Fashion Sewing on A Budget … and the Walk-Away Dress!

by Erin on June 23, 2008

I was flipping through some of my old sewing books a while back, looking for something (I can't even remember what) and was arrested by this image, which of course is the famous Walk-Away Dress:

walkaway dress in Fashion Sewing on a Budget

If you can't read the caption, it is:

Even a beginner can make a dress like this one successfully, from two old dresses. This pattern is smart, adaptable, and easy to make since it only has a few pieces.

The book was Fashion Sewing on a Budget, and I have to say it's one of the more helpful of the ancient titles that I've accumulated. I think because it takes a "learning by doing" approach, which is the learning style I've always favored. (You make more mistakes, but you learn more from them!)

The online copies I've linked to above, on Amazon, are fairly pricey but my copy is marked "$1-" on the flyleaf and I'm sure I've seen this many a time in thrift stores and used book sales. Keep an eye out in those places, if you want it.

I still haven't made the Walk-Away dress, myself. I keep reading other people's reviews and can't decide whether to try it, and, if so, in what fabric … and, of course, where to put the pockets!

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Theresa June 23, 2008 at 2:52 pm

You would have to cu the circle in thrids instead of 2 peice and then put pockets in the new side seams you created. I think you would have a lot of fun with this pattern. How about Toile and gingham? I am going to make it a few more times. I made it once and I get so many compliments.

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Nafisa June 23, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Oooh! That photograph makes me want to sew the Walkaway Dress even more! Apparently there are problems with the back of the dress being too heavy and pulling the rest of the dress back though… :S

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Lisa @ the Vintage Fashion Library June 23, 2008 at 2:56 pm

I have an ad for a White sewing machine, that also features the walkaway dress in the photo. I’ll dig around and send you a link, Erin.I’ve got a copy of the pattern in my store, but it’s not in my size. :-(

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Anonymous June 23, 2008 at 2:57 pm

haha! I so made this dress out of a brown tweedy material about 6 years back. I loved it, although, not being the best of sewers, I cut it awkwardly and it always listed to the right.

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Birgit June 23, 2008 at 3:03 pm

I have always pictured this with oversized patch pockets set at an angle – maybe with piping trim or tape to match the trim around the edges. This might weigh down the dress enough in front, too, to offset the back weight flaw…

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Chantelle June 23, 2008 at 3:16 pm

I’ve looked at the Walkaway dress and thought about making it, but I would have changed the shoulder and neckline. Plus I would have cut a smaller skirt because of the pulling to the back problem.I have bought and am considering making this version of the dress: Anne Adams 4839 (this is the same pattern, interestingly, as American Weekly 3846). Personally, I like the front closure better and since it’s only a half-circle, I think it might not drag as much.

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Marge, Born Too Late Vintage June 23, 2008 at 3:17 pm

While I love this pattern (I have it in my size but haven’t tried it yet) I think this pattern might be better (it already has pockets)! Simply check out Born Too Late Vintage Patterns and search the title “Vintage 1960s Butterick Pattern 9575 Quick ‘N Easy Wrap-About Dress size 20.”

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Marge, Born Too Late Vintage June 23, 2008 at 3:17 pm

While I love this pattern (I have it in my size but haven’t tried it yet) I think this pattern might be better (it already has pockets)! Simply check out Born Too Late Vintage Patterns and search the title “Vintage 1960s Butterick Pattern 9575 Quick ‘N Easy Wrap-About Dress size 20.”

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Claire June 23, 2008 at 3:28 pm

When I made my Walkaway dress (out of sheeting printed with HUGE red, white and blue polka dots – just in time for July 4th!), I put two small pockets in the waist seam to either side of the center-front buttons. They’re big enough to hold ID and some money, and they don’t weigh down the circle skirt.One problem with the modern Butterick pattern is that it gapes at the bust dart neat the armpit, especially if you slouch at all. Making the dart deeper would probably solve the problem, but I just deal with it by wearing a tank top underneath.

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Myra June 23, 2008 at 3:34 pm

I haven’t tried it yet, either, as I don’t usually do full circle skirts, but have the retro reissue plus the Anne Adams mentioned above AND the corresponding Butterick that buttons down the front in either full or slim skirt. I am trying to think how to blend them to have a half circle skirt. You could try (and this is one of my ideas) making the front portion that is contrast like a godet, so you have coverage and no potential of opening, but it will have to be an over the head or step in dress. I think the butterick that buttons up has pockets; I will have to check.

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Bethiferous June 23, 2008 at 3:45 pm

A friend of mine just made a Walkaway dress that’s really adorable, although hers does have the problem with the back part that some folks talk about. Her blog is mostly about knitting, but the parts about the Walkaway and sewing in general are here.

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Jen June 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Another entry into the ring: I recently posted for sale another version of the ‘walkaway’ or ‘popover’ dress that is an updated mid-1960′s version by Anne Adams, #4756.It has a trimmer A line silhouette, which may solve the heavy back problem of the earlier version for some figures. It is clearly derived from the earlier Anne Adams # 4839.I included a large blow-up of the original pattern piece diagram, so it can be copied, if someone is a wiz at patterns.note: There are no side seams, so pockets would need to be patch-style, if not set into a dart seam.(see this on Babylonmall.com: http://www.babylonmall.com/browseshop.php?storenum=312&user=1662&itemnum=34243&previewpage=item)

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Adrienne June 23, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Perhaps too much is simply too much; a more polished look might be achieved with a one color fabric, no edge tape and a batwing sleeve. Blind stitching on the edges by hand or blind hemmer machine would take away from the “stitchy” look of top stitching. These are just my thoughts.

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CatMacGregor June 23, 2008 at 4:20 pm

The Vintage Sewing.info website has the Fashion Sewing on a Budget book in their to-do list. You can send in your votes for which ones you would like them to do next. (FYI: They offer the books for free on the website, totally awesome.)http://vintagesewing.info/candidates.html

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jasmine June 23, 2008 at 4:35 pm

I’m recalling that a few seamstresses have mentioned that wearing the walkaway dress with a crinoline made the pulling to the back problem go away.Functional and pretty!

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Lydia June 23, 2008 at 4:43 pm

That dress (while adorable) remains one of my few Absolute Sewing Failures. It looked terrible coming and going. The back never hung right (although I bet Jasmine is right about a crinoline solving that), and the front gaped at the neckline and armholes. Not the dress for me. And it took so much fabric, I wasn’t willing to try it twice.–Lydia

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mamafrog June 23, 2008 at 4:45 pm

I don’t suppose anyone has seen a version of this without the waist bit? I don’t have a waist anymore and this looks like it would be really comfortable as a straight dress. I think I saw a pattern in a book of ethnic clothing as something Scandinavian women wore back in the really cold and dark ages, but can’t remember the name of the book! I’m all for the throw it on and good stuff, especially something like this for summer heat.

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caroline June 23, 2008 at 4:56 pm

A crinoline wouldn’t really work with this dress though, at least with the traditional Butterick pattern and without major alterations, as the front skirt is basically a sheath. There’s no room for a crinoline under that, unless you wanted to construct some kind of half-crinoline/half-slip undergarment.

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Lydia June 23, 2008 at 4:57 pm

Caroline,Good point about the crinoline probably not being the solution to the back-hanging problem. For some reason, that makes me feel better, but I have no idea why.–Lydia

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Anonymous June 23, 2008 at 5:23 pm

This pattern has been discussed at length herehttp://www.thefedoralounge.com/showthread.php?t=22998I have thw pattern and still haven’t decided whether to sew it or not. Mccall’s made a straight tank style version in 1995,#7591. I have that too but haven’t decided whather to sew it either.

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Kathleen June 23, 2008 at 5:55 pm

This *&%!! pattern was my re-entry into Sewing World, after many years of not – & the back dragging down is such a problem. I love the combo I’ve used, and so have done all these to try to stop the front riding up & choking me: took apart bottom & top (although already stay stitched & trimmed), cut out huge wedges from the sides, “cheated” with back seam: wide at btm., tapering in to top (couldn’t actually cut sides away, as bottom fitted to top); waist stay at back, to attempt to have the skirt hang from waist instead of neck; grosgrain ribbon interior belt on front, hooking tightly at back to try to make the front stay in place, then added elastic at waist sides to try to make it even more snug. NONE of these have helped, and I will now baste the covered-chain type drapery weight to front to see if it helps, taking it off every time I wash the dress. I haven’t tried someone’s suggestion to put buttons on the underdress & buttonholes in the 2 top sides, as the underside is jersey & I don’t really have enough to overlap further. Aside from all this fuss, the neck & shoulder/cap is not flattering – not that I can blame Butterick for that. But the engineering – oh yeah – their issue. The only way I can see this pattern working is with heavy fabric underdress & chiffon overdress.At this time, pretty on my hanger (although listing to the back), but very uncomfortable to wear- who has patience for that?I advise–Don’t Make this Dress if you value your time & sanity.Maybe those variations with less overskirt….?

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wundermary June 23, 2008 at 6:29 pm

I like the idea of adding pockets to this dress. You could put them on the front pencil skirt section, they’d be covered by the full, back over skirt. You could cut side seams into the front skirt and insert the pockets there, or you could do a funky patch pocket.How about pockets in a fun shape like a change purse or flower? Maybe it would be a shape picked up from whatever print you use. They’d be a fun surprise when they did peek out.

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theverycold June 23, 2008 at 11:09 pm

you could try making this version:http://www.sovintagepatterns.com/catalog/item/4598521/5946927.htmi could see you putting in a pocket along the side.

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lorrwill June 23, 2008 at 11:43 pm

My redesign idea for this dress would make it a’ sit down and sew this’ instead of a walk away. It would not be a wrap but have overlays on the front and a back zipper. The part that hangs me up is the straight skirt under the circle skirt.Would probably do the contrast fabric for the straight underskirt front and lining fabric for the back of that and a full apron over skirt in the contrasting fabric – all attached at the waist.This dress seems like it would be pretty heavy if you used anything but a fine, lightweight fabric.(yes, I have been redesigning this dress in my head off and on for awhile now…)

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karmologyclinic June 24, 2008 at 1:24 am

I’d like to add my experience to this Walk-Away Dress. I’ve finished it too a while back and you can find pictures and review and my humble suggestions in my blog entry: http://karmologyclinic.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/vintage-wrap-dress-complete/

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Velvet Plaza June 24, 2008 at 7:37 am

Some one posted in the past that wearing a regular slip helps with the problem of ride up.I have acutally considered sewing washers in the front hem to keep the front weighed down, but I gues that would lead to bruised knees or shins

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Amy G June 24, 2008 at 8:20 am

I broke down a few weeks ago and bought the current reissue of this pattern, but have not made it up yet…..I think it will be interesting to see what actually comes of it!

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Kathleen June 24, 2008 at 8:55 am

The link from “theverycold” gave me the thought of adding buttons at the sides – maybe this will help keep front from pulling to the back-every little bit should help. I just hate to let this pattern defeat me. Thanks1

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Anonymous June 24, 2008 at 3:10 pm

I think the WalkAway dress would benefit from a waist stay on the back-to-front wrap to fit the dress to your waist very rigidly. I suspect an elastic waist would still have too much ease. When this pattern was originally published, women wore girdles and/or waist cinches every day, and women would have worn a dress like this fitted with almost no ease at the waist – once you’ve encased your waist in a “foundation garment” you don’t really need any ease. One wonders how this pattern could have become so popular when it was originally published if women experienced the same fit issues. (At one point, Butterick shut down ALL OTHER pattern printing across the company and printed only this pattern unitl they could fill the back orders.)In the photo in the book, there’s no loose, easy fit to that dress on the model (acknowledging that it could have been “rigged” for the photo shoot). She’s wearing a crinoline, too.Hmmm.CMC

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Latter-Day Flapper June 24, 2008 at 3:32 pm

I tried that pattern a couple of years ago and failed miserably, but a) I’m better at sewing now than I was then, and b) I’ve learned that freakin’ nothing fits me if it’s sewn as the pattern says it should be.I fully intend to try it again, but with the expectation that a muslin and considerable tweaking will be required.

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JennR June 24, 2008 at 4:32 pm

I can’t imagine trying to wear the walk-away dress without a waist stay at the very least. I made a note to that effect on my copy of the pattern (purchased soon after Butterick released the ‘new’ version). It says “also need 3/4″ grosgrain ribbon for underdress waist stay”. Other notes are “attach buttons to CF of underdress?”, “narrow overskirt?” and “snaps at side seams?” Obviously, I’d put some thought into it. Current plans are to do it in a matched print set — light blue underdress, darker blue overdress, bound in a coordinating print.

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Anonymous June 24, 2008 at 10:54 pm

I have read enough about this dress online to know that I would never, ever make it. The whole point of this dress is that it’s supposed to be effortless! It’s clear this dress is poorly engineered. Regarding all the possible fixes, I think they totally defeat the point. This dress is simply not worth the trouble. Plus, isn’t the point of making our own clothes individuality? Why sew what everyone else is sewing. Oh and this model looks like she’s had the dress spray painted on her.

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Anonymous June 25, 2008 at 3:44 am

AaarghI finally accepted that I was never going to be sble to sort the back of a fab wiggle dress (that I split trying to grab a racing kid), and very reluctantly let it be decluttered and now I find this. I can see it in my minds eye the fabric was a yellowy orange with a black leafy print so a black back would have looked gorgeous. [Thumps head off keyboard.]

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Anonymous June 25, 2008 at 3:47 am

Are the buttons sewn to the front panel or just one side of the back panel. Folk seem to have trouble with the weight of the back pulling the front up but if they are anchored together at the front waist surely that would distribute the weight more evenly.

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Mrs Slaboda June 25, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Did you read this review? http://blog.mammamadedesigns.com/archive/2008/05/24/sewing-butterick-4790—a-complete-waste-of-time.aspxI also had a very hard time getting this to fit my body. And I usually have an easy body to fit! I definitely didn’t feel glamorous after all the time I spend trying to fix the waist level and arm hole level and making the waist tight enough…. Not a good swing dancing dress either! Pretty to look at on the cover of the envelope though.

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Anonymous June 25, 2008 at 7:17 pm

i’ve looked at the construction of the pattern it seems to me that the sagging is imbalance of weight. the overskirt seems to have a lot more fabric-so either use less fabric for the over (changing it from full to a-line) or use a lighter fabric for the over and a heavier one for the lighter.i also agree with the comments about using a petticoat. it would provide some support to the overskirt as well since vintage dresses were designed with these things in mind. one could also try using snaps inside the dress to help maintain shape.

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Anonymous June 25, 2008 at 7:20 pm

***my terrible! i ought to use word check on my comments. here is what i meant to say:i’ve looked at the construction of the pattern it seems to me that the sagging is due to an imbalance of weight. the overskirt seems to have a lot more fabric-so either use less fabric for the over (changing it from full to a-line) or use a lighter fabric for the over and a heavier one for the under.another suggestion for people who want to have a full skirt w/o sacrificing fabric-try pleating.i also agree with the comments about using a petticoat. it would provide some support to the overskirt as well since vintage dresses were designed with these things in mind.one could also try using snaps inside the dress to help maintain shape.

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