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1940’s Wrap Dress Sewalong: Measuring and Identifying Alterations
This instalment of the 1940’s Wrap Dress sewalong is all about prepping your pattern and laying the foundations for a perfect fit on your finished dress. We’re going to cover:
Let’s get going!
Understanding an preparing a PDF pattern
If you’re using a printed tissue pattern, you can skip this section – here we’re talking PDFs! We’re very quickly going to run through using a PDF pattern for anyone who isn’t familiar with them.
There are two kinds of PDF pattern: a tiled print-at-home version, and a copyshop version. Both are included in any PDF pattern you purchase from Sew Over It and both come with their own benefits.
Tiled print-at-home PDF patterns are exactly what they say on the tin. You print individual A4 (or US letter sized) sheets of paper from a home computer, which you then tile and tape or glue together to form one large sheet. You then cut out your pattern as normal from this sheet. You can reprint the pattern at home as many times as you need to, which is really useful for fluctuations in weight.
Copyshop patterns are large A0 files which you take (or email) to a professional print shop for them to print large scale for you. You can then cut your pattern out from this sheet as if it was tissue. Copyshop versions are fab if you don’t have a printer at home, or don’t have time to stick together lots of pieces of paper.
If you’re using a PDF pattern and you’d like some help printing your print-at-home pattern at the right scale as well as how best to assemble it, check out our guide on How to Assemble a PDF Pattern.
Measuring your body
Once your pattern is ready to go, it’s time to measure your body. This is an important step in the making of this dress. With wrap-front bodices on woven dresses it’s especially important to get the fit right in order to avoid gaping (and potentially revealing more than you want to!). We recommend taking care to measure your body accurately.
Start off by removing anything bulky – for most accurate results you might like to do this step in just your underwear. Remember to wear the same bra you intend to wear with your dress once it’s finished, as different styles can affect the fit.
Hold the tape measure snug around yourself, aiming to fit a couple of fingers between the tape measure and your body (but nothing more). Stand up straight and don’t be tempted to breathe in, as that will give you with distorted bust and waist measurements. Remember, you want your finished dress to fit your actual body!
Bust: Hold the tape measure around the fullest part of your bust – usually this is around the nipples! Make sure the tape measure is horizontal all the way around your back. If it dips down or is up too high your measurement will be wrong and you could end up cutting a bigger size than you need to. We recommend standing next to a mirror so you can check.
Waist: Your waist is usually the smallest part of your torso, and the point from which you can bend sideways. Hold the tape measure around yourself, have a little wiggle, and it should find its way into the right spot. Remember, no breathing in!
Hips: Finally, hold the tape measure around the fullest part of your bottom. This is sometimes, but not always necessarily the fullest part of your thighs when looking at yourself from the front, so it’s a good idea to stand sideways next to the mirror to see if you are holding the tape measure in the right place.
If you’re not sure you’re measuring the right parts of your body, watch Lisa’s guide on How to Measure your Bust, Waist and Hips for Dressmaking on our YouTube channel.
Choosing your size
Using your measurements and the size chart on the back of the pattern, work out your size. You might also like to use the finished garment measurements to work out how much wearing ease you’ll have for the size you’re choosing.
When choosing your size don’t worry if your measurements don’t all fit into one bracket. We’re all different shapes and sizes and it’s actually rare that body measurements fall neatly into one size. It doesn’t mean you can’t still achieve a perfect fit – it just means we need to do some adjusting! And that’s what the next steps are about…
Tracing your pattern
If your measurements don’t all fall into one bracket, or you would like to keep your original pattern intact, you might like to trace your pattern right about now. You can find our guide on How to Trace Sewing Patterns in our Tips and Tricks section.
Making a toile
Once your pattern is traced, at this stage we really recommend making a toile (or muslin) of the bodice. This is so you can check the fit and identify any alterations you may need to make – whether that’s altering the length for a long or short torso, or making a bust adjustment to accommodate proportionally large or small breasts!
For this we suggest sewing up a quick mock-up of the bodice shell and sleeves. There’s no need to add the collar, but adding the sleeves will allow you to check that the armscye and sleeve width is working for you. Choose the size that best corresponds to your waist measurement for your toile.
As we’ll be sewing the finished garment in a lightish weight fabric, we recommend using something of a similar weight for the toile. Drape is important so we suggest avoiding calico for this. Inexpensive polyester crepes are easy to come by and will do the job just fine.
Identifying any fit issues
Try on your toile, pinning it closed at the waist, and do some wiggling. Here are some things to check for:
If you can identify any fit problems from the above pointers, don’t fear! We’ve got a whole range of fitting guides coming up. Here’s what we’re going to cover:
If your bodice toile looks just fine, you can move onto the next stage and cut out your fabric!
Cutting your fabric
Because it’s aimed at intermediate stitchers, if you’re making this dress we’re going to assume you know how to follow layplans and pin your fabric correctly along the grain of the fabric. But if not, we covered this fairly comprehensively in our 1940’s Tea Dress sewalong, so head over and have a read if you’d like a refresher.
To make it as beautiful as it is, the 1940’s Wrap Dress has quite a few elements to it. Therefore accuracy is paramount with this pattern. Make sure you snip all notches neatly and mark all circles, dart points and pleat ends with tailor’s tacks.
The waistband in particular has quite a few markings, so pay close attention here. For example, in the below photo we’ve marked the circle for the size 10 with a tailor’s tack.
Because of the number of pieces, we recommend leaving the pattern paper attached to the fabric until it comes time to sew.
Once all your pieces are cut out you can breathe a big sigh of relief. That’s your prep over!