Last year I had a call from my cousin Freya asking if I had any ball dresses in my wardrobe that she could borrow. Although I have a fair few formal dresses, none of them were quite right for Freya (although we are similar heights we are shaped quite differently) so I offered to sew her a dress, with the proviso that it was a Lekala pattern. I knew that we wouldn’t have much opportunity for fitting so a pattern made to measure was the safest bet.
We ended up choosing Lekala 4403, described as “dress with long skirt”. I took all the measurements that we needed, and ordered the pattern (they arrive the same day via email – usually within about 15 minutes of placing the order). I rummaged through my fabric stash and found some vintage red jacquard fabric – just perfect for a Fire Ball! I bought matching silk/cotton fabric to line the dress from Darn Cheap Fabrics. Then I went for it and sewed it up.
I dialled Ada’s measurements down to better match Freya’s and tried the dress on the dressform. An issue immediately became apparent – check out the depth of that neckline slash.
As always, I should have listened to my instincts that said, as I was sewing the neckline notch and slashing into it, “my goodness, this looks a little too deep”. It most certainly was! Neither Freya nor I mind showing a bit of cleavage, but as it was this dress gave almost full exposure. The line drawing was definitely not accurate in that regard, and because I was in a hurry when I sewed the dress I didn’t stop to listen to that little voice that was trying to alert me. So it was time for a save.
I made a little insert from the same fabric and pinned it in place, but wasn’t able to get it just right until I tried it on Freya. Then we had a bit of an issue with the neckline corners. Would they sit flat against the body? Not really at that stage – they would have needed interfacing. There was a definite tendency for them to flop forward. Unfortunately I hadn’t taken the time to think about that during the construction process.
Otherwise, the dress fitted Freya perfectly! I was really happy with all the other proportions on her, and it showed off her small waistline beautifully. That is one of the things that I enjoy about sewing for Freya – she has the little waist that I have never had, and I sew quite different styles for her as a consequence. It’s fun!
The invisible zip inserted easily and zipped up beautifully when she put the dress on. It also sat nicely across her body, including across her back and shoulders. Getting the waistband seams and pintucks to line up exactly at the side seams was more of a challenge.
Not perfect, but not too far off either! So, what to do about those front neckline corners?
In the end, Freya decided that they looked good as an open neckline, a bit like a collar. Fortunately I’d matched the lining perfectly and had made certain to sew very accurately in that area. I only managed to get one photo of Freya all dressed up for the ball (she was on the organising committee so spent her evening dashing around being busy rather than relaxing for photos) but I think that she looks gorgeous!
Pretty good for a two week timeline with only one opportunity for fitting, I reckon! Having that Lekala pattern as a base was the key. I know that Nicole uses Lekala a lot for her daughter’s formal dresses – they have a terrific range of formal designs and it really does make a difference in getting that fit right.