I missed the Fashion Star program debut of this dress by designer Nikki Poulos. But I fell for the pattern when it came out - McCalls 6552 Maxi Caftan Dress. Love love maxi dresses! And adore caftans and muumuus that make me feel pretty at home.
My caftan is done in a very lightweight polyester seersucker. When I ordered the fabric, I was under the impression it was cotton! hmmm. It turned out to be very sheer. And I am not fond of polyester next to my skin (too warm). But the stripe is lovely oranges, tangerines, and muted browns. So I lined it completely in an ivory cotton lawn - now it feels heavenly!
The lines are very pretty: classic kimono sleeves ending just at the elbow, raised waist drawn under the bust, and a reasonably gathered a-line skirt. The pattern does not have pockets in the skirt, and I did not add them to this version because of the lightness of the seersucker. Future renditions in cotton will have side seam pockets - love pockets!
Because of the difference in the two fabrics (lawn being such a tight weave and more likely to shrink in repeated laundering), I cut my lining pieces with additional 3/8" allowance, all edges, and eased in the difference in sewing.
A surprise and welcome touch in the construction: the back and front bodice and sleeves are cut and sewn as one piece. Wonderful! I did take the time to measure myself and the pattern - waist to waist, front to back, over the shoulder, round the bustline - to reassure myself before cutting my fabrics. My only adjustment was to add 1/4" to the bottom edge of front and back.
I also like the constuction of the drawstring casing. It is formed from the bodice/skirt seam, which is sewn a bit wider than 5/8", trimmed on the bodice side, and turned up, folded and stitched. I am very fond of this approach, as it leaves a smooth inside finish and does not add bulk for the casing.
Caution tall ladies: I am 5'7" and used only the 5/8" hem allowance in the pattern! My caftan touches the floor when I am barefoot, which is what I like. But scary!
And modesty prevailed - I made an alteration to the bodice front. The original pattern has a deep v-neck ending even with the bottom of the bustline. ah. I redrafted the bodice pieces to allow for a 1" (finished) crossover at center front, which still allows for an oo-la-la neckline about 4" above the original :-)
My final adjustment - Nikki, are you writing this down? - was to insert 1/4" elastic in a narrowed waistline casing instead of inserting the drawstring. Seems so simple, and it is so much more comfortable than fiddling around with a drawstring. I attached the drawstring on top of the elastic at center front. The stitching also serves to anchor the elastic at that point (I did a similar anchor at center back, shifting elastic is distracting :-)
You can also see in this picture that I left the sleeve facing unattached. I had to piece the bottom of the sleeve lining, my precious lawn was running out on me...
Now for the Fashion Show...
Fashion Star Episode 1 - Macy's Kimono-Sleeve Maxi Caftan Dress by Nikki Poulos $89
Sold out day 1 in stores! Shown here in woven and knit fabrics.
(from the official NBC site) Nikki Poulos grew up on a farm with no electricity in the Australian Outback on 54,000 acres of land. With no television - and only the outdoors to entertain her and her siblings - they were forced to be creative. Sewing soon became her favorite pastime. In the early 1990s, Poulos created an eco-friendly baby clothing line called "ecobaby," which she sold in open-air markets, and eventually expanded the business to sell in major department stores. Poulos quickly experienced much success and, after five years, sold her company and decided to go back to school and study marine biology. After receiving her Bachelor of Science degree, she worked in marine research and coral reef conservation. However, Poulos could not stay away from fashion for too long. Now she is selling her clothing online and in stores across the U.S., Caribbean and Australia.
And Coco's Loft Maxi Caftan $30 ($17 unlined)!