I ended up switching to this pattern - Simplicity 2281. This has been on my must sew list for quite a long time so I'm happy I switched.
For this dress, I decided to forgo the muslin test fitting and just dive right in. In hindsight, I would have been better off making the muslin because of the amount of time it took me to alter it. I glanced at the instructions and decided to do my own thing - which consisted of sewing the entire front with the sleeves attached (the piece on the left) and then sew the entire back in one piece and then attach the sleeves to the back piece. Here's a pic of the front and the back separately, before they were sewn together.
After sewing together at the sleeve, and adding the neck band, I draped it over my dress form and let it hang overnight. The fabric is a rayon and I wasn't sure if it was going to "grow" a little so I let it hang out for awhile.
Here's the side view on the dress form.
By sewing the garment together with a complete front and a complete back, I was able to pin the sides to fit - you can see the pins in the pic below. At first, I took in the bust about 2 inches each side taping down to the normal 5/8 inch seam allowance at the waist. I could tell at this point that the sleeves weren't going to stay up, but I was ok with that. I like the look of them hanging down the arm a little bit.
Of course, once the invisible zipper was in and the lining sewn down, I tried it on again and it needed just a little more taking in, so out came the seam ripper. I ended up taking in the bust area a total of 6 inches by the time I was finished. I started out with a size 12 pattern overall and really ended up with something closer to a size 8 at the bust and 12 at the waist and hips.
A word of note on the neckband - the pattern piece indicates this should be cut on the bias. After cutting out that piece and sewing as recommended, I disagree. There is no reason this piece should be on the bias - it should be cut on the straight of grain. Since I didn't have any material left to cut a new neckband, I had to make this one work. Lining up the dots as is, the neck was a little low and seemed to buckle on the sides, which I wasn't happy with.
After pinching out about 1 1/4 inches each side, the neckband raises and it looks better.
Here's the amount I pinched out. I ended up unsewing the back pieces on the band and moving them in, closer to the front.
Here's a picture comparison. The red circles show the original edge placement for the edge of the front piece and the edge of the back piece. The green circle illustrates the amount I ended up moving the back neck piece in towards the front neck piece - a total of 1 1/4 inches for each side. Essentially, I reduced the distance between the front and the back pieces 1 1/4 inches.
Here's the finished dress. I'm quite happy with it!
Back view. One day, I'll learn how to take a straight photo!
Close-up of the front.
Until next time,
Happy Sewing everyone!