I finished another vintage dress pattern this week and wanted to share the results. This time, I had to grade the pattern up five sizes from bust 31”-waist 25.5” to 38”-29.5”. The pattern came from the same Etsy seller as my last project, so I used her guide to grading vintage patterns, which I bought along with the patterns themselves. Here is the pattern featured in this post.
In short, to grade patterns up to a bigger size, you have to cut the pattern up at specific points along the body and spread it apart. You cut it vertically to add width (which is what I did) and/or horizontally to add length.
Once again, I was lazy and just added an extra inch to the bottom of the bodice instead of using the cut-and-spread method, but then later took that inch back off once I attached the bodice to the skirt and the skirt’s weight pulled it down. But to grade it up around the circumference of my body, I followed the instructions closely. Here are my bodice pattern pieces after I cut them up, spread them apart, and then taped blank paper into the space in between so I can reuse the pattern again and it’ll already be perfect:
Those small pieces at the bottom of the photo are the facing (the lining that goes around the inside of the neckline and armholes to help them maintain their shape and structure while being worn). Those made it a little more complicated. I had to line the facing pieces up with the uncut pattern and cut-and-spread the facing at the same spot and same angle as the bodice. Even then, the longer facing piece was slightly too long and the shorter piece slightly too short, so I had to recut them out of the fabric until I got it right.
If you plan to grade a pattern up significantly, as I did, make sure you buy extra fabric length in case you have to re-cut anything! You also must make a test garment out of muslin or other junk fabric first. Here is my test muslin:
I realized at this point that I had made the total circumference a little too big (in the photo, I’m overlapping the open seam on the left and holding it in place), so I went back to my paper pattern, opened back up the outermost cut-and-spread spot, and subtracted a bit of the excess space. If I was using one-of-a-kind fabric for the final garment, I would have made a second test muslin, but my fabric was replaceable so I didn’t bother. The waist came out a little loose in the end, but it’s nothing a belt can’t fix. Plus, I did most of my sewing at night after dinner, so I think I was probably a little puffed up from a fresh meal anyway. At least now I know there’s plenty of taco room!
Unlike the last pattern I made, I didn’t use angled darts to make it more fitted to my ribcage and curve under my bust. The bodice has soft pleats at the neck, so I thought it made more sense to leave the darts a little softer and not too sharply tailored to maintain that look. The front of the skirt has matching soft pleats too.
And of course I added pockets! They’re hidden in the side seams of the skirt, starting up at the waist seam. When I’m standing straight, they make the hips stick out a little, but it’s definitely worth it to have enough space to carry my phone, wallet, keys, and sunglasses hands-free. Still, next time I may insert them lower down to avoid that. It would also make zipper insertion a lot simpler if the pocket were below it instead of lined up together.
Here is the final product:
And some bodice closeups: