For me, this sundress feels like an Italian summer; I can just picture myself wearing it in the sparkling sunshine in Palermo, eating gelato and people-watching… oh well, perhaps next year! In the meantime, this sundress can brighten up my days in Oxford — the punchy red background against the zesty lemons is so joyful and I am pretty proud of myself for how I constructed it. I hacked the original pattern, made some fitting adjustments and fully lined the bodice to make this dress my ultimate summer outfit.
Let’s talk fabric first and foremost. I wrote a blog post a few months ago about this gorgeous cotton fabric that my boyfriend Simon got me for my birthday – it is Dolce & Gabbana deadstock from a collection celebrating 1950s Italy and the pattern is so damn cheerful and exuberant, I can’t help but smile when I look at it. I am aware this is my second dress made with lemon print fabric, but when you feel so good wearing it, who cares!
The cotton is lightweight and crisp, so it is really comfortable to wear and it was no trouble handling it when sewing. It can hold all the gathering really well and gives the skirt a decent amount of structure. As I mentioned above, I fully lined this dress using a half a metre remnant of Lady McElroy cotton lawn, which has a print of porcelain vases, teacups and teapots, and added in one of Kylie and the Machine’s newest labels. Adding a fun, contrast lining makes any me-made garment feel a bit more opulent.
I spent a bit of time going back-and-forth in my mind for which pattern to make with this dress, before I landed on McCall’s 7974. This dress has a fitted bodice with a v-neck and button-front closure, with different sleeve and length variations. I knew I wanted to make a sundress, so View A was the most obvious choice — it is knee length and the tie-sleeve detail is just darling — but I wasn’t necessarily feeling buttons breaking up the print. Luckily, it is incredibly easy to hack and to add a 9″ invisible zipper to the side instead! Simply cut the bodice, midriff and skirt front on the fold instead of cutting two pieces. As I was fully lining the bodice, I only cut one yoke back and did not cut the front facing.
In terms of adjustments, I made a few muslins of the bodice to make sure I got a good fit. It is worth noting that this patterns seems to run quite large — I made a muslin of my usual size and was drowning in excess fabric! In the end, I made the size smaller than I usually take and also followed Elisenne’s comments on her amazing blog to get a better fit around the bust. I added a couple of centimetres to the length of the bodice under the fullest section, so the midriff would sit below comfortably and not across my bust line. I also raised the v-neck so it wouldn’t be as low-cut and opened the neckline more, giving the bodice neckline a more rounded style. Truthfully, I should have made a narrow shoulder adjustment and probably could take this dress in more at the waist — I am finding fitting garments tricky during lockdown, as my weight seems to be always fluctuating — but I always prefer to have more ease and feel like I can breathe than feel restricted by what I am wearing! I also removed 2″ off the skirt length, which makes this dress hit just above my knee.
As this dress feels so special, I took my time with adding a lining to the bodice and finishing my skirt seams with a Hong Kong seam finish. This is a neat way to finish seams with bias binding and adds a little extra luxury to the unlined skirt! I followed Colette Pattern’s tutorial on Hong Kong seams and purchased some cotton bias tape for ease. I really used up every scrap of fabric for this dress, but some how managed to squeeze out just enough for a matching hair bow!
Overall, I am thrilled with my M7974 hack and love wearing this dress with a classic red lip — it makes my heart sing and it is turning into a real compliment magnet! I think I will make another version of M7974 next summer, using the original button-front bodice and sewing with viscose, as I am eager to make a more fluid, drapey version of this dress. In the meantime, I have got a tub of pistachio gelato in my freezer and a sun-lounger in the garden — it may not be Sicily, but it is still pretty joyful.