I tested the sizes 20 – 28 size range of the Merchant & Mills Trapeze Dress in their Woolsey Boston Fall linen/wool double gauze, which Merchant & Mills kindly sent my way along with a digital copy of the pattern for the purpose of the review.
Their extended size range goes up to a 55″ (139.5 cm) bust and 57.5″ (145.5 cm) hip. The largest finished bust measurement is 62.59″ (159 cm), there’s no given measurement for the hip measurement and the finished bicep is 18.79 ” (47.75 cm).
I really love the aesthetic of the Merchant & Mills patterns and I was really pleased to see that they’d extended their size range and I was now included. Currently, they have 9 patterns available in their UK 20-28 size range but I think I, much like many other plus -size sewists, were waiting to see the pattern on bodies at the top end of the size chart before deciding whether to purchase the patterns.
Printing and cutting out: I printed the A0 file, and even though I only wanted to make the sleeveless version, I needed to print all the pages to get the different pieces that I needed. I also scratched my head for quite some time trying to work out which pieces I needed because the back without buttons piece was accidentally labelled as front. I could have sorted that issue out quicker by consulting the instructions sooner, but I generally consult the size chart to decide which size to cut out and then don’t consult them again until it’s time to sew.
Size details: Since I have quite narrow shoulders, I picked a Size 22 (47.5″ bust) which fit with my bust measurement of 48″. There wasn’t a finished measurement given for the waist or hip, so I measured the pattern pieces prior to cutting out the pattern and decided that I could risk a straight 22, without any grading at the hip. I couldn’t seem to find info about what cup size the extended range is drafted for.
Adjustments: I have quite narrow shoulders so I did toile the top half of the dress to see if I needed to make any changes. I ended up doing a narrow shoulder adjustment (following these instructions from the CSC) to remove 3cm from the shoulders, which had the added benefit of creating a little more room in the armsyce (which was definitely too snug for my 19″ biceps and would have required adjustment).
I noticed some differences in the shoulder width on the dress when I was trying to decide how much of a narrow shoulder adjustment to do. The UK20-28 extended size dress seems to have much wider shoulders than the original Trapeze Dress,with the UK20-28 dress appearing to hit at your natural shoulder whereas the regular size on the left sits much further in.
I made the sleeveless non-button-back dress version, frankly because it was the easiest and meant I could skip adjusting the sleeves, which I knew would have needed a lot of work to ensure that they fit. I also hoped that the sleeveless view would be great for winter layering!
The Fabric: You know sometimes when it’s not until you make a garment that you can identify that the fabric used in the sample is one of the things making the pattern something you’re drawn to, and that you haven’t quite chosen the right fabric to replicate what you like about the pattern? Yeah.. that happened here.
The woolsey fabric is absolutely lovely. It’s soft and cosy and is such a gorgeous rich colour, but it also has quite a bit of drape which meant I lost quite a bit of the structure that I liked most in the sample dresses from both the UK 20-28 and original size range. However, the fabric feels gorgeous on (and isn’t at all itchy, which is sometimes an issue for me with wool), so I hope I’ll get a lot of wear from the dress.
Final thoughts: The pattern fits but I definitely should have done a bigger narrow shoulder adjustment to even get close to the sample pictures for the UK 20-28 size of the pattern. I do have narrow shoulders, so that definitely played a part here, but I do wonder if the grading up from the smaller sizes has inadvertently lead to very wide shoulders? I think the true test on that front could only be done by someone who has “average sized” shoulders . Apart from that, the dress fits and it’s a style that I’d definitely like to try in a more structured fabric.
I’d love to see Merchant & Mills add some extra info to their extended size range including details about what cup size the patterns are drafted for, a full size chart and more finished measurements, and sleeve pieces with full-bicep adjustments built in would really be icing on the cake. However, I hope to get a lot of wear from this dress, and with some additional work to narrow the shoulders I hope I’ll make more versions too.