The painful Peony

In exactly three weeks one of my oldest friends is getting married, and I am yet to make a frock for the wedding! My plan thus far has been to make the Colette Peony. After much research I blithely decided that the Peony was the dress for me, and felt confident that, despite the vast majority of sewists out there struggling to get the bodice to fit well without repeated muslins, I would be able to whip it up fairly easily, and may even be one of the few lucky ones that doesn't need many alterations. Bear in mind I have never, ever made a pattern grading to multiple sizes, let alone made fit changes like dart placement etc. No pressure.....

God, so wrong.

I am up to bodice muslin 3. I initially cut a 2 for the bust, grading out to an 8 based on waist and upper bust measurements. I read somewhere that the shoulder fit is likely to be better if one has a C cup, to cut the bust baised on upper bust measurements rather than the full bust. So far so good. My future mother-in-law used to be a professional seamstress, and she gave me the tip when tracing off my pattern to highlight the lines of the sizes I wanted to trace and cut - so simple but a great idea for a relatively inexperienced dressmaker, especially with a pattern that ranges from a size 0 to 18 on the one pattern - so many lines!

Highlighted where I wanted to trace, grading from a size 2 bust to an 8 waist

Straight up I could see that the bust darts were way too high for me, and it was too short, and maybe a bit tight through the waist. And that was just the front. The back - mega back gapage. The shoulder darts seemed tiny so I made them a little bigger, and subsequently gave myself a ballooning mid back. I ended up unpicking the bust darts and just pinned the fabric in the spot that looked like they lined up with my bust apex. The side bust dart was a little long, and the lower bust dart was too long and maybe too wide at the bottom AND they were weirdly too close together so I narrowed them and moved them out slightly. I chopped these out of my pattern, stuck them in what I thought was the right spot and made a Frankenstein front bodice ready for version 2. I was starting to feel optimistic I was getting somewhere.   (apologies for crapola blurred mirror selfies)

RHS original bust dart placement - crazy high! Plus choking neck. LHS approximate apex dart positioning.
And too short!  
Mega neck gapage.

Should darts widened to address neck gapage creates bubble back! WTF!

Version 2 of the bodice involved extending the length by 1.5inches (probably a little too much), trimming off some of the neckline to a more flattering depth, and repositioning the darts. The back I also extended by 1.5 inches and went back to the original shoulder darts in an attempt to get rid of the back bubble and only have toe deal with neckline gape.  The front was a little better, darts in a better position, but instead of being fitted under the bust the front just hung straight down - no curve hugging! And the back - mega mega sway back issue. So I need extra length in the front and sides, but due to my sway back, there was now way too much fabric in my middle back.  But I know that's not a hard one to correct. I decided to use method 1 of this tutorial to try to remove excess gapage in the neck back, and it seemed to do the trick, until I turned back around, and my lovely smooth neckline on the front suddenly had developed... mega gapage. Dammit! And somehow mucking around with the back centre had done something weird over the front bust, it had become too tight.

Crazy frankenstein pattern with darts chopped, moved and adjusted. 

RHS bust darts better position but a bit long - need to shorten by 0.5-1 inch... Length of bodice better too.

Glamorous side boob view - darts too long but better height BUT loose under bust now - Why? WHY?

Better fitting with upper back and shoulder changes but fabric pooling in lower back due to sway back, and bloody front gapage! 
Sway back adjustment needed! 


So it's looking like I'm going to have to make at least 2 more muslins. Version 3 I intend to:
- cut size 3 bust, size 8 waist
- deepen the front neckline so I'm not choked
- add 1 inch length to the front and back pieces
- shift the side bust dart down, and the lower bust darts out AND shorten them.
- make back shoulder darts slightly bigger but not TOO big to avoid bubble back.
- do a sway back adjustment on back bodice of about 1.5 inches. At least I can see the back length on my back of version 1 was ok.
- possibly take out a wedge of fabric from upper centre back. Actually almost certainly I will have to do this to address inevitable gapage.

If by some freakish miracle I manage to get all these changes correct, I will then have to see if the front neck gapes, and if so do an adjustment following the same tutorial I mentioned above but method 2, where the excess neck gaping gets transferred into the side bust dart. This will technically take me into muslin 4.

And I haven't even got to the sleeves yet.

So I'm a bit despondent. I've got a divine piece of silk cotton poly from The Fabric Store waiting to be made up and I'm chopping through my muslin fabric at an alarming rate. Today I decided that if muslin 3 wasn't close to success I'm going to have a crack at New Look 6000 instead, either as the whole dress or using the bodice and sleeves and add the Peony skirt to it. Wish me luck.