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Pattern Reviews> Sense & Sensibility> Elegant Lady's Closet (Elegant Lady's Closet)

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Reviewed by:BLT

About BLT
Member since: 11/4/05
Reviews written: 2
Sewing skills:Intermediate
patterns reviewed: 2
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Posted on:9/18/14 5:41 PM
Pattern Size:Plus-Sized Regular 
Pattern Photo:

More Info provided by BLT

Pattern Rating:Recommend, with Modifications
Fabric:Cotton  [See other projects in this fabric]
(ADDED 2014: I am going ahead and changing this from a works-in-progress review to a full review, although I am told in the comments that these problems have been worked out—which is fabulous! I've also modified my rating to "recommend with modifications" even though I really would prefer something else.

The dresses turned out very cute in the end.)

This is a pattern for clothing from around 1800. Two dresses are included, with several sleeve options.

I made two size 10 drawstring dresses, with the short puffed sleeves, for my daughters, who did a performance of Sense and Sensibility.

I wish I didn't have to choose one of the set ratings for this pattern, because none of them seem to fit. I'm quite happy with how my dresses are coming out. However, the pattern is giving me fits, which is surprising because the dress is quite simple. I don't feel that I can comfortably recommend any pattern (even "with modifications") when I have spent so much more time modifying the pattern than I have spent following it. The confusion was great enough to encourage me to finally post my first review, because I really would have appreciated knowing these things when I was deciding what pattern to buy.

It seems to me that this pattern can create a great drawstring dress, but that you should attempt it only if you're not very fussy about details, OR if you have the skill, time, and temperament to fix a number of problems along the way.

What I like:

The design of the dress, especially the back.
The friendliness and responsiveness of the pattern maker, Jennie Chancey. For example, when I emailed her that I'd lost my instructions, she sent me a PDF within two hours, on a Sunday evening.
The fact that patterns from this time period are available in the first place.
The fact that the design seems authentic (I'm no expert, but it gets good reviews from people who've studied the issue).
The fact that the instructions are friendly and clear.
The fact that so many sizes are included (though I only used size 10, myself).
The fact that lines are included for more than one cup size.

What I don't like:

(1) Minor quibble: The wide lines that the pattern is traced with. A narrower line would have facilitated easier tracing on curves when many sizes come together.
(2) More serious problem: The quality of the drafting. Few seams came together the way they should. In most cases, the two pieces are different lengths at the sewing line. In the case of the underarm seam of the sleeve, one seamline measures 2", and the other measures 3.25"!

Modifications I made, and points I found confusing:

I worked and worked on these problems to verify that I wasn't the source of the problem: repeatedly putting my traced piece back onto the original, rechecking sizes, re-reading instructions, posting on the Sense and Sensibility forum asking for help, emailing Jennie Chancey to see what I was missing. The problems remain, so I'm reporting them here.

For now, I'm listing the issues in the approximate order that I noticed them, rather than listing them by severity.

*Sewing the back bodice center to the side back: The side back pieces connect to the center back with a curved seam. The seamlines are quite different lengths. In this case, the instructions say that this difference is expected, that you should have extra length left on the center back piece once you're done. There is no mark to show where the side back piece should end. However, the side back piece also says "ease if needed," and I am confused about how you would know if ease was needed, if you don't know how much seamline you're joining on one piece to how much seamline you're joining to another piece. I did not ease at all (and Jennie Chancey says she doesn't either); I sewed it as drafted, and left the upper length loose. I think the piece would be improved if there were a mark on the center back piece to show where the side back piece ought to stop. (I suspect that the "ease if needed" comment comes from the fact that many people believe that princess seams ought to be eased, and this is a princess seam line.)

*Sewing the side seam of the bodice: The front bodice seamline is longer than the side back bodice seamline (for size 12, the difference is 1/2-3/4", depending on what cup size you choose). I handled this by shortening the front bodice at that point, gradually curving back out to the marked line.

*Cutting and sewing the underarm seam of the short puffed sleeve: One seamline is 1.25" shorter than the other seamline. Jennie Chancey told me to just trim off the extra at the bottom of the sleeve to match; this seems unsatisfactory, because the bottom is a straight line, and changing that would mean an odd curve. It seems that it would be better to modify the curve at the top to match the requirements, instead. I drew the seamlines on the pattern everywhere, following the cut edges everywhere except the curve in question, and drew a new curve connecting the desired corner with the original line. I have not yet tried out my modified sleeve, since I'm hoping Jennie will send me an improved sleeve (see next point) and that that one will improve the situation.

*Sewing the short puffed sleeve to the armscye: (1) The sleeve piece is marked incorrectly: "front" is "back" and "back" is "front." . (2) The underarm seam of the sleeve, according to Jennie Chancey, should not be under the arm, but instead a couple of inches forward of that. I wish I had seen a technical drawing to reassure myself of this; it was confusing, especially in light of the front/back reversal. (3) The sleeve has a lot of gathers, and these are marked to be gathered into a very small space. On size 10, 13" of fabric is marked to be gathered onto about 1.5" of armscye! This doesn't work well, even in my extremely light muslin fabric. In addition, gathering such a large amount of fabric onto the back of the armscye, as instructed, results in a lot of pulling. The fabric that begins in the front of the sleeveband is pulled toward the back of the armscye, and the resulting folds are far from attractive. I contacted Jennie Chancey about this; she says that she suspects that the wrong sleeve got into the published pattern, and says she'll send me a PDF of the correct sleeve once she checks it out. (ETA: Looking at the pattern again, I think I may have made some sort of error here myself, because measuring, it looks like it should have gone into about 3", which is more reasonable, though it still doesn't look right to me. I'll see what happens as I finish this sleeve and update it here.)

*Cutting the other sleeves: Notice, if you're sewing the longer sleeves, that in one case, the instructions note (once, at the bottom of the first page) that the seam allowance for one of the sleeves is 3/8" rather than 5/8". It is not specified whether this means the underarm seam, or the seam joining the sleeve to the armscye, and if it's the second, whether you should then join that 3/8" seam allowance to the 5/8" seam allowance of the bodice armscye.

*Cutting the front skirt: To save pattern paper (which I applaud), the full pattern piece is not marked for the front skirt. The width is indicated, but the length is not given in full. You are supposed to extend the given lines to the needed length. But if you extend the two lines as indicated, you the skirt is an inch or so narrower at the bottom than at the top, which I don't believe was the intention. The skirt is full enough that it probably won't affect the outcome much, but I corrected the angle in any case.

*Cutting the back skirt: This is not so much a problem as a question. I notice that the back skirt (which is gathered onto the back bodice) is the same width, whether you're making a size 6 or a size 26. I suspect that this was done to avoid the problem of having the back skirt be wider than 45". Perhaps this is desirable (perhaps the size 26 ladies don't want many gathers back there anyway, I don't know), but I was surprised. The width looked lovely on my size 10 daughters.

*Sewing the bodice to the front skirt: The front skirt was over an inch wider than the bodice. I noticed this on my muslin, but forgot to fix it on my first dress, so I eased the skirt to the bodice; that worked but made the next step (sewing the seam allowance up onto the bodice to form a drawstring casing) more difficult than it needed to be. On the second dress, I narrowed the skirt piece to match the bodice piece. (Which cup size you trace will affect the width of the bodice seam, too.)

But again, the dresses are turning out really cute! The issue with the sleeve is what I'm most concerned about. If that were fixed (or if it turns out that I created the gathering issue somehow), I could feel comfortable recommending the pattern, with reservations/modifications.
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4 Comments      Login to Add a Comment
BLT said... (9/18/14 5:31 PM) Reply
I'm very glad to hear that, Catroodje. In my case, the dresses did turn out very cute—but I've never been so frustrated with a pattern!
Catroodje said... (1/27/13 2:04 AM) Reply
Hi BLT, I purchased and used this pattern in January 2013 and I think the pattern has been corrected since your challenge. Apart from a slight mismatch on the sleeve seams I haven't noticed any difficulties. I made three dresses out of this pattern: two drawstring models in size 10 and 20 and one crossover gown in size 10. They came together really nice without much difficulty. Mrs. Chancey might have made good use of your feedback. :-)
DesignsByDenise said... (6/13/10 9:36 AM) Reply
I see a new sleeve has been posted on the sensibility website as of June 11. I hope your garments turned out ok and you were able to get them done in time. It's too bad there are so many other issues as well. Thank you for being honest about the problems you've encountered.
waltzqueen said... (6/8/10 4:11 PM) Reply
What a challenge! I'm looking forward to seeing the finished garments. I have a "Titanic" pattern and terrific burnout velvet, but haven't had the courage to make it yet!!!
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