Mississippi Ave Dress: Elizabeth Made This

Of all of the challenges for The Monthly Stitch’s Indie Pattern Month, there’s nothing that strikes more fear in my heart more than this week’s theme–New to Me.  I’m very cautious about what patterns I choose outside of my Burda/Ottobre/Jalie bubble of warm comfort.  I check, double check, and triple check the measurements, other people’s reviews, etc. before I press the buy button.  What, I can’t just remake Jalie 2921 and hack it any way I choose to make a fantastic tee again?  Nope, the rules state that you can’t even have made a muslin from your chosen company this week.  Eek!

But, I suppose we don’t learn if we refuse to push ourselves beyond the borders of safety, so, throwing caution to the wind, I bought Sew House Seven‘s Mississippi Ave Dress from IndieSew.

There’s much to like about this dress.  It’s the perfect sundress with it’s shoulder ties and partial elastic waist.  The inset on the front of the dress would be a great place to add some colorblocking, and I’m glad to see a v-neck dress that’s not too low…if you sew a lot of Burda, you know those are rare.

Mississippi Ave Dress

Mississippi Ave Dress

Before I talk about the dress(es), I have to note something about patterns in general as it informs this whole project.  The thing about patterns and pattern companies is that no one is guaranteed a perfect fit out of the envelope (or printer as it may be).  We’ve all been uniquely created with our own collection of lumps and bumps or lack thereof that are purely idiosyncratic.  When you let someone else do the work of pattern drafting for you, you’re giving up a certain amount of perfect fit because companies, like RTW stores are drafting for some average, i.e. not you.  Company X makes patterns that fit you perfectly, while Company Y makes patterns that lead you on a path of neverending frustration.  It doesn’t mean that Company Y is out on a personal campaign to make your life miserable–their average that they’re drafting for just isn’t close enough to your measurements to be reasonable.  So when you find yourself with a Company Y type pattern, your options are throw in the towel or pick up a ruler and figure out a way to make it work.

When I was taping this pattern up, I kept looking at the armhole thinking that the armhole length was quite long.  I did a quick measuring with a tape measure and held it up to me and confirmed that the circumference of the armhole put the base of the armhole was all the way at the bottom of my bra.  Kind of defeats the purpose of a sundress, if you, like me are the type that would never go without a bra. From all of the modeled photos of this dress on Sew House Seven’s website, the armhole ends right where it should, so I can only conclude that the pattern was drafted for someone who is longer in the upper torso than I am.

Mississippi Ave Dress

I didn’t set out to make this dress twice, but my first attempt at fixing the armhole just was not successful.  After I made up a muslin, I folded out 2″ horizontally on front and back (it really was so very low).  Once in a while, like with my Southport Dress, I’ve done this to great success, but never more than 1/2″.  Ideally, whenever you alter a pattern, it should never affect other areas of the garment.  This particular adjustment raises CF, but I almost always have to raise because CF levels are often proportionally too low on me (short girl problems), so I’m okay violating the rule of alterations not affecting other parts of the garment.  However, 2″ is obviously a much larger adjustment, and as such, it created all sorts of problems.  Proportionally CF became too high, and the waist seam became closer to an empire line (there’s not enough ink to express how much I hate empire lines).  Also, I got a little carried away, no doubt due to my very real anxiety about sleeveless armholes covering my skivvies, and my alteration was a bit too aggressive.  The resulting armhole isn’t tight at all, but it could use a little more length too (1/2″ to be exact).  Thankfully on this first version, I hadn’t cut into anything too precious–just a cotton/poly print recycled from home fabric.  I kept thinking I’d come back to this pattern some time in the future, but it kept on nagging at me, and I happened to have this Gramercy Central Park Breeze voile sitting in my stash and perfect for this dress.

A week ago while wrestling with sloper drafting, I watched Peggy Sager’s video on sleeves.  In this video she talked about there being 4 kinds of armhole drafts–a sleeveless, a jacket, t-shirt, and a blouse armhole.  When you have any of those drafts, you just move that armhole to every pattern that you encounter.  She also talks about measuring armholes on garments that fit (well, she always talks about this!).

I haven’t advanced in my patternmaking attempts to have drafted my own sleeveless armhole, but I have made a few over the years.  When I tried on the various candidates, I had a clear winner in Burda 7508.  The top is multiple sizes too big on me now, but the armhole sits just where I want a sleeveless armhole to fit.  Following Peggy’s advice, I measured up that armhole, and plotted it out. The resulting armhole is a full 3.5″ smaller than the pattern’s armhole.  Keeping the shoulder point the same, I simply traced the good armhole onto the pattern’s armhole, adding paper to fill in the gap.  Tada!  A better armhole without affecting the rest of the dress.  I did have to add 1.5″ to the bodice to put the waist seam at my natural waist.  When I muslined the bodice before I cut into the voile, the bodice really was just too close to empire height for my comfort.  I also raised CF by 1″ so that it’d be at a comfortable proportional height for me, though I think overall the V would be quite modest on most women.

Mississippi Ave Dress

Other than that, the sewing was really simple.  Both dresses came together in a couple of hours.  I serged the seams on the diamond patterned dress and opted for French seams on the floral dress because the voile demanded it.  The instructions are pretty clear, with maybe the exception of the turning of the ties where a safety pin is the recommended method.  I don’t know this method, and I couldn’t make much from the illustration, so I translated that step to mean–turn the tie the normal way you would turn a tie.  For me, that means using one of my Turn it All tubes. 

Mississippi Ave Dress

I chose to skip the facings on the neck and armholes in favor of binding everything with foldover elastic.  This was one thing I got right on the first version, and I carried it to the second version.  I avoid facings if possible because of their annoying habit of rolling outwards despite how well you understitch.  Another day, I might have used bias binding or lace in the place of the facings, but lacking both, I was glad to try the FOE in its place.  It’s a simple technique to apply the FOE, and it couldn’t be an easier finish.  The elastic has a tiny dart sewn at CF to maintain the V neck.

Mississippi Ave Dress

I also chose to add some pockets for function as much as form.  Because I trimmed them in FOE, I didn’t even have to add seam allowance to the place I cut away to make the edge of the pocket.

Mississippi Ave Dress

Here’s my full review at Patternreview

and my creation at IndieSew.

Elizabeth Made This

Let’s keep the conversation going!  Check out my sewing dreams and inspiration on Pinterest, and keep up to date on my projects on Instagram and Facebook.

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  1. Cute! Cute! Cute! Believe me, the Turn-it-all tube method is much easier than the safety pin method. I’ll show you what they mean.

    • elizabethmadethis Reply

      Thanks Linda! That’s what I figured. The Turn it All tubes always seem to work. I never have much luck with safety pins.

  2. It looks like a great summer pattern! I’ve never heard of that company before, so I’ll have to check them out once I’m ready to start sewing again. I agree that those turning tubes are amazing– I don’t have that brand, but I have a similar product, and it’s soooo much easier than the safety pins. The FOE instead of the facing is a brilliant idea!

    • elizabethmadethis Reply

      I hadn’t heard of the company either, but Indie Sew seems to have a lot of new to me pattern companies that they support, which is kind of nice! I love the tubes! It’s such a simple concept, but it saves so much time and frustration!

  3. Peggy Mead Reply

    Great blog Elizabeth. Thanks for trying my pattern. Part of the reason the armhole is so large is that some of the length is taken up once the ties scrunch up the shoulders. I adjusted the armhole grade a bit too. When I used a standard armhole grade, the size 0 and 2 armholes were so tiny, none of my fit models or friends could get their arms in there comfortably. The result was pretty much a child’d dress (not to say that you need a child’s dress) I’m sorry it ended up too large on you. I’m glad to see you were able to make the adjustments.

    • elizabethmadethis Reply

      Thanks Peggy. I figured there was something like that going on because you clearly have some patternmaking skills! It was a good learning process for me to realize what I wanted/needed and figure out what I needed to do to get that. I’m so very glad I tried out your pattern because I got a great style and a fantastic learning opportunity!

  4. Peggy Mead Reply

    And thank you for your feedback. This was my first pattern for the general public and I LOVE to hear what works and doesn’t work for different people. I hope to keep fine tuning my patterns with help from all of the great bloggers out there.

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