When I found out that Hannah from Paddleboat Studio was releasing a pattern for The Carson Dress, I asked if I could be a tester before the call for testers was even sent out! I've been drooling over this dress for months - anytime Hannah posted a picture of one of her versions, I immediately tried to figure out in my mind how I could alter The Fen Dress from Fancy Tiger Crafts to look like hers. But there was just something about it that was so good and I couldn't quite place for how to make my own version. So of course, I was overjoyed when she sent me the pattern to test before the official release!
I won't lie...I was a little skeptical after my first version. Wanting to make sure I had enough ease, I sewed up a size Large. Oh boy was there a lot of ease! When I tried it on, I really just looked like I was wearing a dress that's far too big for me. Back to the drawing board it was...
And I'm so glad I tried again!! I made a muslin of the top bodice to test it before cutting into my second fabric and that made all the difference. I highly recommend fitting the top of the dress first before cutting out the entire thing! I ended up cutting out a size Medium in the bodice and the skirt, and graded the top to a size Small from the armpits down to the waistline. I love the extra gathers that are created by using a different size for the waist and the skirt. It adds just a little bit of extra volume.
I also just can't get over the sleeve cuff detail in the short-sleeved version! I think it would look so cute with some sort of contrasting fabric...maybe at the pockets too?
Fabric choice will make a big difference for The Carson Dress. I definteily recommend something with drape. Hannah recommends linen, voile, double gauze, rayon, and silk. For my final version, I used tencel and I LOVE it. It's heavy and has some weight to it, but still drapes beautifully and doesn't feel stiff. Because this dress has so much body and volume, you definitely want a material that's going to move with you.
So the big question: Carson or Fen? Ultimately for my body type, I like The Carson Dress better. It's no secret, I've got curves. Because of that The Fen Dress is almost too snug through the bottom skirt if I get the top to fit correctly. Granted, I've only made one version of The Fen Dress so far, so I haven't made any alterations that would make it fit a little better.
The Carson Dress has gathers on both the front and the back of the dress, whereas The Fen Dress only gathers in the front. I love that detail, but for people who want a little less volume, The Fen Dress might be the way to go.
And again - those sleeve cuffs! The long sleeve version has the cuff built into the pattern as well. I just love how cozy and comfortable this makes the dress look.
I'm already planning my next Carson Dress for summer and can't wait to make a wool flannel version for fall and winter! After only a couple of days, this dress has already become one of my very favorite me-made pieces. It's just such a great basic that can carry you through the year.
The Carson Dress pattern was released today! You can get a copy of the pattern in the Paddleboat Studio Etsy shop. Congratulations Hannah!!! I can't wait to see all the versions everyone makes.