March 17, 2022
We're so excited to host our first guest maker here on the blog! Bri of @BriMichelleMade is here to kick things off with her experience sewing up the Valerie Raglan Dress!
I’m calling this my Always-Everything Dress because it’s a dress I can always reach for for (just about) every occasion. I used the Valerie Raglan dress sewing pattern to create a wardrobe workhorse that really feels like me. And - spoiler alert - I'm in love!
Since I’m so excited about my new Valerie dress, I thought I’d take you along my making journey! I’ll chat a bit about what drew me to the pattern, my fabric choice and what my sewing experience was like. Read on to learn all about how I made the Valerie Raglan dress sewing pattern and it became one of my most loved pieces.
I’ll admit that I've never been a minimalist, but I do try to be mindful about my clothing and I work to create a multifunctional and cohesive wardrobe. With that in mind, I really wanted to make a garment that could work for a variety of situations. Something that would make me feel confident and present, ready to show up for whatever’s on the agenda. I’m so excited to have made the ultimate trans-seasonal, multifunctional Always-Everything Dress!
I love this dress so much. It’s been so fun to play with styling it up and down as well as layering it for different seasons. I love pairing it with heels for a dressier occasion or with sneakers for everyday. Between the style lines, the print and the little modifications I made, this dress really feels like a reflection of me. I put it on and instantly feel more confident - more like myself. I’m always amazed how I can feel so empowered and ground by sewing my own clothes.
I love the Valerie Raglan sewing pattern both for the stylistic elements, but also for practical reasons. I was so excited when I learned it was being rereleased with expanded sizing, bust cup options and two new sleeves. I chose the three-quarter length sleeve and added a cheeky little hack to adapt it to my lifestyle.
Aesthetically, I love the clean lines of the design. It’s chic and tailored, but the raglan sleeves and slash pockets give it a sporty vibe, which I love. It’s feminine and fun without being too romantic for my taste. Valerie hits that perfect balance point of cute and cool, so I knew it was the right pattern for my Always-Everything Dress.
The other thing that made me choose the Valerie pattern is that I know I’m always gonna have a great sewing experience when I choose a pattern from the Forget-me-not catalog. I know I’m in good hands when it comes to the drafting, and the instructions will hold my hand the whole time. Plus, the Valerie sewing pattern has some features that make it easier to fit to my body.
Typically for a fitted, woven bodice, I have to make adjustments for my narrow shoulders, broad back and full bust. I always love a raglan sleeve since it generally relieves my narrow shoulder and broad back issues without having to make pattern adjustments. The shoulder dart on the raglan sleeve provides just the right amount of shaping. And with the new full bust option for the Valerie bodice, I didn’t have to do a full bust adjustment either!
Another factor that always plays a part in my pattern choice is pockets. I’m really picky and I have to say these are some of my favorite pockets on any dress pattern ever. They’re so nice and roomy. Perfect for my phone or wallet or even extra snacks! Slash pockets are almost always my pocket of choice, but these ones are even better because of how the diagonal lines echo those in the raglan sleeve. I love the thoughtfulness of the design.
I knew Valerie would be the perfect pattern for my Always-Everything Dress, so when it came to choosing a fabric, I was keeping that versatility in mind. I chose a black floral viscose challis from my fabric stash. I’ve had it for years and have been waiting for the right project to use it.
I love how a light floral on a black background can work through multiple seasons. Normally, I don’t wear black in the warmer months, but I feel like the floral warms it up a bit. Conversely, I feel like the black background kind of grounds the floral print, giving it a moodier edge, which I love for the winter. Paired with the three-quarter sleeve view, it’s a perfect piece for wearing all year-round.
While I love the colors, print and floatiness of the final garment, sewing this fabric wasn’t all that fun. I anticipated some of the stretching and warping that viscose is prone to, and was luckily able to get ahead of some of it. In addition to interfacing the center back and pocket edges, per the instructions, I also added thin strips of interfacing to each of the raglan seams (sleeves, bodice front and back) as well as the neckline before staystitching.
Given how much the side seams stretched when I sewed them, I can only imagine how much the bias-cut raglan seams would have stretched, possibly resulting in a sad droopy bodice. But! Thanks to the interfacing, my raglan seams were spared. Still, the light slippery fabric was annoying to work with - pins wouldn’t stay put, it shifted and stretched. Even though I left my dress to hang overnight before leveling and hemming it, I still got some stretching through the skirt creating an almost high-low hem. I’ll call it a design choice!
Despite my viscose struggles, I really enjoyed the sewing process. While the raglan sleeve and full bust bodice options saved me a lot of work with fitting, I still made a couple of alterations to the pattern to dial in the fit.
Firstly I added 2.5cm to the length of the skirt. I’m exactly the height the pattern is drafted for, but I knew I wanted the dress to hit the top of my knee rather than “above the knee.” Super easy, I just added the length to the hem so as not to mess with the angle of the skirt.
My second adjustment was to the waist. My waist circumference puts me between size 46 and 48, while my bust is a size 44 and my hips are a 42. Now I could have graded between sizes or sized up, but instead I decided to make a really simple adjustment that gave me a great fit. Like many folks my size, more of my waist measurement is concentrated at the front of my body where my belly protrudes out. So sizing up or grading out would likely have been more difficult and wouldn’t have addressed the area where I really need the extra space.
I measured my waist sitting down to determine how much ease I’d want and used that measurement to determine how much I would need to increase the waistline. I ended up adding 4cm total to the front waistline by reducing the darts and adding width to the center front of the skirt. It fits me so well. I have all the room I need to breathe and sit and move without extra bulk where I don’t need it.
When I attached the skirt, I really liked where the waist was hitting me, but I knew that the weight of the skirt would pull and stretch it downward. I unpicked it and shortened the bodice by 1.5cm. I’m so glad I did, because after hanging overnight, the bodice had indeed stretched a bit before settling right at my natural waist. So now it’s just right!
The last and most fun modification I made was to the sleeve. Hello elastic! While I love the beautiful, clean finish of the bound edge, elastic is a more practical choice for me. It’s a super simple hack that puts this dress as an everyday option rather than a once-in-a-while wear. Between the messiness of mom-life and my hypersensitivity, it really helps me when my sleeves are tucked up and out the way. All I did was turn up the sleeve hem by 0.5cm and then another 1.5cm and hemmed it, leaving a small gap to thread my 1cm wide elastic through. Voila!
I’m so excited about my Always-Everything Dress. You'll be seeing me wear it to family dinner, school pick-up, the grocery store, the theatre - you name it! I even made a little video of how I can dress it up and down! Check it out here!
I love this dress, but more importantly, I love me in this dress. I often think about the power of dressing ourselves and how it can affect so much of how we think and feel about ourselves. I’m so grateful that sewing has allowed me to make clothing like this sweet Always-Everything Valerie Dress that not only fits my body, but makes me feel at home with myself and more ready to show up in my world.
Thanks for reading and happy sewing.
Bri (she/they) is a disabled, queer maker and the content coordinator here at Forget-me-not Patterns. She can be found on Instagram and YouTube at @BriMichelleMade.
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