The Factory Dress by Merchant & Mills has been on my radar for a little while now and I’ve been dying to make it. I finally found a retailer in the U.S. where I could buy it online (Purl Soho!) and once it arrived at my door I tore into it expecting to start working on it immediately. But after browsing through the instructions I decided I wasn’t too keen on the way the front is constructed, mostly because I was scratching my head at how one might finish the edges on a serger without some serious fandangling (you’ll see what I mean in the photo coming up). So I decided to pattern hack and re-trace the bodice my own way and make it a button front instead, hence “The Hack-tory Dress”.
The original bodice design made it really easy to alter into a shirt dress. I basically just cut the front facing off the original piece, moved it over a few inches to allow for an overlapping button band, and re-traced it. Not too difficult. Below you can see the pattern illustration for the original front. It’s a really unique construction, but not one I could easily feed through my serger without an impending fiasco!
The fabric I chose is a yarn dyed chambray by Andover Fabrics. I originally bought the yardage for an Archer shirt some months ago but never got around to making it and I was tired of it sitting around in my stash. I had three yards and just barely fit all the pieces on (I had to cut the sleeves on the opposite grain to fit). The fabric color is the result of weaving blue and yellow threads together which makes for a gorgeous seafoam-green-y illusion. The color is called Bluegrass, which I think is pretty accurate.
The yarn dyed construction makes the fabric look almost iridescent in some lights, and is surprisingly difficult to match thread to! I bought every color mint/aqua thread color I could find and none of them were a good match. Out of frustration I started grabbing every single blue, green, grey, taupe, yellow thread I had on my rack in hopes one of them would be a good blend for topstiching. I finally settled on a dusty blue, which I never guessed would look so invisible on seafoam green, but it totally works!
The Factory Dress is a 1920s inspired design that’s meant to have a very loose, straight fit with a semi drop waist. I’ve seen some beautiful examples around the web (here, here, and here) but I wasn’t 100% happy with the silhouette on my frame. With my Lady Turtle rounded upper back/sway back combo, every garment that’s not a fitted shape has the tendency to tent off me, no matter what adjustments I make. I opted not to try to take the dress in or add back darts (though I seriously thought about it) because that’s not how this pattern was drafted to fit. There’s a fine line between fitting a pattern and altering its design, as I’ve learned the hard way with previous versions of the Archer shirt. If I want a slimmer fit, I’ll pick a different dress pattern next time. …or just add a belt!
My simple shaping solution was to make a little button-back belt and attach it to the front. The circumference of the belt is slightly smaller than that of the dress laying flat, so when it’s buttoned it nips in the hips and helps curb some of my sway back tenting while still allowing the dress to hang free and keep its intended loose shape. I feel slightly genius-y about that addition. Not gonna lie 😉
The apron style belt (along with the green fabric and white buttons) really makes the dress look like a 1920s factory uniform (or as Tasha lovingly described it: a dress fit for a scullery maid lol) but that’s kinda why I’m in love with it! I mean, who wouldn’t want to look like a flapper moonlighting as a domestic servant?! Haha!
My plan was to take photos of the dress actually on ME and not on my dress form, but our hot water is mysteriously out as of this morning and I prefer to shower before gracing you with my presence (you’re welcome). I promise I’ll have outfit photos in this dress soon, though!
I’m debating taking the white buttons off and going with darker brown wood instead, because the dress totally looks like a uniform as it is. As I said, I kind of love it more for those reasons but I also don’t necessarily want to look like a Depression Era Girl Scout either. Or maybe I’m into that. …I haven’t decided yet.
All I know is this dress is SO COMFORTABLE and I’m definitely going to make it again! I want to make one tweak to the sleeves so I can attach them flat and sew the side seam all in one go instead of setting them in. I attempted to sew them flat on this version but things got a little awkward at the armpit seam.
Two thumbs up for The Factory Dress so far! I’ll be back with proper outfit shots soon, probably with more hammy animal photos, because unless I lock myself in a separate room the fuzzy photo bombs are inevitable. That’s just the way it is 😉
Speaking of, here’s a super cute instagram snap of Lucille (clearly my Spirit Animal) helping me take photos today.