Years ago, back when Joe and I were young and in grad school, a bunch of our friends and family members got married. They had a tendency to do this all in batches, so there was about a three year stretch where we went to something like ten weddings. Five them, as I recall, took place in a single year.
These weddings were lovely and we were so happy we could attend them, but man it was a rough few years trying to hit all those weddings on grad student salaries. Once we finished up the various degrees and got paying jobs, of course, everyone we knew had already gotten hitched.
But not this year! We're back up to a record five weddings this year and they are all happening September to November. I like weddings, but I especially like being a non-crucial wedding guest–no responsibilities excepting eating, dancing, and forcing various new friend tablemates to answer odd questions (“So, what's your favorite Scandinavian Slow TV episode”–I highly recommend this question the next time you have to talk to strangers for 2+ hours). Anyway, I figured I'd make my dresses for these various weddings, but I don't really want to make five dresses. For one thing, I don't need five dresses. For another, I don't want to spend hours of precious sewing time making five dresses I don't need. Finally, I don't really have any place to wear five dresses except to weddings, and I think this is likely to be our last big wedding year for quite some time.
So, my new plan is to make just two dresses of two variations on the same pattern–easier to sew and even though two of the weddings are family affairs, it won't really look like I'm wearing the same dress to both weddings. I'm using McCall's 7119, which has been made by a few different people (Lauren at Lladybird, for instance, made a very cute version of this last year), but I'm kind of surprised I haven't seen it floating around more often. It's a sleeveless wrap dress with a high-low hem–seems like it would be great fit for anyone looking for an easy-to-wear summer dress that can be fancied up for evenings out or casualed down for swanning around your backyard bbq.
Sadly, I don't swan around my backyard in dresses, which is why I haven't made the dress until now. It does, however, fit my two wedding guest dress criteria, though: not strapless (ugh, no) and adjustable waist. Basically, the wrap factor here is key–after I'm done enjoying the delicious vegetarian entree, I can discreetly loosen the wrap a bit and go on to enjoy two slices of cake.
Since I'm planning on making one version in a belovedly stashed silk charmeuse, I decided a muslin was probably in order, which is how I ended up with this floral number.
Side story–I bought this poly “silky” from Jo-Ann's in 2009! I know because Project Runway that year did a maternity challenge that Shirin won with a chic smocked jersey dress and wool coat, and I bought this fabric specifically for the lining of a similar coat. Anyone else remember that outfit? I actually did make my sister a copy of the dress (with the smocking!), but I never made the coat because (of course) she lives in Phoenix and has absolutely no need of a wool coat anytime, much less when she's pregnant and has an extra thousand gallons of blood heating her up. Still bought the fabric, though. Funnily enough, I was in Jo-Ann's the other day and they are still selling that same print!
Anyway, I was a bit worried about trying to make this dress in an uncooperative silk charmeuse–would I need to line it? How tricky would it be to sew the facings on the bias in the charmeuse? Should I do the high-low hem or end it at the knees (Version A)? The muslin went together really easily, as it turns out, even in this very slippery poly fabric. I cut a size ten in the bodice and graded to a size twelve at the waist, which turned out perfect for my measurements. The facing bands are fine, the skirt drapes beautifully, and I only need to adjust the length of the neckline so as to raise the crossover slightly. I did find that the v crossed quite low on me, and I wonder if going up to a size 12 might have helped just a bit. The muslin isn't perfect–I didn't really bother finishing the armscye, but I think it should be fine in the final versions.
It's a deceptively simple dress to make, as it turns out–no skirt darts and only two bust darts. Other than that, the dress just consists of very long seams (the tie bands, the skirt sides, etc.), so this is very easily a dress that could be made in a single evening, especially if you're working with a voile or even a challis and you aren't concerned about pattern matching. The really time consuming part would be hemming the bias edges of the skirt, but that's not so much a concern if you're doing the shorter skirt of Version A (or, even, the floor length skirt). I was very pleasantly surprised with how quickly the muslin came together.
I've decided not to keep the dramatic high-low hem, though, for the final version, despite it being so pleasantly swishy. It's a whole lot of dress for just a wedding guest, I think, although I could see this style working really well for a more black tie affair (or, alternatively, I think the dramatic hem would be lovely in a more casual voile style fabric). I'm going to chop down the back a bit and see if I like it better shorter, although I may end up with a level hem all the way around. Still, I'm very pleased with the muslin and much less dreading the silk charmeuse!