One thing high on my autumn sewing list was a little black cocktail dress. Despite having a bulging wardrobe of dresses, I still have moments (often ten minutes before we're due to go out) when absolutely nothing in there seems quite right. A little black dress seemed like the perfect solution.
The pattern I used was Simplicity 1249 - the princess seams and raglan cap sleeves of View B were exactly what I had in mind for my cocktail dress. The pattern is from the Amazing Fit series which come with a choice of pattern pieces for cup sizes (B to DD) and separate cutting lines for different hip types (Slim, Average or Curvy). Cup size is determined by the difference between your full and high bust measurements, so based on this I went for a C cup in size 14 and used the Slim cutting line for my hips. The pattern pieces were almost identical to my dress block which was really encouraging.
The theory behind Amazing Fit patterns is that you partly construct the dress, then baste together key areas such as side seams and shoulders. The seam allowance in these areas is a generous one inch, which gives plenty of room for fine tuning the fit. Once you've adjusted the fit to your liking, the seams are sewn as normal, basting stitches removed and seam allowances trimmed down. This seemed like an awful lot of faffing about to me, but to be fair, I did end up making some fitting adjustments so it was worth doing it this way. The instructions also included lots of fitting guidelines which were handy to refer to.
My basted together dress was perfectly wearable, but a bit mumsy, so I made a few adjustments for a tighter fit. I took out some fullness underneath the bustline by pinching out the front side seams and I also took in the waist and hips at the side seams by about ⅝". The general bust area and shoulders were a great fit, as was the front neckline, YES! I often have to make adjustments in this area to combat gaping, so this was particularly satisfying.
Construction wise, everything went to plan and amazingly there were no mishaps! Princess seams are a bit of a plain to construct because there's so much clipping and pressing involved to achieve a smooth line. I spent a long time at the ironing board with my tailor's ham, but it was time well spent as the seam lines on the finished dress now lie nice and flat. For fabric I used Prada crepe-backed satin from Minerva. The crepe sheds a lot of fibres, but otherwise it's lovely to work with and a really nice quality, perfect for a cocktail dress. The other big advantage is that it's self lined, so no separate lining required, yay! The dress closes with an invisible zip and the neckline is finished with a facing, all very straight forward.
This dress is only the second black garment I've made (this skirt was the first one) and I don't think I'll be making another one in a hurry. Karen's tips for sewing with black fabric were helpful, but I still found it a very difficult colour to work with. It was a nightmare to pick out stitches, even wearing my reading glasses, and there were times when I just had to make a stab at where they were as I literally couldn't see a thing! Thank god the zip went in first time, that's all I can say!
I hardly wear black as I don't think it does much for my colouring, but I'll be making an exception in this case. I'm so pleased with the fit on this dress, it's a simple design but it really does flatter your curves. From now on if I'm stuck for something dressy to wear, this will be my answer - just sling on a necklace and I'll be good to go! x