Sewing A Dress With An Overlay

I've always loved clothes with interesting or unusual details so sewing this Vogue dress with an overlay looked right up my street. I decided to make it in this delightful French viscose. I love the royal blue and flecks of yellow not to mention the 70s vibe. The fabric also drapes beautifully, which I felt was important for this dress. I swotted up on reviews of the pattern and made a few alterations as a result. It was a fun little project so let me tell you all about it.

Fitting the Bodice

Two things I read about this pattern were that the armholes fell quite low and potentially so did the neckline. I decided to make a very quick toile to see if this was the case for me. The armholes were definitely very low, although once tied the overlay would cover this up. However, forewarned I decided to take them up an inch. The neckline didn't seem too low on me, but with a small bust I'm never particularly worried about that anyway. Nothing to see there folks!

Front view

I also noticed my usual problem - the shoulder seams were falling back. I added 3/4" in on the back bodice piece of the dress to account for my high round back and brought the shoulder seam forward. As always I referred to the Fit For Real People book AKA my fitting bible. I love the way this book shows you how to make alterations on different styles of garment. The raglan sleeve example was very helpful for adjusting the sleeves on this dress.

I didn't bother adding anything into the overlay because it was so loose fitting.

Cutting Out and Pattern Matching

I cut a size 12, which was an inch or two smaller than my waist measurement, but knew it would be fine seeing as it was an elasticated waist.  I took great care to pattern match the fabric, but forgot to take seam allowances into account down the bodice centre front seam. Therefore the pattern doesn't continue perfectly. However, it is symmetrical and lines up well so it actually feels like a nice little unintentional design feature.

Pattern Matching Fabric

I struggled to find a way to get all of the pattern pieces out of my fabric. I just couldn't find a way to cut the overlay with the ties as a continuous piece. Angela suggested I cut the ties separately by cutting where the side seam would lie. Once again I took great care to pattern match, this time allowing for seams and I was thrilled with the results. Ok so it isn't 100% perfect, but it isn't a huge way off. You can read some tips on pattern matching in a blog post I wrote about sewing a tartan pinafore dress here.

Pattern Matching Fabric 2

I had to create a facing for the overlay ties. The wrong side would be visible and the fabric wasn't double sided. This was easy enough to do. I cut a third and fourth tie piece and sewed them to the original pieces with a 1/4" seam allowance. Then I trimmed and clipped the seam allowances to achieve a good finish.

Creating a Facing

I should also mention I cut the ties a little longer than the pattern piece. The reviews I read said they were a little short so this was another good tip. I wasn't able to cut them as long as I would like due to the amount of fabric, but I'm happy with how they turned out.

The pattern suggested lining the skirt, but it wasn't necessary with the fabric I used so I skipped this step.

Front view

French Seams

The pattern instructions suggested sewing double seams. In the reviews I read people had chosen to sew French seams instead. I decided to follow my sewing buddies/idols and go with the French seams. You can see a tutorial for sewing French seams here.

The French seams were going swimmingly. Until I tried to top stitch either side of the centre front seam. One side was no problem. The side with the bulk was a hideous nightmare!

I lost count of how many times I attempted to sew it and unpicked it. I tried using a special machine foot, hand turning the wheel and lifting the pressure foot determined to conquer that seam!

Eventually I thought, life is just too short for this and omitted the top stitching! It wasn't really visible on the fabric anyway so it was no great loss to the overall look of the dress. It was, however, a saviour for my sanity!

Back view of the dress

Sewing the Overlay

I thought the overlay might be complicated to sew, which was ridiculous. Why is it I always assume something will be complicated or difficult just because I've never done it before? When I made the toille I realised it was actually super easy. Until I had to sew the shoulder seams that is. I spent a good portion of time flipping the bodice and overlay around in the air trying to work out how it would all come together.

Eventually I realised what caused the confusion. The back bodice shoulder seam finished part way along the overlay and front bodice shoulder seams rather than all three matching up at the edges. Once this penny dropped it was simple sewing all the way.

The pattern instructions suggested reinforcing the overlay at the edge of the gathers by sewing a piece of fabric at each edge of the slit. I couldn't work out how to avoid visible stitches where I didn't want them on the right side of the overlay. I decided to cut a piece of lightweight iron on interfacing and attach this instead. It wasn't visible from the right side, but did the job perfectly.

Unfortunately I forgot to sew two rows of gathering stitches rather than one. It would have been much easier to achieve even gathering stitches with two lines, but after messing around a bit I was happy with the end result.

Gathered Overlay

The pattern suggested a rolled hem finish for the overlay. I decided to three thread overlock the raw edge, press it under and stitch in place instead. It was much quicker and easier and still gave the lovely drapey, fluted effect on the sleeves.

I used the same hem finish for the skirt hem and should also mention I shortened the skirt by about one and a half inches. Now I've seen the photos I'm wondering if I should have shortened it less. I pinned it before cutting the fabric, but this is one decision I always find hard to make. I'm always scared of looking frumpy and need to learn that knee length loose fitting doesn't always equate to frumpy!

Three Thread Overlock Hem Finish

The Verdict

Overall I'm pleased with this dress. I think it has a definite 70s vibe and I'm a 70s vibe kinda girl. It was meant to be a casual day dress, but I've been waiting for the right outfit to wear with the wedge heels in the photos for a while and I think this dress is it. So maybe it is more of a casual evening out type of dress.

I love the gathered detail at the back, the fluttery sleeves, the overlay and ties and it was fun and easy to sew. All in all a good little project.

You can find the pattern here and the fabric here.

Have fun sewing!


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