Pattern Reviews: Simplicity




3623 (0663 or 8855): Celtic Costume - Recommended with caution

I am a bit conflicted over this pattern - although it is a relatively simple pattern to construct, there are areas of contention that need to be addressed.

The bodice, while easy to make, is so over-sized that in order to construct the shirt and skirt that accompany it, you may have to buy two different size pattern envelopes if you are not confident with your draping or pattern drafting skills. For example, I am generally a pattern size 16 (14 in retail sizing) - I cut a size 16 for the bodice. The bodice pattern was so large that I thought I had cut a 22-24 by mistake (I had to double check my pattern)! By the time I had finished altering the bodice pattern to achieve a proper fit, my corrected bodice toile was equal in size to Simplicity's size 8! However, the skirt and shirt patterns were true to size; in other words, the size 16 I had cut for these pattern pieces fit me as they should.

Another issue I had was that the shirt construction was ridiculously over-worked. For all the pleating and plackets and fuss, you might as well make an authentic Irish leine. You know all that fancy-smancy pleating on the shirt shoulder - no one will see it because it's covered by the bodice strap (now where is the sense in creating an exterior detail that cannot be seen and admired?). Notice that I not only altered the bodice by adding a peplum, I also altered the neck line of the shirt; and no, I did not pleat the shoulders.

Despite the sizing problem with the bodice and the hidden and cumbersome details of the shirt, the dress is flattering and the pattern pieces sew together well - just use this pattern with caution if you are not experienced in resizing (especially fitted bodices).



4055: Regency Dress (Sense & Sensibility) - Recommended

NOTE: Although marketed by Simplicity, this pattern is licensed by Sense & Sensibility (S&S). If you decide to purchase it through Simplicity, you will not get the depth of instruction or the historical notes which accompany the pattern as you would if you had purchased it directly from S&S. 

The dress was easy to construct, however, I made two significant changes in the skirt. First, I increased the volume of the skirt by two yards and created two very large inverted box pleats at the center and side back of the gown (five pleats thick) for an alternative historical look – it’s a very pretty effect. Aside from the aesthetic, there is a practical reason to add a bit more yardage to the skirt, and that is fit. I found that using the skirt pattern provided gave the dress rather an anemic look and it fit poorly over the hips. Second, constructing the back of the skirt, rather than slice down the middle of a perfectly good piece of fabric (as the pattern directions call for), create a placket, and sew it in place for the center-back opening, I positioned a seam to the center-back instead – easier and far more practical. 

Regarding the bodice, I followed the directions and gathered the base according to the wearer’s under-bust measurement. I've seen some dressmakers dart the bodice front, but in this case, I do like this gathered look – it’s very soft and feminine and flattering to the wearer. Also, a gathered bust-line is not only friendlier to construct, it's easier to adjust for a larger or smaller bust size. 

Overall, the pattern pieces fit well together - again, I will recommend adding yardage to the skirt and creating a center-back seam (rather than slicing through a fabric panel and creating a placket) if you are a beginner sewer or have no experience with this particular technique.



5726: Victorian Chemise - Recommended 

I constructed only the chemise in this pattern and I found that it was very easy to make. For newbies, the directions are very clear and the illustrations are well-drawn. The two pattern pieces that were used for this garment (the chemise body and the sleeve) fit together well. Please note that the chemise pattern runs about 1 size too large, so rather than constructing a size 14-16 for myself, I used a size 12 and it fit well. I used a fine natural linen to construct the chemise and trimmed it in cotton crocheted lace. This little number is so comfortable, I plan to make another and take up the hem a few inches for a comfortable "shorty" summer night gown! 



8192: Renaissance Gown (OOP) - Recommended

I loved this pattern the moment I bought it way back in in 1998! It’s not only well drafted, but it’s a very flattering design for all body types and it's easy enough to construct for the novice sewer. My favorite piece is the shift (under-gown) because it is such a versatile piece and can be used for many historically inspired gowns. I have made so many variations of this pattern it’s staggering! But why not use what genuinely works? For the gown pictured here, please note that I drafted princess-style sleeves and attached an organza over-skirt to the bodice, neither of which are included in the original pattern (the original pattern includes two bodice variations, two sleeve variations, and the shift). 

The gown pictured was created for my sister for a themed wedding. It's constructed from a forest green crushed velvet, gold bridal satin, and olive/burgundy iridescent organza; bodice trimmed in burgundy and gold braiding.



9225: Regency Dress (OOP) - Recommended

While this is not meant to be an historically accurate pattern, it is pretty and relatively easy to use. One minor adjustment is needed in the bodice, and that's the size of the arm hole – it needs to be enlarged by about 1-2 inches for a proper and comfortable fit (no need to adjust the sleeve to make up for the added width of the arm hole, there is more than enough sleeve to compensate for the adjustment increase). 

Like Simplicity 4055, it is very important when making this gown that you determine your hip measurement. Again, this Regency skirt pattern is too small and needs some added yardage for a proper fit. The skirt should measure at least double that of your hip size (my hip is 41", therefore my shirt width should be no less than 82"), although I usually triple the hip measurement for a fuller look. 

For the bodice, do select the pattern size that is closest to the wearer's full-bust measurement because it is darted. Here the pattern is very accurate. As with any fitted bodice, darts will need to be adjusted according to the wearer's under and full bust measurements. Please note that when I worked with this pattern, I only used the bodice and sleeve pieces, as shown in the accompanying photographs. I removed the modern feature of the zipper in favor of hooks and eyes. For aesthetics, I constructed my own decorative placket and left off the neck ruffling. Both gowns are constructed of cotton and trimmed in satin ribbon.

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