You know how sometimes you abandon a WIP just because life gets in the way? And again and again, until you no longer have the drive to finish it? That happened with this dress. I started it the first week of December, meaning to wear it for Dressember, and it was done except for some finishing work and the zipper. Between holidays, illness, work, and just life, it’s been sitting in the corner since. I was recently inspired to start some new things, and since my new motto is to finish the old before starting new, I dug out the parts this weekend and made myself put in those last stitches.
I’ve loved the denim daydress I made last spring so much, I wanted to have more dresses that shape and style. But the nature of woven fabric means it doesn’t stretch and the size is rigid. Which means minor weight fluctuations make it suddenly fit differently. Butterick 5605 was one of the retro patterns in my queue to make, and it has some fun details that I thought would marry well with a gorgeous soft deep rose stretch brocade I bought at Vogue Fabrics back in October. I wanted to experiment making up some 50’s style dresses in medium weight stretch fabrics for comfort, with the added bonus that they’d continue to fit given small fluctuations.
Here’s where I knew I had to deviate from the original pattern. The back piece and bow detail are patterened to be cut all in one, which extends into the fabric in a really wasteful way. The center backs and center fronts are also cut double, so the neck can turn with a full lining. Normally I like this, as facings can sometimes flap about and never lay well. But in this case, since the period cut pattern is a dolman sleeve continuous with the fronts and backs, it means the entire sleeve would also be double thick. Not really something I wanted. I also didn’t care for the way the strap came off the back piece at a completely straight angle, when the rest of the dress is all curves.
After some serious thinking and chats with knowledgeable friends, I opted for the following: Cut everything single layer only. Eliminate the unnecessary center front seams. Raise the back to cover a modern bra. Round the angles of the back strap. Only cut the back strap to the center back line. I then cut strap pieces on the fold, to be attached to the extension later. I opted to cut cross grain strips 1″ wide to be used as a narrow facing, really just an interior binding, for all the neck edges and curves. I also pinned out the elbow dart in the sleeve, since I was using a stretch fabric and the dart was unnecessary. On a size note, I cut two sizes down, at zero ease, since I wanted a close fit and the fabric had quite a bit of stretch.
I used a straight stitch for all seams, as it seemed to stretch well enough. I interfaced the points of the bodice where the tops of the princess seams made sharp corners, as well as the center back seams to make setting the zipper easier. The trickiest part of the design is setting the bodice fronts and backs into the side pieces, where I used the following method: Using a very short stitch length, reinforce the corner after interfacing on the fronts and backs. Mark a dot on the side pieces exactly where the corner should finish, and pin the pieces together at this point but only along one side. Clipping to the point of turn before stitching to the side front and back pieces, stitch up the side you have pinned and needle down in the corner at the dot. Pivot the work, and pull the other side into place, and sew down the other side. Press over a ham if you have one to help make the shaping curve smoothly.
Fit: I ended up taking a bit out of the shoulder and sleeve, as it was patterned for a woven that would need more fabric there for movement. I also needed to take a bit out of the center back, as it was still just a bit big with the spongey knit, so I moved the pleats in the skirt to accomodate the new closure line. Since I opted for an exposed zipper for a bit of decoration, I also moved the pleats and the closure line in an extra 1/8″ on either side, since the zipper teeth add to the width. Being overly cautious, I didn’t want the dress to end up stretching out over time and added a 1/4″ elastic encased in the waist seam.
The hems were done by machine, utilizing the hem stitch. I know. I never ever use it. Mainly because it’s so fiddly to set up and make sure you’re taking the same amount of bite each stitch, but the texture of the brocade easily hid all the stitching. Definitely a stitch worth experimenting with if you want to start hemming at home but are intimidated to hand sew.
And the binding on all the necklines? Worked fantastically. I stay stitched along the seam line first, and pre-pressed the binding to meet in the middle using my bias tape maker. I curved the binding so the outside edge would lay flat since the curve is so severe, and then pinned the crease of the binding to the stay stitch line. Stitched, trimmed away the excess, and understitched. Pressed the binding to turn to the inside, and topstitched the other edge down at 1/2″ from the edge.
The ties were a bit hard to fit on myself, as I wanted the join to end up somewhere in the knot at the neck so it wouldn’t be seen. I overlapped where I thought it would meet, and enlisted a friend to double check the placement. I trimmed off the excess, leaving 1/2″ seam allowance to attach the ties. Sewed right sides together from inside the tie, and going through the extension piece, I then flipped the seam allowance inside the tie and closed up the inside edge by hand.
The knit makes this dress so comfortable, and easy to care for. Plus everything just stretches flat and lays so nicely! And bonus, no pressing required.
Miss Cakes felt we needed a serenade for pictures.
The points lay perfectly flat thanks to the interfacing, the waist stays put due to the elastic. And pockets are just always nice to have.
I did wonder if I should have cut the back opening a bit bigger, but decided that a dress with long sleeves was going to be worn when it was cold outside, so coverage was a good thing. Plus I’ve learned with the denim dress that a bow on the back makes a cardigan not work for layering.
If you’ve been tempted to try a retro pattern but have been worried about it working well for our modern athleisure-loving lifestyle, take a chance and try it out of a knit. And finish off those WIPs that have been taunting you! Spring is coming, and with it, a whole new slew of projects to start.
Love from Wisco,