This a-line dress, though adorable, was not at the top of my priority list when I packed several patterns in my suitcase for a quick visit to my parents at the beginning of July. I had a few other projects I was more excited to start, but I thought Mama would think the dress cute, so I took it along. At her encouragement, I ended up making the frock from start to finish during my visit, and I’m so glad I did. A simple a-line dress, with front and back darts, side zip, options for a gathered or pleated skirt, and bateau neckline, Simplicity 8294 is lovely to sew and wear. The optional collar and side tabs are sweet details, as well as providing options for a better fit.
This pattern was well-written and easy to follow, making it an excellent choice for someone new to sewing or hoping to take a small step into some new skills (for example, installing a side zipper instead of a back zipper).
The bodice may be made with or without sleeves, and with or without the collar and side tabs. The skirt can be either pleated or gathered, and the pattern also includes directions for a sash. Because the collar and tabs are rather distinctive, these options make it possible to create several different looks with a single pattern.
I was also quite pleased with the fit of the dress. Normally I will cut my skirt a size larger than my bodice, and grade the skirt pattern to meet the waistline. I decided to risk cutting both the same size, and the skirt was still roomy and comfortable in the smaller size. Additionally, the waist tabs, while mostly decorative, do provide some additional flexibility with fit. By moving the buttons forward or back, one could easily adjust the fit of the waist, if needed. Back darts also give the bodice a lovely shape, with no bagging at the back.
The finished product is just plain adorable. The collar and tabs could make it appear either fancy or simply fresh, depending on the choice of fabric. The purple batik I used (I had several yards in my stash, and have no memory of where it came from) makes my version feel a little dressy, but I’d love to make a more “everyday” version in a less dramatic print, or perhaps even a solid color with contrasting collar and tabs.
Finally, I was so happy the sleeveless arm option used arm bands, rather than facings. I find facings so fiddly, and besides being easier to sew, I think the arm bands look more finished than facings.
My only complaint is that the pattern didn’t include pockets, but side-seam pockets would have been tricky with the side zipper. If I were braver I might have tried to engineer something — maybe on a future version!
I made View B (gathered skirt, with collar and side tab accents), but I omitted the sleeves and used the directions for the A/C sleeveless views. At my mother’s suggestion (it’s so nice to sew at home!), I didn’t follow the pattern’s instructions to sew the right side seam before inserting the zipper in the left seam. Instead, I only sewed the right and left seams far enough to create the armsyce which allowed me to have the fabric mostly flat while working with the zipper.
Zig-zagging finished the edges of all my raw seams. I also found after finishing the dress that the narrow collar liked to pop up, so I hand-tacked it down at the shoulders, front and back points.
Simplicity 8294 is a classic style, which makes it likely that I’ll keep wearing it for years to come. The zipper and buttons–with no elastic to wear out–promise durability. In Texas I can wear sundresses most of the year, and I could even wonder if a light corduroy version might suit for our mild winters.