Alaska Wedding Dress

Pattern: Simplicity's Special Occasion Dresses #4070
Fabric: 2yds rayon poplin + rayon challis lining
Cost: $35

First off, thank you all for the comments from my jacket series. It was a wonderful learning process, and it got me thinking - wouldn't it be great if there were more patterns on the market that lead you through some of these more complicated steps?? While much of what Beth shared with me was good tips for sewing in general, there are definitely some steps that were crucial to making a nice jacket: how to sew a sleeve head, where to clip certain corners to get your collar to lie flat, etc. Yet none of the blazer patterns I've used in the past mention these things. I would love to see a pattern or a book-with-a-pattern out there that tackles more complicated garments with some of the same handholding that indie companies offer with their beginner patterns. Of course they'd probably have to charge a good sum of money for it, but taken like a class it would be well worth it! I don't know if there is actually a market for this or if this material really is better as a a class, but I would certainly put some money down for a step-by-step jacket pattern or other complicated garment. Have you followed any particularly good jacket patterns out there?

Anyway, all this jacket talk and I haven't even mentioned its companion, my new Simplicity 4070 dress. Unlike the jacket, this dress was much more simple to make, and the perfect completion to my wedding guest outfit. It's a classic princess seam shape that Simplicity uses as the basis for many of their formal wear patterns (at one point I counted nine patterns made from this block). I really wanted to use a princess seam pattern for this dress because they are classic, easy to fit, and work nicely for formal wear.

I bought this particular pattern in 2011, when I had only been sewing intensely for about a year. And, unfortunately, I ordered the wrong size - I clicked the larger size range instead of the smaller sized pattern by mistake. Now, I mention that I had only been sewing seriously for about a year because that was enough time to give me the idea that, 'hey! I could grade this pattern down!' without the knowledge that different size ranges are made using a completely different pattern block to account for the proportions (Colette did an interesting post on this before they started creating patterns in a wider size range).

So, 2011 Meg grabbed her felt-tipped pen and graded down a size or two to make up a simple woven dress. Looking at the blog picture now, I must admit that the results were actually not bad! It appears that there was a little extra room at some places in the bodice, but overall it was definitely wearable. So I hemmed and hawed about whether to use the pattern again and, after not finding another suitable pattern in my stash, I decided I should at least make up a muslin of the bodice to test the fit. And you know what? The fit was actually really good! Perhaps the two size ranges weren't that different after all, or 2011 Meg actually knew what she was doing, but I was very pleased with the test fit. So much so, in fact, that I plan on actually finishing that muslin to make a crop top. But that is for another time...

This dress was sewn up in a rayon poplin from, chosen because it resembled this beauty from Pinterest. I thought the flowers would be great for a summer wedding, and the dark colors both suit me and the moody atmosphere of an evening wedding in Alaska. Apparently I was not the only one with that idea because at least two other friends showed up in floral-on-black dresses, too. But at least when you make your own no one can show up wearing the exact same dress!

After making my jacket, the construction of this was a breeze. Once I verified the fit, I sharpened my scissors and jumped right in. I tried to use as many of the techniques Beth had taught me, especially around the basics like cutting carefully and paying close attention to the notches and seam allowances. To keep the poplin fabric and challis lining under control, I used spray starch for the first time, which did help. I thought the starch would make the fabric super stiff, but in reality it just gave a bit more body to the light fabric which helped keep the grain straight when I cut and sewed.

To showcase the beautiful fabric, I took pains to pattern match across the princess seams and back. It is, of course, impossible to get a perfect match on princess seams, but by cutting with care I avoided breaking up the print too much. And my favorite part is the back slit along the neck, which gives a nice touch while still being conservative enough for a church wedding (or at least for this wedding).

I also attached a strip of fabric as a "belt" to help give some waist definition. The pattern actually has this in many of its views, but I just "drafted" my own after the fact when I tried the dress on. I think the dark fabric there helped break up the pattern a bit and accentuate my mid section.

To finish, I followed the pattern and lined the bodice and skirt separately and then attached the skirt-and-lining to the top-and-lining with a single seam. It's not as elegant as constructing the entire lining and bodice separately, but it does help keep everything in place at the waist. Unfortunately this is not so great for creating a clean back zipper, so I ended up unpicking a bit of the waist seam so I could enclose the zipper between the shell and the lining by hand. While I almost never hand sew, I didn't mind stitching the lining to the zipper in while watching a bit of the Warriors basketball championship games. Go Warriors! Go hand sewing!

For the hem, I kept it long and cheated a bit with the hemming by cutting the lining shorter and sewing it to the dress right sides together before attaching the skirt to the bodice. This was a bit of a pain because the challis lining was a bit shifty, but it gave a nice invisible hem without all the trouble, and if you cut carefully you can get a nice, even hem.

Overall, I am very pleased with this dress. It is very comfy as long as you don't eat too much wedding cake, seems to fit great, and could be worn for a number of occasions. Win win win!


  1. Lovely dress and the fit is perfect, especially in the back! Great Job.

    I haven't personally made one but I believe the Vogue Claire Shaeffer jacket patterns at are meant to be like her sewing courses. They don't seem to be producing as many as they used to (and they may not be as modern as you like) but the steps I'm sure could be used elsewhere.

  2. Very pretty dress. I agree, I think the Claire Shaeffer patterns have lots of information.

  3. I love the floral on black print. The fit looks spot on!

  4. I would love your pattern idea, I have the Claire shaffer jacket pattern waiting and this includes couture methods. Your dress is lovely, I think florals on black are my favourite. Enjoy the wedding!

  5. Lovely job on this dress, Meg! I'm sure you got a lot of compliments on the dress.

  6. Gorgeous dress!!!! Just wow! :)


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