My Marilla Walker Bennett Dress

Now the wedding is over I’m starting to get back into a routine. I’ve managed to squeeze in a few hours sewing time throughout the week and I’m pleased to say these hours have been very productive (and incredibly enjoyable). Since getting back I’ve been on a mission to sew some sleeveless dresses. This was the one big hole in my wardrobe highlighted by Me Made May, the weather was glorious while we were at the Lakes and my one solitary sleeveless number was my Southport dress.

First in the queue was Marilla Walker’s Bennett dress:

‘This dress is a lovely summer shift with flattering front princess seams, a large pocket and a choice of waist ties, front panel and hem length. View A finishes below the knee with waist ties, shaped shirt style hem and v-back neck. Ideal fabrics are soft, lightweight and drape well. The gathering at the waist is best suited to finer fabrics to reduce bulk. View B finishes above the knee with button front fastening on the centre front panel, loose A-line shape, straight hem and v-back neck. Fabrics can be selected according to your preferred silhouette. Soft lightweight fabrics for a nice floaty feel or fabrics with more body to emphasise the shape of the dress.’

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I was attracted to the loose silhouette and the ability to loosen the ties (which is the main thing I like about the Southport dress) One of the Sample garments Marilla made used a stripy fabric which contrasted the direction of the stripes on the bib section. I decided to blatantly copy her. The fabric was from my Fabworks Millshop giveaway, a denim blue stripe check cotton, available here. The finished garment measurements are stated instead of arbitrary sizing, I wish every pattern company did this as I find it so much easier to choose a size. The sizing is quite broad, going up to a 52 inch bust, 54 inch waist and 59inch hip. From the given measurements I cut a size 41 inch shoulders and high bust before blending to a 43 through the bust (adding 2 inches) and then blending back into a size 42/47 for the waist and hips. I chose view A with the straight hemmed skirt of view B.

It all came together very easily, I did make a couple of errors due to my slapdash approach at the time. I forgot to interface the facings, only realising as I had finished the dress. This hasn’t been a problem though as the fabric has enough body to hold their shape. I also ignored the instruction to baste the bib in place before sewing, which led to having an extra centimetre of width and some sheepish unpicking.

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I made a couple of changes, swapping the patch pocket for in seam ones. I shortened the bodice by an inch as a standard adjustment for being short waisted. I also raised the armscye an inch as I found it a little too low on me, so it may be worth checking before cutting if you are on the short side too. I think next time I will also size down a bit for a more fitted look in the bodice.  I bound the hem with some yellow gingham bias binding.

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I’ve worn this dress a lot, although mostly with a cardigan (the Sun seems to have disappeared since embarking on my summer dress sewing extravaganza). I like the nautical feel and the effect of the stripe direction which gives the impression of little capped sleeves. The fabric is wonderful, it doesn’t crease too badly so I can wear it all day and still look presentable if I get chance to escape for a quick pint in the pub in the evening. I’m pondering about using the pattern for the colder months, I think it would work well in a lightweight wool paired with tights and a long sleeved tee underneath, but I really shouldn’t be thinking about winter sewing plans, we’ve not had Summer yet!

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