Edna St Vincent Millay is one of my favourite poets. Besides packing stadiums for poetry readings during the Depression–besides writing whip-cracking cynical gems alongside her better known odes to springtime and nature–she also broke every convention for women in her day, and thrived for it, including a lifelong open marriage. One can’t say her work reflects in general a commitment to a responsible adulthood:
It will not last the night;But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—It gives a lovely light!
My guess is that her version of burning the candle at both ends was not the 21st century supermom version, where you’re working 40 hours or more officially, and then going home and working another 40 unofficially, basically burning that candle out in service to everyone but yourself. We all have to pay the bills and, if there are small people in our lives who depend on us for care, we need to follow through; in all lives a little obligation must fall. But not only obligation. Right?
Millay was, from all accounts, an expert at identifying at separating out what she actually had to do (or not do) from what other people told her that she had to do (or not do), and then utterly ignoring the latter whenever it suited her. I’ve read that she and Sarah Teasdale (another poet from the same time period, but a bit older) had a falling out when Teasdale realized that Millay had no intention of becoming Teasdale’s version of a proper young lady. Teasdale committed suicide; Millay died of old age; at the risk of oversimplifying well past the bounds of good taste, enough said.
I guess this means there may be more Millay in this blog’s future, at least for title inspiration. And now allow me to segue awkwardly from this poem/blog title to the sewing project:
It does look kind of like a dress you could burn the candle at both ends in, doesn’t it? Fine for work. Good for weekend socializing. Also good for late nights and dancing. I’ve now proved this for all three.
So I love this dress. I even wore it back to the fabric store where I bought the linen (Downtown Fabrics on Queen W if any of you are curious–but I didn’t see any left when I was there on Saturday) and the store owner thought I did it justice, and I have it on good authority that it’s moderately flattering, but it’s not without its problems.
Nice bodice construction. Two-piece sleeves with a dart at the cap for a great shape with lots of movement (that I shortened to make it summery). Good, fitted skirt with a flounce gives lots of space for walking and, yes, dancing.
Waistband does not sit on the waist.
The line drawings make it look like it should, and so does the photo of the dress laid flat.
Put it on the model, and you can see the bottom of the waist band is about where her actual waist is.
I didn’t notice this until I sewed it up, tried it on, squawked, and went back and looked at the magazine photo. It does the same on me.
This was frustrating, as I chose the size of the waistband pieces based on how they would fit on my waist, not on my ribs. Thus it’s a bit snug there, but I expect it will loosen up over time. Consequently this means there is also more ease on my actual waist than I planned; I snugged it in a bit during construction and I may do so again if it proves to be really too loose, but it is comfortable.
Also, the waistband pieces don’t match the darts/seamlines on the bodice.
Why the hell not, I don’t know.
I traced 38 there for everything, and it matched on the bottom, but the waistband side seams do not match the side seams on the bodice. However the total length of the waistband was a perfect (if rib-constraining) match with the bodice at that seam.
I gave myself a 1″ FBA on the princess seams, and it worked out just about perfectly. I also reduced the width and length of the back pieces before cutting the fabric based on what’s worked for previous woven dresses, which means zipper installation was slightly less frustrating than it sometimes is. So this was a first try for this pattern and barring some fairly easily corrected issues, it went together nicely and fit well. I’ll make a fall/winter version with long sleeves, assuming I can find a nice winter-ish dress fabric with just a bit of stretch.
I should be a size 40/44, but I cut a size 38/40 with a FBA on the bodice and some me-specific alterations elsewhere. It does have a fair bit of ease, which is odd considering they state explicitly that you should choose only dress fabrics with stretch. This completely not-stretchy-linen handled the sizing down just fine, barring the ribs thing. I’d measure the waistband pattern pieces and compare to your preferred waist fit to find your desired starting size-but be careful and check to make sure that the length of the bodice pieces will put the waistband actually on or near your waist.