And here's the photo I would have used to show the dress, if it wasn't blurry (and don't ask me what my hair is up to these days. That's a matter for another post):
The pattern is from the popular Stylish Dress Book 1:
All the dresses in this book are labeled A-Z, and this one is Dress H. I was sold on the shaped, gathered straps, falling over the shoulders just so:
And I was feeling like a lunatic for having a stash of Japanese pattern books for 2 1/2 years and not sewing from a single one. Several people have suggested I sew from these books as the sizing might have a better unmodified fit for me than American patterns. Oh, and Karyn from The Workroom has sewn a bunch of garments from Japanese pattern books that are very inspirational. So I finally got off my duff and sewed this dress.
In many of these books, there is a lump of paper stapled in the back of the book with all the patterns printed on them, overlapped in a big jumble (very much like Burda and other magazines). You unfold the oversized sheets of paper and trace out the pieces you need, then add your seam allowance.
There is a great series of posts with detailed instructions on sewing from Japanese pattern books over at Label-Free. I mean, the whole thing is beautifully written and photographed. As an adult learning professional I was blown away by the quality of these instructions! Aaaaand it won't surprise you that I didn't use those great instructions at all -- I just sort of went on instinct with the whole process, from selecting the pattern to construction. I think most advanced beginners/ intermediate or vaguely adventurous sewists who aren't native Japanese speakers should be OK half-winging like I did. And for everyone else, there are those great Label-Free instructions! My strongest suggestion is to be diligent about transferring notches/ markings. Really pays off later.
As for oversized paper to trace onto... sometimes I finish a class and I've written notes for everyone on the flip chart, and I frequently don't re-use those flip chart pages because they are specific for that group of learners. Since I don't trust most hotels to recycle, I end up taking the oversized sheets from the flip chart (I think the standard size is 24" x 36", or 61cm x 91 cm for my metrically-inclined pals) home to draw on the back with my son before it goes into recycling. In this case, I recycled two of these oversized sheets to trace out the bodice pattern pieces. Bonus: I happened to recycle flip chart paper with the strip of adhesive on the top, like a sticky note -- and it's just the right stickiness to hold the tracing paper to the pattern piece and peels off easily when tracing is done!
The pattern itself was perfect for me. I chose a size 7 based on the sizing chart, and even though my measurements fall between a 7 and 9, all the styles are so loose that I went with the smaller size. It is still loose enough that I omitted the side zipper and it slips on over my head easily. Everything lined up and the shape (though on the less shaped side for sure) was already petite-ified, requiring no pinching an inch in length at the waist as I typically do for a Big 4 pattern. I shortened the dress by a good 5" at the bottom hem, as it seems many of these dresses are meant to fall mid-calf -- not the most flattering length for me. I might get away with it if I could sport a softer voice and waifish demeanor, as I imagine these models have. But not me.
I did fudge a little as this was a shirt refashion: specifically, I omitted 3" in width from the front bodice and 2.5" in width from the back bodice because the shirt simply wasn't wide enough. The fit is still fine and frankly, I think my version has a slightly more flattering shape than the original in the book. The dress buttons up the back.
I bought this pattern book and its follow-up, Stylish Dress Book 2, from YesAsia.com, which offers reasonable prices and free shipping. This is a great place to go if you know exactly which book you want to buy and they stock it, but Amazon.co.jp offers a much wider selection (and hefty shipping charges if you are buying less than about $200 in merchandise last time I checked). There are sellers on Ebay and Etsy who specialize in the Japanese sewing/ craft books, too, but the total cost including shipping sent me back to YesAsia.
I'm no expert sewing from these books so if you have some tips to share, please leave them in a comment! I can see myself using these books more in the future.
In case you're wondering why I made this dress in these fabrics in the middle of winter, it's because I'm going to Hawaii for a week in January and wanted a new dress or two to wear! Yes, a week on vacation with my BFF, sans husband and child. I know lots of men and women do this, but this is my first time and I have entertained feelings of guilt. I've left home for work tons of times, but to laze on the beach for seven full days? My husband is fully supportive! I kept reminding myself I need and deserve this trip. Maybe this new dress is a sign I'm getting on board emotionally. :)
What about you -- have you taken a luxurious holiday just for you? Did you feel guilty? Did you completely get over it?