As some of you may have seen from my instagram post last night, I was lucky enough to pattern test for the recently released Winter 2016 collection from Capital Chic Patterns! I was browsing twitter a few months ago and saw a shout-out for volunteers to test some patterns, so OF COURSE I volunteered and I was lucky enough to be chosen! Sally, who you can find over at Charity Shop Chic contacted me and asked me which pattern I’d liked to test for her small collection. It was actually a close-run thing between Cuba Libre and the Gimlet dress, but because I’ve been trying to work on a more consolidated wardrobe, I chose the Cuba Libre as I felt like it would work harder as a piece with my other clothes and future planned makes.
Cuba Libre is a loose fitting, boxy shirt in three length options – shirt, shirt dress and maxi dress. As I’m quite short I knew the maxi dress length wouldn’t work, and I knew I wouldn’t wear the shirt length as I prefer a more fitted shirt shape, so I opted for the shirt dress length. The PDF went together with no issues, even at the testing stage, which is nice. I used a cheap medium weight poly crepe I’d picked up from the Rag Market during SewBrum back in September (with a completely different dress in mind when I bought it haha) for something silly like £2 per metre, with simple black shirt buttons. The instructions were easy to follow, although the only stumbling block I had was which direction the back pleat should face. I opted for the pleat on the outside, like on men’s shirts, but Charlotte from English Girl At Home placed hers on the inside in her tester shirt length version, which also looks lovely.
The pieces fit together well, which shows a lot of care was taken at drafting stage. The only comment I do have about the drafting is that, based on measurements, it seems to comes up a little bit smaller than other patterns. I had to add about 4 inches to the width of the skirt section to make the largest size fit me, so keep it in mind. I am quite pear-shaped so extra hip width is a normal adjustment for me, but apart from shortening the whole thing this by about 8 inches (even at shirt dress length!) this was the only adjustment I made. There are no bust darts and it’s a slightly dropped shoulder, so there are some serious 80’s vibes going on! I know it looks like it in the picture, but it’s not a high-low hem – i’m just wearing it badly in the photos!!! It’s definitely comfy to wear, particularly at this time of year when the mince pies and sherry tend to coagulate around our waistlines but I think the cut is going to be flattering on a lot of different body shapes. In a beautiful silk satin this would look so glamorous at any length. The crepe I used was medium weight so it hangs really well without adding too much bulk and when belted I arranged the excess into sort of pleat shapes on front and back to flatten down the gathered look on me. I didn’t add the chest pockets to the dress as I’d never use them, so it seemed like a waste of time and fabric for me, but they’re a decent size and it would work well with one or both pockets. Oh, I also put the buttons on the wrong side, but I’d sewn and cut several buttonholes before I realised. We won’t talk about that though…
Now I do have to admit that when I finished this dress, I was a bit dubious about whether I would ever actually wear it. I’d worn it to take some photos for the blog, and then abandoned it because, style-wise, it’s quite unlike me. I don’t wear dresses, and I don’t really wear big prints, and I keep wearing comfy clothes out of laziness more than anything else, so wearing something short, loud (for me anyway) AND waist enhancing was a big deal for me. Last night was our work Christmas do, and as this was the only thing I had that was the least bit smart to wear I threw it on, put a red patent belt on and black tights and heels, and went to the party! I was comfy the entire time, the length was spot on as the traditional shirt hem means the dress is fun and short at the sides, but long enough front and back to cover your modesty. I did elect to cut this quite short for this reason, but styled up the standard length will look really elegant. I wore it with the sleeves rolled up, and looking back today I think I will probably just cut the sleeves to three quarter length as I won’t ever wear the sleeves down.I do have to say though, doing the sleeve placket was really easy following Sally’s instructions – I’ve only done single piece plackets previously rather than a two piece, but using the guidance in the Cuba Libre instructions I found this really easy to follow. Seems a shame to cut them off really! I’m really happy with how the dress turned out and I suspect I may be making another one next year in a lighter weight fabric. I also want to wear this tester version as a cover-up in summer rather than as a dress – even if I crop the sleeves I hope this will still look cool and floaty over tops and shorts, kind of a kimono wrap type vibe?
I would recommend this pattern for confident beginners as the instructions are clear and there are some lovely traditional shirt details to have a go at if you;re a bit intimidated by shirt making.