Warning: This is an untypically photo-heavy post. The planets aligned and I had a nice day, a dress I'm very happy with, a son willing to take multiple photos (I don't have a camera remote and my camera only takes two shots at a time, and I quickly tire of running back and forth and smoothing clothes in the process), and -- a good hair day. :-)
So, let's get to it.
This is the Gillian wrap dress by Muse Patterns. The Gillian pattern can also be made as separates, a wrap top and a wrap skirt. As you can see, I made the dress. It's available in sizes 30 - 48, which correspond to bust sizes 30" - 48". Kat of Muse invited me to test the pattern before its release and I agreed, because this is a style that I would wear. Which is one big reason this new indie pattern line stands out from others for me. While there are a number of indie patterns I admire from afar, I know I'd never wear most of them, either due to body type or age (cough:29:cough). Muse offers patterns I would actually wear (two so far, but I'm hoping for more if this dress is any indication) , and I think ladies of all ages will want to wear. The styles are not beginner basics which you can find from other indies or the Big 4. Now that's not to say an advanced beginner couldn't make this dress, but don't expect this to be a teach-me-to-sew pattern.
I asked during testing what bust cup Kat designs for and she answered "B." I'm a DD and didn't have to make a full bust adjustment. But both knits and wraps are very forgiving for full busts, so I'm not sure I should really doubt the B cup sizing. I do know that if you are full-busted, you will find alterations for the girls are probably not needed. Yes, even you Michelle. :-)
Testers were given a little over 2 weeks to turn-around testing the pattern, instructions, and garment view of their choice. We were asked to provide feedback. We were not required to provide photos. I'm sad to admit that I failed miserably in one aspect -- finishing the dress before the release. I had every intention, but the fabric gods did not cooperate. I had ordered new fabric because the fabric requirements had me thinking this dress is a bit of a fabric piggy (more on this later), calling for 3.5+ yards. My stash was not yielding any appropriate pieces that length. So, my fabric order arrived ... SANS the 4-yard cut of the print I had planned to use. Grrrr. Does the universe not know I NEED fabric??
I did read the instructions thoroughly, printed and assembled the PDF (no problems there), checked the cutting layout, and assembled the dress in my mind visualizing the instructions as best as I could. So, even though I didn't sew the dress during the testing schedule, I found a number of issues in the instructions and cutting layout and I'm happy to report that corrections and/or clarification, as appropriate, were incorporated into the final release. So know that Kat is a pattern designer who takes her testers seriously and doesn't have a release date set in stone if corrections are mandated. (Kat was very responsive during the testing process. If anything, it was me who could have been more chatty.) As a tester, it's also gratifying to know that I wasn't just spitting into the wind and wasting my time. The one thing about the instructions, after receiving the released version, I would still like to see improved upon are some of the illustrations. They aren't sparse or horrible as is, but I think a few could be more spatially correct. And that just might be the graphic designer in me. Your mileage may vary. The illustrations certainly didn't hinder me from ending up with a pretty new dress.
I also found a few "problems" when actually sewing the dress, but only one is not due to body type or my own stupidity. Details for all below.
The one drafting "problem" I found you can see below, but it's very minor and easily corrected. The shoulder seam joining the front and back yokes results in a bit of a wonky shape at the top of the armscye.
Solution: Trim it off. That's it. Definitely not a deal breaker.
This next alteration, below, is due to my very erect back/posture and square shoulders. I did not make either alteration before cutting fabric because I was testing. But I did want a wearable dress if possible, so after I had the bodice mostly completed, I tried it on and decided I really needed to remove an inch from the CB length above the shoulder blades (erect posture) to avoid the neckband sitting in my back hairline. I have this same issue with Jalie and Burda, so I know it's me and not them. The chalk line below shows what I trimmed away before sewing on the neckband.
Speaking of fabric, I did end up using stash after all (an ITY print and ribbed brown poly for contrast) because I decided that I would see if I could squeeze the pattern onto a 3-yard piece. I'm happy to report that I easily could, and I even lengthened the waist ties by 16" each so I could tie them in front, instead in back as designed. (Back ties look fine on other ladies and I'm not judging, I swear. But on me I feel like Holly Hobbie or pregnant or something). But, I didn't cut long sleeves or self-fabric yokes and I didn't follow the layout exactly because I thought I was in squeeze mode. The important takeaway from this is to note that the cutting layout reflects cutting every single piece from the same fabric. If you're planning on any contrast pieces (and you should, so the unique design elements stand out!), then the fabric requirements will vary. I'm thinking if you do contrast yokes, neckband, midriff, and ties, you can get by with 2-2.5 yds for the main dress and about 1 yd for the contrast.
The next alteration was due to my petite-ness-above-the-waist-ness. Yes, that's a sewing term, why do you ask? ;-) The instructions have you construct the bodice, skirt, and midriff pieces as separate units and then you attach the skirt and finally the bodice. This is actually pretty cool because sewing the skirt hem is done way at the beginning and once you assemble the units, you have a finished dress instead of a dress needing a hem.
I dutifully followed the instructions, and then tried it on. Oops. As you can see below, there was gaping in the wrap and extra length above my waist. Solution: frog stitch the bodice from the midriff, cut off 3/4" from the bottom edge of the bodice, and reattach to the midriff, which worked a treat. So, I advise that if you're fitting as you sew, BASTE the bodice to the midriff and evaluate. (This "extra" length is another reason why I think full-busted girls will have more fitting forgiveness. You can keep the underbust length and taper a shorter bodice as you go toward the bodice back, and no one will be the wiser. Well, unless you're REALLY long-waisted.)
|Look Ma! No gape!|
The next "problem" I had with construction was due to my own stubbornness. See this opening in the sideseam below? It's for the tie to slide through so the dress actually wraps. This is a real wrap dress, BTW, not faux. Well, that hole was almost my undoing. I kept following the instructions halfway and then thinking they just were not going to work. I emailed Kat and she so very diplomatically told me that her more experienced testers seemed to have the most problems with this step, while her less experienced testers just trusted the instructions and didn't overthink things. (Kat's actual words were much nicer than this.) So, I returned to the instructions one last time and followed them exactly, and THEY WERE GENIUS. Good lord, did I feel like an idiot. So, just follow those instructions. Don't overthink, don't doubt, don't stop halfway through and scratch your head. They work. And it's pure drafting magic. Really.
The rest of the photos are detail shots. Here you can see the edgestitching at the neckband and you get a glimpse of my "ribbed" constrast.
The gathering into the yoke.
The back contrast yoke and gathering below it.
I added contrast bands to the sleeve hems to tie into the contrast yokes.
The wrong side of the wrap skirt section.
The wrap sections overlap fully. Even in a strong wind, no good china will be shared with the world. You can't see for the print, but the hem edges of the wrap sections are curved, which can be a little tricky to sew without puckers. My advice: washable basting glue (Elmer's school glue works great), working slowly and methodically around the hem, and forcing yourself to give the glue a few minutes to dry thoroughly.
Likes: The feminine details with a slight vintage vibe, such as the yokes; the soft gathers into the yokes; the wide (but not too wide) midriff, which is sturdy without being interfaced (thankfully, since I'm still out of interfacing) and which I edgestitched with a "stretchy" triple straight stitch; the different views so you get a dress, a top, and a skirt in the same pattern; a neckband that doesn't gape; thorough instructions; and fit. I should've mentioned it specifically earlier, but the fit is very good. My full bust measures 46". I sewed the 46. I'm a hourglass with the sand settling in the bottom of the glass. ;-) I made no fit adjustments except those mentioned above.
Things I will change for the next one: Remove bodice length above the waist on my pattern; adjust the pattern for my erect posture and square shoulders; maybe remove a little skirt length, although this length is fine on me I think I might want it shorter; and add pockets. My hands kept wanting pockets as I tried it on and then when taking the pics. Easy enough to add sideseam pockets, though.
Overall, I think this is a win. And for $12, I think it's more than fairly priced compared to other indies, especially those which are basic shapes and easily found in the Big 3/4 catalogs.
I did receive the pre-release and final pattern at no charge, but I think you can tell that this is a pretty thorough review and not just fluff to help a bloggie friend sell a pattern (truthfully, I don't know Kat at all except through emails during this testing process and reading her blog before her patterns were launched, so I'm not sure that really even qualifies us as bloggie friends and not just sewists who blog!). I hope I also gave you a little insight into what was expected from my testing, what I provided (and didn't), and how my feedback was incorporated into the final product. This is not the first time I've tested something for "free." I used to be a software tester for Corel Corporation, starting as an unpaid beta tester and then later "promoted" to a paid alpha tester, and a technical editor for McGraw-Hill. I'm telling you this to give some insight into the fact that I just enjoy testing. I'm a geek. I like the challenge. I like being a part of something new. I like sewing. And I LURVE patterns. For me, that's payment enough. And when it's not, I'll stop testing.