Now that wedding season is over and things got a little more quiet over here, I can finally take the time to show you all the dresses I made. And there are quite a few of them! For wedding number 5, I traveled to the Outer Banks, off the coast of North Carolina. The wedding was on the beach so I wanted a sleeveless dress, flowy but still retro. I chose to make the Carmen dress, a free pattern offered by Ralph Pink.
I found out about this pattern early this year thanks to Anna‘s blog. I had never heard of Ralph Pink until then, let alone seen one of their patterns made up, but I fell instantly for the technical drawing, with its fifties feel. But here’s the thing: the pattern exists in only one size, with no instructions or picture of the finished garment whatsoever! And I looked everywhere but couldn’t find anyone online who had made it before, so I had no idea what the dress would look like.
Luckily the measurements provided for the size UK10 (89cm / 68cm / 92cm) were a perfect fit for me at the bust and waist, and it seemed like the bust length was fine, even though that’s something I often have to adjust on patterns, so I crossed my fingers and sewed the thing. In the end the dress fits great, except for the armholes that gape a bit in the front, but nothing too bad.
The key point of this pattern is the symmetrical pleat in the front that replaces bust darts. As the pattern doesn’t come with instructions, I wasn’t totally sure of the direction of those pleats. Up? Down? I tried both and picked the one I thought looked the best, but since I haven’t seen any other pictures of the finished dress I’m not sure if that’s really what it is supposed to look like.
Besides the pleat, the only step that requires some thinking while putting the dress together is assembling the “all-in-one” facing. I had done this a few times before but couldn’t remember exactly how to do it so I used this Burdastyle tutorial and it was super helpful.
As I wasn’t 100% confident in the pattern, I picked an inexpensive fabric: a polka-dot polyester crepe (that I found on Fabric.com but that is sadly not available anymore), underlined in black cotton poly voile as the main fabric was to sheer to be used by itself. Be careful if you want to sew this one: the skirt pieces are quite large and won’t fit in a 45” wide fabric.
Instead of lining the dress, I underlined the bust pieces and used the facing, as I feared that if I simply lined it the pleat would show through the fabric. The crepe was very slippery and annoying so I starched it like crazy, and then basted each of the bodice pieces to its corresponding piece in cotton poly voile, then recut the pieces to the actual shape. Once the two layers were assembled the rest wasn’t too bad. Instead of attempting a baby hem on that fabric, which I fear would have killed me, I used my serger to do a rolled hem on both the main skirt and the lining.
The only part of the sewing process I am not happy with is what I did for the skirt darts. I wanted to avoid having them show through the fabric so I tried sewing the darts in both layers together, but I should have gone with a normal lining for that part. Wearing it with a belt somehow hides it but still the result is not very clean.
Except for this dart thing, I am pretty happy with this dress. For a one-size pattern sewn without a visual reference or instructions, it’s not too bad! I am not used to sewing or wearing V necks and I think this one is flattering. I am not sure I’ll ever make it again because the detail of the pleat at the bust is peculiar, but I would definitely recommend it.