I had a winter wedding to go to recently for a good friend so I decided to make up another version of McCalls 6886 because I liked my last one so much. It really is a great pattern with a lot of room for modifications and both easy and fast to sew up. After seeing some ready to wear dresses that I liked with long sleeves and exposed zippers I decided to give it a try. I knew that the zipper going the whole length down the back was risky – could either go high end or trashy depending on little details and fit – but what fun is sewing if you don’t try new things every once in awhile right?
The fabric is a wool/poyester knit blend that I bought at Mood fabrics in NYC. I liked the busy, abstract print because I thought it would be more forgiving and hide body imperfections more than a solid would. It is really soft and thick and not itchy at all which I was worried about since it has wool in it. I bought the zippers all from SIL in the garment district. They are all gold metal zippers on black.
I obviously made quite a few changes to the pattern to achieve what I was going for. I raised the neckline to be a closer fit and also added a facing instead of turning it under and stitching, just because I thought it would look a little more high end. I also made the dress quite a bit more fitted than the original pattern. To do this I just put it on inside out and pinned it until the fit was right. Most of the width was taken out of the sleeves, waistline, and below the hips.
For the exposed zippers I used this tutorial which I had used on my last version as well. The zippers at each wrist were pretty straight forward and easy to put in, but the back zipper proved to be tougher. If you decide to do anything similar I suggest two things. First, be very sure that the fit is spot on before adding the zipper. I thought that my fit was good, but the knit fabric can conceal some issues. After putting in the zipper it was obvious that I needed to take a bit of length out of the back above my waist and the zipper just made it worse. There wasn’t much I could do at this point so I did end up with a little ripple in the zipper right around my back bra strap. The other tip I have is use fusible interfacing to stabilize the hell out of that back seam. I fused long strips of 1 inch wide interfacing along both edges before sewing and that made all of the difference. If you don’t do this then your fabric will stretch slightly as you sew and you will end up with a very wavy zipper. In the end it wasn’t perfect, but it was as close as I could get without recutting the back.
The dress was perfect for the wedding and I am glad that I have another winter dress in my closet that is easy to wear with either heels or black boots.