The Shift in My Fortunes Dress

Fitting is an invisible art.


If you read my Muslin Diary posts–if you didn’t, no worries. There was a lot of blather–you know that the struggle to fit Simplicity 1776 was no simple afternoon of muslin-making. It was hours and hours of measuring, marking, cutting, taping, stitching, pressing, wearing, removing, and starting over again stretched out over several weeks (over two months, I think).


Yet, when you look at this dress, you probably don’t see all that work. I know that I never notice when someone’s clothes are particularly well-fitting. I definitely notice if something is too tight or very baggy–but if it fits just right, all I see is the person wearing it. And, of course, color and style and all that. But, aren’t color and style meant to somehow reflect the person within?


So, I guess the purpose for the long-fought fitting battle is two-fold. One, of course, is that I wanted the dress (any garment, really) to be comfortable. I have to be able to move freely. Fighting my clothes all day just adds a level of exhaustion that I don’t need in my life. Plus, when I am comfortable, I am confident.

Two is to make the clothes “invisible.” Not like the “Emperor’s New Clothes” (scandalous!). But, to make sure that what I wear doesn’t detract from me.

It makes me sound “egomaniacal” now that I’ve written it down, but it’s still true.

I do wonder if there are some lovely people out there thinking, “Wait a second–this is the dress she spent months fitting? It’s a shift! It’s easy shapelessness is supposed to be a breeze to whip up!”


Well, that may be true, but when you have bumps and squiggles and proportions that defy logic, you have to work a little harder at “effortlessness” and the invisibility of a fine fit.

Alas, even after all that work, I cannot say that this is perfect. But, I can say that I can easily raise my arms and move them about in ALL directions! I confess that the sleeves are still a bit tight across the tops of my shoulders. And after wearing the dress to work, I realize that it’s not the most comfortable to drive in. Also, it really is too warm and sticky (already!) to be wearing a lined dress. When I planned this dress, it was still winter. I had no idea it would take so long to make! However, I am content to store it away until fall. Rather than feel like I failed my winter wardrobe, I feel like I’ve got a jump on my autumn.

You can see how the sleeves are pulling. Obviously, my shoulder needs more length.

You can see how the sleeves are pulling. Obviously, my shoulder needs more length.


During construction, just after I had inserted the lining to be exact, I tried the dress on and discovered quite a bit of bagginess under the bust at the side seams. It turns out that I did something crazy with my darts and added some unnecessary width. I undid my side seams and removed about 3/4″ from just the front. It’s still a bit baggier than I’d like, but it looks so much better! And I might just be getting used to the whole shift silhouette, which is very new to me.

On it’s first day out, the dress received tons of compliments, which is always nice. Most people at school (did you know I was a teacher now? I can’t remember if I told you) know that I sew, so they automatically ask, “Did you make that?” whenever I’m wearing something they haven’t noticed before.

This is a miracle. My arms are comfortably raised. The neckline is crazy, to be sure, but the rest of the dress--no problem. Success!

This is a miracle. My arms are comfortably raised. The neckline is crazy, to be sure, but the rest of the dress–no problem. Success! Very curious to try the cut-in gusset out when there’s a waist seam.

Question: have you ever had trouble with your zipper when you attach a lining? I’m speaking specifically of finishing the top of the zipper. On one side, the zipper seems to cause the lining to peak out at the top. I’m thinking of either interfacing the lining in the back just to give it more structure to fight against the zipper or cutting facings of the self fabric for the back to sew to the lining or attempting to remove the zipper teeth above the neck seam line. I suppose I could just line the plastic stopper up just underneath the seam, but then the zipper doesn’t quite zip all the way up. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s such a minor thing, really.


Let’s see–construction details. The zipper is interfaced–best thing ever. I’m going to always do this from now on. It just makes the zipper better. All better.

I used a cotton/rayon chambray twill–and let me tell you, if you ever see a listing for this stuff, get it. It is probably one of my very favorite fabrics I’ve ever worked with–top three, even. It’s soft and smooth and has this lovely sheen in person. The dress is lined with aubergine rayon bemberg which is perfectly lovely except when it’s sticky out. The lining was in my stash, so that’s why it’s sort of a random color pick. I used my rolled hem foot to do a narrow hem. It worked really well most of the time. When it screwed up, it was generally due to me rushing and not keeping everything taut and properly folded. But I’m really rather pleased with it overall.


I decided at the last minute to add the pockets. And then I decided to add the flaps and some gold buttons from my grandmother’s button stash. I do love to use up old buttons. The buttons and buttonholes are functional.


Sorry about the wrinkles. This is what happens when a dress gets worn all day. So, you’re seeing it in its most natural state. Just keepin’ it real.

I did not know that I liked shift dresses. I assumed that I would feel flabby and shapeless in them. But, I felt great wearing this all day! When I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror, I couldn’t help but think, “Man–this dress is amazing!” I have one, possibly two, more versions planned for this summer.


It still needs some tweaking before obtaining official “TNT” status, but I’m fairly confident that it will happily join the ranks of the Magnificent Eleven-ish. . . and there shall be great rejoicing throughout the land.

And now, my lovelies, do tell–what was your greatest sewing victory?


9 thoughts on “The Shift in My Fortunes Dress

  1. Lovely to finally see the finished dress after all the trouble you went through! I think the fitting issues you still have a really minor, you look great!

  2. Lovely dress – your good fitting work really pays off! And YES, I do know what you are talking about re: that zipper problem. I haven’t discovered a solution, so please do post if you have one, this little thing has annoyed me ever so much!

  3. I agree with you. When you make a garment it should reflect and enhance the beauty of the wearer, not the other way around :~) You have learned so much. Now, you can tweak it a bit more and make some for the summer.

    The shift silhouette looks great on you….and I am so glad that you have shared it because you and I have the same short waist figure, and I had never made a shift dress. Now, I know that it would look good on me also :~D .

    Thank you so much for sharing.


    • I think that nixing the waist seam elongates the torso and makes you seem more balanced. You should definitely give a shift a try. I hope you won’t have all the same fitting issues I did!

  4. Lovely dress. Your zipper looks fine but have you ever tried a side seam zipper? I just recently discovered the miracle of side zippers, thanks to a Vogue pattern, and now I put the zipper on the side on most dresses whether the pattern calls for it or not. (You can put the zipper on the side on any dress that has a large enough neck opening to slip over your head.) There’s no problem with it not zipping all the way up because the top is closed and no one standing behind you will know if your zipper’s a little wonky.

    • That is a fantastic suggestion–I don’t know why it never occurred to me! The one thing I’m trying to work my mind around is how to stitch the lining down without having to do it by hand.
      Wait–I just got it! Yes–this is a great idea! Thanks 🙂

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