Wow, it has a been a long time (over a month!) since I did a proper pattern review. How did that happen??
This review probably isn’t going to make me super popular with all the Patterns for Pirates fangirls out there (and there are many) because even though I like my dresses, I don’t love this pattern. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine. It’s not great, it’s not fantastic, but it’s fine. It has some issues, some of which are easily fixable on my end and some of which aren’t.
Let’s start with what I like. First, the Sunshine Dress has a lot of options. When I was thinking of alternative patterns, I could come up with patterns that had a halter or a strapless or a faux wrap, but was hard-pressed to come up with another pattern that was basically a one-stop shop for a simple sundress. That being said, the skirt on this pattern is just a couple of rectangles without included pattern pieces. That means that if you already have a pattern with a similar bodice that you like, hacking the skirt would be incredibly simple.
Second, I like that the pattern includes clear elastic to stabilize the waist seam and support the skirt. This also keeps the pockets from sagging and actually makes them usable. And overall the finishes on this pattern are pretty good. The strapless and halter have a lined bodice, and the cross over uses bands.
Now on to what I don’t like. As I intimated earlier, I found a few issues with the pattern, some of which I can fix easily myself while some require more work on my part.
Let’s start with what would be an easy fix. That would be the skirt width. I made the version with front hip pockets. For some reason if you’re making front hip pockets, the pattern directs you to cut the front skirt piece about 3″ narrower than if you are doing inseam pockets or no pockets. I assume this is because you don’t gather the skirt where the pockets are and it’s harder to gather more fabric in between the pockets. But I found that I easily could have gathered the skirt tighter, and the skirt as drafted doesn’t have enough fullness to fit really comfortably. Particularly in the maxi version when the column created by the skirt also dictates how easily you can walk. So I would definitely add a few extra inches of width to my skirt in the future.
My next issue is one I can fix, but less easily. That issue has to do with the faux wrap bodice. The faux wrap bodice has two pieces — the first piece is the part of the wrap on the bottom, closest to the body. That piece is not ruched. The second piece is the outer part of the wrap, which is ruched. The issue is that the ruched bodice piece is wider overall than the non-ruched piece. And the differences in width are not in areas that are gathered in by the ruching, but rather the entire ruched piece, including the shoulder strap and center bodice is wider than the non-ruched piece. That means that the armscyce and neck sits differently on the right side of the bodice versus the left side of the bodice.
I happen to prefer the fit on the non-ruched piece, so I could fix this by mashing the two pieces together to slim out the ruched piece so that the shoulder and armscyce are the same width as the non-ruched piece. But this is something that really should have been caught and corrected by the designer pre-testing, or at the very least caught during testing.
My third issue also relates to the faux wrap bodice, and again is something that I would have expected to be caught during testing. While the faux wrap bodice is wide enough overall, that width isn’t distributed correctly. Specifically, the back bodice is a little too wide and the front bodice is too narrow. This causes the side seams to pull fairly significantly towards the front, particularly below the bust.
At first I thought this was just my own particular fitting issue. But I made these dresses in conjunction with a sew along during which dozens or hundreds of other women were making the same dress and posting questions and photos of their dresses. I saw several questions regarding this exact issue on the side seam, and with very few exceptions, pretty much every faux wrap bodice that I saw posted had the exact same issue. If something just happens to me or even to a small number of people, I generally consider it to be a specific fitting alteration I need. But when it happens to everyone, that’s when I fault the pattern rather than me.
So again, I can fix this by redistributing the width from the back to the front, but I really shouldn’t have to.
A quick note on fabric. The fabric for each of these dresses came from the online shop So Sew English. I recently found this shop and they have a fabulous selection of printed knits, particularly if you like large-scale florals like I do. The faux wrap and halter are both ITY and the strapless is double-brushed poly.
At the end of the day, I’m happy with my dresses. They are comfortable and easy to wear, and I get lots of compliments on them. The fitting issues with the faux wrap bodice are something that no one other than me or another sewist who really knows fitting would ever notice. While more experienced sewists may be annoyed by the lack of pattern notches and industry-standard pattern markings, beginners will probably be happy to have a dress that fits better than RTW and gets them lots of compliments.
Pattern: Sunshine dress (affiliate link) from Patterns for Pirates
Price: $9.00 USD
Difficulty: Advanced beginner
Techniques Required: Sewing with knits, attaching a band, gathering knit fabric, knit fitting, sewing hip pockets (optional).
- 3 skirt lengths (above knee, below knee and maxi)
- 3 bodice options (faux wrap, strapless and halter)
- Optional hip pockets
- Lightweight knit fabric
- Matching thread
- Clear elastic
Similar Patterns: Halla Bliss Dress (halter and strapless); Pauline Alice Aldaia Dress (faux wrap), One Puddle Lane Miss Ruby Tuesday (faux wrap), Love Notions Willow Wrap Dress (faux wrap) (affiliate link); Striped Swallow Cloud Chaser (strapless top); Jamie Christina Mission Maxi (tank maxi with halter option)
Fit: Okay. I have a few gripes about certain parts of this pattern, but not others. I like the strapless bodice and the halter bodice in general. But I think there are some drafting and fit issues with the faux wrap bodice, and the skirt pieces need to be wider.
Pattern format: PDF. This pattern comes with an A0 version, which is how I printed it. In hindsight, I probably could have saved my money. There are no pattern pieces for the skirt, just dimensions to cut squares. The only pattern pieces are the bodice pieces. Patterns without proper skirt pieces are a pet peeve of mine and I think that contributes to why I don’t particularly care for the skirt on this pattern.
- Lots of options. You do get a lot of bang for your buck as far as summer dress options go. This pattern is in the middle of the indie price range at $9.00. It certainly shouldn’t be any higher than it is, but if you don’t have a variety of knit bodice patterns, it is a decent value.
- There aren’t a lot of strapless dress options on the indie market, which is kind of surprising.
- The skirt design is attractive. The gathering is generally pretty flattering.
- The skirt seam is stabilized with clear elastic which also helps stabilize the pockets. That means that I actually don’t mind using these knit pockets.
- The PDF has no-trim pages, which does make assembly easier.
- The skirt pieces are boxes. That in itself isn’t a huge issue in the shorter versions, but the maxi could really use some more width around the ankles for ease of movement. It also means that when you buy this pattern, you are essentially buying bodices. That’s fine if you need or want the bodice patterns, but don’t expect anything particularly notable in the skirt.
- The skirt pieces aren’t wide enough. My measurements fit pretty solidly in the S, but I found I wanted a few extra inches in the skirt. As drafted, the side seams are pulling and there just isn’t enough fullness.
- There are some drafting issues with the faux wrap bodice. Specifically: (1) the gathered bodice piece is wider than the non-gathered piece. This means that the armscyce and neckline fits differently on one side than the other. (2) the bodice has too much width in the back piece and too little in the front. Every single version I saw of the cross over had the same issue of the side seam pulling to the front below the bust. If it’s just mine, then I chalk it up to a fitting issue with my body. If it happens to everyone, that’s an issue with the pattern.
- This pattern is significantly less professional looking than a lot of others I’ve used. There are no pattern notches for lining up pieces, it doesn’t use standard pattern markings, the instructions are full of photos rather than illustrations.
Overall Grade: B-. I like my dresses and I think there is some real potential with the overall shape and look. But there are some drafting issues with the faux wrap dress, and the pattern overall isn’t as professional as I would like.