“Marcel” Dress
from Chalk & Notch Patterns

Fabric: Williams Sonoma Tablecloths, circa 2005

I first saw the Marcel dress on Instagram. Many of the makes were beautifully colorblocked; others utilized the grain and cross grain in ways that brought attention to the side ruffles. With the contrasting side panels, the vertical center front section appeared more slimming than a simple multi-tiered dress.

At the same time I saw the Marcel dress, a number of Instagram sewists were posting upcycled makes to an upcycle challenge. Marcel’s tiers of ruffles immediately made me think of border prints, which reminded me of the two old Williams-Sonoma tablecloths collecting dust at the top of my linen closet. I dreamed about upcycling and bought the pattern.

The pattern I bought was a PDF. I’ve used PDF patterns before, but I was horrified that this one was 72 pages worth of pattern! (Not to mention the additional pages of instructions, which I read electronically.) When I sent out inquiries to various printers in my area, I found that large format printing was double the initial pattern’s cost. In addition, the large format PDF supplied by Chalk & Notch was for a paper size not available from any of my local printers. While I inquired about different printing options, my excitement for the project waned until I needed some Christmas presents and an easy project. Marcel is not the style I usually wear, but it is definitely the style of several of my friends.

I printed all 72 pages, sacrificed a rotary blade, and spent an evening tiling, taping, and cutting. I’m glad I did. The pattern is well drafted — the pieces fit together perfectly. I would have thought the pattern was simply rectangles. However, the pattern is very thoughtfully drafted: The front and back bands are curved to hug the rib cage. Neither the center front nor the center back panels are true rectangles. The center front panel bows up to fit the curved band at the top, and the center back scoops into a beautifully flattering curved back band. The side top panels are princess seamed to flatter the bust. Although the side ruffles are rectangles, they are not all the same width; they cascade from narrow at the top to wide at the bottom. The pattern also contains a mini dress and a top, both with tiers in scale to their size. I wouldn't have thought of all those details if I was self-drafting, and I'm happy to pay someone for such a well-drafted pattern. I just wish there was a way to print it out more economically.

In all, Marcel is an easy make. Not my usual couture work, but a wonderful style for hot Southern California summer days — I can see it as a cover-up for a poolside party. So, here we have it. Two tablecloths upcycled into two summer dresses. Bring on the sunshine!

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