Thursday, April 23, 2009

Senior Prom

A few weeks ago my daughter came to me and asked if I would consider making her dress for senior prom. Of course I said yes and we immediately got online to look for a pattern. Most of what we saw was pretty uninspiring, until we stumbled across Vogue 2847.

We both thought it was cute and original and I didn’t think it looked all that difficult so we were off Joann to pick up the pattern, fabric (red polyester crepe-backed satin) and supplies. We’re making the long version, with straps.

As it turns out, it’s not a “what you see is what you get” kind of pattern. Underneath the deceptively simple look is a closely fitted and boned bustier designed to support the strapless bodice. Duh!

My daughter is a size 8 in the waist and hips, a size 12 at the full bust and a size 10 at the high bust. I elected to start work on the foundation layer of the dress using a size 10 pattern, planning to make a full bust adjustment.

Here is the first fitting of the bustier cut from the unaltered, size 10 pattern.

This was definitely too small in the bust, so alterations were definitely required. I own a copy of the excellent book, Fit For Real People, but it unfortunately doesn’t include any examples of how to perform a full bust adjustment on a princess seam when that seam is cut by another seam line. Looking at the flat pattern pieces and being able to envision how they fit together to conform to the body is not my sewing super power, so I looked to the web for instructions. Naturally, my first search turned up Debbie Cook’s Princess FBA tutorial, complete with animations.

Debbie’s tutorial is also for an unbroken princess seam line, but I watched the animations over and over, alternating those viewings with time spent staring blankly at contemplating the pattern pieces.

When I was confident that I understood the concept behind the FBA, I proceeded. I split the foundation upper side front from bust apex to side seam to add length over the bust. I also redrew the princess seam line to add more fullness.

Then I added corresponding length and fullness to the foundation center front.

And here are photos of the second fitting.

Those changes made quite an improvement to the overall fit of the foundation. My main concern at this point was to eliminate the dragline running from seam to seam under the bust. It looked to me as though we needed more fullness to accommodate the lower inside area of her bust.

On advice from MarthaA24 and Nancy K at, I opened up the seam joining the center upper front to the center lower front and determined that I needed to add about a quarter of an inch to the bottom, like so:

Here are the results of that change on our third fitting.

I still had some concerns about the center front. It was standing about 3/4 to an inch away from her chest but after once again consulting with the good ladies at PatternReview, I was convinced that the bodice fit just fine. (Thanks, Marji!)

Somewhere in this process, we made the decision to add bra cups to the dress. Her strapless bra (that’s her $60 “professionally fitted” strapless bra from Victoria’s Secret) didn’t seem to be providing secure support. We fiddle with it for a bit and determined that we probably should have purchased a 32 rather than a 34C. Bra cups seemed like a nice, inexpensive option and I think (hope) it will work out nicely.

My next step will be to alter the bodice front (the part that’s designed to look like the loops on a bow) to fit the foundation. I've always wanted to make a prom dress and I'm flattered that my daughter had the confidence in my sewing skills to ask me to make this dress. This may be a case where I should have been more careful what I wished for. While I love collaborating with my daughter on this project, it's very stressful because, obviously, I want her to be completely and totally in love with the dress when it's finished. That's a lot of extra pressure. Keeping my fingers crossed!