully saved the modified pieces so that she can have a perfect fitting dress any time she likes!
Thanks for reading!