Charlie Brown and the Football

by Erin on March 25, 2006

newport shirtdress

This dress (thanks to Herself for the link, and those of you who are both plus-size and on LiveJournal should check out the blog she moderates, Fatshion Victim) is from Newport News. Now, I know we've had this conversation before — Newport News, like Lucy, is not to be trusted. I mean, it doesn't have the near-100% guile rate of Lucy Van Pelt, but, really, I've said and you've said in comments that sometimes the dresses are great, and sometimes you get something that was sewn together by hyperactive five-year-olds with a record player needle out of plastic carrier sacks.

This is actually a very powerful idea from psychology: intermittent reinforcement. You're more motivated to persevere when the reward is variable then when it's predictable. Scary, huh? I picture the Newport News headquarters being full of experimental psychologists in white coats, randomly assigning dresses to "good" and "crap" piles and then watching our ordering patterns. And laughing, definitely laughing.

I would hope that this one would be one of the good ones, especially because of the print. But I don't think I'm going to order it, even though it's only $49. (If you want to — and it goes through a size 18), let me know if when you pushed the lever you got a reward this time, okay?

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

IA March 25, 2006 at 12:47 pm

Mmm-hmm. I folded over the corner of that page in the catalogue but didn’t immediately run to the computer to buy it because I’ve already bought two–two–brown-and-white patterned dresses this year. Plus, you know, the skirt with the huge brown polka dots. Which is not to say that I won’t succumb, but I didn’t immediately succumb. If this print came in a skirt, however, hoo boy. (It does come in a godawful peasant blouse. Yes, those psychologists in lab coats are definitely laughing.)


Anonymous March 25, 2006 at 2:13 pm

Hello,I came across your blog earlier in the month and have been a frequent visitor ever since. I was wondering if you have any suggestions for a beginner. I have always wanted to make a dress but feel overwhelmed in the fabric store and don’t know where to begin. Do you have any suggestions for a pattern/design for a first timer? Enjoying you blog,Melissa


jenny March 25, 2006 at 9:57 pm

Just the words “Newport News” make me break out in a cold, uncomfortable sweat. I love that fabric; but I just don’t know whether I can let go of that decades-long image of bad fashion and poor quality…


Helen March 26, 2006 at 6:00 am

MelissaI always recommend that people start on straightforward patterns so that you add to your skills bit by bit. My path (ably led by my mother!) went something like this:First project – a wrap skirt, preferably with a tie side, so no buttons, zips or fiddling. Then when that’s successful, a skirt with a zipper. Then a pair of elasticated (or side zipped trousers – no fly front quite yet!). Then a sleeveless blouse with buttons, then a blouse with sleeves… and then you slowly build up your wardrobe and your portfolio with wearable clothes that don’t leave you with a headache and no fun!Then you can finally graduate onto the pintucked,set in sleeved, multiple gored dress with bias seams, collar, mini button backed wonder in about two years time!!Fabric wise, stick to small multicoloured patterns (big ones are hard to place, stripes can make matching problems and plains show up mistakes too much!) in heavy cottons or linen type fabrics that won’t slip and slide about too much to start you off.Hope that helps, keep trying and trust me, we all have mini disasters on the way so don’t lose hope all together. Make friends with your local fabric shop and they’ll definitely lead the way and guide you along!Good luck Helen xx


Anonymous March 26, 2006 at 9:15 am

Thank you for the suggestions, Helen. They are extremely helpful.


enc March 26, 2006 at 12:39 pm

Can we really trust the quality of a $49 dress that isn’t vintage? Hmmmmmm


Floridaprincess March 26, 2006 at 3:06 pm

I dont want to step on anyones toes but,I would look like absoulute crap in that dress. When I lived in Va Beach I went to a huge Newport News ware house sale an it was in a dept store that had went out of bussiness & it was huge. It was a 3 day sale. Dh & I went the first day we looked through mostly everything. I did not buy anything. When we left dh said boy they sure had a lot of crap in there didn’t they??? I said yes they did. Dh said a lot of cheap looking stuff and I said yes. I explained to him what Newport News was he had never heard of them. Dh did not know they were headquartered where we lived.


Floridaprincess March 26, 2006 at 3:11 pm

Anonoymous: when I fist learned how to sew years ago after a stint in home ec in 8th grade. I took begining sewing classes at the local college. They always offer sewing classes at night. That’s so people who work during the day can come take classes at night. They call them continuing ed classes.You can take all sorts of neat classes at night at your community college. Some colleges even offer tailoring classes.Bon chance!!!


michelle March 26, 2006 at 6:59 pm

there must be some big factory in china pumping these out, because i’m sure i’ve seen this a hundred times this summer in sydney, and we have not got newport news here.


Ang. March 27, 2006 at 7:42 am

I haven’t ordered anything from Newport News in years. But I have to say, even if I were tempted by this dress (the shirtwaist style does NOT flatter me) the fact that they do not show it pictured on a model is a big turn-off for me. I like to see how a dress looks on an actual person – just pictured floating on a white background like that tells me very little about how it will really look when worn.


Anonymous March 27, 2006 at 9:11 am

Have been ordering from NN since H.S. (1983) and it’s hit and miss, thankfully more hits…. for me at least. You have to pay attention to the discription of the fabric.I like the dress although it wouldn’t work for me- size 20


jenny March 27, 2006 at 6:08 pm

Melissa, here’s a great wrap-around skirt pattern from Butterick—I’ve alread bought three different fabrics that I’m planning to use with this pattern for spring/summer. And I like this cute, versatile pattern as a good zipper-learner second skirt. I know that Butterick’s not most peoples’ favorite brand, but our local Hancock Fabrics and JoAnn’s Fabrics often have them on sale for $1, so I’ve collected dozens, “just in case!” Then if you don’t actually end up making anything out of it [which happens more often than not with me], there’s very little guilt involved, cost-wise.


La BellaDonna March 28, 2006 at 8:11 am

Jenny, that’s a good reminder to Melissa – especially for a beginner, if you can get to a store such as JoAnn’s Fabrics, get your patterns for a dollar, instead of the regular price which now can hover around $10 or $15 for the same pattern you get at the dollar sale. And remember that for those of us who have lots of experience, that can also be interpreted as “have made bunches of mistakes in their time.” It’s something we all go through. Helen’s fabric suggestions are good; pick a fabric that feels nice when you touch it (you will understand this better once you’ve touched fabrics that make you go “EWWWWWW!”), in a small print that you love.As for Newport News, I actually had gotten a really nicely made black bias-cut silk dress from them, which I liked enough that I ordered two more of the exact same thing. Of course, by the time I sent the order back, they were out of my size; for some reason, the live salesperson who took my order decided to send me an order two sizes smaller than requested. I’ve gotten a swimsuit I like, a jacket I liked but sent back (I was the wrong shape for it), and a really nice lightweight black velvet coat I’d be wearing today if rain weren’t threatening. I also got a pair of really cute embroidered black velvet boots. I think you just have to be alert, and pay attention to the descriptions, both of the fabric and of measurements. I don’t expect any of the models to be shaped the way I am, but I’m tired of catalogs in general, not just Newport News, who shoot arty pictures that don’t show what the clothes really look like. For crying out loud, don’t show me a model all hunched up, or leaping like a kangaroo – I want to see the outfit before I buy it, thanksverymuch.


Floridaprincess March 28, 2006 at 10:55 pm

La belladonna: Good discription of clothing catlogs anymore. Spot on I want to see the outfit before I buy it. Me too!!!


jen May 1, 2006 at 9:22 pm

ah, I placed the order (two sizes larger than my normal size, having been burned by Newport News sizing issues before…) and just got it.It’s, well, it’s weird. Cute but wierd. The cotton is a nice floaty lawn, not too sheer at all and very comfortable. BUT the bodice is attached to the skirt 7/8 of the way around, but not at the front. Those ties are not a self belt, like I’d thought it’d be, but rather they are actual extensions of the bodice top. You tie them, like tieing the tails of a shirt. and there’s a lot of extra fabric right at those tails. Weird.It took me 20 minutes to figure out the damn thing. It looks cute when tied right, but still, odd. I think I’ll take it to my mom the seamstress’s house and get her opinion. It looks like I can recut the front openings and attach the bodice to the skirt (won’t look funky as there’s a small inset waistband) and then attach the two leftover sash pieces to make a true sash. Or, just cut the sash pieces off and dart the sucker in the front.still, cute cute fabric, and the skirt is fabulous. I may also add pockets. It really screams for pockets.


Anonymous May 3, 2006 at 7:54 pm

Thank you so much for the description of the dress – I’ve been very tempted to order it, but now I will think a bit more carefully, given the weirdness of the bodice!


IA May 5, 2006 at 12:01 pm

I, too ended up falling for this dress, and I’m wearing it, and I LOVE it. I twirled for my coworkers’ amusement this morning. It “releases dress endorphins,” one said.Like jbo, I was surprised by the nonsash appendages: two long extensions of the bodice front, like you see on shirts that are meant to be knotted for the Daisy Duke look. I’ve wrapped them around and tied them in the back, which creates a kind of surplice effect. It works really well for me (curvy) but might be too blousy for an A-cup.I am definitely a happy hamster today. Will the seams hold up? Who knows. But it’s a very flattering dress while it lasts.Now I just need some candy-apple-red round-toed pumps to wear with it.Oh, wait–I just remembered that I already have some.


Anonymous May 6, 2007 at 10:17 pm

this driss is the most horrible dress i have ever seen. this fabric is so yesterday and should be taken to the tip. sorry for being so harsh but i am strong in what i think


Anonymous May 6, 2007 at 10:22 pm

i dont think this dress is a very nice one. it isnt very dressy or pretty. it is disgusting. i hope you listen to my advice and that you dont get affended. also just for the record i think tis is the worst thing you have designed.please dont get affended as i said before. i htink you should drop some of your prices as well. thanxs for your time.. xoxoxmexoxo


Anonymous May 6, 2007 at 10:24 pm

this is a fabulous dress. the style is very modern and inventive. i am not sure about the fabric though and i think maybe a pastal colour might suit of style more. 2 thumbs up for charlie brown.xoxoxo


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