A very popular style this Spring and Summer is a dress with shirred bodice. Although very late to the party, I have done shirring in the past – firstly way back in the 1960’s and more recently before Covid when I made the Siena dress by Sew Over It.
I checked out several ‘make your own pattern’ vlogs on the internet but was still not confident to try ‘going it alone’ so purchased the Sofia dress pattern by Victory Patterns. I checked out the size and measurements chart before deciding to make the size 20, version 1 dress with the short puff sleeves.
I had chosen this pretty viscose challis deliberately as it had a background print of even checks that I could use as a guide for the lines of shirring. The fabric came from Rainbow Fabrics and I purchased 3 metres at a cost of £10.78.
First task was a trial run of the shirring. Having hand-wound several bobbins with shirring elastic I cut a rectangle 10 inches across by 5 inches deep and then stitched rows of shirring on my machine. The settings were for a stitch length of 5.00 with tension racked up to 9.00. The swatch was then steamed with the iron until it shrunk down to 5 inches across.
The 3 metres was easily sufficient to cut the dress with a plain skirt. Initially I had considered adding a ruffle at the hem but decided that would add too much weight to the skirt and may cause the bodice to drag down.
I completed the shirring for the front and back bodice, then completed the construction of the sleeves. All the shirring took a total of 16 pre-wound shirring elastic bobbins. I stitched the side seams of the bodice and tried it on having pinned the sleeves in place. It was immediately apparent that I would have wear a strapless bra as the sleeves are set too wide. I recalled that on one of the vlogs the seamstress encountered the same problem, the easy solution is to add the shoulder bands as shown with the Bell sleeves.
Next onto the skirt. I did not use the pattern. I simply cut two rectangles 40 inches wide x 34 inches deep. By cutting rectangles I was able to use the printed check lines to ensure accuracy. No side seam pockets for this little number as the fabric is too light the pocket bags would pull on the side seams and and without lining the skirt, show through on the right side. I overlocked all the seam allowances for speed as this dress is a ‘wearable muslin’ in anticipation of making another in a different print. The hem was of the skirt was double turned by 3 inches to add some weight to the hemline and then hand stitched in place.
Conclusion: The fabric is exceptionally soft and lightweight, perfect for this project. The check print made keeping the lines of shirring straight very easy. I particularly like the short sleeves with shirring and ruffle. I will definitely be using that pattern on other dresses. When this style dress was a project on The Great British Sewing Bee the contestants were allowed 3½ hours to complete. My version has taken longer but maybe the next iteration will be a quicker sew. I may revisit this dress and add a plain White viscose voile lining to the skirt for modesty but in the meantime will enjoy my ‘milkmaid-look’ dress.
Project #37 completed 9th August 2022