I just finished a new Wiksten Shift dress and I love it a lot. Before I even took photos, I had more things to say about it than would fit on an Instagram post... so I thought I'd capture my thoughts while their hot. I am also going to talk about other versions or hacks I made of this pattern last summer. This was my 6th version, including wearable muslins.
First off - let's talk fit. If you are pear-shaped, as I am, a columnar shift dress may seem like a risky garment. I know it is something I had reservations about - but I took a chance & I'm love the finished results.
Also, let's talk inclusivity. The pattern only goes up to a 52" hip (size 22) so it's not very inclusive, but it works for small fat people like myself. I have a 51" hip. If you love the look but this size range doesn't work for you - I think hacking the Torrens or Artist's Box top into a dress would give a similar look, either just choosing the bust size to match your hips and extending the length, or by a slightly more involved hack to get the back yoke & gathers. (If you want more details on how I would do that, contact me!)
More on fit & choosing a size. Lots of sewists on IG have mentioned that they preferred sizing down on this pattern for less volume. The pattern itself suggests choosing the size by your bicep measurement rather than anything else because it is designed to be very roomy & the only critical fit is making sure you have enough arm room.
If you are pear, as I am - I would caution against this advice. I will tell you what I always do is try to choose by my largest measurement - the hips. Here's why.
According to my bicep, I would wear a size 12. According to my bust I would wear a 16, According to my hip I am between a 20 and a 22. The finished garment hips for the size 12 that matches my biceps is 52.5", leaving a scant 1.5 inches of ease, while the pattern measurements have about 8" of ease between the body hip measurement and finished garment hip measurement.
To get a garment that gives my hips & bum space to be themselves, I went with a straight 22. The result is a beautifully oversized sack dress that skims over every part of my body without catching anywhere. In linen, it's crisp and structural, which makes me feel like an eccentric art teacher in the very best way possible. In seersucker, with the belt, it's a little more of an 80s preppy casual vibe.
However... the neckline is a teensy bit wider than I would like because it's intended for a body with a bust that is 6" bigger than mine. Also, with extra room in the bust, there is a lot of extra fabric. The extra fabric looks fine when the dress is worn alone, but makes it hard to layer over. I can only wear really oversized grandpa sweaters over it, so it's either a summer dress on it's own or a winter dress with a big fluffy sweater over OR a long-sleeve under... *more on that later.
You might not want so much space in your dress, but still want to accommodate for wider hips. I have an idea about this that I am going to try out on my next version of this dress. It consists of choosing a size 16 to match my bust for the front, yoke, and facing pieces. For the back piece, I would move the fold line of the pattern piece a few inches away from the actual fold like of the fabric, until it measures the width of the size 22 pattern piece but keeps the sleeve/side seam curve to match the size 16.
When gathering or pleating (**more on pleating later too) the back into the yoke, I would just make extra gathers or a bigger pleat. In my head, this would work kind of like my usual solution for adapting patterns to wildly different bust/hips measurements on dresses with separate bodice and skirt parts... which is to cut the correct size bodice and the correct size skirt and gather or pleat the extra skirt fabric into the smaller bodice. Works a charm for me most of the time.
Speaking of dresses with separate bodices and skirts, I have tried the size 16 bodice for a hack of the pattern, adding a size 22 Hinterland skirt to the bottom. I've made variations on this 3 times, using either the side seam Hinterland pockets on two versions and the Wiksten Shift patch pockets on another. Both work well. Here's my favorite, in linen dyed with onion skins.
I'm looking forward to trying the adjustment I mentioned to pare a little volume out overall for a better chance of being able to layer.
I'm also curious to try the 3/4 sleeve version of the dress and the top. I haven't made the shirt version yet, but I have some white linen that I think would make a lovely top. Probably a bit more cropped than the pattern, since I'm only 5'1".
*The large volume on the top actually lends itself really well to wearing the dress OVER a button down shirt, for a look I really love.
**Depending on your fabric, personal preferences, and overall desired effect, you might love this alternative to gathering the lower back piece into the yoke by making a big pleat instead. I saw this on Instagram last year, still trying to track down where to give proper credit, but I had to try it and I LOVE the look of the inverted box pleat. Now I also want to try one with a regular box pleat too because the inside of the yoke looks good too! I think that might look really cool with an extra large pleat from the fit hack I am imagining.
A bit about me:
My grandmothers grew up in the Great Depression and their stories, skills, and resourcefulness made a beautiful mark on my heart. I am always making something, usually with fiber or textiles. I love scraps and reusing things and rescuing overlooked treasures. I think about a lot of things while I am making. Here is a record and, hopefully, a connection to the thread of my story.