A dress for the holidays

Take a look at the dress I made last week, which I wore for Thanksgiving with my friend’s family and wore again on Sunday for a lazy day around town:

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Marimekko shift: Pickin’ Patterns

The goal for my Marimekko dress was simple: I wanted to make a dress with Marimekko fabric that adhered to Marimekko’s aesthetic, so picking the right pattern was important. I needed something with simple, clean lines that showcased the print of the fabric and didn’t interrupt it too much. Enter Simplicity 1776!

Why doesn’t my pattern come with a little Tim Gunn inside yelling at me to “Make it work!” ????

There are things that I liked and things I didn’t like about this pattern, some of which I could pick up from just looking at the design and most of which I only figured once the first muslin was on me.


  • The simple shift looks like a more wearable riff on the inspiration for this dress.
  • Came with sleeve options that were not really my style but I could alter to make a cute little cap sleeve if I wanted.
  • It looks easy as cake to put together and would allow me to practice my zipper insertion and seam finishing.


  • This pattern carries a whole lotta ease! So much so that I wondered if I cut my muslin two sizes up.
  • No contour darts in the front; only bust darts. So that whole circus tent effect that I was trying to avoid? Marginally diminished in this design.
  • Not enough room to fit my hips/butt, so my first muslin pulled a lot and was generally unflattering south of my waist.
  • Weird gaping at the armscye because my bust is large and just pulls everything in weird directions.
  • Gaping neckline; see above for cause.

Lucky for me, 2 courses in pattern drafting over 6 years ago armed me with a lot of confidence/chutzpah to alter my pattern to fix all of the fit issues.

Fit issues, tackled one at a time:

  1. Inserted contour darts: I just traced the darts from the back piece to the front piece, so both had identical darts about 1/2″ deep at the waist. Once the muslin was on the dress form, I turned those 1/2″ darts into 1″ darts because it was still too baggy for my taste.
  2. Too-tight hips: Since I didn’t need an extraordinary amount of extra ease at the hips, I added 1″ at the side front hemline and graded it to the waistline. This fixed the too-tight hips AND changed the skirt’s shape from square and boring to a bit more flared and cartoony (in a good way).
  3. Weird gaping at armscye and neckline: I’ve altered enough patterns to know my large bust was the cause of this problem. I just drew a 1/4″ deep dart from apex to armcsye and another 1/4″ deep dart from apex to neckline. While I was at it, I also took in another 1/2″ from apex to center bust to give myself a shapelier bust and avoid a weird uniboob effect. I transferred all of these darts to my preexisting bust dart to keep things neat.

After trying on my pattern adjustments with a second muslin, I was all ready to cut into my fabric and start sewing. I’ll share my progress on the next post…

It hurts like hell to cut into fabric so expensive, but someone’s gotta do it…