While the idea of making your own clothes may seem like a great way around the lack of well made, well fitted clothing in “plus sizes”, in reality, patterns are no different to than RTW. They stop well short of my size in most cases. While all the fundamentals of garment making have been safely tucked away in my brain since my school sewing classes, I’m certainly not skilled enough to size up patterns, even if they at least came close to my size, which most don’t. I have successfully, however, dabbled in cutting up some well fitted, but well worn, RTWs and made a pattern out of them, so that’s an option for some things.
Luckily, there are also a few “plus size” patterns, and like the RTW world, pattern makers are increasingly aware that there is a market for “plus size” patterns. The first one I purchased is the Moneta dress by Colette Patterns (while there are only a few Colette Patterns in plus size currently, all future releases will go up to a 3X). When I purchased it, I knew it would fit, but only just! However, when I actually went to make it and measured myself to double check sizing, I was pleasantly surprised to find I’d lost a few inches and would actually be making a 2X, the second largest, size.
I have an oddly small bust measurement, that can be up to three sizes smaller than my waist and hip measurement, depending on the sizing being used by pattern makers. As an aside, this means I get excited when I’m looking at patterns and think I can fit them, only to move my eye down to the waist/hip lines and realise no way, no how is that garment going to fit! For the Moneta, it meant that I decided to create my own bodice, scaled from a 1X shoulders/bust to 2X waist to try and avoid having the dress falling off my shoulders, or at least revealing my bra strap constantly, which is a common issue for me. This proved tricky as there are two pattern pieces, one for all sizes up to 1X and another for the 2X-3X sizes. Slightly annoying, but Rachel was lovely enough to help me with some excellent tracing material to make my new pattern pieces.
I was aiming for a wearable muslin using $3/metre polyester fabric from Darn Cheap. It is a gorgeous colour with great drape, so it seemed like a good choice for the dress. Construction as per the instructions was very straight forward for the most part, however, I do not recommend following the instructions for the gathered waist. The instructions call for ¼ inch elastic to be stretched by hand while sewing it onto the non-stretched fabric underneath. Recipe for disaster! It may perhaps work with some less flimsy fabric and smaller waist measurements, but it did not work for me. I didn’t take a photo of the results unfortunately, but there was no way I could continue on to attached the skirt to bodice in the shape the waistline was in, parts of it were super gathered, other parts not at all. Luckily, I was at social sewing at the time, so Helen helped me with an alternative technique, shirring. Instant success! I only had to sew one line of elastic and the skirt was good to go. Helen is quick to credit Megan Nielsen for the technique, I can’t find the right tutorial there, but Made by Rae also has some good instructions, which outline almost the exact process I followed.
Once I got over the elastic issue, the rest was easy! I used washaway wonder tape to stablise the hem, which worked a treat. Here is the final result:
I did attempt the tie collar that Colette Patterns offer in their freebie extras pack for the Moneta, but it was a disaster. Against my own better judgement, I attempted to use interfacing, which ruined the whole thing, and I also found that the tie wasn’t long enough and just wouldn’t sit right. I ended up cutting the collar out of the dress and using this Made by Rae tutorial to make a simple neckband (I didn’t top stitch mine though), which gave me perfect results first time. Finishing this dress, my first since high school (and, in fact, I’m not sure I ever finished that one) allowed me to take part in Mocktails in the full spirit of the event, rather than just wearing a RTW outfit. I even made the cardigan I wore with this, but that is a post for another day.
While I’m happy with the dress overall, it’s comfortable and fits fairly well (ignoring the pulling under my arms that I can’t be bothered addressing with an FBA or whatever I need to do at this point), wise Helen suggested that the lady skater skirt might look rather flattering on me with the Moneta bodice. Enter the Moneta/Lady Skater hybrid:
This fabric is much thicker than the first Moneta (it also needs a press after washing, which I didn’t do before these photos!), so I went with a straight 2x bodice, as the first was quite fitted. I didn’t think this fabric would allow for the bit of stretch needed to get into my first one. I measured the bottom of the bodice and found this aligned with the top of the size 7 skirt. I didn’t even need to go any easing, the match was perfect. I lengthened the skirt by two inches because I don’t like my dresses too short and to make up for the shorter Moneta bodice. However, I think this will still be a winter dress with tights as it feels a bit too breezy at the back for me to comfortable in it. I used the same neckband tutorial above but because my scraps were too short, I had to do in two strips, with the joins aligning with the shoulder seams. I screwed up the measurements to begin with, forgetting the neckline is lower at the back. I tried to fix it up, but still have a teeny bit of gaping at the front. Not enough to make me want to rip it out and start again though, and I don’t think anyone would really notice. I also had oddly gaping underarms, which would have been noticeable, but were fixed by taking the seams in a tad, mostly on the bodice side, with a touch also removed from the sleeves.
Though it was intended for a Moneta, this fabric would not have gathered well, so the lady skater skirt really was a good call. I may try the a lady skater in full one day, however, I think the bodice would be too long for me. Wearing this dress to work a couple of times got me multiple unsolicited compliments, so this one is definitely a win! All credit to Helen for the suggestion, I wouldn’t have even considered attempting a pattern mash up without her. The social sewing crew really are most excellent and helpful people.
And with these two dresses, one of my ten projects is done.