Loving Etta

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Once in a blue moon a pattern is born that stops me in my tracks. In recent times I have been honing my fitting skills with Big Four patterns such as the McCalls shirtdress (M6696), rather than keeping up with all the new indie releases. But when Tilly and the Buttons released their latest pattern, Etta, I immediately fell in love.

Etta is described as ‘a classic, sixties-inspired fitted dress that everyone needs in their wardrobe’. I couldn’t agree more. The numerous darts on the bodice and skirt provide flattering shaping. I had been longing for a Mad Men-inspired fitted sheath dress. Etta is her name!

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After seeing Meg’s gorgeous floral tester version, I remembered a fabulous floral scuba that I’d made into a McCalls M6886 close-fitting pullover dress (see image below). I hadn’t worn and didn’t love it. The silhouette did not flatter, and the lack of structure didn’t suit the scuba. It was the perfect fabric for Etta, and I thought I would have enough….

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So I merrily started cutting, and found that there wasn’t enough fabric to cut the front bodice in one piece. Undeterred (although somewhat panic-stricken), I cut the front bodice in two pieces and added a centre front seam. I tried to find places in the print where it would be less noticeable. You can see the seam in the photos, but given that the scuba seems to lend itself to a structured look I don’t think it matters. I suspect that the close fit of the bodice over the bust will distract the eye from the seam, if ya catch my drift!

I made a couple of modifications to the pattern to take into account my fabric choice. Apart from the ill-fated M6886, I hadn’t worked with scuba. It has quite a thick, spongy texture which I thought would be too bulky for a zip and facings, so I omitted both. I joined the back bodice down the centre back seam. I would have cut the back as one piece, omitting the seam allowances had i had sufficient fabric. Instead of facings, I turned the seam allowance under and stitched it in place.

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The most significant modification I made was the order of construction. The key to this style of dress is a close fit. To achieve this I left the side seams until last, just before the sleeves were set in. I completed the front and back bodices, joined them at the shoulders and added the front and back skirt pieces. I didn’t know how the scuba would affect the finished garment sizing in the pattern instructions, so I pinned the sides of the dress and fitted as I went. I had originally cut a size 4 at the bust and hips, and had graded out to a 5 at the waist. By fitting the dress at the side seams I was able to remove the excess and achieve a close fit, removing all of the extra size I’d added at the waist and a bit more.

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I couldn’t be happier with the finished garment. Well done Tilly – Etta is every bit a show-stopper of a dress.