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French Apron Dress

Vogue 9108

Dresses as shown on the pattern envelope:

The main central panel in the dress on the left is a poly charmeuse, and you could use any soft drapey woven. Silk or poly charmeuse is perfect, and the new digital panels work really well here, but the rest of the fabrics are all knits; the style requires fabrics with drape. All the fabrics in the dress on the right are rayon/lycra knits.
To my eye, the dress looks short, especially from the back. I do not alter the original version for photography and the models are over 6 feet tall. Do check the lengths for your height in the preliminary fitting. Gwen Spencer and I made the sample garments, and we played with (and agonized over), combining different fabrics, auditioning various combinations on the dress form in the approximate proportion they would be used in the garment. Then we'd stand back and get a perspective on what worked and what did not. In truth, it is easier to work with the black/white/gray combos as there are more choices available. And, it was fun to comb through all the fabrics in the ArtBarn and find a blue/green grouping that played well together. If you are making this dress/top/leggings, my suggestion is to gather a grouping of fabrics, like you might gather different flowers to make a bouquet. The secret is to use fabrics that have drape, flow and hang...too stiff will not work well. It is fine to combine knits and wovens. If you have a dress form it is a good time to use it to audition your fabrics.

The line drawings reveal the details and give a graphic idea of the different panels. The T-shirt is designed to be semi-fitted, just skim the body, and the neckline on the dress and T-shirt are designed to nest together. The legging is also semi-fitted, not too loose, not too tight, and is a great basic that you'll use again and again. Finish off the neck edge on the T-shirt according to the directions for a bound wraparound edge, or use any of your favorite smooth neck finishes.
My detail photos of the two bodices with the option of using a sheer mesh or a knit in the central panel.
There are two versions for the straps and back detailing. In the blue version on the left, there are built-in straps and the back bodice piece is solid with the bottom panel pleated into the bodice. In the black version on the right, there are separate straps which are interwoven together, and the bottom panel has elastic which forms soft gathers across the center back. The center back panel is shorter and the side seams goes toward the front. The blue version uses a bamboo (rayon)/lycra jersey (sold out), and the black uses our Black Parisian microfiber.

You can easily adjust the length on any of the panels by adding at the hem. I'm going to try a version in a longer length.

Back detailing is different on the two views.

Marcy version

My own version in grays and black, popped with an orange ribbon. The little line of color is a place to have fun...and what is ribbon but narrow fabric? The central panel is a knit, cut on the cross grain as in this fabric the background color quietly morphs from white to gray running from selvedge to selvedge, but a soft woven would work well too. I used a gray/black bamboo knit dot for the t-shirt and lower panel, and a scrap of black/gray stripe for the bottom panel. This bottom panel could work in a soft woven too. The body of the dress is a black rayon/lycra. It is crucial that this back panel be very soft and drapey with good recovery.

Sewing & Construction Tips

I interfaced the pocket opening and neck edge on the dress front to stabilize and keep from stretching, using a fusible tricot cut to the shape of the pattern piece.
At the top edge, I used a fusible tricot cut in the most stable direction to support the edge and keep it from stretching.
  • The seam that joins the center front panel to the contrast center front is the focal point of the dress, and there are some layers and maybe different weights of fabric to handle, so you'll want to do all you can to get it right. The square corner is a place where everything has to come together in a clean way, and the fold on the contrast panel should match up with the corner. Pinning alone did not work for me, the fabrics kept shifting requiring ripping.
Diagonal basting with silk thread held all the layers in more shifting.
Interface both sides of the strap on View C, the blue version, as they support the weight of the dress. Shown here using a fusible tricot.
I recommend cutting the straps longer than the pattern piece so it is easier to adjust the final length. The two straps have angled short edges, and you want to get them in the right place and position. Pin, then baste to prevent shifting.
Compare the finished length of the elastic gathers to the pattern piece to be sure the proportions are right. It is important to the fit of the dress that the top edge of the center back finishes at the same measurement as the back binding. I notice that elastic stretches as it is sewn, so it is necessary to factor that in, which is why I stretch the elastic a bit as it is sewn into place. Bind the edge using a single layer wraparound binding. The binding can be stretched a bit as you sew to draw in the edge a bit more.
  • I had to pfutz to get the straps interwoven in the good way while at the same time, adjusting the length so it was right. I did this while working on a dress form, one strap at a time, and pinned the straps in place on the front with safety pins, adjusting everything until it was twisted straps, the correct strap going. Machine baste to be sure all is good to go, then stitch in place and trim the straps.
    Fabric Suggestions
    We used a combo of different fabrics and colors but I think this dress would be fabulous in one color or in a tone-on tone blend. You could go dramatic or subtle, make an everyday dress or an event dress. This is a good opportunity to go through your stash or scraps to see what you have on hand to use. The knits we used for the body in these combos are from our basics, The black is our Black Parisian Microfiber, and the other fabrics in that dress came from rayon/lycra scraps in my stash. In the blue/green toned dress, all the fabrics are rayon/lycra knit jersey.
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© Marcy Tilton