In honor of the holiday season upon us, we were inspired to refashion our Wren Dress into something a bit more elegant. It only takes a few tweaks to the paper pattern and a few yards of silk to turn this sweet dress into a tailored, sophisticated gown. What's more, the contrasting band lends itself to a number of fun color combinations.
So, here's how you do it. First, trace off your basic pattern pieces in the required size.
Next, slash a 1 1/2" horizontal Band from the Front pattern piece perpendicular to the center front line. In this case I positioned the top of this Band approximately 2" down from the underarm point. Then extend the pleat lines vertically across the new Top Front piece. Repeat these steps with the Back pattern piece.
You'll see in the above picture that the Band is much shorter than the original width of the garment. To get this, you must fold out the amount of the pleats. Once this is completed, add a 1/2" seam allowance along both long edges of the Bands to accommodate the seam allowances of the finished Bands. The easiest way to do this is to retrace the original pieces onto bigger pieces of paper, then draw in the seam allowances.
I didn't make any changes to the Sleeves, so once you've made these changes to the Front and Back pieces, you are ready to cut your fabric. In addition to cutting out separate the Sleeves and the Top and Bottom Front and Back pieces in you main fabric, you will need to cut out the Bands in a contrasting fabric as well.
Using the newly extended pleat guidelines, pin the pleats on the Top Front and Top Back pieces in place.
Secure these pleats by basting across them at the edge of the Facing, at the fold line, and at the bottom of each pattern piece as shown below for the Top Back pieces. Press the pleats down. Repeat for the Top Front piece.
As directed in the pattern instructions, sew the Sleeves to Top Front and Top Back pattern pieces at the raglan seam line.
Pleat the Sleeves in a similar manner as the Top Front and Top Back. Press.
Fold the facing down so that the fold line becomes the neckline, as explained in your pattern instructions. Press.
Attach the Bands to the corresponding Top Front and Top Back piece. (Sorry for all these overexposed photos!)
For the zipper, I felt it was easiest to sew it in at this stage so that it only opened across the Band and the Top Back pieces in order for the gathers on the Back Bottom pieces (see the next step) to look more even. Importantly, I didn't have any trouble later fitting this opening over my daughter's head. PS--make sure to leave a tad more than 1/2" of the Band out of the zipper so that you can sew it to the Lower Back with 1/2" seam allowance.
One of the last steps of your revised Wren Dress is to gather the Front and Back Bottom pieces before sewing them to the Bands.
To start, sew a basting stitch across the top edge of the Front and Back Bottom pieces. Pull on the bobbin thread of the basting stitches to gather these pieces until the top edges match the length of their corresponding Bands. With the gathers spaced evenly across the seam, sew the Bottom pieces to the Bands. Press the seam allowances open.
Here's what the inside of the dress looks like right before I sewed the Sleeves and side seams closed.
All that's left now is to hem the Dress and hem and add the elastic in the Sleeves, all as detailed in the pattern's written instructions. You may also want to topstitch the facing down by "stitching in the ditch" of the raglan seams. Since the pleats are done differently in this version of the Wren Dress than the original, I found that the facing has a tendency to "pop out." Also, to get the extra fullness in the Sleeves, I like to push the elastic hem of each Sleeve up the arm slightly to cause the Sleeve to balloon out a bit.
Have fun with this version of the Wren or as you embark on your own reconstructions! Just a friendly reminder to post your creations/variations in our Flickr group!
Happy sewing! ~ Carla