Class samples: Trapeze Dress

I am teaching a class next month (at Periwinkle Quilting and Beyond… I guess I’m the beyond.) on the Merchant & Mills Trapeze dress. So, sample sewing time.

Spoiler: it turned out ok.

Actually, it depends on your metric. Technically, this is a work of freaking art. Style wise, it’s fun but plain—which goes with the Merchant & Mills aesthetic, if not so much mine. Fit wise, it’s ok but not spectacular. More on that in a sec.

It’s a pretty insanely simple pattern. Ok, I didn’t make the long sleeve version with the funky little inset. That’s a neat version but I didn’t think I’d actually like wearing it. This is what I struggle with with these class samples—balancing what I want in a wardrobe vs. what students need in a class. It is a nice pattern, though—there’s some subtle shaping at the side seam, and the amount of flare is just perfect for a crisp woven.

Anyway. The sizing is British, apparently. I’m in between a size 10 and a 12, but closer to the 10, so I went with that. However, the shoulders are a little binding so perhaps the 12 would’ve been better.

On looking at the pattern pieces, I made two of my usual adjustments: I squared the shoulder, and I raised under the arm. Possibly I should’ve just petited through the armscye, but the effect is pretty similar, except that I think raising the bust might’ve been a good idea too.

The square shoulder was definitely the right call. I think I could’ve raised the underarm a bit more, because my squaring of the shoulder involved raising the outer shoulder, which counteracted raising the under-arm somewhat. Usually I handle things a bit differently, by dropping the inner edge of the neckline when I’m tracing, or just grading to a smaller size in the neck—but I didn’t decide to do the changes until after the pattern pieces were traced. Anyway, it looks nice until I move.

Pockets!!! I added pockets!

My construction, on the other hand, is flipping flawless. Well, nearly. I went with a Hong Kong binding for almost all of the seams. Yum.

After some sampling I went with this dusty punk rayon binding left over from a version of McCall’s M6263 that I apparently never blogged. Oops. I think it looks really cute with my grey fabric. The other dress was pink and grey too, for that matter. Incidentally, the fabric is a Robert Kaufman Essex Linen “Homespun” blend and it’s yummy as hell. And it eased in the sleeve cap really nicely, which is great.

As you can see, I added pockets. There’s plenty of room in this style, and these days, with key cards and cellphones, I’m much happier if I have pockets. Oh, and when binding the hem, I stretched the hell out of the bias tape as I went, which caused it to gather the edge a bit, making it much easier to do a nice, deep hem on the curved edge. I did end up serging the armscye seams, as it was just better to reduce bulk and narrow the seam allowance there.

The whole Merchant and Mills philosophy is of the “slow down and make something carefully and well,” variety, which I respect even if I hate their arty envelope photos. And I really did enjoy this process, with exquisite materials and minimal fitting. It still took less than eight hours of sewing, so it’s not that long of a make. That includes hand stitching all the hems.

You can see how the smooth shoulder fit goes all to hell when I lift my arm even a little. Some of that is unique to my body but some is the draft, which has a fairly high, narrow sleeve cap—the kind that looks perfect while stationary. To make it again, I would remove .5 cm from my raised underarm, but then petite through the armscye 1cm. If I need to make it again, which I probably don’t. I think I’ve mentioned my overstuffed closet.

Here, have an artful flatlay:

I almost wanna make a little pink bow for the outside. Probably too twee, right? This pattern is all about class, right? But I really do love those seam bindings.

maybe I should just wear it inside out?

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “Class samples: Trapeze Dress

  1. I have the same problem with shoulder fit going wonky when lifting arm(s) with their Camber pattern. I do love the look of the Trapeze dress though, I’ve been eyeing this pattern for a while. Thank you for sharing. Love your version.

    Faye. Xx

    • That’s really interesting to hear! I’m curious to compare it to the Grainline Scout Tee now… I made that back in the summer and I really liked how the shoulder fit. Thank you!

  2. OK, this is not a Taran kind o’ dress but the work is FANTASTIC. I think the arm is an issue – not of your making. This sort of dress always fits weirdly in the armscye on me.

  3. The timing of your post is impeccable. I’ve never sewn a Merchant & Mills Pattern, but I’ve suddenly been drawn to the Strand Coat. I will be mindful with the sizing and I’m pretty sure I’ll be doing a FBA.

    Your dress may be a simple silhouette, but it is lovely.

    I too, scratch my head when I see the pattern envelope drawings. They don’t really do much in the way of showing what the garment looks like.

  4. The MM esthetic leaves me wanting: I need more detail in a tech drawing for a pattern that simple that costs that much.
    They don’t deserve this beautiful thing you’ve made. And yes, except that the pockets won’t work this way, I’d wear the hell out of it, inside out. You’ve chosen the perfect stuff for this.
    “I don’t need one, I don’t need one, I don’t need one….”

    • Thank you! I don’t think you need one but I’m sure you have a very similar pattern already! (For that matter I’m sure I do, too) Except yours would have Frida or Daleks.

  5. Helen

    Nice! That neck facing would look lovely on the right side of the dress rather than hidden away.

  6. Jenny

    I am not drawn to M&M because I think they are too expensive and too simple. Doesn’t even include pockets? Nice construction though. While reading this I kept hoping to hear or see you make this in a wild print since the design is not your usual style.

  7. birdmommy

    I love MM patterns – all I have to do is a small forward shoulder adjustment and I’m all set. I do warn people that I have small sloping shoulders though – so what works for me won’t work for my broad shouldered friends. But I’ve only done the Trapeze and the Dress Shirt – I find a lot of the other patterns too ‘artful sack’ even for me.

    • I’m so glad to hear they fit you well! I’m definitely not narrow shouldered. 😂 I am considering some of the others for another class next term… we’ll see. 😂

  8. This is so amazing! The guts are glorious! Wish I lived in Saskabush still. But it’s been 23 years. I’d take a class from you at Periwinkle is a heartbeat. But not to be since I’m in eastern Ontario now. :(. I have this pattern and debate making it. So much fabric on short curvy me. Knowing that it has some shaping helps so perhaps I will give it a try. I too hate the arty flatlay photos on their covers. Gives zero idea of what you’re looking at. But I laughed out loud at your last line! Love your blog. Love your writing!

    • Aww, thank you! If you have the pattern already why not give it a go? Just be ready to shorten if you’re not tall. 🙂

      • Thanks! Only 5’4” so that’s a good tip to know. Cause with that much fabric too much length is a no go on me! Too short and too much bust. Lol. I miss Saskatoon and love all the pictures you post of it. Really takes me back. I did my university there at WCVM. Such fond memories of that city.

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