Sometimes I think back on all the events in my life that have required a special occasion dress and wish that I had been as confident in my sewing skills back then to make exactly what I wanted. I’ve worn so many dresses that I’ve had to compromise a bit on—a too-short hem, the wrong length of sleeve, uncomfortable fabric—and then end up wearing only once because I actually really hated everything about the dress. I’ve gotten lucky with a couple of last minute finds ($30 Anthro clearance rack dress worn to two 2018 weddings, I salute you) but overall I just really don’t love fancy dress shopping. Thankfully sewing patterns for formal dresses have just gotten So Much Better over the years. In high school my mom made me a Pepto Bismol-pink satin halter dress with dye-to-match shoes when I was on the homecoming court (some school administrator with terrible fashion sense chose the ensemble, not me!), and it was a torturous experience to wear it, and probably even more torturous for my mom to sew it 😂
A few weeks ago I mentioned that, after much deliberation, I finally narrowed down my dress options for a friend’s upcoming wedding and I went with V9253. (Note: Be warned that if you’ve never sewn a Big 4 pattern before, CHECK THE FINISHED GARMENT MEASUREMENTS BEFORE YOU CUT OUT YOUR FABRIC. I know it’s common knowledge among more experienced sewists that Big 4 patterns have a lot of ease, meaning you probably need to size down from your usual sizing, but it’s worth repeating because I only learned that I needed to size down after reading lots of sewing blogs.) I’m happy to report back that my vision for my Reformation dress replica was realized—and at about an eighth of the cost! V9253 was voted Pattern of the Year in 2017 by Pattern Review users, which was great for my research when I was figuring out what alterations I needed to make. And alter it I did…
(Note: I wrote most of this post about three weeks ago and then let it sit till I got pictures of my dress, and then last night when I was finishing it up there was a glitch in the post editor and I lost my post. So, I hope I can remember all the details of my dress!)
- I closed the V neck and raised it 4″. To do this, I used a tutorial by SewToFit that I found via a post on Pattern Review, and it was very detailed and helpful. I do wish I had raised it up even more because the rayon grew a bit over the evening and I found myself tugging at the bodice a bit (which I think could also have been avoided if I had sewn the bodice in an XS instead of S). In the video Andrea leaves a little wedge on the seam allowance that she would have sewn together and caught in the bias finish, but I didn’t do that because…
- I finished the neckline with a facing instead of bias binding. I’ve already discussed my love for a good facing in my post about my Hinterland dress, and for a more formal dress it seemed to be the ideal option. I’ve drafted many a facing for a round neck but not for a V neck, so I followed a video tutorial from Made to Sew. Be warned: the tutorial clocks in at over 20 minutes long with a lot of unnecessary (to me) chatter, but you can fast forward through most of it and skip to the relevant parts.
- I added a slit to the center front of the skirt. V9253 has a very swishy skirt but it felt like it needed a little more fun in the front. I also knew I’d be really hot at the wedding and would want some ventilation 🙂 I have some regrets about how I constructed this slit—I should have altered the pattern slightly so that I could make a mitered hem and create a clean finish on the slit, like I did with my Orchid Midi, but I was getting lazy by the end and just finished the edges and topstitched the slit like you see in this tutorial.
Other than that I pretty much sewed the dress as the pattern instructions indicated, with some minor exceptions. I did an invisible zipper instead of a regular zipper (the only reason I can think that it calls for an exposed zip is to make the pattern truly Very Easy), and I tacked on the sash to the side seams of the bodice because it’s only attached in the back by the zipper, making it really flimsy and slippery. I actually might tack it on in front too because the tie kept sliding down all night! I originally thought I would do French seams but I was getting tired of constructing and just serged the edges and it still looks nice. I made an Ida Clutch (free pattern!!!!) to go with my ensemble and it was the perfect cherry on top.
Post-script: I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the dress I sewed for the wedding pre-party (this is a thing, I guess), but there isn’t much to say about it because I sewed it straight out of the envelope as is. I made Simplicity 8636 in a breezy cotton gauze from Joann, and it’s like a cocktail nightgown. My grandmas used to wear dresses like this around the house so I made sure that it hit above the knee to get the cocktail party look rather than the slumber party look. Overall a really great pattern and quick sew, despite doing French seams, that I’ll probably try again (as a top? omit the ruffle? in a solid fabric? The possibilities are endless).
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P A T T E R N : Very Easy Vogue 9253, view B in size small
F A B R I C : floral rayon challis from Fabrics R Us
M O D I F I C A T I O N S : raised neckline 4″; inserted a facing instead of bias binding around the neckline; added a knee-high slit to the center front skirt
O V E R A L L : really as easy as the reviews rave, even with the modifications! This is a great beginner-friendly dress, especially for a formal gown, though it is easily adaptable to be a more casual dress sewn up in view A with a cotton or linen.