Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Watermelon Dress

When I was going through my aunt's friend's mother's sewing stash several months ago, picking out fabrics and notions to take home and use, I found a length of watermelon border print fabric, which I fell in love with. My aunt's friend remembered her mother making her a dress out of the watermelon fabric as a child, and this piece of fabric, half the original width was what was left over from that. Remembering a watermelon dress I too had worn as a child, I just couldn't resist, and into my pile the watermelon border print fabric went. I was going to some how make myself a new watermelon dress from this half-width of fabric.

Unfortunately, there wouldn't be quite enough of the fabric for a whole dress of the sort I wanted to make, but I figured there would be enough fabric for a full gathered skirt if I could find a coordinating fabric for the bodice. The coordinating fabric turned out to be a watermelon print quilting cotton off the clearance rack at Joann's a couple months later. Watermelon upon watermelon. This dress was happening.

Once I had both watermelon fabrics in hand, I went to select what pattern I wanted to use from my vast collection for this project. I was thinking something with a full gathered skirt and a fitted bodice - a very simple sundress. However, the first pattern to catch my eye wasn't quite that. When I laid eyes on Simplicity 8592, a recent purchase from a Hobby Lobby pattern sale, it just begged to be used for my watermelon dress. There was just one problem. This dress features a gored skirt, which isn't ideal for a border print. Border prints run straight up and down the width of the fabric, and are well suited for straight cut gathered, or pleated, skirts. As the fabric selvage, where the border print ends is a straight line, these prints are best showcased on garments with straight hemlines.

Gored skirts are composed of trapezoidal panels, or gores, which are cut narrower at the waist and fuller at the hem. To keep the hem looking level all the way around, without point or uneven bits, the bottom of each panel is slightly curved. Not ideal for a border print material where the border print is printed very straight, with no curve to it, along the selvage edge. That said, I decided the hemline curve on the Simplicity 8592 skirt curve was gentle enough I could finagle it to work with my watermelon border print.

And finagle it I did. I carefully lined up the skirt gores so the border print would be even across all the panels at the hemline. To make this work, I had to pay more attention to print placement than fabric economy. (which is opposite of what I usually do.) Thus, I wound up needing to add a center back seam and shorten the skirt several inches to make the panels fit onto the limited amount of fabric I had. (Also, since I had to do a center back seam, I decided to make this dress with a back zip, rather than a side zip as the pattern recommended. I prefer the ease of getting into a dress with a back zip, rather than a side zip, generally.)

With the curved hem cut, there is more white space below the print at the center of each gore than there is at the edges. Thankfully, it's not too dramatic of a difference, so it's hardly noticeable on the finished dress. After all, with a watermelon dress, the eye is drawn to the overall awesomeness than it is to how exactly the print lines up with the hemline.

The white background of the watermelon print fabric was slightly see-through, so I flat-lined all the skirt panels with plain white muslin.

Not only does this make the finished skirt opaque enough I don't have to worry about the color of underwear I have on when I wear the dress, it also gives the skirt wonderful body so it keeps the flared shape without requiring a petticoat of any sort.

As for the bodice neither print placement nor see-thoroughness was of any concern. The all over watermelon print is plenty opaque, so all I had to worry about was getting the fit right.

Since I have a larger cup size than most patterns are drafted for, I had to lengthen the front bodice a bit to make sure it would hit me under the bust, as it was supposed to, rather than mid-bust, as things are apt to do on me without alteration. 

I just guesstimated the amount of length I needed to add to the bodice, and it turned out I guessed about right, as when I tried on the bodice before attaching the skirt, it ended right below the bust where it should. The armholes, however, did not hit me at the right spot. They came down the front of my arm a bit and restricted movement. Not something you want in a sleeveless dress! And very odd since I have wide shoulders, which I typically have to alter patterns for and I'd made no alterations to the shoulders or armscyes of this pattern at all. Yet the shoulder area was too wide to fit comfortably.

Thankfully, this was an easy fix. I just cut off the bias tape I'd already finished the arm hole with, and re-applied fresh bias tape. 

Between what I trimmed off with the old bias tape, and the seam allowance used to attach the new bias tape, this made the arm hole about 3/4" larger all the way around, which was perfect.

The arm hole issue was an easy one to fix, but my bodice woes were not over. When I went to attach my bodice to my skirt I discovered that in adding length to the front bodice to properly cover my bust, I'd also added a bit of width. Now the front bodice was a couple inches wider than the front skirt. To make the two fit together, I let out the front skirt seams as much as I could, so those are each sewn with only 1/4" seam allowance now, rather than 5/8". That still wasn't quite enough to make the bodice and skirt fit together, so I also made the bodice tucks a bit deeper. Unfortunately, due to these deeper tucks, the bodice front now puckers a bit right over the bust. I don't like this at all, but I don't feel like taking the dress apart to fix it, so I'm just wearing the dress as is.

So, the bodice fit was a bit of a bear, but I do love how my bodice trim turned out!

I framed the neckline with narrow pink and green rick-rack, which highlights the bodice lines beautifully!

I also put some wider green rick-rack in the waistline seam, because I thought that would be a good way to break up the two watermelon prints a bit.

Upon trying on the dress, however, once the zipper was in and the skirt was hemmed, I decided the two prints needed a bit more separation from each other. 

I wound up hand-sewing in a piece of wide green grosgrain ribbon as a a sort of sash between the two fabrics. This breaks up the two prints beautifully, but unfortunately, my carefully applied rick-rack is rather unnoticeable now. 

The hem is finished with a red lace facing on the inside - it makes me happy to have such a pretty hem!

And that is the story of how my watermelon dress came to be. 

I wore it to church on Sunday and got loads of complementary comments. Though my dress was a little distracting to my friend's young daughter who started whispering to me about watermelon as soon as I slid into the church pew next to her, about 5 minutes late (as usual). I don't think distracting children during church with my clothing choice is a good thing - but this is such a fun dress to wear!

After church, I kept the dress on to go see the apartment my little brother will be living in when he goes to school at the end of the month.

We took some measurements so he can figure out exactly what furniture he'll need for the school year.

Following that, we met my other brother for dinner (his fiance also liked my dress!), then came home where my soon to be a college student brother agreed to photograph for me with his camera and the new lens he received for his birthday.

Hopefully, once he moves to school, he'll visit home often with his camera and continue to take pictures for me! Meanwhile, I'm thinking it would be great fun to make a few more fruit-themed dresses.

Despite the issues I ran into while making it, I really love my new watermelon dress!

 Watermelon dresses for the win - no mater how old you are!


  1. As always, I love how you explain your process and alterations.
    I love fruit themed outfits!

    1. Thank you! I'm glad my explanation of my process makes sense, I'm always afraid it might read like a jumbled up mess!

  2. this is a great read ... well done! I am always baffled by alterations to the bust area, even after doing pattern making at TAFE .. I think my head hurts as soon as someone mentions the word "toille" and "alteration"! LOL your photo's are my kind of alterations! LOL

    1. Thanks! There are a few tings I'll make a toile for, but for most things I just wing it and hope for the best - I'm definitely not a perfectionist LOL!

  3. I also had a watermelon dress as a child! Actually my mom made matching ones for my sister and me. I love the unique border print of your skirt, and how you combined both mellon prints. And I most especially love all your ric-rac trim, because every watermelon dress needs to have ric-rac ; )

    1. That's awesome! Watermelon dresses for the win!