Saturday, November 6, 2021

Hope Woven Dress by StyleArc

 Today's post is an example of how a simple shape can sometimes cause some troubles if you don't happen to fit the original draft. And when it comes to raglan sleeves, I rarely do. When a shape is simple there are no design details to hide or distract from the fit issues.

The Hope Woven Dress from StyleArc is a popular style exactly because of its simplicity. Deep 3/4-length raglan sleeves, a gathered skirt and a facing in the neckline. A fast make and a relaxed and comfortable style.

I want to be clear from the start, this is not one of those 'honest reviews' where there is a problem with the pattern. This is a post to show you how I adjusted part of a pattern to fit my body. It's more normal than not, that we don't fit the standard draft. Or we fit them in some areas and not in others. Especially because standard drafts vary from company to company. I think we are all looking for that company where however our body is, fit their standard as much as possible. I felt I found that with StyleArc but that does not mean I don't have to do adjustments. Certain things we almost always have to do, for me it's usually length (I'm 5'10"/178 cm tall). Or if I'm making non-elastic pants I have to blend sizes between waist and hips because those two areas do not fit into the same size. 

And my small bust and fairly narrow waist often puts me in dress or top/blouse sizes that my tall frame shoulders doesn't fit into. Which, like mentioned earlier, can cause some 'interesting problems' with raglan sleeves. 

So let's get nerdy and talk about how you fix that if you are in the same boat! And even if you are not in the wide shoulder boat, this post might still be useful for you.

The yellow dress you see here is my second version. Which includes my adjusted (to my shoulders) sleeves and a little casing and drawstring hack.

Some general info first. I made the size 8. My hips are a size 14 but they are not the deciding factor for a style like this. I skipped the back neck button loop detail entirely, because I found that I could get it over my head without it. I find that detail slightly annoying to wear, so I skip it whenever I can. So my first, red version has a center back bodice seam sewn shut all the way up and my second, yellow version has the back bodice cut to fold (minus the seam allowance of course). Don't just assume it will also fit over your head, try it out first.
I also skipped the pockets. I'm in the minority and don't always need pockets.

Before I did any cutting of fabric, I determined that I needed 3 cm length added to my bodice and 5 cm to the sleeve length. I do these pre-determinations by holding up the paper patterns in front of me, while standing in front of a mirror. Sometimes I pin some seams together of the paper patterns, e.g. shoulder seams and then maybe I add the top of the sleeve head. Or if it's a raglan sleeve like here, I pin each side of the sleeve head to the front and back bodice, overlapping the seam allowances and put pins in the sewing lines. It won't in way give any precise information but it will give you an idea of where the various lines hit your body, so it's especially helpful for lengthening/shortening pattern pieces.
 You would still need to do several fittings while sewing your garment.

Since it's so long ago since I sewed these dresses, some of the details are a biiiit fuzzy in my mind but I looked at my dresses while writing this part and my bodice on the yellow is shorter then the red one. So apparently I decided I wanted a more empire look. I can also see on my pattern pieces that I curved the lower seam of my front and back bodice pattern pieces more than they already are. I guess it needed that to look straight on me. (Remember THIS post where I'm talking about that?!)

Here is my first version, which also has been adjusted as much as I could in already cut fabric. 
 The main sleeve adjustment was something that needed to be done on the paper pattern. I didn't have enough fabric to recut these sleeves.
If I were a truly helpful sewing blogger, I would have taken some photos at that first fitting but it just never happens. Because at this point you are going to look at this and think, okay, calm down Mie this is not that bad. 
I will also add that this dress looks better in these photos than in real life. I'm really not a fan of this red fabric. It's a lightweight linen from Blackbird Fabrics and it's both thin and stiff at the same time. Not a great combo I think. The seams also stretched weirdly when I was sewing the seams. And it was like I could mold it with my fingers, like pinch a crease and the crease would stay. I know that's linen for you, but this was worse than normal. Maybe because it's so lightweight?
So since I know raglan sleeves can cause me problems, I thought it would be smart to make sort of a wearable muslin of the Hope Woven Dress before cutting into nicer fabric. And so I used this fabric that I wasn't in love with. But I can't help wondering if it made my issues worse looking than it otherwise would. I guess we will never know?!

My shoulders actually caused TWO issues in this dress but only one is shown in the photos.
The non-documented problem was a standing up neckline. That is something you can fix during a fitting (after the fabric has been cut and sewn together), so I did. More about that later.

The other issue is a severe tipping sleeve hem. Red dress is before and yellow is after. That is not really something you can fix after the fabric has been cut. It's best to do on the paper pattern. So either new sleeves or in this case, a second version. 

And NOW it's getting nerdy, woohoo.
The left side with the white graphic shows what is causing the neckline issue. 
The right side with the black graphics shows what is causing the severe unbalanced hem sleeve.

The sleeve head of a raglan sleeve, is part of the neckline. When the sleeve head of a raglan sleeve (which is the area the white curved arrow is showing you) isn't wide enough to fit over the shoulder, then the dress doesn't fall in place where it's supposed to. It basically stays up higher than it's drafted for. Which then of course leads to the neckline to not fall in place as well, but instead slightly stand up. This is actually a fairly new revelation to me, but so so logical when you think about it. Try to put a narrowing (e.g. cone) shaped thing over your body, the wider the shoulders, the less it will be able to slide down. I bet you can see it very clearly in your head right now! (insert the mindblown emoji!)

The imbalance of the sleeve, causing the tipping sleeve hem is a bit more obvious logic. A lot of drafting and fitting of a garment is a balance/ratio of the lengths between two seams (or lines where there could have been a seam). In this case the sleeve inseam and the length that runs down the middle of the sleeve, over my shoulder and down to the hem  (called mid-sleeve length from here on).
So a wider shoulder will fill out that mid-sleeve length more, and in turn throw off the balance between the length of the inseam and the mid-sleeve length. So you need to either add length to the middle of the sleeve OR shorten the inseam OR meet in the middle and do a little bit of both.
I know you can deliberately draft a tipping sleeve (think the still uber popular McCall  #m7969dress and top) but that's not the case here. The raglan sleeve is correctly drafted for a regular fit and just need an adjustment to fit my body.

I know the sleeve also have a lot of lines but as far as I know, it isn't really possible to avoid in a one piece, lose fit raglan sleeve. Any grown on sleeve, like dolman, raglan etc get those lines when the arms are lowered.

As you can see here with my arm stretched out, it's line free.
And in case you wonder, yes, the armhole is deliberately drafted to be extra deep. It says so in the pattern description. 

So how do we actually fix the problems I've pointed out?

So the good news about the stand up neckline, caused by a not wide enough raglan sleeve head, is that it can be fixed after cutting your fabric and sewing the first sample. But not without some consequences. I fixed it by simply pinching/sewing in the seams that leads up to the neckline (two front and two back which connects the raglan sleeve head with the front and back bodice). The bad news (here comes the consequences) is that now you need a new neckline facing, since the facing is drafted to the original width of the raglan sleeve head and bodices.

SO adding width further down to the raglan sleeve head (as you can see in the photo above), so it wrap further over your shoulder is definitely easier. But kind of impossible to know before you've made a test garment. Whether that is a bare, unfinished muslin or like here a more wearable muslin with finished seams etc but in a less precious to you fabric.

But this is another example of how balance is everything in fitting and pattern drafting. Can you see how it's the BALANCE (or we could also call it ratio) between the width of the raglan sleeve head and the neckline that determines the success of the fit? The original neckline will fit me if the width of the raglan sleeve head is widened. OR if the neckline is made smaller to balance out the original less wide sleeve head. I knooooow, right!

When I fixed the neckline of the red dress, which I made before Christmas 2020, I haven't had my revelation yet, so I actually fixed my pattern pieces to make the neckline smaller. I can't remember if I was just lazy and cut the yellow dress after those pattern pieces again, so I could avoid both reverting neckline back to original plus adding that extra width on the sleeve head instead OR I only had the revelation while I starting working on this post. I honestly can't remember!

And just like the previous problem had two possible solutions, so does the tipping sleeve hem. 
You can either shorten the sleeve inseam or lengthen the mid-length of the sleeve. Since the problem is caused at the middle (by the shoulder) I would recommend you go that route. Actually there is a third way, which is doing a bit of each. A bit shorter inseam and a bit of adding to the middle. That option is especially good if the difference is very big. It can be easier to do smaller changes to several places, than one big chance in one place only.

I've added numbers to the order of operations. You can also see here how I added 5 cm / 2" length to the sleeve to accommodate my longer than average arms. I already explained further up how I do that before even cutting any fabric, but it can absolutely be done after this operation too. No difference at all!

1) So first you cut your pattern in half vertically along the mid-length plus you draw and cut a  horizontal slash/line 90 degrees to the mid length slash. Do it around the point where the pattern meets your widest shoulder point.
2) You spread the horizontal line apart to create a longer sleeve middle length.
3) ....Which will automatically make those, now two, mid length slashes/cuts overlap. Don't worry about what width you are 'losing' there. There's plenty of width in the sleeve around there, so you can afford to lose some without consequences.
Fixate the slashes and overlaps with tape. I use Scotch Magic Tape because it has a matte surface and can be drawn on afterwards, which is really smart when working with patterns. (not sponsored!). 

Lastly I want to talk a bit about the little hack that I did on the yellow dress. I decided to add a casing and drawstring as a way to give this shape some more definition.
It's a very simple detail. It can even be done after you are totally done with the dress. I simply cut a long, narrow rectangle, making it about 15 cm (6") shorter than the full circumference so there's room for the drawstring to be tied. I double fold hemmed the short ends and then I pre-pressed the seam allowance on the long ends (I kept it at 0.5 cm to keep bulk low). Then I put it on top of the high waist seam, fixed it with pins put in parallel with the seams (not perpendicular. Remember THIS post?) and stitched it on. Make sure the opening is at the center of your front bodice. Then I made a drawstring and pulled it through.
HERE is my post on Instagram from April (talk about blogging at a slow pace, ha!!) with an even closer look at this detail and where I'm also promising you this post. 

A look from the back.

As always when I make these posts, I'm imagining you breathing a big sign of relief that the post is finally over. I know that I definitely do, ha!
Honestly at this point I've lost touch with whether this post is even helpful, but I'll stay optimistically confident and hope that it was at least useful for some.

Thank you!


  1. I have been considering this dress for a casual holiday party next month. I will definitely revisit your blog should I run into any fit issues. Your comments are always very helpful. Thank-you!

    1. Great idea. This dress can easily be party or everyday, or somewhere in between, depending on fabric. :-)

  2. Thanks for the writeup, I find it very helpful! You’ve helped me develop better mental models for fit issues and since I also have wide hips and shoulders for my frame, the details of what you end up adjusting are often directly relevant to me. 🙏

    1. Oh, that makes me so happy to hear! Better mental models for fit issues is exactly how we improve. Thank you!

  3. Very useful post. I'd never really given that 'tipping' sleeve hem any thought, but I will from now on.

    1. Yeah, a tipping sleeve hem isn't the end of the world but improving at fitting clothes is really a matter of training our eyes (as a first actually notice it), so now you've added one more thing to that list. :-)

  4. I always have issues with ralando sleeves, because of my broad shoulders, I will make a first version of Hope dress using my crappy fabric, this post was VERY useful, thanks a lot!

  5. Thanks for this detailed post, Mie, it's extremely helpful. I have pretty much the opposite figure to you ( short, curvy/ boobalicious), but struggle with a raglan sleeve sometimes. I recently a coat with a raglan sleeve, and found that because it had such a deep armhole, it restricted movement of the arms. So in addition to a FBA, I had to re-draft the sleeves - I luckily have a talented and patient sewing mentor up the road who helped me.

    1. Yeah generally the deeper the armhole, the more restricting. Which might seem counterintuitive but never the less true. You will get most arm movement with a correctly drafted and fitted narrow/small armhole. Now that's very hard to do of course and is a very fine balancing act to each individual person/body. The Hope dress has a deep armhole as a design feature btw. (I know you are talking about a coat but I just wanted to mention it.) I'm glad you had a teacher that was able to help you. :-)

  6. Wonderful dress, I think the casing makes it, and one of my very favorite fabrics/print (I have a Lisa dress in it). I have broad square shoulders and have found that raglan sleeves are a problem. I admire your perseverance - I just avoid them. My recent Anais dress has them and was a disappointment - I will have to redraft the sleeve if I sew it again. Meanwhile, you look very pretty in your dress.

    1. That print/fabric really is so so pretty. I'm sorry to hear about Anais. I have the fabric for it plus my pattern printed. Thank you for reminding me to make a muslin of the top half first. Although that has a two part sleeve, so the actual mid length seam makes it easier to adjust. Maybe I should snap a photo of two when I get to it. :-)

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience with this dress, which is lovely! I have narrow shoulders so oftenvget extra droopiness with a raglan sleeve, so I have tended to avoid them. I wonder if your alteration in reverse; overlapping at the mid-shoulder, might minimize that droopiness. Hmmmm....

    1. I would definitely have a go at that. Just cut the sleeves and the bodice pieces for the muslin and see what happens. :-)

  8. I always enjoy reading your posts Mia. I've wondered about the Hope dress - partly because I too have wide shoulders and also a larger bust than you. I've had to widen raglan sleeves before now in the same way I widen set in sleeves. I've learned a lot from your post but am still not sure I understand why Hope is so popular - it's just ANOTHER one of those sack (or buffet) dresses that are everywhere at the moment. I guess I just prefer a more fitted style.

    1. I think a lot of people like a quick make. And for most people is IS a quick make. Plus a simple style is very much like a blank canvas. Different fabrics can change it a lot and because the style is so simple, then you can easier add your own little hacks (e.g. like my drawstring casing. But that said, I have many other StyleArc patterns I (style wise) love much more than Hope. But I'm glad there is something for everyone's style, sewing abilities and time frames out there. :-) Thank you for reading my posts, that means a lot to me!


I love your comments.
Thank you!