The fourth muslin was close to what I wanted. I was tempted to stop there and make a muslin of the dress, but I kept looking at the pictures and thinking about what I wanted to change. Were the needed alterations beyond my skill or did I need to persevere through more muslins?
I compared this pattern version to the original Bronx pattern and thought about what I wanted to do. A part of me kept urging to try tracing a straight large from the Bronx with the added length and width alterations that worked from this pattern instead of all the grading small here, medium there, large there I had been doing.
The final pattern is thus:
Small at the neckline
Small for the shoulder height
Large for the shoulder width going towards the armhole
Large plus 2.75 inches at the "hem"/peplum seam
Draw a new, curved line from the peplum seam to the side armscye point
Lengthen by 3 inches at center front
Lengthen by 2.5 inches at side front
Draw new, curved peplum seam
Trace large front peplum and add 2.5 inches to top seam
Large at neckline
XS at neckline shoulder point (for 0.5 inch swayback adjustment)
Blend L to XS neckline curve
S shoulder height at shoulder armscye point
L width at shoulder armscye point
L plus a bit more at peplum seam to equal 9 inches across the half back
Draw a new, straight line from pepulum seam to side armscye point
Lengthen by 1.5 inches at center back
Lengthen by 2.5 inches at side back
Draw new, curved peplum seam
Trace large back peplum and lengthen top seam to equal 9 inches
Fifth time's the charm?
There are still drag lines at the back side. I'm guessing because of the straight back side seam and the curved front side seam, but I can't figure out how to fix that and not have it either too boxy in the front or too tight in the back.
I also might want to lower the center front by another half inch, but I'm worried about making it too difficult to blend into the side seams because I like the length of the back.
I would probably prefer a higher back neckline, too. I get cold too easily with an exposed back, as much as I like the look for lower back necklines or cutouts on the back. That's another fix I'm confident with making.
For the bridesmaid dress, I might lower the front neckline.
Otherwise, keeping in mind that different knits will behave differently, I'm ready to make a mock-up of the dress. I hope my sister, the bride, likes it after all this work. The only things she said for our bridesmaid dresses were what color (I better be able to find that color in a knit!) and that the dress should be something we would wear on a nice date.
The things I wanted to fix and did are:
Not too tight across the bust
Not too tight across the stomach
Not too tight across the scapulae
As fitted and shaped as possible, considering the growing stomach (no I'm not pregnant, just perplexingly gaining more weight than I ever have with no clear cause)
Things I learned:
My body has changed more than I like to admit from three years ago
I like peplum tops better on others
Knit with 75% stretch is extremely difficult to find, forget about having natural fibers