Ambivalent about Alder

Having a baby really throws your body for a loop. Well duh, Claire, we all know that. But I don’t think I did know that – not really – until I went through it myself. Pre-pregnancy, my measurements were pretty consistent (36, 30, 42-43). Picking a size on the pattern envelope was no big deal. But these days, I couldn’t really tell you what my measurements are. Maybe that’s why I feel so-so about this dress – which I suspect is a size too large.


This is Grainline Studio’s Alder dress, which (like many Grainline patterns) is wildly popular around the sewing blogosphere. I sewed it up in a Kaufman cotton lawn (Lennox Gardens) that I had been coveting for a while and then snatched up in a Craftsy sale.

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During pregnancy, my bust went from 36 to 38 1/2 inches. My waist measurement? No idea. Not even going there. My hips – also no idea, but certainly several inches larger. After pregnancy, I did not immediately shrink back to normal, nor did I expect to. So I made this dress in a size 12. But I don’t think I measured myself immediately before making it. I just went with the last measurements I could remember.


There’s not much shaping to this dress – only a couple bust darts. So I expected it to be loose and a little tent-like. But it still feels like just a little too much fabric on me. A little too shapeless.


I became obsessed with how big the neckline felt on me.


You may notice I left off the collar and kept the collar stand. I also used Andrea’s method for altering a collared shirt to a v-neck. So really, I should have a gap at the top where the collar stand can’t meet, because I removed width there. Instead, I can close it with quite a bit of overlap. This bugs me, probably more than it should. But Andrea’s v-neck just looks so much nicer than mine:

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In sum, not a particularly flattering dress on me. Evidence below:


On the plus side, I think the pattern instructions were great and helped me achieve a great finish on this. I’m very happy with the quality of my sewing, and it almost makes me want to sew shirts more often.


#1 – Take your measurements every time you start a new project. You might not know your body as well as you think you do.

#2 – This pear does better with some waist definition. A couple little bust darts aren’t going to cut it.

#3 – If you’re going to sew something with minimal shaping, use a drapier fabric. My old pal rayon challis would work better here. The crisp cotton lawn stands away from the body and adds volume.


Your boobs might get bigger from having a baby, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stay that way. (Just one of many things I never knew about childbearing. Also slightly disappointing.)




  1. oh dear, post-pregnancy measurements… Our body does change a lot, in strange ways too. After learning the hard way that I should rely on previous measurements, I’ve taken up the habit of measuring myself at the beginning of each project and it does make the fitting process a little easier!
    As for the Alder, you’re right about the absence of waist definition and that’s probably why I’ve never felt the urge to buy or try this pattern 😉


  2. You’ve made such a gorgeous job of finishing the dress and the fabric is so pretty, it would be such a shame if the dress was relegated! Perhaps there is an opportunity to introduce some waist definition with some fish-eye darts front and back – this would also stop the tent effect of the dress hanging straight from the bust. I reallse you won’t want to change the side seam line too much as you will have finished the shaped hem with a facing, but you could add a bit of shaping to those seams from the bust down through the waist and then blend it back out to the original hemline. this would define the waist and play up the A-Line shape more. I made an alder a couple of years ago and also feel there is a lot of fabric above the bust.


  3. Hello fellow pear! I am looking for a causal summer dress pattern, and your lessons learned are very timely! I was thinking of making a dress with just bust darts, using fairly stiff cotton jersey (like a long t-shirt dress). After seeing your blog post, I can see it would have worked. Perhaps the long t-shirt type dresses just aren’t for us small-busted pears . : (
    Congratulations on doing so much sewing with a baby in the house. I am impressed!


    • Hello pear! Yes, I think if it lacks waist definition, at the very least it needs a very drapey fabric that can be belted easily. I tried a belt with this, and it just doesn’t look right. The fabric bunches.


  4. I do not have a pear shape …and I too was disappointed with my make! I am wider at top and waist with no hip! but I think (after looking at a multitude of pics) that if the hem was about 4 inches above my knee…it might be better! It seems to in all the pics and I might take cut in the shoulder to fit my bust the shoulder fits too loose…you want to keep pulling it in further so it sits where it should for a sleeveless style!
    Just my opinion!


  5. If it makes you feel better, I had to go down two sizes from the recommended size to get my Alder to fit, and my neck was still WAY too big. I was so unhappy with it I never even blogged it.

    I looked around after my gapey neckline, and though very few people have commented on it, many other people have lots of extra length around the back of their neck in the Alder. Shortening at the front doesn’t really help, because the back is cut quite low.


    • That DOES make me feel better! It’s nice to know I’m not crazy. Whenever I have an issue with a pattern and no one else mentions it, I start to wonder if I just made mistakes when I cut things out… but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.


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