Thursday, May 15, 2014

Simplicity 3809 - A cautionary tale, or Why you should always make a muslin

One of my friend's finally helped me to shape my dress form to my figure, so I thought I'd dress it up with my last pirate costume, Simplicity 3809 (which I never wore). I put the grommets in the bodice this weekend just so it wouldn't be a UFO.

Simplicity 3809 was a great pattern. Very easy to make, but very time consuming to construct because you have to cut the bodice pattern in triplicate (fashion fabric, interlining, lining). The instructions were very clear and I had no problem following them. It may have helped that I've sewn princess-seamed bodices before--my favorite sundress pattern is New Look 6457, which has a fitted bodice. I've made up that pattern five times!

Other reviewers have also praised this pattern, but have noted that the shoulder straps are too long. They're right about that. The shoulder straps overlapped by a couple of inches on my bodice. Since they are supposed to be set with grommets and held together with a ribbon, this would be a problem.

I'd like to note that one blogger who made this pattern stated that there was a mistake in the instructions, because Simplicity said to cut out three panels for the skirt. She said you only need to cut out two. She is mistaken though, because if you cut out only two panels for the skirt, you don't have the fullness to make this skirt look right. It just looks cheap and flimsy if you only cut out two panels for the skirt. So please follow the instructions as given with the pattern.

Here's how it worked out for me. It looks fine, I suppose. I just pushed myself too hard to finish it and ended up hating it. It also doesn't look like a pirate or musketeer outfit like I'd envisioned.

Looking good so far! But...

 Sigh. Damn it. I'm assuming the neckline got stretched out in the back. I swear I stay-stitched every piece, so I don't know how this happened. But it tends to happen to me a lot when I'm sewing things--usually it's on a V-neck. Anyway, there's no way to reverse engineer this to fix it without it being obvious.

And the back waist is too long. I'm very short waisted. The bodice fits perfectly in the front, so I didn't expect it to be too long in the back, but there you have it. There's also no fix for this that doesn't involve taking apart the bodice, and I don't love this enough to do that. It would have looked so much better if I'd shortened the back waist, which I would have known I needed to do IF I'D JUST MADE A MUSLIN FIRST.

I'm totally bummed that I spent so much money on the trim for this costume, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Maybe I can use it on an 18th century riding habit. If I'm going to spend this much time and effort on costumes, I'm going to start using historical patterns.

The skirt on this pattern is awesome and it looks so nice made up in this burgundy poly-silk fabric.

I'm really glad I didn't trim the skirt. I can use it for something else. I have a beautiful golden-tan cotton tapestry fabric with floral trim in pinks and burgundies, and I think it would look amazing made up into a curaco jacket and paired with this skirt. The skirt isn't made in a historically accurate fashion, but it will do for a Renaissance festival and at least it won't go to waste.


  1. It would actually make a very good late 19th/early 20th century "fancy dress". The princess seams weren't "invented" until Charles Worth came along. Grommets aren't used until the 1820's. If you paired this with a peasant top and a silly 1880's hat, this would make an awesome fancy dress outfit. :-)

    If you want something more 18th C - the female pirates actually wore what the men wore. Given that, the most accurate of the big 3 patterns is ...simplicity 4923. Also known as the Jack Sparrow pattern. The pants aren't correct (at all) but the coat and the shirt are surprisingly close. The waistcoat is actually accurate.

    And, if you want to do a good 16th C pirate, check out Grace O'Malley. :-)

  2. I've been looking at Victorian fancy dress pictures lately. I saw this one a few years ago and have had it on my to-do list for when I get better at sewing: Maybe the skirt could be used for that witch costume. Joann's had some taffeta on clearance a couple of years ago that looked exactly like the skirt in the picture and I just kick myself for not getting it.

    I know lady pirates wore breeches, but I can't get over my love of long skirts and petticoats to forego wearing them at the twice a year events where I can wear them. Maybe there are more costuming events in Texas than the Renaissance fests, but I can't seem to find out about them. The Dallas costumers guild has lots of events, but that's all I know about.

    Can you recommend a good pattern for a ladies' caraco jacket?

  3. There are tons of costuming events in Texas. :-) Look into the Dallas Costumers Guild. They'll tell you. <- I haven't used this particular pattern as I tend to make my own now but I have used JP Ryan patterns in the past. Do a mock up because this is one of the pattern makers that forget that, even in stays, women tend to have more fat around their chest then men for some unknown reason. ;-)

    As for pirates - you'll really want to look into Grace O'Malley if you like long skirts. Her gown was said to be stunning when she visited Queen Elizabeth I. Grace O'Malley is known as the Queen of the Pirates.