Monday, May 9, 2016

Stripes! Maternity/Nursing-friendly Dress

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Top:size 4, skirt: size 12

Fabric: Jo-ann Azure Tide pool stripe knit

Anyone who's done the pregnancy size yo-yo a time or three knows how easy it is to end up with a bunch of clothes that you only want to wear for a few months at a time before they cease to be useful or flattering, but you hate to get rid of them because they'll probably be useful for a few more months somewhere down the line. (That goes double if you're nursing, which has its own set of clothes needs.) So, this time around, I've been trying to focus on clothes that I'll actually want to wear for more than one stage of this process. Enter this knit dress, which I hope will replace some well-loved dresses that I borrowed last time around.

Even though this fabric was rather hard-won (I was majorly overcharged—not the first time JoAnn has done this—and fixing it involved both the manager and I pulling out our calculators for about 15 minutes before she finally tricked the system into something close enough and we both decided it was time for a margarita), this fabric turned out to be awesome. If you've ever handled Land's End swimwear or some of their knit dresses, it's like that. Very substantial feel, great stretch (about 50% both directions) and recovery, and the edges don't curl or fray. I'm really tempted to go back for more for a blazer. One caveat: like a lot of polyesters, this fabric does seem to hang onto odors, so you might find yourself washing it more frequently than a natural fiber.

This pattern is written for woven fabrics, so to adapt it to a stretch knit, I skipped the zipper, and cut the pieces with zero or slight negative ease (I'd decrease the ease even further for a less-stable knit). I skipped the facings to eliminate bulk, and instead extended the bodice front edge to make a 2” turn-under. Eliminating the front edge seam should also make it stretchier and thus easier to pull that edge down for nursing. I cut a wide bias strip (not on the true bias; just parallel with the edge of one of the skirt pieces), and piped the edge of the front yoke and back neck, tacking the seam allowance down in a couple of spots. Since the fabric is so stable, I left the skirt unhemmed. I may revisit that after pregnancy, when I have some hope of marking an even hem, but I'll probably leave it unless the fabric shows some signs of ravelling.

For the maternity alterations, the bodice is about 4” shorter than the original pattern. I added a waistband to help transition between the sizes, and also to break up the print a tad. I lengthened the skirt by 1.5” to make up for the shorter bodice, and cut the side edges of each gore straight, instead of with waist shaping. To do this, I traced the top edge onto the fabric, slid the pattern piece straight down 1.5”, and then used a yardstick to trace a line from the top corner to the bottom on each side.

Puffed sleeves seemed like a poor choice in this fabric, but I wanted a nice style detail there, so I used this tutorial to make tulip sleeves.

I converted the gathers where the bodice attaches to front yoke into pleats, because this fabric was too thick to gather well. I think if I did it over, though, I’d just pin that fullness out of the pattern piece before cutting. It wasn't at all necessary in a knit.

I also played fast-and-loose with the grainlines on the layout, placing the front edge parallel to the stripes and cutting the skirt pieces on the crossgrain, since "Do you happen to have any clothes with horizontal stripes?" isn't exactly the question on the lips of pregnant women everywhere.

If you're looking for something similar, I'd try New Look 6069 (which seems to be available as a printable pattern only, but Simplicity's site has been a mess since they redesigned it, so it might be worth checking a store). It already has the high waist and waistband that I had to alter this pattern to get. The skirt would need quite a bit of fullness added for maternity, though. The Simplicity pattern is a four-gore half-circle skirt (or very close to it), and the New Look seems to be about half that. There are lots of circle skirt calculators online; just use the waist/length measurements from the pattern to create a new skirt pattern with the correct fullness. (Other similar patterns: B5030, Simplicity 6301 or 1801).

I'm already in love with this dress. As much as I can enjoy the creativity involved in putting together an outfit, it can get a little old when a piece that fit you last week won't zip the next, so I'm glad to be able to look put together with no thought involved! 

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