One of the goals in my 20/21 challenge was to sew a versatile black dress. I think this one is a very good take on the LBD: A classic shift dress with 3/4 sleeves in pure wool, lined and warm enough for a chilly winter day.
The Camber Set dress from Merchant & Mills is very popular for a reason and a useful pattern to have in the collection. It comes in two views, a top and a shift dress, and with a short sleeve. It has a shoulder yoke which is a little unusual, and the front of the neckline is covered with a visible bias band. It has French darts which add to the slight retro feel of the pattern. It is a tapered A-line dress that ends just below the knee.
If you search for #cambersetdress on Instagram it becomes clear that the pattern is really versatile and lends itself to numerous interpretations. More than 300 entries show how it has been made into everything from tunics with big patch pockets to very classic dresses from mini to midi.
My version is made in a gorgeous mid-weight wool gauze, a fabric I’ve never seen before. It’s smooth and soft with at slightly textured surface. Like most wool, it takes pressing really well and was a dream to work with.
I cut the dress in size 12 according to my measurements, but the first fitting revealed a shapeless sack, not what I was after at all. I unpicked the side seams and took it in 1.5 cm in each side, which is more or less a size down. Since a short sleeved dress is less useful in cold weather I lengthened the sleeve to just below the elbow. This modification is really easy to do, and I used a random sleeve from another pattern as a guide to get the length just right by layering it under the original sleeve pattern.
Lining it is a little more challenging, but not all that difficult. Since the fabric is rather substantial I decided to use lining fabric as the inner yoke instead of self fabric. I cut one front piece, one yoke and one back piece in the lining fabric, a black viscose. First, I underlined the front with lining and added the neckline binding. Then I added the outer yoke and the lining (inner) yoke and finished the neckline, including some under-stitching to prevent the lining from poking out. Next, I sewed the outer back fabric to the outer yoke and the back lining to the inner lining yoke, wrong sides together for a clean finish. Finally I finished the side seams separately, wrong sides together. The sleeves are not lined as I worried the dress would become too warm, and I set them in and finished the seams on my overlocker through all layers. The skirt hem is shortened by 5 cm.
My little black dress is finished at last. For some reason I haven’t had one for a while. I like it so much and have already started dreaming of a version in black linen, with short sleeves of course, for summer.
Pattern: The Camber Set from Merchant & Mills
Size: A modified size 12
Fabric: 1.5 m wool gauze
Time: One day