Saturday, June 18, 2011

Ruffling Through Time

Ever read a set of pattern instructions that led you to believe folks were making things up as they went along? The empire waist and floating sleeves got my attention. The wide skirt was a plus. Unfortunately, it doesn't start widening until well after the point at which I start to widen. And there is a DART in a side panel. Why is there a dart in a side panel of a dress that supposedly floats?

I'm up to the mid Seventies in my stash of  vintage patterns, and discovering that one cannot always believe what the pattern says about hip size if one is a short person. Either I'm short enough that the hip falls in the wrong place, or they just plain lied. In any case, McCall's 4557 is a failure. The neckline is too high, the torso is too long, and even if those things were fixed, the construction is just plain quirky. 

Some seamsters ignore the instructions. I read and try all of them, figuring that I might learn something. This time I learned that the person who designed the dress and the person who made the mockup had no contact with the person who wrote the instructions. And if all three were the same person, he/she/it wrote the instructions while muddling through and did not refine them. I think the designer saw an ethnic dress and translated it into pattern shapes he/she/it could deal with. These were not the best shapes for a female human over the age of eleven.

When there is  a separate bodice and skirt, I sew the bodice pieces together and then sew them to a skirt. But this pattern demanded that I sew bodice front to panel front. I was permitted to sew panel front to panel sides only after sewing the facing to the side panels. The entire back is a single panel -- a NARROW panel. The front is narrow as well. All the shaping is in the side panels and that shaping is more or less at the knee.

I wonder if the designer thought young men would like to wear this dress. After all, young men rarely require flares at the hips. That would explain the dart in the side panels. Young men rarely have defined waists, and the dart hints at waist definition. But it is a high waisted dress, so really, what's the point?

Did I mention that the neckline is too high? Too high. The ethnic dresses from which this pattern is derived just plop over the head. No zippers, buttons, snaps or straps are required. 
M4557, on the left, is a bizarro pattern.

At least I had fun making it. I was getting tired of plain muslin muslins, and put together 3 ditsy calicos (purple and white, turquoise and white, and ye gods and little fishes, who let him loose with the crayons) in the blouse length, thinking that if it fit, I'd have a fun blouse. Such was not the case. I do like the floating sleeves through. I'll do them for a nightgown sometime.

No photos. I had already ripped out the zipper and side panels before it dawned on me that I could rant about it to my heart's content. If I were to make this again I'd redraft the skirt panels so the widening begins below the bust, not somewhere between waist and knee. But I have six 14 x14 inch crates full of vintage patterns, and I am not wedded to this particular rendition of a folk pattern.