The easy fitting dress – Intermediate pattern cutting 0.7

Right at the beginning of our course we were asked to draft an easy fitting dress block.

If you have already drafted a dress block, making it looser and easier to wear is very easy. You basically reduce the bust dart by half, and eliminate the waist and back darts. It’s as simple as that. Here are the instructions from Winifred Aldrich.

Drafting an easy fitting dress block
Easy fitting dress block (Aldridge p30)

When I first started making clothes – in the early 1980s I made quite a few loose fitting dresses with my basic block. Some had a dropped waist, some had pleats (like a gym slip) and most of them were made from vintage curtains and other interesting fabrics I picked up in charity shops. The 1980s were all about volume and width and this style of dress suited my lifestyle.

I wore a similar style of dress when I was a young mum. Here is brown linen dress I got at Hobbs in the early 1990s.

1994 Hobbs linen dress
Hobbs Brown linen dress c1994

I wore it over long sleeved T shirts when it was cooler and with nothing (much) underneath on warmer days. In the photograph I am with Esme, George and Gus at Euston station. We are off on a camping holiday. Well I have a feeling that it was John and the children who were doing the actual camping. Maybe I stayed with my Mum while they took off. The children were real troupers and John route marched them through the Derbyshire countryside, whatever the weather. Time has passed, and fashions have changed, and I have come to prefer a more fitted shape, especially for work wear.  Because I have a shaped outline myself, and partly because of a preference for a tailored look. However I have been considering a casual wardrobe and my mind turned to this block and I thought I might try it. While shapeless isn’t my best look it is comfortable. Can it be elegant and stylish too?

Making the pattern

I just used the bodice block, created a nice neckline and new armhole, drew in the waist, measured 27″ down and flared it very gently towards the hem. I created a button band and facing, and a couple of patch pockets.

Fabric and materials

I bought a lovely piece of fairly heavy linen from Simply Fabrics for about £5 p/m. I used 1.2 metres. This dress needs to be made of something with a bit of weight. I guess a wool or heavier cotton would have done too. I didn’t use any interfacing as the buttons are just sewn on (no button holes). The dress is put on over the head with no fastenings. I had some lovely, mismatching buttons, given to me for Christmas by my sweet Daughter in Law Bianca. Their size and interesting deep grey mother of pearl colour makes the dress , I feel. I wore it with my pink Converse for a very casual look.

I did dither about the length. In some ways it would be more flattering shorter (knee length) but in summer, without tights, longer is a better length, practically speaking. So I have hemmed it long for now. I think this dress has potential however, and intend to make a second version that is shorter, and probably better for wearing with tights or over leggings in the cooler months. Then it becomes more of a shift dress.

Here are the side and back view. I shall wear this at weekends this summer and think about what changes I might make before designing the perfect casual dress.

I would welcome your feedback. Thank you.

21 Responses

  1. Trish

    I have been playing around with a similar dress block from an old New Look pattern. I have made a couple but although the fit is right, somehow I’ve been dissatisfied with them. As a top they work perfectly so it is something about the skirt portion. I think you might have nailed it for me. They are not long enough, need a bit more looseness, and I would do better to make them in a heavier fabric for wear in the UK. Thanks for this. I like yours by the way, and think it does the job it’s meant to. Useful wear in town, everyday wear, casual comfortable dress.

  2. thedementedfairy

    I love the button detail, but it’s not doing it for me I’m afraid- I think it’s the length. Go shorter, or longer, and make a proper maxi. This is looking frumpy to my eye [sorry] and you’re absolutely NOT the frumpy type. I get a slight Wilson, Keppel and Betty vibe. http://www.jannaludlow.co.uk/Assets/Ent_WKB_VA_Gouache.JPG
    I love seeing your old pics, and you were clearer way out of my league of cool in the 80s!
    Looking again, I think this shape would be fine made in a jersey- perhaps a linen or silk knit. You’d get the same comfort, but a little more figure flattery- worth a try?

    • fabrickated

      Good feedback DF – I actually agree but I have just enjoyed wearing this dress. I fear jersey even more than frumpy length skirts as I wore about the cling factor…. The pictures are lovely by the way.

  3. seamsoddlouise

    I disagree withe the above comment I love it. Looks like perfect summer wear, though yes if you wanted to transition to cooler months the hem could come up. The buttons are fab.

    • fabrickated

      I do want your opinion dear Carmen. Thanks. I agree that mid calf is the definitive old lady length. I prefer knee length but I really don’t think my legs are nice enough when they are bare.

  4. Jay

    I like the shape on you and agree that it makes for a more casual look. The length is a question. I have a few skirts this length which I kept from the 80s because I still liked them, but don’t feel they work at the moment, even though the midi has been making a comeback. I think in this dress its literally the long unbroken straight line in a plain fabric which I can’t get my eye into. The button detail is spot on, and the colour is good on you. Perhaps it’s just accessories? A bunch of chunky arm bangles? Strappy sandals? Or maybe split the skirt at the sides a little bit and top stitch so you have the length, but have some hem detail.

  5. Stephanie

    Love the old photos. You look just lovely in them. The one with your kids is gorgeous too. Just yesterday I was thinking about them and wondering how they are doing.

    For the dress…I don’t think it’s bad at all and I love the buttons and colour. I think it comes down to what you feel good in. If I put on something loose like an oversized tee, after a couple of hours I want to take it off and put on something fitted. My mom used to wear a lot if dresses like this because she was self-conscious about her tummy. She is short and petite so I always thought the look overwhelmed her frame and made her look dowdy. You seem to be taller and look quite nice.

    • fabrickated

      The kids are all doing OK – but each in the different ways. They all miss their Dad. I must say I am enjoying the looseness around the midriff, although they say my slim waist is my best feature. When I was pregnant I eventually succumbed to one piece dresses as I just couldn’t stand the waist lines – even elasticated ones.

      • Stephanie

        It’s so tough. Everyone has his or her own way to grieve. It’s such a huge loss.

        Yes, I know you’ve mentioned liking your waist! Maybe time to try the empire line again? 🙂

  6. Anne Frances

    The colour is lovely but I tend to agree with Carmen and Demented Fairy. I think it needs about three or four inches off the bottom, and then shoes with some shape and a bit of a heel to give your legs a better proportion. Strappy sandals with a bit of a heel perhaps? The buttons are just right

  7. Joyce Latham

    Your on your way…to the perfect summery casual dress. I really like this one with more ease. I’m really excited at the prospect of your new look. It definately says ” relax” but it’s also says smart and cool…..practical and sophisticated. If this is the direction your taking for your casual wardrobe…ouuuieeeee fun fun fun! Good idea to wear it for a bit and determine the changes needed. How would you feel about wearing a pair of shorts under the shorter length.- like your running shorts in silk?…would that make the shorter length more comfortable? Good luck with your trail run…do get back to us soon.
    Joyce from Sudbury

  8. Joyce Latham

    Had another thought…how about a more classic runner , or slip on style with no laces?

  9. Annnieloveslinen

    Lovely throwback pictures, you look very glam. As for your dress, the top portion works, the skirt not so much. I do think you could rock this simple design but ideally it would need some subtle shaping, either by cutting on the bias or making it more a-line and incorporating some darts/waist shaping. I’d also suggest working on the rule of thirds for proportion to determine the optimium length.

    I’ve been considering a similar style and can’t decide if it’s a good look for me. Photos allow some degree of distance as our eyes pick up when something took off, although in my case I can’t always identify what that might be.

    • fabrickated

      I know this dress isn’t my best look. It certainly is much prettier shorter and with lighter looking shoes. I have worn it all weekend (to a millinery course in a hot studio) and it has been perfect casual wear. I will make some changes to make it look better on me, but in terms of casual, comfortable, practical wear it is a winner. The nicest part for me is that there is no waist band so it is ultra comfortable around the middle.

  10. Mary

    Right up my alley since I am a tall rectangle and drop waists suit me nicely. Your long length does work in that you look cool and comfy but throw on a cardi and tights and you might enter nun territory!

  11. viliene

    To me the horizontal seam in front should be moved up so that it does not sit halfway, but two thirds of the dress length upwards, that would change the proportion. And shoes that are not so plain.

    • fabrickated

      There isn’t a horizontal seam at the front – it is the pockets that you can see. And I agree the shoes are not right with this dress. Thank you for your feedback Viliene.

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