My apologies for the less than impressive photos. I took these after getting home late from a work event.
Isn’t this an elegant neckline?
The Cleo dress from Style Arc is a simple V-neck, below-the-knee jersey dress with optional waist darts. You have the option of making it sleeveless or with long sleeves.
I chose to sew the darts. I think t-shirt style dress can often look rather frumpy, but sewing in those darts made it look sleek and greatly improved the fit. It skims my body without needing to be skintight, there’s definition below the bust without the back tenting out, and there’s minimal pooling at the small of my back.
My wardrobe has been lean ever since I did a big purge a few months ago. On Wednesday night I realized I needed a dress for Friday afternoon/evening. I decided to sew the Cleo because the darts made it a little bit more structured than the average t-shirt dress, and the sleeves were suitable for the cooler weather we’re having right now. I know fitted knit dresses like this are perhaps not the best choice for a pear shaped figure, but they’re more practical than wrap dresses and fuller skirts when the wind blows and both of your hands are occupied carrying equipment…
The fabric I used was a bright royal blue acetate/lycra matellassé knit from Gorgeous Fabrics. The rich texture of this knit definitely brought this dress up a notch. The weave and fiber content made this a very comfortable dress to wear when it was in the low 50s in the morning and mid 70s in the afternoon. The fabric is light as a feather too, and could easily pass for a woven.
Since I wanted this to pass for a woven as much as possible I hemmed the sleeves and hem on my regular sewing machine with a blind stitch suitable rather than a coverstitch. Look at how invisible it is! The thread just disappears in the texture of the fabric.
While this knit is incredibly wrinkle-free and would be amazing for traveling, it did not like to be pressed. I needed my wooden clapper when it came time to hem it. The weave of this knit was really odd too. It didn’t grow like some knits without lycra do, but it was difficult to get the darts fitted because stretching it too much would remove a lot of the knit’s depth. It was like sewing a sponge. So if you use this fabric, choose a pattern without a lot of negative ease.
I was pleased to see that the neck binding pattern piece Style Arc included was slightly smaller than the neckline, which eliminated gaping. (I think it was 95% the length of the neckline opening.) Due to the personality of this knit though, I removed an additional 3/4″ from the length at the ends, and when I stitched the ends together I also stitched inward an additional 3/8″ halfway rather than just straight down the edge. This way the sewn seam would naturally form a V when attached to the neckline of the dress.
- Added 5″ to the hips
- 1/2″ swayback tuck
- 1/2″ rounded back alteration
- 3/8″ forward shoulder alteration
- Added a 3/4″ dart to the back shoulder for my prominent shoulder blades. Normally with a knit I would just ease in maybe 3/8″ extra fabric or ignore this type of alteration completely in favor of letting the knit stretch, but since this was a more formal dress I went with a dart.
- Added 3/4″ width to the sleeves, mostly at the elbow
- The sleeves run long on this. I lengthened them 1″ and ended up needing only 1/2″ extra length.
- Removed the slight pegging from the skirt, making it a straight skirt. (Pegged skirts, especially pegged jersey skirts, are not kind if you are widest at the lower hip/upper thigh area like I am.)
- I ended up taking in the side seams 1/2″ each from just below the bust to about mid-thigh level. I think this is mostly due to the fabric.
- Let out the front darts 1/2″ at the waist. I should have also moved the front darts inward 1/2″. I just forgot in my scramble to get this done.
- Took in the back darts a LOT. There was a lot of variation as to how much – 1/2″ in some spots and up to 2″ in others.
Despite spending an awful lot of time tweaking those back waist darts to fit my freakishly narrow and hollow mid-to-lower back, I am pretty happy with how this dress came out. As I mentioned before, the darts really help improve the shaping. The neckline is wide and deep without being overly expansive. The skirt length can be tricky to carry off without the help of a nice pair of heels, but it is also very ladylike and helps nicely balance the neckline and slim shape. (Plus skirt length is probably the easiest thing in the world to change.)
Off to bed…more work events on Saturday!