Marianne Dress Sew-Along: Choosing a Size

 marianne dress

Today we are going to decide what size Marianne Dress we want to make. Selecting a size is a very critical step in the sewing process. When I teach, often my students want to rush through the first part of the class where we choose a size and cut out the pattern and fabric, but these steps are the building blocks towards a successful project. You cannot just rush to the sewing, because if you do, after all that work you might have something that is ill fitting. No one wants that!

When working with wovens it is always a conversation of how much ease will be included based on the style of the item and how it should fit. For example, a baby doll dress like my Chelsea Dress has a lot more ease than a fitted bodice, like on my Emery Dress. All these conversations are about positive ease, meaning that there is distance between your body and the garment.

In knitwear, most often there is negative ease, which means that the finished measurements of the completed item is actually smaller than the body it's going on. That is how a t-shirt stretches and fits snugly around your body. But just like with a woven garment, this is 100% personal choice. I rarely like my knits to have negative ease, unless it's a swimsuit, leggings, bra, or some other similar shapewear or workout item. For t-shirts, sweatshirts, dresses, and knits that will be worn out of the privacy of my apartment or the gym, I prefer positive ease. This might stem from having been born with curves, or a sense of modesty, but sausage casing dresses are just not my thing.

When I designed the Marianne Dress, it was important to me that it be as flattering as a knit sack-like dress could be. This dress should fit around the shoulders, on the arms, and at the bust, and then from there it should flow and glide down the body. If you choose to make your version tighter, that is totally your choice and the joy of sewing for yourself is being able to make those custom choices. If you want to wear the dress based on how I intended it to be worn, here's how to pick your size.

First, we want to measure the bust. Use a tape measure and measure around the fullest part of the bust. Remember that we are taking your actual bust measurement, so be sure to keep the tape measure level around the back and snug on the body. No boob squishing, but firm around the body is what we're after.

Next take your waist measurement. Stand up straight and lean to the left or right side. Where your body creases is where your natural waist is. Again, keep your tape measure snug and mark down your measurement. The hip is about 8" below the waist, or at the fullest part of the body, likely around the butt.

Compare your numbers to the body measurement sizes on the back of the Marianne Dress pattern. Do you fall perfectly into one size? Congratulations! That is rare. Most of you will not. So, what do you do if you don't land all into one size column? Here are some examples and how to handle them. The good news is that with this type of knit dress, there is a lot of wiggle room and fitting is much easier than with bust darts and princess seams and such on a woven garment. Yay!

Bust fits into one size - waist and hips fits into smaller size
For this, you have two options: First, you can make the dress to your bust measurement and accept that the skirt portion will be slightly fuller than it was designed to be, as your hips and waist are smaller than the size your bust fits into. Or, you can blend from a larger size to a smaller size after the bottom of the armscye. To do this, I would suggest only blending three or less sizes, as anything else will dramatically change the shape of the dress. Simply use a ruler and draw a line from the curve under the armscye to the hip, making sure to use a gentle slope and no drastic angles. This will keep the flow of the side seams in place.

Bust fits into one size - waist and hips fits into larger size
This is also very common, and personally this is what I have to do for every pattern I make. My shoulders are small and I'm an average B cup, but I have junk in the trunk, so nothing fits my hips at the same size as my upper body. No worries, simply follow the exact steps I wrote for the above alteration, but instead of blending from a larger size to a smaller one, you'll be going from a smaller size to a larger one. Easy peasy!

The dress length is too long or too short
Witten on the pattern for both View A and B is a "lengthen and shorten" line. That is precisely where you want to cut the pattern. Then all you need to do is add or subtract the amount you want to lengthen or shorten the dress by, and re-draw the side seam lines. Super easy!

These are the main issues you will be faced with, but if you have specific questions, please let me know in the comments below and I will do my best to help your fitting issues from afar!

Once you've made any alterations, then simply cut out the paper pattern pieces for the view you want to sew up. Tomorrow we start cutting the fabric! Yay! So join me here to actually get to the meat of the project!