Hi, everyone! It’s been awhile! It felt so good to take a nice, long break this summer. I really needed it. We wait all year for warm weather in New England, and I just wanted to soak it all up. Summer is gorgeous here.
This summer I tried to think about what I really want in my warm-weather clothes. It took me almost until the end of the season to really figure it out, but I did manage to sew a (very) few things that fit my wardrobe ideals. In fact, I found a pattern I liked so much that I made it twice: Simplicity 8689.
I have made a few somewhat successful dresses in the past, but I think I really found what I was looking for in this pattern: all undergarments are covered, it is loose and doesn’t cling in hot weather, it’s long enough that I don’t have to worry about a gust of wind exposing me, and, of course, it has pockets. I also love that this pattern has so many possibilities for variation (and decoration!). That’s the case with any pattern, but this is one where I can really see those possibilities.
I had fallen in love with a combination of black eyelet and light purple/pink voile at Joann’s in the spring, and when it went on sale, I snapped it up. Originally I had it earmarked for another pattern, but I’m so glad I went with this one. I figured I could underline the eyelet in voile, which would provide modesty and create a cool effect. If you aren’t familiar with it, underlining involves taking two layers of fabric and treating them as one, reducing wrinkling and providing many other benefits. For my purposes, the reduced wrinkling and the modesty underlining provided me with were key.
I chose to make View B, the tunic length, with an added 8″ ruffle (before hemming) at the bottom.
I cut a 16 at the bust and graded to a 20 for the waist and hips. I like a fair amount of ease, but if you don’t, you may want to think twice about grading out. I probably could have made this in a straight 16 and been fine. If you look at the back of the dress, you can see that there is a lot of fabric being gathered in by the waist ties.
*Borrowed the short flutter sleeve from vintage Butterick 3731. I actually didn’t even notice that I was putting a raglan sleeve on a set-in sleeve pattern until writing this post…hm. I’m glad it worked out! That explains why my sleeves are so long!
*Added 2.25″ of length to the bodice, changing it to 2″ on my second dress
*Major broad back adjustment (enough to preserve the ease that was supposed to exist in this pattern, which is 4.5″ above body measurements; you can see how I do a major broad back adjustment here)
*Low bust adjustment, moving the bust point on the princess seams down 7/8″ (and then taking 7/8″ off the bottom edge of the bodice)
*Lowered the placement points for the back ties until they were 1″ above the bottom edge of the bodice
*On my second dress, I raised the pockets 2″ so they would end up where they were before I lowered the waistline
This sounds like a lot of adjustments, but I was committed to getting the result I wanted, and they were worth it. For information on broad back adjustments and lowering bust points, I used The Perfect Fit from The Singer Sewing Reference Library. These books are cheap and easy to pick up used. I have a lot of them, and this is probably the one I turn to the most.
After making my first dress in black eyelet with black mini pom pom trim, and wearing it every Sunday for a month, I was completely smitten. While in Michigan, I managed to hit the fabric sale at Field’s Fabrics in Holland, MI and found some cotton bubble gauze. I bought four yards, thinking I could double layer it for opacity (more underlining!), and make something fun. I settled on making another version of Simplicity 8689 with all the beautiful trims I could find.
Martha Moore’s versions of this pattern influenced me heavily. You can see her black dress on PatternReview here and her brightly-colored embellished dress on PatternReview here. It was through one of Martha’s reviews that I discovered and fell in love with fashion designer Dodo Bar Or’s resort collections (here’s a link to her Resort 2019 collection), and decided I needed something like that in my life.
While at Field’s, I found the floral ribbon, and added rickrack and big pom pom trim from Joann’s plus more baby pom poms from Amazon. These colors make me SO HAPPY. I love them. Getting everything just right took some very careful sewing!
I made the sleeve a single layer of gauze and hemmed the two layers on the bottom ruffle to different lengths for a fun effect. Quarter inch iron-on adhesive was helpful in getting crisp hems in those areas.
Truthfully, I wasn’t sure how the dress would come out in the gauze. It’s a bit crinkly, and after consulting the experts at Pintuck & Purl, I didn’t try to iron it, but sewed it as it came out of the dryer, and this worked well. It probably is a little larger/more relaxed after wearing than the black one, but it’s hard to tell (without actually measuring) if that’s reality or just my perception because of how the light and color interact in each garment.
*I used a plain black fabric for the facings and pockets in the black dress. In the yellow dress, I used part of a fat quarter of Liberty of London Tana Lawn I got in a fabric trade. The colors are great! Quilting cotton was perfect for the pockets, and part of that same selvedge made a great tag for the dress.
*If you look closely on the black eyelet dress, you can see that I managed to mostly pattern match the front center seam, and I alternated the direction of the embroidery on the front yoke, side panels, skirt, and bottom ruffle.
*I used shiny nylon cord and tassels plus other odds and ends from the jewelry section of the craft store to add tassels to the black dress. Originally the cords were sewn into the neckline, but they broke in the wash. I tried to sew them on again by hand, but it looks messy and is starting to separate again. If I make this pattern again, I will try to come up with a good way to make them detachable for the wash, maybe with hooks and eyes.
The tassels themselves are removable, thanks to some jewelry clasps.
I finally feel like, after a few years of searching, I have found a summer dress I love. I feel confident, secure, and beautiful when I wear these. I know they are a little different from the norm (especially the yellow dress), but sometimes fashion takes courage.