Monday, June 10, 2013

One red dress

So who hasn't seen Gatsby yet?  That would be me. 

This is for two reasons: 1) not a fan of musicals (The Wizard of Oz being the only exception) and 2) I'm afraid I'll become obsessed with 1920s fashion when I haven't yet finished with the newer parts of the century. Currently in the stash are 2 x 1950s, 1 x 1940s and 1 x 1930s patterns that have to be done first. And then I fret about the 1950s trend, and should we be moving on or is there more life in the Mad Men fad yet? These are the things that keep me up at night.

I feel like I'm such a slow sewer. This dress started about a month ago and is only just crossing the finish line today.  I have probably missed the Gatsby trend anyway in the time it's taken...are we on to the 1800s now??

Much like the little black dress, every girl should have a little red dress in her wardrobe.


This is Butterick 5281, view B, from 1946. I just love that the pattern companies are re-releasing these vintage patterns. I assume they are picking the best of the best from their books. I wonder if in 60 years they will re-release the peplum dress? We can only hope that common sense prevails.

View B is the short sleeved version. View A has long sleeves, which look super stylish but as you know I'm not a fan of long sleeves because I end up with swimming pools in my armpits. 

There is lots to see on this dress. Three pleats down the right front shoulder, a yoke across the left front, front and back bodice darts, shoulder pads (!! I know!!), four gored skirt with an asymmetric seam across the front, invisible side zip, gathers on the side bodice, fully lined and a belt. Phew!


Up until recently, linen = boring in my books. I'm not sure how that came about. Perhaps it was the foppish gents in the Anne of Green Gables books I used to read as a girl. They always seemed to be gadding about in linen suits. Or the insipid beige linen pants that some ladies wear when they get older. 

However a couple of years ago the Tessuti Awards used linen and lace as the theme and since then I've been gravitating towards the linen section of fabric stores. I also had an overwhelming desire to make something outrageously red.

This is Como Lip Rouge linen from Tessuti. Sold out at the moment unfortunately.

This linen is blue based which I find suits my colouring better than a pink based red. It also crushes easily, but that adds to its charm.



I did a bit of an experiment with this dress and timed myself. It took me three hours just to cut out and mark the material. !  The fashion fabric is cut out in three stages and then there is the lining as well.

Once all the cutting is done the rest is not too scary. I did note that the pattern is missing the instruction to make the darts in the bodice back lining, but luckily noticed the massive discrepancy in width before any drastic unpicking had to occur.

There is a lot of under stitching for the bodice, which is one of my favourite techniques. I love how neat the seams sit when they've been under stitched.

Here we have the belt + side gather detail.

Shoulder pleats! Three in total, with the middle one longer than the side pleats. Fabulous drapey effect happens as a result. You can also see how limited my tech skills are because I couldn't fix the colour in these photos.

Here you can see the asymmetric seam that runs across and down the front of the skirt. It's quite a subtle detail but gives added interest.

NOTE! The pattern instructions state that this is unsuitable for obvious stripes, plaids etc. The main reason for this is the asymmetric front skirt seam. I have seen this dress made up in tartan and it just looks really odd because the front skirt panel seams are not cut along the grain - in fact, the two seams are cut on different diagonals. 

To illustrate - the front skirt is made of pieces 8 and 9. You can see that where they join at the front, the seam is not cut at the same angle along the material. There is no way to match them so don't be tempted! Although the seam ends up vertical, that's a function of the goring.
Invisible zip! Plus a bit of random fluff.


The whole dress is lined. Lovely, lovely, lovely! I used raspberry bemsilk, except for the front flange and the sleeves - all in the linen. Check out the shoulder pads!  Without them this dress would be all limp shouldered. They don't need to be big bad inch-thick 80s power shoulders.

I'm not super keen on free-floating linings, and not just because I'm lazy. I just prefer that the seam edges (raw or finished) aren't seen at all. So I hemmed the lining into the linen.

The front flange is secured with snaps. 

The bodice is a smidge too wide - it could have done with about half an inch reduction on both sides. The shoulders seams could also be about a quarter of an inch shorter too. However, it is designed to be semi-fitted, so I am not really worried about the more-loose-than-I'm-used-to construction.  

Bruce approves!

 This also meets the OK for work criteria, so I'll try it out this week!


  1. This is so lovely!! I've recently come around to linen myself, it behaves so well, it is a dream to sew with. I love it when something can look so simple but on closer inspection has beautiful details like this one. I've been thinking about a red dress too, maybe a cute shirtdress.

    1. Linen would be great for a shirtdress Amy - do you have a pattern in mind?

  2. Wow - exquisite!! This dress really suits you. It's absolutely gorgeous.

  3. Hey, Here is a sweet surprise - I have nominated you for the super sweet blogger award!

    1. Well thank you! I will have some time on the weekend to return the favour :)

  4. This is really a lovely dress on you! And I agree about the linen - I'm currently thinking about making my first linen dress; Colette patterns has just come out with a shirtdress pattern called "Hawthorne" and I'm thinking about making it is linen.

    The red is beautiful on you!

    1. Oh Kim that's a great idea. The Hawthorne would be perfect in linen!

  5. I nominated your blog on the Super Sweet Blogging Award! Happy sewing!

  6. I cant wait to finish mine now, it looks really pretty! I got the same pattern for a school project and i have a question about the sleeves. I've only had 2 years of sewing so please excuse my lack of knowledge, i looked up a few videos of slip stitching since i didn't know what it was and basically its hand sewing, and i want to make sure thats what you did because i forgot the sleeves in school and i am about to connect the skirt with the top and i'm thinking of doing the sleeves later on.