Review: SWAK Designs Convertible/Infinite/Endless/Interchangeable/Overwhelming! Dress, and Perfect Cami

By | April 13, 2009

For many years now, Monif C has really sewn up the plus-size “infinity dress” market. The infinity dress – also known alternatively as a convertible or interchangeable dress – is a dress with a full skirt and two long (really, really quite long) panels of fabric that can be wrapped around the torso in a multitude of ways to create, literally, many different looks from one dress. Monif C’s convertible dress runs about $195 for the short version, and $235 for the (apparently new) long version.

In my typically humble opinion, this is sort of crazy.

Before I get to the body of my review, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that you can make one of these dresses and it’s relatively easy, depending on how comfortable you are working with stretch knits. I’ve made this dress twice now and though the actual sewing process is pretty quick (and easier still if you have access to a serger), both times were fairly miserable experiences. For one thing, I despise sewing with stretch knits, and this dress can really only be effectively made with a lightweight stretch knit fabric. For another thing, a version big enough to fit me took a LUDICROUS amount of fabric, as the top panels really need to be all of one piece, so the whole dress ate up nearly six yards of fabric when I was done (for comparison: I can easily make myself a more structured dress out of two to three yards of 60″ wide fabric, with extra left over). Not $200 worth of fabric and labor, as the Monif C version would suggest, but definitely more than I expected to spend. So while I definitely encourage all fatshionistas to learn to sew, I cannot in good conscience call this a great sewing project, at least based on my own personal (embittered) experiences.

Luckily, I recently had the opportunity to check out SWAK Designs’ new interchangeable wrap dress, which at less than half the price of Monif C’s is still not exactly inexpensive, but seems to have a better value-to-dollar ratio.

Up front

(Yes, I know, JEANS OMG.)

I’ve worn this dress twice now and am pretty damn satisfied with it. It doesn’t seem to be pilling thus far – my primary complaint with jersey knits – and it’s insanely comfortable, as well as being well-made, though given the simplicity of the construction (the dress has one seam! one!) it would probably be difficult to do it badly. Above, I’ve got the skirt part hiked up a bit to make it an empire waist, so I could wear it as a shorter dress/tunic. Worn lower it’s a knee-length dress. Worn higher it can be a shorter top. I’m wearing a black cami underneath it above, mostly because the neckline can be very plunge-y depending on how you arrange it (both the SWAK dress page and this flickr group have suggestions for different styles). My only edit would be to include a bit of elastic in the waistband to help keep the skirt in place, as occasionally I’d try to adjust one of the top panels and wind up with part of the skirt hanging lower once I was done, which then needed readjusting, repeat ad inifinitum (pun!). The dress comes in two multi-sized options: one for sizes 1X to 3X, and one for sizes 4X to 6X, though it seems the only real difference in the sizes is the length of the skirt. For what it’s worth, I have a 48-inch waist and the 4X to 6X version fit me fine.

Overall, if you’ve been wanting this type of dress but unwilling to drop two bills on it, SWAK’s version is a more affordable option – even moreso considering they give you free shipping worldwide. I do wish it came in more colors (purple would be swell!) than basic black and a summery aqua (called “teal” on the website, though it sure looks aqua on my monitor), and I think the aforementioned elastic-waist addition would improve fit a great deal, but in general it’s a pretty great dress as-is.

Also in my package from SWAK were a couple samples of their their Perfect Cami. I wear a cami under pretty much everything, all the time, and though I was initially dubious about the “one size” aspect, these things can stretch like crazy without becoming too-tight or losing their shape. The fabric, though synthetic, is wonderfully soft and comfortable. I could do with less day-glo color options (I always bitch about colors, don’t I?) but I have to admit the colors they do have are vivid and based on a couple washes, seem unlikely to fade.

So, I hope this was helpful to some of you. Got questions, or want to add your own input on these items? Happily, that’s what comments are for.

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