Finished: gray white colour block dress

A self drafted pattern, based on the bodice toile I made using Lynda Maynard’s craftsy course Sew the Perfect Fit and my wearable practise dress Hoezee dress. Princess seams, side seam zipper and a pocket.

Selfdrafted dress with princess seams

(I cut the white part a bit too short so added a grey strip at the hem.)

Because my back is short and curved inwards I tried a back piece in two parts, attached to each other in an angle. This is based on my experience with the Hoezee dress, that needed a horizontal dart at the lower back.
Still seems to have too much length though, it now bulges above my waist:

Selfdrafted dress with princess seams

My focus was more on getting the front fit really well. Big bust, small rib cage, no real waist and a bit of a tummy:

Selfdrafted dress with princess seams

It’s alright, although I’m not really good with sewing extreme curves yet.

Here’s the process for this dress in steps:

  1. Started with a vent in the back of the skirt, per this tutorial: http://www.afashionablestitch.com/2010/sewalongs/pencil-skirt-lesson-2-back-vent-tutorial/
  2. Then I put in darts in the bodice back peace
  3. then sewed back skirt to back bodice
  4. studied princess seams, using this or this tutorial: https://allspiceabounds.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/sewing-princess-seams-with-semi-finished-edges/ and http://www.blogforbettersewing.com/2010/09/sewing-princess-seams.html
  5. stay stitch front pieces
  6. make little cuts in the seam allowance
  7. pin princess seam together, starting with apex to apex. Pin at an angle.
  8. make cuts again
  9. sew in small stitches and slow speed
  10. sew side seam
  11. put in zip, using this tutorial: http://www.makeit-loveit.com/2011/10/sewing-tips-installing-a-basic-zipper.html
  12. tried on for fit:

Selfdrafted dress with princess seams

13. made some alterations. Especially at the underbust, it had to curve much more inwards.

14. redid the zipper, using this tutorial: http://www.makeit-loveit.com/2011/10/sewing-tips-installing-a-basic-zipper.html

15. sewed bodice

16. tried the lining but the fit was terrible, after all the alterations I did to the bodice.

I tried to finish the edges with biasband but it looked terrible, next to the slick colour blocks. And I couldn’t get it to lie flat. Took it out.

I drew a new all-in-one facing, based on the finished shell of the bodice.
I took apart the shoulder seams and marked the sewing lines with staystitching. Handy!
I used this tutorial to attach the lining to the shell, even though my dress has a sideseam zipper: http://www.crafterhoursblog.com/2011/02/all-in-one-facings-tutorial.html
(Between step 5 and 6 I pressed and did understitching and pressed again.)

After the last fit I added some extra bustdarts to make the sides lie flat to the sides of my body.
It’s a bit weird, adding bust darts to a dress with princess seams, but they work. Luckily they are a bit inconspicious in the grey fabric, next to the white colour block.

Selfdrafted dress with princess seams

I then spend a lot of time handsewing the shoulder seams because there was little fabric and it all wanted to fray. But I did it.
Overall I’m happy with this dress. It’s canvas and that wears well. I like practical clothes.

The front fits well, flattering my body shape without restricting kovement or breathing. It has a pocket. The lining is made from a snotty dress shirt that I never liked and that always was too tight to wear anyway. But too expensive to throw away, you know how it is. It now has a second life and much more purpose.

There’s still an issue at the back though. I had already put in darts that cross from the bodice to the skirt but more fabric can be taken out. I’ll need to amend the original bodice toile and restudy how to attach a skirt to it.
Selfdrafted dress with princess seams

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Dress = a tube + shirring + shoulderstraps

I’m sewing a simple dress to wear under this knitted “overgooier”, pinafore:

This knitted tunic is quite heavy, even though it’s spun in the airiest of spinning techniques: Long Draw. It’s also warm.
It’s fitting in the back, follwoing that lower back curve I like to show off. So it needs a dress under it that is fitted there too.

The idea was to take a tube of 100cm in circumference, seeing as my hips and my bust both like this measurement in a dress, it’s me + some wearing ease.
Add shaping by way of shirring which is sewing elastic thread onto the fabric. A kind of mock smocking. This bypasses the need for a zipper which is good because the fabric is very light: cotton batiste. Light fabric = French seams and a fine rolled hem.
Cut holes for head and arms and treat them well. Voilá!

Dress from a tube shaped with shirring
(arm holes still need to be treated)

Sewing with elastic thread is easy! Just wind it onto the bobbin and loosen the tension a bit.
I used this tutorial amongst others:
http://www.makeit-loveit.com/2011/11/sewing-tip-shirringsmocking-with-elastic-thread.html

Beautiful fine hem (that’s the tip of my embroidery scissors, for measurement) and French Seam:
Dress from a tube shaped with shirring

I bound the neck hole with satin biais band, which follows curves and is soft enough for next to skin wear (opposite to cotton biais band):
Dress from a tube shaped with shirring

But I’m having a little trouble: the neckline stands up. Somehow the biais band has not enough width on the outer curve to lay flat. And the fabric is too light to stretch it.
It’s a common problem.

BIAS BAND? BIAIS BAND? OR BAIS BAND?
Certainly not “bais band” because that would be a group of musicians from one of the four cities in the word called Bais or a troupe singing in Bai, the Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the Dali region of Yunnan.

Still, “bais band” is a common spelling mistake over here. It’s comes from the same faulty logic that makes people call their son Brian but make them write their name as “brain”…

“Bias band” and “Biais band” mean the same thing: something going diagonally across the grain of fabric. Bias band is English, Biais band is French.
Since in my country we have the French pronounciation for the stuff, “Bee-yay”, I’m going with writing “biais band”.
Actually, I don’t know how English folk pronounce their band, do you say “bias”= “Bye-ess” or “Bee-yay”? I shall have a listen on the next round of the British Sewing Bee.

Back to my dress. I used the biais band as a facing, following these tutorials:
http://sewoverit.co.uk/ultimate-shift-dress-binding-armholes-with-bias-binding/
http://grainlinestudio.com/2012/02/15/sewing-tutorial-getting-flat-bias-necklines/
http://whoeverhasthemostfabric.blogspot.nl/2012/06/how-to-use-bias-binding-to-face-armhole.html

conclusions:
– biais band is excellent for sheer fabrics
– a neckline needs stabilizing and hem treatment, biais band is good for both.
– it automatically involves staystitching which is a good thing
– some advice to clip the band before you turn it under.

Why my band stands up I have not figured out yet. It may be too wide for that curve.
Cutting it into half would solve that problem. For now I just clipped it in a bit at the worst places and will just wear this dress and avoid any Sewing Police that comes in sight 😉

I made a study dress first, btw, and it did not have its bands turn hooray. Well, not much now that I look at it closely:
Dress from a tube shaped with shirring
(the neck line still needs finishing)

It’s really nice to be able to take a piece of cloth, sew it into a tube and make a dress from it!
It feels like sewing is not a big thing and is very logical. I like that.
A next dress I’ll use facings again, I like those too. I found some excellent video tutorials how to attach facings to the top halves, with square necklines: FashionSewingBlogTV.

This cloth is batik and had a nice looking edge. I chose to wear it at the front. (yay for french seams!)
Dress from a tube shaped with shirring

in progress: Green skirt with pocket

When I bought this cabin it came with all the stuff that was already in it. Furnishings, old calendars, gnomes. And lots of ’70s bedlinen.
I’ve treasured my favourite for years now and today I’m making one of its pillow cases into a skirt. With a pocket.

For this I used video’s from Corinne Leigh of Craftovision to draw up a simple pattern and to understand the sequence of steps. I threw in some haute couture sewing techniques and some things I learned from the previous skirts.

Corinne Leigh explained measurements and I drew them on my folded pillow cover and just cut two panels out in one go. Afterwards I amended the topline of just the front panel.
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This really is a pillow case! Look at the backside of the left over after cutting:

I hope to use this left over fabric for a pocket. The left over on the long side (on the left here) will hopefully give a waist band.

These are the measurements I used and I did them all in inches, just because Corinne did so too and my measuring tape has both centimeters and inches:

  • a quart waist = 8 5/8″ (this includes 1/2″ ease and 1/2″ dart)
  • a quart hip = 9 7/8″ (this includes 1/2″ ease)
  • length between hip and waist = 6″
  • the CF dips 1/2″ under the original horizontal line. CB should be raised half an inch but I didn’t want to waste the fabric.
  • total skirtlength 22″ (if you run straight down from the hips you’ll need a split or a vent. Or flare out a bit)
  • I know from previous skirts my front darts need to be no longer than 5 cm/ 2″
  • the back darts can be 10 to 12 cm (4 to 5 “)
  • I cut everything with 1/2″ seam allowance

In Dutch and centimeters:

  • kwart middellijn = 22 cm breed (met 1,25 cm dart en 1,25 cm ease)
  • kwart heupbreedte = 25 cm
  • hoogte tussen taille en heup = 15,25 cm
  • CF ligt 1,25 cm lager dan @sideseam voor voorpand. CB juist 1,25 cm hoger
  • voordart niet langer dan 5 cm, achterdart kan wel 10 cm lang
  • bij dit patroon zit nog geen naadtoeslag/seam allowance

I took the front panel and cut it again in pongé (habutai) silk as a lining/facing. Pillow cases from the ’70s tend to be see through…
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I did the same for the back panel.

This time around I’m a good little sewer: I’m pressing! I bought a small, light weight iron (HEMA, 10 euro). Still got no iron board here but some old sheets on this Ingo table from IKEA will do. Ingo withstands the heat well.
Only thing is: he’s a bit low. Ingo makes for back pain when pressing. Here one panel is still not pressed:
Either way: nice materials to work with. Pressing does make for nicer sewing.

Next, I sewed the silk to their respective panel. Using an extra sharp silk needle (microtex, a thoughtful gift from my friend Marianne) and a very small sewing allowance, just 1/8th of an inch or even less.
I pressed the seams but didn’t fold the cotton, only the silk.

This is a prelimenary step and now I will treat the double-fabric-panels as if they’re made of one fabric. This is all a trick to have a nice seam finish on the inside later on. That’s a good thing when you’re working with silk.
Here are the two panels. Still separate. One is turned right side out, the other one still wrong side out so you can see how small the seam allowance is I used.
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Isn’t this fabric GREAT?

Before I go further I need to refer back to the video because Corinne put in a stay seam at the top (clever couture technique!) but I don’t remember in which phase she did this.

Next steps:

  1. put zipper in sideseam. The teeth of the zipper will protrude above my panel top because there will be a waist band added which will match the zipper in height. Have to decide about height of waist band before determining where the zipper will end in the side seam.
  2. sew the two panels together at the sideseams, leaving a split at the hem for movement and on one seam a split of the zipper at the top.
  3. fit. If fit then estimate wether darts will be correct both in width and length. Press side seams open.
  4. sew and press darts.
  5. waistband: cut it, press it, sew it.
  6. fit. Estimate hem length. Mark it. Think about where the pocket will be and if reinforcement is needed. Attach this now if it’s needed. Soon the interior will not be accessible anymore.
  7. fold, press and sew hem.
  8. make pocket and attach it

I have my eye on a fun little pocket! With a knotted entry.

Sewing on a button

Marked the place with a yellow pin. Put a match there to get some distance so the elastic thread has a place to lock.
On the back there’s another button so there’s a bit of counter surface.
The silk is pongé, a silk that doesn’t like to be sewn or pulled at. I tried to reinforce the whole waste band with a bias band.
Let’s hope this works.

The ultimate trick is to repeat this process one more time. I’m using double thread, I’ll now cut and knot and sew in threads. Then I’ll repeat the whole process, with another piece of double thread.
I learned this from Crazy Aunt Purl.

The fabric is handdyed pongé or pongee (for people who cannot find the ´). I believe it’s also called Habotai. a base layer for a skirt that’s match and mix. It has this silk layer and various other layers. Handdyed chiffon; felted wool on chiffon and stretchy mesh. It’s for a Spring Fairy combination.
Quite sewn by the seat of my pants.
I’ll show more soon. (and have hopes to finish the catch stitching on the Jacquard dress! Boy, did I learn my lesson there.)

Jacquard Dress: pressing seams

The long seams I basted I have now sewn. Before focussing on details such as fitting at the top, shoulders, sleeves (?) and hem I will finish the seams. Because it builds confidence and gives a sense of getting things done.

The seams are quite rough. With big irregular allowances and fraying at the edges. Susan Khaljé knows just what to do: sandwich pressing, pressing, trimming and overcasting. This is Lesson 9 of The Couture Dress on Craftsy.

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Because I’m in the city which has an ironing board but no iron I decided to buy a second iron. Not a heavy duty things like the Official Ironing Iron I have (at the cabin, without a board) but a small, handy thingy. Just prefect for seams, not so handy for big sheets of fabric.

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It’s a 10 euro steam iron from the HEMA. It fits very well in my hand. I like it. It only has 1200 Watt and I kept an eye open to see if this would give enough heat. It does.

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So I pressed my seams. First sandwich: press the seams without opening them. From both sides. Then open and press it open. All the while using a bit of steam. Pressing is always with steam.

I used a rolled up towel to press the curves.

Then I trimmed the seam allowances. I plan to catch stitch the edges later on, attaching them to the lining.

Because I had to switch around the pattern pieces there is one place where the seam is dangerously close to the edge of the lining. I have marked it with a ‘red cross of pins’ so I can give it some extra TLC before finishing the seam.
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Couture Dress: thank Bob for wide seam allowances

Having slept a night on the problem of cutting the wrong side of the fabric and spending hours basting it to the lining I thought I might try something before ripping out the basting, sewing the dress wrong side out or just chucking everything in the dust bin.

Unpin the muslin pieces and reposition them the right way, see if there is enough seam allowance to harbour the pieces the right way down. Switch side pieces left and right with one another if necessary.

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There is. Now I’m not paying attention to the carefully placed basting lines. I will have to sew the pieces together using the muslin edges and lines as guidelines. I am going to pin it crazy and then use a different coloured thread and carefully baste it by hand. After fitting I’ll sew it for real with the machine. Then remove all bastings.

At least I might be able to use this fabric. Sometimes it comes close though. The muslin is folded ON the seam line so that small piece of lining right there at the apex of the bust is all the seam allowance this piece is getting. Better stitch it sturdy.

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Couture Dress: cutting the fabric and basting the lining onto it

My lining is some sort of flanel, the marks don’t show up very well.
Never mind, I’ve thought of a solution. I’m using the toile/muslin as pattern pieces. I used them to cut the fabric and now I’m basting the lining onto the fashion fabric using the seam lines on the muslin.

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I can easily fold the pattern pieces on their seams, I haven’t ironed them. Because most seams are marked by (black) stitching I can fold under or over, it’s very easily visible. Do pin securely though.
I just trace it with the needle. Easy peasy.
It took my full allotment of energy both yesterday and today, a total of four hours, to baste the 7 pieces of this sheath dress.

The lining and the fabric now form a new fabric. Warm. Good for a winter dress. Now to baste these pieces together, following the precise lines the lining basting provides. And then the fitting of the dress. Final stage!

But….. just as I had pretreated every pieces and was pinning together the very first two pieces … I realized I’ve made a colossal error…

I used the muslin pieces as pattern pieces with the right side up… on the side of the lining that will be the inside of the dress…

I have made the mirror of the pieces I need! And as all pieces are tailored to my not symmetrical body I now have … not a dress.

I’m having a lie down now. It was time for it anyway, my afternoon hour was up. But I feel rotten!

Even if I can use the fabric pieces (it is jacquard fabric, I might get away with using the wrong side on the outside) I have to undo all the basting. And redo it if I want to have a lining.
The redoing will take another four hours. Another two days of full energy allotment. I had plans for the next two days. Plans like taking a shower and cooking a hot meal. I’m not very willing to post phone those for another two days.

Yeah, I’ll be lying here, trying to wrap my head around this one.

“I don’t want to talk about it!

Other solutions are to just take out the lining and make the dress -wrong fabric side out- without lining. I might do that… at the least it will tell me if this muslin works in real fabric. Will have to trace all the seam lines onto the fabric though… there’s another two hours work.

I also heard a rumour that they sell dresses in things called “shops”…

credit: puffer fish photo by Judy Roberson

Wriggle Dress: finishing touches, ugly bits.

I am not very subtle with my finishing touches I’m afraid. Whatever got the job done I did. There are some truely ugly bits…. and I am going to show you them.

For the sideseams I got confused about how to combine lining and sewing back and front together and still get a decent finished sideseam. So I just did first things first and I lined each piece separately:
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Then sewed them together using the tiniest of seam allowances (on the inside)
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Then I got worried that one line of stitching will never hold together two pieces of cloth and seams would be bursting and I’d be running along the street clutching pieces my dress together while trying to hide my face at the same time…

So I sewed a second time over the side seams. Which made them rigid and will probably chafe my skin when wearing them:
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Also I could not figure out how to sew the shoulder straps together. How to fold them into each other, lining embracing lining while the interlining was too thick to fold double? Not while there was also width to adjust and those pesky folds on the right shoulder to keep in check.
So I sewed things in place by hand and then ran the sewing machine over it. And then sewed all the little bits and frays in place by hand.
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This one has not yet received a go over with the sewing machine. The underside is still running wild. The sewed line you see is a basting that keeps the interlining to the fabric. (too narrow stitch width for basting I know)

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Now here come the real ugliest bits:
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This is the side seam under one armhole.
I took in the side bust a bit but only áfter I had sewn the side seams in my no-clutching-double-stitched-faux-French-seam style. After I took it in there was about half an inch of seam/fabric flapping on the inside so I decided to cut that away…

I’ll hand stitch over that to keep the fraying in check.

The other really ugly bit is the end of the zipper which the lining does not hide and the finishing of said lining. I tried a handrolled seam but … yeah… not easy.
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Also, this lining is such thin and delicate cotton, I wonder how long it will wear. This dress really makes me think about the thickness and sturdiness of the fabrics I combined in it. In a next dress I will be paying more attention to that: match them better.

Well, it is nearly a dress now. I will be wearing it. All that remains to be done is two little jobs and one big one: finish right shoulder strap, do something to that ugly side seam trimming and Hem The Dress.
I’d love to finish it to today, if I can find out a way to hem it by myself.

Wriggle Dress: lining it

For the lining I have a thrifted cotton shirt. Very long and very soft:
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It fits the dress
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after pressing the shirt and the now unbasted dress this is how my ‘template’ for the front looks:
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Start cutting. Remember to put the right sides to the right side.

(yes, you eagle eyed sewers, I didn’t unpick the bust darts in the dress in this picture! I thought I could get away with it. Not away from you but from sewing. They were in the perfect spot you see, following good lines. And I was afraid I would wither from too much work. So I cut the lining while the darts were still in the dress. This will distort the side seam of the lining. I will be sorry. I convinced myself that the soft cotton will forgive. It probably won’t.
This is why I wrote down the tip to myself to use a screamingly different colour thread for basting next time. So I won’t be tempted again to leave darts in if I am going to use a piece as a template.

After this picture I took out the darts because I had to resew them at a better stitch width anyway. It took al of 7 minutes to rip out 4 long darts… 7 minutes I can afford and could have spend easily before cutting the lining.

What convinced me to take them out was that the 2mm stitch width of the basting was tearing at the linen, which is a fairly loosen weave. It was the wrong width for the fabric.
But by then the lining was already cut. And I am already sorry.)

By the way, the reason that I am lining this dress, even though the pattern says not to, is because of this book:

Linen and Cotton by Susan Khalje

and because of this project:

May Challenge Panel Dress by Marina von Koenig on which Khalje advised.
I cannot stop mentioning these two, sorry.

I learned very much from what Marina is showing us about this dress and it really prompted me to use linen and dabble in couture techniques. I hope to repeat this experience, in different designs, as her project and her approach is very inspiring!

The lining makes the white linen I’m using less see-through; it will reduce wrinkling and enhance wearing comfortability. But putting in a lining in this dress which has interfacing and facing is a bit of a puzzle: which layer goes where?

At least I did know about grading the seams where the interfacing/interlining is concerned:
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For attaching the rest of the lining I basically use the instructions for the facings.

I’m doing the back now. I’ll need to attach the lining to the zipper-part. This seemed a logical solution: two openings on layers that go together.

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Logic, yes?

It would work better if the opening of the lining was as long as the zipper is…
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It needs to open all the way to where the pins are. Besides: it has buttons.

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There we go. Now I have a piece of fabric instead of the front of an old shirt.

 

 

 

 

Wriggle Dress: fitting one, two, three

I basted the side seams together on the biggest stitch my machine can do and tried it on.
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The fitting taught me much:

– should try this is size 12 all around, no extra fabric needed at the bust. Even go to 10. Hips at size 8.

– the darts in the back need to be lots more tight, there’s way too much room there.

– the shoulder straps in the back need to be shortened. (They weren’t sewn yet. I attached one to the right front part with a pin. The other had no partner so I pinned it to my bra strap. Very elegant.)

– hand stitched pleats for the right front will look good.

– this is a linnen dress for Summer so a bit of wearing ease will heighten the wearablity

So I did that. Basted it together again and tried it on for the second time. This time I also added the left shoulder part. The sizing was fine now so I focussed on the shoulder part.

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It’s too wide. Even when the armhole will take away some more of the fabric in its seam.

but it looks good with the facing underneath it. Crisp and white.

I folded it in a bit, just to see how it would look off centre. I liked what I saw, it sets off the right shoulder part nicely. It does no longer compete with it.
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seam ripper, yum!

I pinned the shoulders better. I was surprised to see how ‘crooked’ it had to be to be straight on me. Here you see the back part on the right and the front part on the left. The front part already has the facing attached, the back part has it lying under it as I had to make the dart in the back go all the way up to the shoulder seam. Because I have a hunchback. Or perhaps something called ‘a sway back’?
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Anyway, to avoid a big gaping hole between the top of the zipper and my neck I had to fold the backparts outwards. Into a dart. This makes the shoulder seam more narrow which is fine because I wanted to make the left front part more narrow too. I narrowed the left front piece, making sure it attached to the armhole line of size 12 of the pattern.
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See how much I had to alter the angle of the shoulder seam to have it sit straight on me! Hmm. Am I slouching on these pictures??

Anyway: on to fitting nr. 3:
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looks alright! (the noticeable bias on the front view is an optical illusion, I have my hips slainted and my right knee forward, pulling the fabric forward)
The back is better now, not so roomy. Still a bit though…
The back view seems to suggest I carry one shoulder higher than the other. This might well be the case or again, I’m not standing straight up. Will try and notice in the future.

It sits very comfortably. Of which the crinkles are evidence since I wore the dress as is for a bit.
Now I’m ready to take apart this dress one last time. Press it. Use the parts to alter the paper pattern. Use the parts to cut a lining. Then the final sewing will begin. With lots of pressing along the way.