Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Almost Darling Ranges Dress

Like most of the blogosphere, I was blown away when Megan Nielsen first introduced her Darling Ranges dress pattern in 2011. It was love at first sight when I saw this one. I had to have that pattern. I ordered it and fantasized about how cute it would look with my Dansko Sally clogs.

The pattern looked simple enough: button front dress, no collar to fuss with or separate plackets. I was ecstatic. You see at that point in 2011, I had sewn clothing for less than a year. Buttonholes didn't scare me, but trying to make things fit properly was a little beyond my skill set. I figured that there wouldn't be too many fitting issues seeing as my measurements matched exactly to the size XL on the Darling Ranges size chart.

Oh boy, was I wrong.

Two years and 10 muslins later (and that number is not an exaggeration), I have finally managed to make this dress work for me. My secret: using another pattern. The Darling Ranges dress pattern was not made with my body type in mind. No matter how many fit adjustments I made to it, it was never going to fit me. The shoulders are narrow, ridiculously so. The bust dart is too large and too high. I tried in vain to do a FBA but that dart was huge. I made the following adjustments to the original pattern:

  • Broad shoulder adjustment: Honestly, my shoulders aren't that broad.
  • Graded the pattern up 2": I thought perhaps the pattern ran a bit small. Used this method.
  • 1" FBA: Made the dart huge.
  • Lowered the bust dart 1/2" : It was still too large and pointy.
  • Added 2" to the bodice length: The original pattern was almost an empire waist on me.

After all that, I tried on my muslin and it still looked wonky. This pissed me off. I never had that much trouble with a pattern before, especially one that looked so simple. I thought I was missing something. I did a google search on the Darling Ranges pattern and I noticed that I wasn't the only one having fit issues.

I realized after muslin #10 that if I wanted this dress to work for me, I would have to use another pattern. Of course, there aren't any patterns out there that look it. So, I dug around my pattern bin for one that could work.

For my first trial run, I used the bodice from Butterick/See & Sew 4957 and the skirt from New Look 6723. I didn't like the dirndl skirt with the original Darling Ranges pattern; an A-line gathered skirt would work better with my squarish figure. The only problem with using Butterick 4957 is that it's sleeveless. I loathe sleeveless dresses. I used a puff sleeve from another pattern. It looks cute on the dress form but puff sleeves do not look cute on me. The fabric is Liberty Tana lawn, part of the five yards I bought on ebay a while back. I'm not a fan of this Liberty print as yellow, pink and baby blue are not my favorite colors. That, coupled with the puff sleeves, made me feel a bit childish. I wore this dress once in public but no more.

Pic taken in Austin

Liberty Tana lawn is heavenly to sew. I do plan on buying more in the future.

To prevent using puff or cap sleeves for my next dress, I decided to use another pattern for the bodice. I pulled out my trusty Butterick 4386 bodice and got to work. I traced off the neckline from the Darling Ranges pattern. Then, I used the back skirt piece from Kwik Sew 3621 for the front, also tracing the placket extension from the Darling Ranges skirt pattern. Once my pattern pieces were complete, I followed the pattern instructions. The instructions don't mention using interfacing for the plackets but I did anyway. This is especially important if you're using something lightweight like cotton lawn. I also made my own bias tape for the neckline and skipped the back ties.

I love how this dress came out. It's just the right amount of cutesy. This time around I used Dot Chambray by Robert Kaufman (part of the Chambray Union collection, I believe). If you can find it, buy it. Another first for me, I used pearl snaps instead of buttons. It's not an original idea. I saw it on this Darling Ranges dress from the Make Something blog and I knew I had to shamelessly copy it. 

Although the original Darling Ranges pattern did not work out for me, it did help me in other ways: I finally got off my butt and bought Fit for Real People. I learned how to do a FBA. I figured out how to adapt patterns to suit my needs.

But, would I recommend this pattern to others? Probably not. Fitting this pattern was a pain in the ass. Even with my adjustments, it still didn't work out. It is a cute dress and that was my sole motivation in trying to make it work. Megan Nielsen offers a lot information on her blog for this pattern. If you want to try it out, I suggest that you proceed with caution.

Now that I have a pattern that works, I plan on making many, many more of this dress. Next up is plaid flannel.


  1. I made five muslins and never got the fit right. Drive me bananas. I like your approach! You now have a beautiful fitting dress.

  2. Thank you for the cautionary tale! Your hard work paid off, because this dress fits you perfectly. Plaid flannel sounds heavenly.

  3. It looks 10x better on you than hanging. I think you achieved a great fit but hear you on oatterns that require ages and ages to get it right. It's like, why bother? Let's move on! :)

  4. After all of that work it looks really nice on you! But you're right, it's probably not worth 10 muslins. I'm impressed that you kept with it.

  5. Oooh, this looks so great on you! Way to stick it out in order to get a great fit, you achieved a great fit..

  6. I've always thought that pattern was really cute but having a look at the size chart, I think it will be too much work, as the size to fit my bust is 2 sizes larger than the size for my waist (which is still too big anyway, I'm halfway between sizes) and then my hip size is in the middle... Coupled with your fitting issues I'll have to pass on this pattern too. Love what you were able to come up with though! :)

  7. TEN muslins? You must be a sewing saint! And then to have to use another pattern entirely - yeesh! But you got an excellent result. I think your dress is just perfect.

  8. This is first visit to your blog. Love your style. I only sew with rayon or ity knits. When you sew with chambray or a soft cotton, isn't it too stiff or non-drapey? The cotton fabrics are beautiful but I worry there won't be enough drape. ???


Thanks for commenting with thoughtfulness and maturity.

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