I read that it is helpful to make a toile (also referred to as a muslin) before starting your actual garment. You essentially create a mockup in cheap fabric before you commit to the good stuff. It’s supposed to reduce waste of your precious fabric and, if you do it right, give you a better fit.
Some people rely on finished measurements supplied with a pattern and skip the toile altogether, but I decided to take the extra step. I really struggle with standard bust measurements in shops, so I liked the idea of being able to see how it fit before I made the commitment.
I concentrated on the bodice and sleeves only. I think once that is in place the shape of the skirt shouldn’t be a problem, but I may be tempting fate just by saying that! I can always put a toile together for the skirt if I have to.
I used some basic polyester that was the same weight as my planned cotton twill fabric – it was a bit slippery, but had roughly the same drape.
There were a few ‘huh?!’ moments when I was sewing the pieces, I’ll be honest. It’s not always clear which way you should place the fabric (especially the back neck facing section), but I figured it out after some fiddling about. I am yet to decide if it’s a good or a bad thing that my toile fabric was the same on both sides. It would have been good to make any ‘wrong side’ mistakes at this point.
This pattern uses gathers in the front bodice along most of the edges. I had never created gathers before, so I had to do a quick google. It was surprisingly straightforward. There are a lot of tutorials on how best to do these, but the basics are this: do two perpendicular rows of long stitches, pull each end to gather the fabric and you’re done!
I think I’ll be putting gathers in everything from now on! So simple to do.
My approach was a bit slap-dash and not as careful as I normally am – both a benefit and drawback of sewing a toile! One of the things I will do differently next time is to put my gathering stitches closer together, and generally sew closer to the edge of the fabric. This should hide the gathered stitches in the shoulders:
Once I sewed the back piece and two crossed front pieces together, I tried it on my new mannequin. Did I mention I get obsessed with something and end up spending all my money on it? Yeah… I ended up buying an 8 part adjustable SewDeluxe dress leg form. It. Is. Awesome.
I haven’t had a chance to pad out the bits and pieces you’re meant to so you get the perfect fit, but my general measurements are on there now, so (apart than my bust) it is true to form.
I tried the toile on the dress form and it seemed to fit ok, but when I tried it on my body the length of the bodice was too short. On the dress form it finishes just under the bust, but on me it sits right across the middle and looks a bit ridiculous.
From my research, it sounds like a standard problem that can be fixed with a full bust adjustment. This allows an increase in the bust size without contorting the shape.
I guess this is my next step! I’m really pleased I put a toile together, because I would never have been able to wear the finished dress if I had gone with the standard measurements.