Done and done: a Maternity-hacked Charlie Caftan

I bought the fabric for this caftan about a year ago during a day trip to Toronto when I swore I would buy no fabric. One of our restaurant choices was just down the road from the Workshop so I obviously had to go in and do some-speed shopping. It was summer, so I bought some linen.

I knew almost immediately that the windowpane check had to be some kind of summer dress and it quickly became clear that dress had to be a Charlie Caftan.

I decided to hack the caftan for maternity in such a way that I could easily continue to wear to wear it after pregnancy. I chose the gathered waist view and compromised on an almost-midi length as I was feeling neither mini not maxi. I originally thought I would leave out the waist tie (more on that later) and considered buttons for nursing, but decided against for simplicity’s sake.

The pattern itself required very little hacking for maternity. I added an extra four inches of width to the gathered front panel, but probably could have gone with less. I carry sort of up and down and all around instead of out, so the extra fabric actually adds unnecessary volume. This may change closer to the end of pregnancy. If you are one of those women who looks like she’s stuffed a basketball under her shirt, add the full four inches.

I also four inches of length to the front with a rounded hem so the front of my skirt didn’t lift significantly. This also seems too much and I could easily have gotten away with two inches. Right now, the skirt is obviously longer in the front, but I’m not going to bother fixing it as my ultimate plan is to even out the hem after pregnancy anyway.

Lastly, I raised the waistline two inches for a more empire style, Grecian feel. And to accommodate my belly.

The caftan sewed up super quick until I put it on and realized I had major alterations to make. The first problem was the plunging V-neck. The V literally reached down to my bra and was in NO way work-appropriate. It wasn’t even life-appropriate unless you are actually wearing it over a bathing suit at the beach. I was kicking myself as I should have foreseen this and made a muslin (or at least measured.) What I decided to do was take out the whole facing, punch out an inch and a half at the shoulders and be done with it. If you do this, you will have to get creative with the back neck facing piece and either recut it or trim it to fit the back of your neck.

The other problem I was experiencing involved the front waist panel hitting at just the wrong spot. Before raising the neckline, the gathers rested on my belly instead of above it and made me look a frumpy mess. Taking out an inch and half at the shoulders helped a lot, but there was still A LOT of volume going on where I didn’t want it. I took some sage advice from @zagwithme and added the waist tie.

Considering the front panel is the most difficult part of the pattern (though well explained in the sew-along), I was not keen on taking it all out. I cheated a bit and only unpicked the side seams on the right and wrong sides so I could slip the ties in and hand-stitch the panel closed.

The waist tie made things significantly better and I highly recommend it if you maternity hack this pattern. If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to nip that silhouette in as much as possible.

A word to the wise: if you decide to do a rounded hem in the front, you are going to need to either hem with bias tape (fun!) or gather the rounded parts (easy!) to avoid puckers in your front hem.

I am so, so, so glad I made this dress. I actually wore it both days this weekend and was actually complimented by two women at the park on Saturday. For me, it’s the ideal summer dress. The lightweight and light-coloured linen keep me super cool and the fact that barely any fabric touches my skin in key. I also really appreciate the shoulder coverage. I was blessed/cursed with skin that tans really, really easily even though I wear sunscreen like nobody’s business, so I usually end up with shoulders that are several shades darker than the rest of me by the end of the summer. I’m pretty sure this dress is going to spend very little time in the closet – it’s always either going to be on my body or waiting to be washed!

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