So naturally, I decided to sew this dress for a friend of mine whose personality perfectly matches this dress. My dear friend Sharon is super classy, and also a lot of fun. She has struggled to find dresses that fit her well. I was excited to make her a Laneway that would fit both her body and her style.
The Laneway Pattern
Details and Styling
This pattern comes in sizes 6-24 with separate bodice drafts for B, C and D bust cups. I love the cup sizing because it makes fitting go so much faster!
The Laneway offers three neckline options. All are beautiful, but I especially like the asymmetrical collar. It’s not a common style, but it is very flattering and it makes this dress distinctive. The open ended front bust darts are also uncommon, yet lovely. I think they look especially great on larger busts.
Finishes like an invisible zipper and inseam pockets—always a favorite—make this dress a joy to wear. I love the way the style elements come together to create a dress that while simple, could never be described as boring.
Instructions and Techniques
The instructions for this pattern are clear and show you how to apply high quality sewing techniques to achieve a lovely final garment. Computer illustrated drawings accompany the text and are easy to understand. Parenthetical asides and short notes also provide advice and helpful hints. Reminders—such as to use a shorter stitch length where you will be clipping the fabric closely—help the sewist without interfering with the flow of instructions.
The trickiest part of the Laneway Dress, in my opinion, is installing the invisible zipper. While the pattern offers good instructions for insertion, I found it helpful to refer to a more detailed tutorial to bolster my confidence and ensure a really great result. The invisible zipper tutorial from the Itch to Stitch blog (link here) includes ideas for how to match waist seams and stabilize the zipper area for the best outcome.
I only have one minor disagreement with the instructions, and that is with the method for easing in the sleeve cap. The pattern instructions suggest putting only one row of basting stitches at 1/8” from the cut edge of the fabric before inserting the sleeve. I did try this method on my first muslin, but found that it made controlling unwanted puckers at the seam line challenging. I find the best success (and this pattern was no exception) with sewing two rows of basting stitches within the seam allowance. For the Laneway, which has 5/8” seam allowances, I stitch at ½” and 3/8”. This minor change helped my sleeve insertion go more smoothly.
Fabrics and Notions
The pattern calls for light to medium weight wovens with some structure. I diverged from the instructions a little bit by selecting a lightweight woven without much structure at all. My fabric is a very drapey navy blue polyester/rayon crepe. I was worried that the lack of structure might cause some problems with my final garment, but I was pleasantly surprised! I think the finished garment is beautiful and now you know you can get away with using less structured fabrics for this dress, too!
The crepe was a bit of a pain to manage, however, because it is slippery! I used some of the tips from this blog post to help manage my shifty fabric.
Fit and Alterations
The Laneway Dress fits beautifully as drafted. The first muslin I made for Sharon fit very well through the hips, bust and waist with almost no changes. At Sharon’s request, I added three inches of length so it would fall right at the middle of her knee. I took special care not to “over-fit” the bodice because the Laneway is designed to be a very comfortable dress. As a mother of three young kids, I know Sharon will appreciate the range of movement that her Laneway Dress gives her.
Of course, each person has their own unique fitting needs, and for Sharon that meant making lots of adjustments to the shoulders. This is not to suggest that the Laneway has a problematic shoulder draft, but rather that Sharon has non-average shoulders. Read on for the full saga….
Fitting Sharon’s Shoulders: A Story
I am no expert in tailoring or fitting, although I have taken a couple of courses focused on the subject. Those classes helped me understand how to identify my own fitting needs, but since each body is different, understanding someone else’s fitting specifications can still be tricky for me.
I started the Laneway making process as I always do: by sewing a test garment (or muslin) based on Sharon’s bust, waist and hip measurements. The muslin fit well overall, but it became immediately apparent that there were some fit issues with the shoulders.
The first thing I noticed were that the shoulders of the garment were too wide, extending far beyond the top of her arm (we’re talking 7/8”). There was also a glob excess of fabric at the upper back armscye and a large angled wrinkle on the front from her shoulder to her neck.
I made a second muslin with narrower shoulders and no other adjustments, hoping that maybe narrowing the shoulder alone would help reduce the volume of excess fabric at the back armscye. And it did a little, but it was not enough. With the shoulder the right width, I noticed that the shoulder seam also needed to be moved forward and that she had slightly sloping shoulders.
For my third muslin, I made a forward shoulder adjustment (3/4”) and a sloping shoulder adjustment (-1/8” at the shoulder on front and back). With these changes in place, I was left to figure out how to fix the persistent back shoulder “glob.”
Based on my research, I suspected that the extra fabric was coming from a rounded upper back. The tutorials I found indicated that the only way to fit her shape was to add a shoulder dart. To this point, I had made no changes to the armscye length, so I had been able to leave the sleeve alone. But because the back shoulder dart was so large (1/2” wide), I also needed to reduce the length of the sleeve cap so it would fit into the armhole without bunching. I made these adjustments directly on my third muslin (with the adjusted sleeve) and I was (finally) done!
All in all, I made FOUR alterations to fit Sharon’s shoulders:
- Narrow Shoulder Adjustment
- Forward Shoulder Adjustment
- Sloping Shoulder Adjustment
- and Rounded Shoulder Adjustment
PHEW! After all of those changes, I was finally satisfied. Achieving a great shoulder fit after so much effort left me feeling triumphant.
What I learned from Sharon’s shoulders is that when you are faced with a difficult fitting challenge, it’s okay to make changes one at a time. In fact, it may even be the best way to approach it! I started out feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to fix the fit. With each change, I could see improvement and it became easier to see what I needed to tackle next. Of course it would be nice if I could decipher all of the needed changes in one go—it would certainly take less time! But making each change one at a time was a methodical way to success.
In sum, I love the Laneway Dress pattern from Jennifer Lauren Handmade. From instructions to drafting, the pattern is of a very high quality, and the dress is enjoyable to sew. If you’re interested in a Laneway Dress of your own, you can grab the pattern here. While you’re there, check out Jennifer Lauren’s other patterns—she has some great things to offer!
How do you tackle alterations?
What are some fitting changes you consistently have to make?