Hack: The Little black Pema dress

If you are, like me, always missing the perfect dress in your wardrobe, your anguish may be relieved now. I think my search for a versatile little black dress is over for a while. Meet Pema, an elegant little number designed for woven fabrics.

When I agreed to sew a version of the Kim top I had a hard look at all the other patterns in the Ose Patterns catalogue as well. They are all lovely, and the Pema dress got my attention in particular. I seem to have a never ending fascination of wrap dresses, and here was another version, slightly different from my other wrap dress patterns.

Pema is a little different because it is closed with a hook and bar inside and a button on the outside, no straps or ties. It has small pleats on the shoulders and waist for shaping, darts in the back. The length is midi, and there is an option of long or short sleeves. Depending on the fabric choice it can be casual or classic, and you can easily adapt it to your preferences. The pattern comes in a midi length, but I changed it to a more classic length just below the knees.

This dress was meant to be my wearable toile, but it can easily end up being one of the most worn dresses in my wardrobe. I have many cute dresses for different seasons, but the simple, versatile black dress, light enough for summer, was missing. Earlier this year I made a Camber Set dress in black wool crepe, but it was made to be worn in the depths of winter and will probably not be used again until next season. By adding this lighter black version to my wardrobe my ambition of sewing two classic black dresses this year is met.

The fabric has been in my stash for a couple of years. It is a medium weight viscose crepe with a lot of drape. I’ve had trouble finding good use for it, I’m not sure why. Finally it found its purpose in this dress. I am always relieved when I finally use something that has lingered longer than intended in my fabric collection.

My collection is not huge, and because I currently have a pretty high turnover of fabric, most of it ends up being used within a few months. I think it is necessary to have a varied selection to choose from, so I often buy fabrics without knowing exactly what to do with it. Sometimes, however, a piece of fabric stays with me for longer, and then I’m particularly satisfied when I finally make something with it.

Pema is not a difficult pattern to sew if you have some experience, but there are a few areas to pay attention to. The neckline must be stay stitched to prevent it from stretching out and gaping. I went with fusible bias tape instead because I wanted a more stable neckline. This came in addition to the interfacing I added to the facings. The result is a very firm neckline that stays put when I move.

There are several pleats and darts both on the bodice and the skirt, so take your time and sew them carefully for the best result. I always tie off the threads on darts, never backstitch. Then I use a pressing ham to shape them afterwards. The pleats are backstitched. The narrow waistband has interfacing on both sides. I used a lightweight vowen Vlieseline G785 which was a perfect choice for this fabric. I will always use this particular interfacing on slippery woven fabrics like silk, viscose, tencel and cupro from now on.

Finally, I made a button covered with self fabric for the closure on the left side. Adding self covered buttons gives the garment a classic feel and is a simple way to add polish.

After a year with corona restrictions and less activities than I’m used to, my weight has changed and I now need a larger size at the bottom in most patterns. I was worried about gaping and decided to go up a size for the top, too, but I think that was unnecessary. The bodice fits fine in the front, but I think there is too much room in the back. If I make it again I probably will go down a size, at least in the back. I will probably remove a wedge from the lower back, too because I think there is too much fabric there.

I hope to be back in my normal size over the summer, but I’m not going to be fuzzy about it. After all, a changing body is part of life, and then I have another excuse for sewing even more. Remember, there is always a silver lining.

I think Pema will be used frequently when it warms up more over the next weeks. I am averse to wearing heels at the moment, they are far too fuzzy and uncomfortable for a city walker like me, but I like it with comfortable flats like sneakers and sandals. Depending on the occasion this dress can be dressy or casual, and when we are able to return to the office, it will be perfect with a light jacket over. Most of all, I look forward to wearing it when we once again can hit the restaurants and enjoy dining out together with other people.

Do you have a favorite dress for many occasions? Did you make it yourself? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Transparency: I received the pattern for free when I agreed to collaborate on the Kim top with Ose Patterns. I have no obligations to write about it in return.

Pattern: Pema dress from Ose patterns
Size: EU42 (UK14, US10)
Fabric: 2M viscose crepe
Fusible interfacing Vlieseline G785
Time: One day

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