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A Plus Sized Review of the Envelope Dress from CrisWoodSews

I’m a fan of the kaftan. 

I wear them as nightgowns, day dresses and over my swimsuits. They offer incredible ease of wear and are amazingly breezy when the summer heat and humidity climbs. So when I saw Cris Woods’ Envelope Dress, I knew I had to try making one!

I had purchased the Tropical Birds yellow linen from The Maker Studio last year with the intention of making the Muna and Broad Spinifex PJs, but life had got in the way and the 6 meters was just lying in my stash screaming “Kaftan! Kaftan! Kaftan!” 

a swatch of vibrant yellow linen with vibrant tropical flowers and foliage and red and blue birds
Tropical Birds Linen.

The pattern for the Envelope Dress is less of a traditional pattern and more of a formula that you plug in your measurements to get your pattern pieces. The pattern consists of 3 panels (2 in the front and one in the back) based on your hip measurement plus a denoted amount of ease. The instruction booklet does offer a link to some resources for minor adjustments and being that the pattern is based on your own personal measurements, Cris Woods states that the pattern is size inclusive and very beginner friendly. 

I figured it would be the perfect low effort project to get back into sewing because if you read my last blog post, you’ll remember I’ve been slowly getting my sewjo back after major surgery. 

The pattern was easy to understand and mark out on the fabric, super simple to cut out and sew together. I would definitely recommend this project for beginner sewists – even as a very first sewing project! The major construction is all straight lines and the minor edge finishing doesn’t have to be perfect to get a nice looking garment. 

I write the above recommendation with one catch. This is the perfect project for straight sized and smaller bodies. If you fall above a US size 20, carry weight in your biceps, neck and/or shoulders, this pattern will likely not work for you without major retooling and adjustments. 

an image of the author, a ft indigenous white woman, wearing the dress in her measurements. The dress does not fit well in the neck and arms.
The Envelope Dress made to the author’s measurements

Due to the design of the neck hole being a long narrow longitudinal open seam, neck circumference eats into available width of this opening, making it feel tight even when extra depth is added to this part of the pattern. 

The design relies on being shapeless to fit a variety of bodies- but fat bodies require at least minimal shaping to account for – well, the shape of our fat bodies. Bodies don’t simply grow wider as we get fat, fat bodies will accumulate more fat in certain areas of the body due to a variety of factors, including but not limited to hormones, body type (Ectomorph, Mesomorph or Endomorph,) and genetics. 

The fit issues with the Envelope Dress highlight the need for proper grading of patterns by individuals who understand how bodies grow and move. Unfortunately it’s not as easy as making a pattern wider or a neck hole longer. Bodies have a shape and clothing should honor that. 

It’s my understanding that patterns that came after The Envelope Dress address some of the fit issues I’ve pointed out, and I look forward to trying them in the future.

3 Replies to “A Plus Sized Review of the Envelope Dress from CrisWoodSews”

  1. Cris says:

    Hello! I totally see what you’re coming from, and I’m sorry you weren’t satisfied with your experience. I would like readers to know that I use a fitting model with a 63” hip for all patterns, this particular pattern was tested with a plus size sewing group on Facebook, and there are examples of this pattern on my website in the gallery section. I know all bodies are different, and I do try to combine the zero/minimal waste concept with an inclusivity component, but sometimes I fall short. I am always here to listen, and appreciate you sharing because there is always more for me to learn.

    1. Val says:

      Thanks so much Cris! It’s great that you tested your pattern with a plus size group. I found that the fit issues for me were around the neckline which is is not necessarily correlated to a hip measurement. I appreciate all of the work you’ve done making this a zero waste pattern, and that you have made it as size inclusive as possible within that framework. However, as I mentioned in the blog post, because of the way fat bodies exist and the way that their weight is distributed and creates different shapes than a straight sized body, additional shaping is required in patterns to accommodate that shape. So in this dress, for example, a different neckline option would probably be an amazing inclusive addition to this pattern-perhaps one that offers more ease width wise, without having to make the neckline longer- because longer ≠ wider.

  2. Sidney says:

    I am a plus size designer as well as someone who is plus sized and I am telling you a lot needs to be fixed. Material choice automatically makes your mind go ro moo moo. Then the fit is atrocious, by leaving it shapeless to fit more bodies, though a good idea, you ended up adding pounds to the woman. I think that you are on to something it just needs refined. I look for clothes that have a shape because I am proud of who I am and will not feel.ashamed of them and I would never make my clients feel like they need to be.

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