The Japanese blossom Winifred dress

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I have always loved the idea of a shirtdress – the perfect blend of smart lunch attire with a nonchalant nod towards “I haven’t really bothered”. They are also generally a friend of quilting cotton and are perfect to use up the miles of jolly prints languishing in your stash (that’s just a general statement you understand, rather than a pointed observation!). I have admired many a shirtwaister dress over the t’internet miles this past year and once even decided to give one a go, however, it ended very badly. The trouble is, you see, shirtwaisters don’t normally do anything at all for my body shape, consequently I pass them by.

So, it was with some interest that I noted the arrival of this new pattern from Blue Ginger Dollpatterns last month. The Winifred Dress looked very interesting indeed, especially because of its unusual construction. The dress is in two halves front and back with no waist seam, the pieces are sewn together at the centre front and feature these weird looking but ingenious triangle darts and an easy fit elasticated back. You can add smocking to the back or keep it simple with an elasticated casing with cute buckle & belt feature. I was immediately smitten.

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What made the pattern even more appealing was that it is cut for a D cup! Hallelulah! Someone who caters for a bigger fit in the boobage department. I bought the pdf, printed out and took the pieces to the sewing shed for assembly. It was a really lovely and easy pattern, and I cut my first toile in record time. As I am an E cup I thought that I would get by with a two inch FBA. (oh foolish human, do you not hear the Sewing Gods laughing!) There were really clear instructions on the Winifred Sew-a-Long on how to do the FBA on the front pattern pieces and then move the triangular darts to their new position. I took my time with the alterations I needed and by the next evening I was ready to hit the sewing machine. With so few seams to sew to be able to try on to check fit, it was an extremely satisfying toile to run up. Imagine my horror though when I pulled it on and it ripped! Oopsie.

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The problem was, as usual, my bust, and after drawing all over myself in pencil (on the muslin I hasten to add) I decided I would have to move the upper dart (from my FBA), increase the back length of the armholes and add in an additional 2 inches to my FBA. I underestimated exactly just how much fabric it takes to swathe my ample bosom! Toile 2 was vastly improved but still not quite right. In the end I did a 5″ FBA on this baby to get the right fit, but am now really happy with it. The fabric (from a relatively recent stash acquisition) is a reproduction vintage japanese print, spied by my eagle eye at the Knitting & Stitching Show. Not my normal colourway, but the mix of hot pink and aqua is so eye catching it would have been rude not to.

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Because the fabric was wide, I was able to cut my back piece on the fold, eliminating the centre back seam, and I also decided (for comfort at work more than any other reason) to opt for the shirred back version, ably demonstrated by the amazingly talented Heather. The other major hack I made to the dress was to move the opening of the dress down significantly further than on the original design. I added an additional 3.5 inches to the split length and the accompanying facing to flash a little more flesh and the gentle curve of cleavage … hey, if you’ve got it …

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As a final touch I couldn’t resist adding a bias hem in a tiny polka dot contrast. This lush pin dot from Michael Miller (Mr Miller, your fabrics are my guilty pleasure) is available in bajillions of colours. I would like them all. This particularly pink version is called Garden. It sets of the rest of the print a treat and also gives the skirt a lot more swoosh in the wearing.

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And funnily enough this dress is pretty swooshy, even though it doesn’t have acres of fabric in the skirt … a result of its very clever cut. When I put this on I feel like Doris Day.

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Finally, a quick word about my shoes. When my shoe closet holds its Olympics this pair will undoubtedly win a medal. They are the pinkest, hot pink peeptoe suede numbers with a perfect heel height – every time I wear them they make me smile.

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Colour mad designer rampages gleefully through the world of plus size sewing! Oh, and there may be shoes … and cats.

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