Pattern Review – StyleArc Pippa’s Dress

This is what I call an “Epic Dress” (thank you for that, Georgene!) and the review is pretty epic, too. So pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and bear with me as I tell you about my dress for this year’s Winchester Hospital gala.

Pattern Description: From StyleArc’s website, “PIPPA DRESS: Gorgeous Pippa’s bridesmates [sic] dress with cap sleeve, cowl neck, bust under lay, Lace edging, small back train, centre back loops or optional invisable [sic] zip.”

Sizing: 6-20. I made a size 10

Fabric Used: An absolutely stunning and (you guessed it) sold out 4-ply silk crepe from Gorgeous Fabrics. Occasionally, someone on a sewing forum or group will ask the question, “What is your favorite fabric?” For me? 4 ply silk crepe. Hands down and no questions asked. It is a joy to sew, and even more of a joy to wear. But I digress… French beaded Chantilly lace and silk habotai from Lace Star on 40th Street in New York City. What can I say? They had the right color lining and I didn’t. 🙂

How gorgeous are these, I ask you?

Needle/Notions Used: Universal 70/10, Gutterman thread.

Tips Used during Construction: And Now, a Word from the Pressinatrix, The Right Bra Makes All the Difference

Did it look like the photo or drawing when you got through? Yes.

How were the instructions? Like other StyleArc patterns, they use industry-standard instructions, so they are kind of minimal. But the fact is, I didn’t need them. This pattern is so beautifully drafted that it goes together with no hassles. Plus, with the changes I made (see below), I had to do things differently.

Construction Notes: I first started on this dress in August, and I brought the muslin for fitting to the Sit and Sew with Susan Khalje and Kenneth King. We did some initial fittings, and made several changes. First, I eliminated the shoulder pads. I did a FBA and lowered the bust darts (sigh). I also added shoulder darts to shape it around the neck a little better (thank you, Susan Khalje!). Because of the bust changes, I did some length adjustments on the cowl.

When I first made the muslin, I thought the neckline was kind of high, so I lowered the V by about an inch and a half. I stayed the neckline edges with silk habotai selvages.

And then there was the lace. I added a lace overlay on the upper bodice. This one took some thinking, because I wanted the eyelashes on the lace to float free above the neckline. Here are the steps I took to do that.

  1. Trace off one half of the bodice pattern.
  2. Fold out the darts and smooth it flat.
  3. Lay the half-bodice pattern on the lace so that the neckline lies slightly below the scalloped edges (with the eyelashes) of the lace fabric.
  4. Cut out the lace along the shoulder, armscye side and lower bodice seams. When I reach the center front seam, cut around the lace motifs.
  5. Using cotton basting thread, mark the center front seam.
  6. Repeat for the other half of the bodice.
  7. Once both bodice pieces are cut out, lay one over the other, matching the CF markings.
  8. Make an applique seam (see Susan Khalje’s Bridal Couture for how-to) around the motifs at the center front. This will give you your lace overlay.
  9. Baste the lace overlay to the dress outer shell bodice piece along the seamlines.

At this point, if you have a dress form, lay the combined bodice on the form. If you don’t have a form, drape it on yourself and enlist a friend to carefully pin it at various points. Make sure you don’t pin it to the form (or to yourself, ouch). Tack the lace discreetly to the outer shell fabric. This will keep the lace (which in my case is heavier than the crepe, thanks to the beading) from drooping downward.

After I attached the lace, I spent the better part of an afternoon pulling teeny weeny beads out of the seam allowances to reduce bulk. But once the lace was in, the rest was easy. With Susan’s help back in the summer, I redrafted the sleeves to be a two-piece cap sleeve that hugs the shoulder cap (the original McQueen dress had raglan sleeves which did this).  I sewed the side and shoulder seams. I pinned the cowl and lace overlay out of the way at the neckline:

Get the lace out of the way

Once that was done, I tried it on and tacked the cowl to the bodice. This is important, because (especially if you are busty) if you don’t, then from the side, you look like the prow of a ship. I just used a loose tailor tack. It let the cowl move, but kept it close. I sewed the lining and outer shell together at the neckline, then finished the hems and gave it a final steam-out. You’ve probably seen it already, but here’s a replay of the final product.

The Full Monty

Likes/Dislikes: Love. Love. LOVE! At one point last night, I was walking down the hallway back to the ballroom. I passed two women who were staring at me, and I heard one say, “I love that dress!” Can I just tell you? I was walking on air!

Would you do it again? Would you recommend it? I would definitely do it again. This pattern was beautifully drafted, and it went together so well. Would I recommend it? Hell yeah! I’m thinking I may make this up at some point in a knee-length version for a dressy but not formal look.

Conclusion: I was so happy with this dress. I love it, love it, love it! I’m going to wear it again for DH’s cousin’s daughter’s bat mitzvah (a black-tie affair at the Mandarin Oriental in Manhattan). It’s a great pattern. Here are pictures of the gala, so you can see it in action.

Susan came to the gala with us. She's GORGEOUS! But you knew that.

DH and me with Cynthia and Alan

On the dance floor

What can I say? This dress is a winner.

Happy sewing!

30 thoughts on “Pattern Review – StyleArc Pippa’s Dress”

  1. Lori says:

    Your dress is so gorgeous and you look fabulous. Wonderful job.

  2. Irene says:

    Your blog wouldn’t let me leave a comment yesterday, but I just had to add my two-cents. You look amazing! The dress is absolutely gorgeous!

  3. (Long-time lurker, btw.) I don’t know when I’ll have an occasion to sew a dress like this, but after reading this review, I want to. The dress is beautiful on you and the color is divine. You look like a million bucks. Lovely fabric, lovely dress, lovely occasion!

  4. Phyllis says:

    Bra fitting also applies to daughters not just those of us who’ve had kids! There is nothing worse than seeing a busty teenager wearing a bra that doesn’t fit.

  5. AllisonC says:

    You look positively glowing in this dress, it’s clear you love it and I’m not surprised – gorgeous!

  6. JustGail says:

    The dress is gorgeous, and you look great in it! And Susan looked wonderful too. Thanks for the tips on how you did the lace and cowl.

  7. Renee says:

    Wow! That dress is amazing. Thank you for the review.

  8. kathleen says:

    What a beautiful dress – it looks GREAT on you!

  9. devra says:

    love seeing the finished product. all of that effort pays off in how perfectly constructed the dress is and how amazing it looks on you.

  10. Wow — your dress is amazing, and it’s perfect on you!

  11. Andrea Wise says:

    Stunning dress and beautiful on you. Thank you for sharing all the details of such a fabulous project.

  12. Robyn says:

    You look stunning. Your dress is just gorgeous, all the fitting work certainly paid off. I’ve yet to try the Style Arc patterns but everyone raves about them so maybe I need to give them a try.

  13. Lisa Laree says:

    *sigh* To. Die. For. I don’t have enough unique superlatives… 😉

  14. Linda L says:

    Beautiful dress! I so admire your sewing talent!

  15. Terri in SF says:

    That is one gorgeous dress. I LOVE it. The color is stunning and you look even more beautiful than you normally do! Can’t say enough…so, so, so pretty. Nice job!

  16. Veronica Braden says:

    Awesome!!!!! Two gorgeous ladies in two absolutely stunning outfits!!!!

  17. Sheri says:

    Ann, YOU are gorgeous!

  18. Handmade says:

    Fabulous – so flattering – lovely to get compliments – they are deserved!!

  19. Marie Kolanda says:

    Incredibly gorgeous.

  20. vicki says:

    Too gorgeous! You and the dress look stunning.

  21. Cissie Wellons says:

    OMG, Ann! You look like a movie star! Truly. The dress is stunning. All that hard work and attention to detail really paid off. And Susan is none too shabby herself!!

  22. sara says:

    Love both versions of the dress. I have sewn for years….. but have not ever used a Style arc pattern. After seeing this dress I am ready to give one a whirl! Thanks for sharing with us!

  23. Well done on this dress! Fits you very well and looks perfect

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