Project Sewn

Project Sewn: The Little Black Dress

Project Sewn Season 2 has officially begun! If you haven’t yet, hop on over there and vote for your favorite look. There are some great LBDs — I had a very hard time choosing between my two favorite.

I really wanted to participate in the community sew along during season 1 of Project Sewn, but opted not to since I was preggo, had just had surgery, blah, blah, blah.

Participating when 4 weeks postpartum a may not be a materially better idea for a variety of reasons: (1) I now spend my days caring for a 4-week-old infant, who are not known for giving long or reliable periods of time for sewing; (2) I spend my nights up and down feeding said infant; (3) I still have about 25 extra pounds to lose to get back to my pre-preggo size; (4) my body is still shaped really funny since my last pregnancy is only in the very recent past; and (5) since my boobs are currently serving a function other than filling out my shirts — i.e. feeding a human being — anything I make needs to give easy access to them.

But whatevs, I’m doing it anyway! Here is my entry for Week 1, the Little Black Dress:

Creative Counselor: Project Sewn Week 1
My Little Black (Brown) Dress

Now the first thing you are likely to notice about my LBD is…it’s not black. You would be correct there! I have a reason for that.

While I think a Little Black Dress is a classic look, it’s not one that I think looks the best on me. My coloring is too fair and too gold and black just looks harsh on me. Instead, I look much better in warmer colors like brown or navy.

So when I saw that the first challenge was the LBD, I immediately knew that my dress would not be black. I wanted to take what I consider to be the defining elements of the LBD — versatility, classic looks and cuts, easily thrown on to look pulled together — and make a dress that was more suited to my coloring.

Creative Counselor: Project Sewn Week 1
Brown is much more my color than black.

I originally planned to make my dress navy. In fact, I have some lovely navy blue wool crepe (from my first-ever Mood purchase!) set aside for this dress.

But the previously-mentioned 4-week-old intervened and I wasn’t able to get to the navy version. So what you are seeing is actually my muslin. I purposely chose a fabric for my muslin that would work for the LBD challenge and made the muslin wearable since I anticipated that it may not get around to my wool version before the deadline.

The pattern is the Dakota Shawl Collar Dress from Named Patterns, the new Finnish pattern company taking the online sewing world by storm.

Creative Counselor: Project Sewn Week 1
Dakota Shawl Collar Dress

I loved the Named Fall 2013 line when it came out, and the Dakota dress was right at the top of my list. (The Jamie Jeans are at the very top of my list but I won’t be attempting those until my size is set). But since the pattern company is new as well as new-to-me, I definitely wanted to make a muslin before cutting into my precious $18/yd wool Mood fabric.

The fabric I used for this dress is a chocolate brown double knit from Denver Fabrics. I bought it on clearance about 9 months ago for roughly $2 per yard. The Dakota dress is designed for a looser fit and therefore can be done in just about any fabric — woven or knit.

This dress was a good choice for me for this challenge for a couple of reasons. First, the looser design of the dress meant it was likely to fit me now and also not look ridiculously big later after I’ve lost the baby weight. When I’ve shrunk a bit, I can just belt in the dress like the model. Second, the shawl collar and open bodice means that I can wear this dress while nursing and also continue to wear it when the girls are back to being mere decorations.

Creative Counselor: Project Sewn Week 1
Be kind. It’s not easy posting a butt picture of yourself 4 weeks postpartum!

This is a well-drafted pattern. I will, however, engage in one small bitch-fest before moving on. That has to do with the sizes included in the pattern. With Named patterns, you have to choose the size range that you want to purchase, and only get 2 sizes. That means that I paid over $20 USD for this pattern and only got 2 sizes–the 38 (US 6) and 40 (US 8). For many people this probably isn’t a big deal. But for postpartum me, with my constantly changing size, it was a big deal. Do I buy the size I am currently that may not fit in a few months, or buy the size I anticipate fitting in the long run and just cross my fingers that there’s enough ease for me to wear it now?

I took the latter approach. I purchased size 38/40, which should fit me in several months when the baby weight is gone. The real kicker, though, is that my pre-preggo measurements may actually have out me in the size down — 34/36 — so the size I got may ultimately end up too big! I know it’s also not uncommon for sewists to have to grade among 3 different sizes to get a good fit, so I imagine I’m not the only one who will be annoyed by the Named system of pattern purchasing.

Creative Counselor: Project Sewn Week 1
Full front. This dress definitely looks better on a body. The loose fit is very obvious on a hanger.
Creative Counselor: Project Sewn Week 1
Back view.

That gripe aside, though, I was pleasantly surprised with the process and fit of this pattern. The construction was quite straightforward and the result was a professional, classic dress that I will undoubtedly wear frequently once I’m back at work.

The skirt is constructed in 8 pieces and the skirt seams all line up perfectly with either a side seam or dart on the bodice. The shawl collar was really straightforward and the fit is good. I was a little short on fabric (I only had 1.5 yards instead of the recommended 2), so I had to omit the sleeve vents and cuffs. Instead I just turned them under and hemmed. I also omitted the pockets since I didn’t know how the flaps would work in my knit and the flapless pockets just looked funny.

When I make my navy version (I do plan to make it), I will definitely include the cuffs and pockets. I also think that the collar needs to be a little wider, so I’ll probably add some width there. Currently, it’s not quite “shawlly” enough for my taste. I will also add an inch or so to the bodice length. Adding length to a bodice is not a typical adjustment for me (since I have a fairly short torso), so long-waisted women should take note of that on this pattern.

Creative Counselor: Project Sewn Week 1
Bodice front close up.
Creative Counselor: Project Sewn Week 1
Bodice back close up.

The pattern instructions are scant, and that’s being generous. There are absolutely no pictures or diagrams — text only. That didn’t bother me since I’ve now constructed enough garments that I generally don’t need detailed hold-my-hand instructions (except on a zip fly, I still follow those to a T). But beginners or very visual sewists may want to steer clear of Named patterns for their first makes. You will get no hand-holding whatsoever from these instructions. More experienced sewists may find them refreshingly simple, like I did.

Overall I’m very happy with this dress. It’s really comfortable, very versatile and easily dressed up or down. It’s perfect for work, but I could easily dress it up with a sparkly tank and heels for date night, or down with a casual top and flats for running errands with the kids.

In other words, it’s a perfect LBD!

See my full pattern review here.

0 thoughts on “Project Sewn: The Little Black Dress

  1. What a great dress. I love the collar and how versatile it can be. It looks nursing-friendly, another bonus.

    The sizing for this pattern company is a bit off putting considering the price. But I can see the temptation to own a couple. The sleek lines they offer are so chic.

    1. Thanks!

      I agree. I love so many of their patterns — they’re modern yet classic at the same time. I also love the subtle 60s/70s vibe that I get from many of them. I’m really drawn to fashion from that era. But I don’t like the price.

      I think this dress will work well for nursing — that was a primary consideration when I was choosing a pattern!

  2. The pattern looks so modern and stylish…and I can’t believe you are four weeks out from birth…you look so fantastic! Lovely dress. I can’t wait to see the real version (although this one looks like you can totally wear it too!)

    1. Aw, thank you so much! I’m really looking forward to making my “official” version. I hope I have time while on leave — finding time to sew certainly has been harder now that I’m at an infant’s beck and call 🙂

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