I finished this Magnolia back in September of 2019. At the time, I was healing from feeling forced out of a school that I loved because of terrible administrators. I held on for as long as I could, but the work environment became too toxic. I left a library that I help build, programs that I created from nothing, co-workers that became best friends, and students whom I loved because my physical and mental health were at stake.
I was also having a hard time at my new school. I was feeling out of place and out of sorts, missing the school I had left terribly. Change is hard for me, and this was the biggest change I had to experience in many, many years. Rationally, I knew that I had done the right thing, but emotionally, I was a wreak.
This Magnolia should have been the last of my summer 2019 projects. I had planned my summer sewing and completed three out of the four dresses before summer ended—the Simplicity 3833, the Bexley, and the Myrna. But when it was time for the Magnolia, I ran out of steam. I was too upset and uncomfortable with my new situation; I had no desire or motivation to sew.
And then, one Saturday, I woke up feeling like it was time to make something—something flowy, something pretty, something that would make me feel happy. I picked the cutest fabric I could find, and I started on the Magnolia. I had made a muslin a few months before, so I knew that there were no major adjustments or tricky techniques. The dress almost sewed itself.
The Deer and Doe Magnolia is a mock wrap dress with two views, one a full-length dress with a plunging neckline and long sleeves, the other a knee-length dress with a more conservative neckline and butterfly sleeves. The Magnolia is stunning, no matter which version you choose. The dress is incredibly feminine, super versatile, and surprisingly easy to sew.
If you choose to sew the full-length version, be prepared to use a lot of fabric—almost five yards. I don’t know if this is an impediment for anybody else, but I have never purchased that much fabric for one single project. I actually had enough fabric to go for the long one, but I wanted to get at least two projects out of each rayon cut I had, so I picked the knee-length version. Besides, I have not worn a full-length dress since I was a little girl.
This gorgeous rayon is part of that same fabric haul that has helped birth almost every garment I have sewn since I came back from Brazil in August of last year. I think I bought five yards of five different rayon prints, and I am so happy I did. This is some of the nicest stuff I have ever worked with.
This rayon has tiny pink flamingos scattered all over (I used the same fabric to make a True Bias Sutton), and it is delicious against the skin. It is stable, does not fray, and presses well. If there has ever been a dream fabric, this is it.
Based on the finished garment measurements, I went with a size 46 for the bust and 50 for the waist. I disregarded the hip measurement since the skirt was not meant to be fitted. In the end, I had to add a bit to both bust and waist, so maybe I should have chosen a larger size. Aside from that, I was quite surprised that I did not have to make any major adjustments to this pattern.
As I mentioned before, the Magnolia is a pretty easy pattern for how stunning it looks. Because I had made a muslin, I knew that I would have to add a bit to the bust area. That was easy because the bodice has princess seams. Princess seams make adjustments much easier to do, but when your bosom is as ample as mine, they can be quite tricky. I found this tutorial by Fashion Hack Patterns, and the tip to trim the princess seam edges by 1/8″ was quite helpful.
I also needed a tiny bit more room on the waist, so I borrowed some fabric from the seams. If I sew another Magnolia, I will go up a size for the waist. I do not wear a lot of dresses that are fitted at the waist, so this might be why I felt it was a bit too snug. I like to have some breathing room, you know?
The skirt is made up of three panels for the front and three for the back. These many panels take a lot of time to sew, but they add a lot of swish to the skirt. I constructed the front part and the back part separately as I was planning to join them at the shoulder to add the sleeves in flat, but the size zipper had me change my plans. I shortened the skirt by a couple of inches because why not?
This was my first time installing a side zipper. I like to sew sleeves in flat as this allows me much more flexibility if I ever need to let a seam out or bring it in. Here, I decided that setting in sleeves was a lesser evil than inserting an invisible zipper after the side seam was sewn. I used the invisible zipper foot, and the zipper went in without a lot of drama—which is saying a lot, considering that zippers are my weakness.
I had to add a tiny stitch where the two bodice pieces intersect because there was a gap—not enough to be scandalous, but enough to make me feel uncomfortable. I should have read Deer & Doe’s post about adjusting the bust before I sewed the bodice, but since the muslin did not have that problem, I skipped it. It looks like the neckline is too long, and pinching a bit of fabric off the shoulder seam would have done the trick. I also feel that since the muslin fabric was sturdier, it just stood in place a little better. The rayon is so drapey, it has no structure at all. Nothing that I can fix now since the neckline is finished with bias tape, and I’m sure as hell not going to undo the whole thing.
It has taken some time for me to fully appreciate this dress. At first, I felt uncomfortable, like I had no business wearing it. It just did not feel like me. I needed some time to get used to it. That was the same feeling I had with my new school—a sense of being out of place, of not belonging. I am happy to say that on both accounts, things have changed. I love the Magnolia, and I am much happier at my new school. It is funny how much sewing parallels life.