Avid Seamstress Gathered Dress

This blog post was written for The Avid Seamstress as part of my role in their blogging team, The Avid Makers.

I am going back and sharing makes that never made it to the blog. I think it is important to not just create content when things are ‘new’ – sharing older makes is always worthwhile! Today I am talking about The Avid Seamstress Gathered Dress which I made in autumn of last year. This was my first time sewing an Avid Seamstress pattern and I was very impressed with the clarity and depth of the instructions. I have been sewing for over ten years and I would say these are some of the most comprehensive instructions I’ve ever worked with!

The Gathered Dress is marked as an intermediate pattern, however I must have been feeling lazy when I cut it out because I decided to hack it to remove the centre back zip which simplifies the garment massively. Removing the back zip means:

  • Cutting the top back on the fold
  • Cutting the back skirt on the fold
  • Cutting the back facing on the fold

As well as cutting those pieces on the fold, the sewing was hugely simplified. After stitching on the pockets and sewing the darts, I gathered the back skirt piece and attached it to the top before joining the sleeves and front into a circle. Then just sew the facing, side seams and hem!

Taking away the back zip does add around 3cm to the centre back of the dress, this is important to make sure that you can get your head through the neckhole! However, it does make the back less fitted and so it is personal preference whether you would like that or not!

My body is pear-shaped (I know lots of people have issues with the food analogies but personally I think this is a pretty good way to describe my shape), I have roughly 14inches difference between my waist and hip measurements, this means I have to adjust pretty much all dresses, trousers & skirts that I make. The Gathered Dress pattern was really perfect for me, because I didn’t have to grade out at the side seams as I often do when making dresses. Instead, I looked at the size guide and cut the front and top back for the size that would fit my bust and waist (size 12) and then cut the back skirt piece two sizes larger (size 16). It was easy to gather the size 16 skirt to fit the size 12 top back and means that this dress is made to fit my body perfectly!

I realise that I haven’t mentioned the fabric! I try to sew as sustainably as I can and therefore many of the fabrics in my stash are secondhand. This rust-coloured cotton came from a charity shop in York – I got 6m for £4! This dress took roughly 1.8m and so I still have plenty left and have plans to make a quilted jacket with the rest – matching dress & jacket anyone?!

This fabric is considerably thicker than a quilting cotton and feels almost like a lightweight denim. I think it gives the shape some good body and holds the gathers well, giving the overall garment a smart look perfect for wearing to the office!

I originally had plans to add a big pleated collar to this dress as I think it would look amazing with some added drama, but despite my best efforts my fabric manipulation skills were not up to the challenge! This is why we need the experts like Avid Seamstress to draft our patterns for us! I don’t have space for a dress form and I think one might have helped me with draping a collar. I haven’t given up on the idea, but I think it’s more practical to have a removable collar anyway so maybe we should pretend this was deliberate?

Aster Collar Pattern

I have had my eye on the Aster Collar from Wildflower Design Patterns for a while and I think this completely free removable collar is exactly what I want to add to this dress. I might even make a couple in different colours (maybe a black and a white?) so I can add them to tops and dresses whenever I like. Historical garments often had removeable elements for more practical cleaning. Often parts of the garments that were more likely to sit close to the body had removable parts for more regular washing, much like putting dress shields in the underarms of garments! I think a removable collar is a great idea for many reasons!

I am really happy with my dress and have worn it regularly to the office with a range of sweaters and cardigans to keep me warm! I have also been wearing it with a slip underneath so it doesn’t stick to my tights like it does in these pictures!

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