I did something a bit different with this dress than what I've done in the past. My typical dress pattern is four panels that are all slightly different. I would cut out the dress according to those panels, and then adjust on my body each time for a more perfect, entirely custom fit. For this dress, however, I decided to give a symmetrical pattern a try. The best fitting dress I have currently is my Red Rose Dress, so I laid that down on some paper and traced around it for an averaged pattern for the front and back- just two pattern pieces. This could have ended in disaster, but at the same time, I was entirely too curious to see what would happen to let the risk scare me.
This made the layout of the dress on my 5 yards of linen much less complicated. I was able to get the entire body of the dress cut out as 6 pieces (4 panels and two gores) with 6 cuts. The side gores are actually integrated into the skirt already to make the best use of the fabric. Again, that could ultimately end in disaster, since those seams will be bias-to-bias, and over time may warp.
I was surprised to find that the dress was much too large when I quickly assembled it and tried it on. Primarily, I'd provided too much at the sides of my front panels, and generally too much curve everywhere. I don't think this was faulty pattern copying (though I'm sure there is some of that), as much as working with much more elastic linen. I ended up removing about 2" at each side seam on the front panels, an inch+ on the shoulder seam on the back pieces, and several other curve adjustments on the center seams on both front and back. I did my best to ensure that these changes were still symmetrical, to keep my experiment going.
In terms of the experiment, there are some notable (and noticeable) ways that the symmetrical patterning does not function as well as the custom pattern. The first is at the front.
The center seam swerves just a bit at the top. I'm not as concerned by this, though, since I'll be finishing this seam with lacing, which will mostly conceal and correct this. I'm also getting a very slight amount of quad-boob, but that will change when I add sleeves. Could change for the better or the worse, though, so let's keep out fingers crossed on that one, shall we?
The other, more obvious issue is related. On the front side seams of my custom pattern, the bust curve is pronounced, especially on the left. This is the adjustment that positions my bust equally across my chest, putting my cleavage line in the right spot. Without that curve, the seam pulls forward, out of line. This is not ideal- the seam should be a nice straight line.
When I had a curve on that seam while in the adjustment phase, my boobs took advantage of it a bit too much, and I ended up with the wrong breast shape entirely. Getting the front tight enough to get the best fit caused this seam shifting as a side effect. To compensate without going to extremes, I removed most of the curve on the center front seam, turning it back into (practically) a straight seam. By not forcing my breasts to pick a side in the middle, they fill out across my chest ever-so-slightly-better, which is impossible to tell from the photo, but made a noticeable difference in the way it felt. Just trust me on that one.
This is something I've noticed in the past, and one of the ways I think large chested women should experiment when they are fitting their kirtles- start with a straight seam and add only the slightest S-curve (out over the breast, in just under it) if they feel a bit too flat. I know this goes against the popular opinion that a large bust needs a larger curve, but I think that's giving extremely large breasts too much license. I've proven that in my own efforts. The straighter my front seam (set at the right point- not too loose or too tight), the better my shape.The few dresses I have with straight seams that don't work are those in which the seam is too tight. I haven't given my bust enough room, so it breaks the line, or it's too loose, so the supportive curves at the side seams are undermined and don't have a chance to function properly.
On this dress, at this point, further adjustments to try to fix those side seam lines would probably do more harm than good. I'm getting the right amount of support, and my body curves are mostly correct for the style (for being plus size, anyway). Plus, as I said, it feels good.
This dress is a bottom layer dress, and will hopefully look something like this when complete:
I'll be doing long sleeves that slightly overlap my hand, finished with some brass buttons (which are actually plastic, but look pretty convincingly metallic.)
I can't go too wild with the length of the sleeves, or the fullness of the cuff, though, since I still have diapers to change, if you know what I mean. The linen is such a neutral color that I can wear it under any of my wool gowns without making a bold color statement. It's nice to be subtle sometimes.