An Interesting Failure

by Erin on October 21, 2008

Simplicity 4561

I can't remember when I bought this pattern, but it was recently, and I was so excited about it … the simple bodice plus the pocketed skirt seemed PERFECT. I even made a special trip to Vogue Fabrics to buy black denim! But what I got was this:

Not what I pictured

Unfortunately, the neck is too low, and the soft pleats, when made in denim, stick out in a bunchy and annoying way.

And here's the back, with more bunchy pleats:

Not what I pictured

The pockets are edged with metal zipper (and now I'm not so upset that the waist seam didn't match exactly when I put in the side zipper):

Not what I pictured

And I used the last of my Futura-font fabric to make the neck facing (I figured it pops up every once in a while [yes, even with tacking it at the side seams and understitching] so I might as well make it fun):

Not what I pictured

I'm calling this an interesting failure, because, well, when you get right down to it, all failures are interesting. I love to know the "why" when things go wrong. This dress *should* have been a success: pockets, black denim, scoop neck, zippers … no construction issues, no fitting issues … and yet, when I tried it on, I went "Ugh!"

I think this may be salvageable, though. I can take the waist apart (another ugh) and change the pleats to darts. Not much I can do about the low neckline for this version, but I could make a note to bring it up an inch the next time (remembering to make a new facing pattern). I could also (again for next time) use a slightly lighter-weight fabric (this denim is just a bit too heavy). So perhaps this is not a total failure, but instead a very, very detailed (and possibly someday wearable) muslin …

{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous October 21, 2008 at 9:08 am

Could you add some lace material / font fabric to create a fake T-shirt look – this would raise the neckline. Did that make sense – I can visualise it but not explain…

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Ladygrande (Texas Marie) October 21, 2008 at 9:22 am

What were the recommended fabrics for this pattern? I’ll bet denim was not one of them. It needs a softer fabric, I believe – one that “moves”.

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ShannonAnn October 21, 2008 at 9:39 am

That bottom part would make a great skirt as is. I think it’s the top that’s not working.

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Myra October 21, 2008 at 9:39 am

Could you steal a stand-up collar piece from another dress, you know the ones that are two pieces, left and right, and meet in the middle tapering down? That would add neckline coverage as would a lace insert or a ruffle between the bodice and facings. Also agree with darts over pleats. They usually do nothing for me on the bodice. Also, the zipper detail is cool, but may make those pockets too heavy. Try piping or rickrack.

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Lisa Simeone October 21, 2008 at 9:43 am

I’m realizing why dresses in the flesh are so often disappointing when compared to their illustrations: women — real women — simply do not have waistlines that small. The waists of the women in the illustrations are always TINY. Unbelievably tiny. 99% of women don’t have that enormous measurement gap between their busts/hips and their waists. It’s a total fantasy.I’ve been noticing this about the pattern illustrations especially, because there are so many of them posted here; but you also see it in those lovely vintage fashion illustrations. Even with a girdle, you can only shave off so much from your middle (I know, I’ve tried!).So now when I look at an illustration, or at the dresses on certain eBay sellers’ va-va-va-voom mannequins, and think, gee, that’s a beautiful dress, I have to remind myself that I don’t have that body and that said dress will not look like that on me. (I don’t know if that’s what was going on here, just observing that it’s been my experience.)

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laura October 21, 2008 at 9:52 am

I agree with shannonann. Cut the bodice off and turn it into a skirt. The bodice, in denim, is too heavy IMHO. It just looks heavy. I like the zipper pocket detail.

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fidelio October 21, 2008 at 9:55 am

You know, washing that denim with heavy things like towels and jeans several times will soften it up right away. (I won’t suggest you follow the example of the industrial blue jeans agers and wash it with rocks, since you probably aren’t all that interested in buying a new washing machine just now.) The suggestion from Anonymous above about adding an insert to fill in the neckline might work as well. I usually wash my fabric before I cut it, and since I have a piece of embroidered denim awaiting attention at home, I think I’ll take this as a warning to wash it a few times more before touching it with scissors.

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Andie October 21, 2008 at 10:22 am

The dress pattern reminds me of The Advance 8434 pattern you have about 3 or 4 posts down from this one. View #2 has some sort of collar attached to the scoop neck. Perhaps you could create that collar with a bit of a stand to help fill in the low neckline. Also, the view 3 on the same pattern handles the low neckline with a bit of ribbon. You may be able to hide the pleats with a wide belt or a sash around the middle (think duro jr. dress)

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Anonymous October 21, 2008 at 10:23 am

Hello! Love your blog. I wanted to mention that Vogue Patterns is having a sale on it’s website that ends today-5.99 patterns. Most of them are 5.99. Have fun!

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Anglica October 21, 2008 at 10:25 am

Actually I thought the outcome is not as pathetic as you described. Maybe you to post it in Sew Retro to share?

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scmtngirl October 21, 2008 at 10:48 am

I guess I just don’t see what is so bad about it! I think it would be lovely if you added some decorative trim to the neckline and pockets like the original drawing, pair it with some some bright tights, an equally bright belt, and a pair of black stilettos and call it a Winter Dress.Then again, I like to funk-ify classy vintage dress styles like that, so that may not be your style, but I think it could still totally work.

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Helen October 21, 2008 at 11:03 am

Maybe that’s why the pattern illustration has the chain trim detail? I actually like it as is — it looks like something you might wear in the prison laundry in an old movie about girls gone wrong.Sorry, too much TCM lately. But, I agree about changing the tucks to darts — it would shape the bodice better. I love the detail on the pockets.

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Allison October 21, 2008 at 11:07 am

@ Lisa – I have the same problem about pattern illustrations! I am 5 feet tall with short legs, so the dress/jacket/top never looks the same on me as it does on the envelope. It’s so depressing!One thing I’ve read about (but, full disclosure, never tried myself) is using something called a croquis (see a short article here: http://www.taunton.com/threads/pages/th_125_051.asp) which is basically a paper model of your body. If you have one drawn on lightweight or tracing paper, you can then trace the important parts of the pattern design from the image on the envelope onto your body, to see how it will work out. Like I said, I’ve never done this, but I bet someone here has. Anybody? Has this prevented a serious fashion disaster for you?

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Lydia October 21, 2008 at 11:19 am

This is the exact same pattern that made me swear off scoop necklines forever. I’m a 32D and the alterations required to keep the neck from gaping to the point of public indecency are more work than I’m willing to invest. So yeah. No scoop neckline patterns for me.Hm. You know, this might be one of the patterns I sent you…probably because of the pockets.Lydia

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Caroline October 21, 2008 at 11:48 am

I love the skirt part could you salvage that by adding a waistband?I have to say it looks better than anything I could hope to make!

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Deborah October 21, 2008 at 12:01 pm

I like the dress but agree that the pleats in that fabric are a little bulky. This is a problem I oftenhave – unable to visualize how a pattern would look in a particular fabric. I often choose too heavy fabric for the pattern. I do read the pattern suggestions but even after all these years will go, “Hmm. That might work.” yeah, I know. I live in a dream world. I think I would try darts then if that doesn’t work, make the bottom half into a skirt. It’s too nice to rag-bag it. Just my opinion, for what it’s worth.

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Stacie.Make.Do. October 21, 2008 at 12:02 pm

I think you should wear a chiffon scarf like they do with the regency dresses in Sense and Sensibility.http://janeausten.info/moviegowns/sands1995/Marianne/maribrown.jpg

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tea October 21, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Huh. It must look a lot worse in person than it does in the photo because I rather like it! :)

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Lavon October 21, 2008 at 12:06 pm

I like the look of the dress. Yes I would put in darts.I also think that the demin should have been washed a couple of times just to soften it up.I really do not think it looks bad at all. You wanted a simple dress and it is that. Maybe when you do make it again using a diffrent type of fabric you will see the dress you really want.I had a simple dress pattern. It was exactly what I wanted and when I had made it in my favorite floral print material, I hate it.It looked like something Mama would wear on Mama’s Family with vicky Lawrence. I was so disappointed! I never wore it. But I made the dress from a different fabric and it was the dress I dream it could be.

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3KillerBs October 21, 2008 at 12:16 pm

The neck doesn’t look VERY low. Is it a matter of brastraps showing? Too exposed for the climate? Or just personal preference?How about raising the neckline by making another piece of the black denim (or perhaps a contrast fabric), that would echo the neckline but a couple inches higher and sew that in underneath?

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aurelia October 21, 2008 at 12:19 pm

Fix the waist pleats and wear it for gardening next summer. Everyone in your neighborhood will want a denim gardening dress!

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Cindy October 21, 2008 at 12:20 pm

It definitely looks salvageable! Could you put in princess seams in the front? Or…add darts at the waist and soft pleats gathers in the middle of the neckline…don’t give up on this one. I think, it could work!

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Anonymous October 21, 2008 at 12:26 pm

lisa simeone – just have to say, just because 99% of ladies may not have such proportions, it doesn’t mean the remaining 1% aren’t “real”. I can appreciate seeing unusual body shapes being presented as the norm being highly irritating, but the ways the term “real women” are thrown about these days are just as insulting and annoying.(sorry! dont mean to be internet-mean!)

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Ro Ando August 14, 2013 at 11:04 am

I don’t think even one in one hundred women look like pattern wallets! But I do agree, ‘real’ is often as misnomer for ‘fat’ and I don’t like it. Thin women are perfectly tangible, in my experience!

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Gidget Bananas October 21, 2008 at 12:49 pm

On the body shape issue: women in the 40s and 50s started wearing waist-cinchers and girdles in their teens, so many did have a 10-inch difference between their bust measurement and their waist measurement. I always marveled at the waist of my Mother’s wedding dress, which seemed impossibly small for a well-endowed woman, but photos of her and her friends all showed the same silhouette.Dior used to put his of-course-very-thin models in waist cinchers and then pad their hips and busts to get that impossible New Look hourglass, leading Coco Chanel to say “Dior doesn’t dress women, he upholsters them.”Women’s shapes have really changed over time as they’ve thrown out their girdles, become more athletic, grown taller, gotten breast implants, started driving everywhere and eating more, etc., etc.The vintage dresses from the 1930s I’ve looked at have all been unbelieveably narrow, especially through the hips, leaving me to wonder about what people got to eat during the Depression. It’s unrealistic to assume that a vintage pattern will fit a modern body (alas!). Anyway, I’ll take 60s trapeze dresses for $50, please.

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Little Hunting Creek October 21, 2008 at 12:59 pm

I wouldn’t call this dress a “failure”. It’s more like that plain gal in the old movies who lets down her hair and takes off her glasses and suddenly looks more “interesting” to Our Hero. You just need to apply a little “something” to bring out its best features. A belt? a neckline treatment? I imagined a zipper trim around the neckline. That’s only one possibility. Or something else creative. The dress’s bones are good.It’s not a failure, its a design opportunity.

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Sold A Moke October 21, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Ugh,I hate it when something doesn’t measure up to expectations. My guess is that the denim was just a tad too heavy for this project. Maybe a lighter fabric would have let the pleats behave. The seam with the Zipper is a bummer, a long time ago something like that would have had me relegate to the back of the closet or worse… By and large you do such great work normally, this just proves to the rest of us that you’re human.

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Anonymous October 21, 2008 at 1:07 pm

I like the idea of zipper trim around the neckline, then wear it over a turtle neck with matching tights. It’s winter, after all, layers are good. Turning the gathers into darts would decrease the bulk around the waist. I’d wear it with a belt.

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Ms. D October 21, 2008 at 1:14 pm

I haven’t read all the comments, but denim wouldn’t have been my choice of fabrics. A Liberty of London cotton, a swiss dot, a seersucker, something like your facing fabric, perhaps….what did the pattern say? The pleat problem is clearly caused by the thickness of the denim. I would also bet the mismatch of the waist seams is caused by the thickness and lack of give in the denim. If you want a crisp, heafty look, the heaviest fabric I might choose would be a dark navy weavers cloth. There also seems to be a problem with pressing. Does the denim have lycra in it? For now rip the bodice off and toss it. Cut a new waist band and have a really neat denim skirt with those great pockets featuring the zip trim.

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Ms. D October 21, 2008 at 1:14 pm

I haven’t read all the comments, but denim wouldn’t have been my choice of fabrics. A Liberty of London cotton, a swiss dot, a seersucker, something like your facing fabric, perhaps….what did the pattern say? The pleat problem is clearly caused by the thickness of the denim. I would also bet the mismatch of the waist seams is caused by the thickness and lack of give in the denim. If you want a crisp, heafty look, the heaviest fabric I might choose would be a dark navy weavers cloth. There also seems to be a problem with pressing. Does the denim have lycra in it? For now rip the bodice off and toss it. Cut a new waist band and have a really neat denim skirt with those great pockets featuring the zip trim.

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Julia October 21, 2008 at 1:18 pm

Erin, I think that denim, even lightweight, might have been a tad heavy for this pattern and honestly, these dresses with fitted waists were NEVER supposed to be worn without a belt. It’s intended to reinforce the seam AND it will softn those pleats you aren’t happy with. Self belt or contrast, it needs a belt. Just sayin’.

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Gabriella October 21, 2008 at 1:44 pm

I actually don’t think it’s that bad. Replacing the pleats with darts would help immensely. As for the too low neckline…could you wear a blouse under it. I’m thinking someithing with a cute peter pan collar…but maybe that’s too twee?

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Gaby October 21, 2008 at 1:49 pm

Hi ErinI think this has been all said before but as I read your post I saw “denim” for the first time, looked at the illustration again and thought “ooh, is that going to work so well?” I love black denim but I don’t think it is the answer here. That said, if you make the dress a little more structured you may still pull it off. Re neckline, could you add a strip of bias (maybe the last tiny scrap of the facing fabric) to sit within the neck and fill it in a little?

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Nadine October 21, 2008 at 2:20 pm

I agree with the suggestions for a dickey and a belt (I’m thinking obi-style). And of course, both made of the Futura-font, if at all possible. Otherwise, I agree with the make-it-a-skirt brigade.Thank you for posting about your ‘failure’ – most illuminating!

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Jean October 21, 2008 at 2:58 pm

Someone else mentioned something that I figured would work, or at least part of it! By washing it, with towels etc… it will soften it up quite nicely. Also, you might try pinning (temporarily)the shoulders to see if that may help with the neck line. If the pinning takes it to where you need it, then, you can take then in! If you work from the neckline towards the sleeve, and do a tapered to a point next to the sleeve… then you don’t have to take off the sleeve and re-do all that! Good luck! It really is a cute pattern.

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kathleenCrowleyCostumeCouture October 21, 2008 at 3:48 pm

I think this dress is cute and par for the course for making a dress without a mock up first. I have done this so many times in the past! I turned them into my “homespun ” look!I would just put some darts in the front and wear a belt – its cute and denim softens up with wear. You can never trust an illustration – its an artists rendition in order to sell a product.

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Jen October 21, 2008 at 4:37 pm

Interesting the Kathleen Crowley would respond, as her post recently on her blog, really is very informative about this ‘vintage re-creation’ issue (http://kathleencrowley.blogspot.com/2008/09/vintage-patternsand-why-they-dont-turn.html)But what interests me most is that the pattern she shows in this post has an 2″ or 3″ wide band around the neckline–a perfect solution for filling in a low round neckline, in an historically appropriate style.

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BeckyW October 21, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Goofy suggestion, but here it is. What about adding denim loops around the neckline? Then thread a scarf through the loops and tie on one shoulder.

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Rachel October 21, 2008 at 5:59 pm

I’d wait and remake it in a linen in summer. Navy would be nice, and you could wear it with one of those snazzy cardigans you love (can anyone say “yellow”??) in late spring, early fall, when you would want to be able to take the sweater off, but might need it in the cool morning/evening air?I think that the denim was too heavy, though..washing it might help, a bit, and either a matching belt or one in yellow or red…maybe patent leather? Hmmmmm….I’m seeing a terrific vintage matching purse/shoe/belt combo with this one…LOL…sorry for the ramble…hope it works out better next time!

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Alex October 21, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Hi Lisa Simeone – don’t fret about the “internet mean” poster. The fact is that the models during that period wore both padding in their bras and on their hips and were very thin. This gave them an hour glass figure. So not “real” even then!But as far as the dress goes, I find that if I think about the Dior “trick” and balance top and bottom and then give the illusion of a smaller waist, I get the same feel as the picture (even if I am bigger). Since I am large on top, I always add more skirt fabric as it gives more volume and use either a small belt or a cumberbund of matching (or counter) fabric. This is comfortable, gives me a wasit, and gives the impression of an hour glass.This dress could be saved (IMHO) if you either recut the skirt to make it fuller OR if you don’t have more fabric, took the skirt apart, created an “under skirt” in a contracting fabric and used the denim as an over skirt. Very 1950′s and it would give the pockets more give and you could use the same contracting fabric in a colar to raise the neckline.Alex

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Emilee October 21, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Nothing about the dress, but Erin, I’ve wondered about trimming the pockets with zippers before. Don’t they scratch your hands when you use the pockets? I have zip-shut pockets on a few jackets, and they always hurt my hands.

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froginthepond October 21, 2008 at 10:31 pm

beckyw’s suggestion is really interesting – adds contrast and fixes any problems with the scoop neckline. I see what you mean about the pleats not working, and I agree (sorry!) that denim probably wasn’t the best choice, but bodice and skirt are recoverable if they’re removed from each other’s company and greater contrast added.I’m planning a summer dress in a similar style and I’m already thinking about some pattern mods like raising the waist an inch or two (shortwaisted) or neckline details to suit. Then there’s the pattern re-grading – I may have a very hourglass figure, but it doesn’t mean I have a ten inch waist!

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3KillerBs October 21, 2008 at 10:43 pm

beckyw,Your denim loop and scarf idea is WONDERFUL!I’m losing weight and expect to find the neckline of a favorite dress getting too large and gaping by spring. I may try that to try to extend the wear before I have to give it up.

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wundermary October 22, 2008 at 1:13 am

I vote for the tab and scarf deal. I think that would look really great.I also think a number of trips through the washer and dryer (throw tennis balls in the dryer) would do wonders for the fabric.If you don’t want to take the entire skirt off and have to contend with redoing the zipper, you could rip the seam only where it is pleated. Then, form your dart and stitch the bodice and skirt back together.I do have to pick on you a bit, though. Some simple marking would avoid the misalignment at the waist. It doesn’t take long and is worth the effort.I think a belt is in order, too. You could make a cummerbund of the alphabet fabric and do a scarf in white or black.I think this is a very salvageable dress. But, if you just hate it all, turn it into a skirt and chalk it up to experience.

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La BellaDonna October 22, 2008 at 7:26 am

Erin, did you pin-fit the pattern bodice to see where the neckline ends up? If you don’t, generally, you might want to next time you use a new pattern; it’s easier than the fix-it! You can raise the neckline with a matching piece; I’d pipe the seam where the two pieces meet, just to make it look as if I really *meant* to do that. Or you could cut down the sleeves, and make it a jumper – AFTER you make those bunchy gathers into darts. I have to say, gathering denim in the bodice area would never be my own first choice; it’s too sculptural a fabric for that, and I LOVE making denim dresses! But it is fixable.LisaSimeone, because you don’t have a 10″ bust/waist/hip difference doesn’t mean other people don’t. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t “real” women, either. It just means that you and they have different figures. And while Dior may have padded his models – and he did – Chanel chronically underpaid hers, and expected them to take lovers to pick up the economic slack, so: I’ll take Dior, because the padding, if needed, is less offensive a choice; and I’ll take Dior anyway, because I can wear his New Look cuts, and not Chanel’s. There are plenty of women with a 10-to-14″ B/W/Hip difference; they are the ones who can never find a doggone pair of jeans to fit, too. Even the women who aren’t busty may have that difference between their waist and hip measurements; those would be the pear-shaped among us. Just because it doesn’t fit your proportions doesn’t make it a total fantasy; read the measurements on the backs of the envelopes. Even without constricting undergarments, a lot of women can use those patterns as is, since the vast majority of vintage patterns actually have a 6″ bust/waist difference, and a 9″ waist/hip difference. Then they have to be altered by the women who DO have a 10″ B/W/H difference, since there are actually fewer patterns with those measurements.

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LisaB October 22, 2008 at 7:55 am

I love that skirt and think it is worth saving.I awoke with this dress on my mind! I envisioned it with a white linen top (neckline adjusted to meet your preferences) and a wide, black patent leather belt.Or I think you could play with the idea of making the white linen top to meet the pattern’s dimensions, adding a strip of the black denim to narrow the neckline. Your linen would need to be hearty for this idea, I think.

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Theresa October 22, 2008 at 10:07 am

I like Becky’s suggestion as well

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Lisa Simeone October 22, 2008 at 10:53 am

I give up!I DO have a 10-inch difference between my waist and bust/hip measurements. Most women don’t. But that wasn’t the point anyway.I never mentioned a measurement in my original comment. I only said that the illustrations on patterns were crazily exaggerated — they depict women’s figures with waaaaay more than a 10-inch difference between waist and bust/hips.Good grief. Talk about taking things out of context. I wasn’t impugning anyone’s figure or insulting anyone’s body type.

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Anonymous October 22, 2008 at 11:15 am

I’m afraid it was still within context for your comment to be reacted against in the ways that it was; you mentioned that 99% of women dont have whatever. That still does leave 1% of people within the original, railed against “measurements”, who were then talked out of existance by the rest of your comment. I’m sure you didn’t mean to be insulting and I wasn’t assuming then that you were, but nevertheless, your comment *was* carelessly worded and thus casually dismissive.Please don’t feel that you’re thought a terrible villain. It’s surely wiser to note that bodies do come in a wide range of shapes and sizes when it seems that variety’s honour is at stake than to let any maybe-sort-of-possibly suggestions to the other way go by, and see even more of a THIS WAY IS NORMAL AND NO OTHERS assumption grow.

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Anonymous October 22, 2008 at 11:30 am

I made a vintage denim dress and I found the same problems. Just too stiff of a fabric, even after I pre-washed it. I had lined the bodice in a crepe backed satin and noticed how nicely it laid with the darts. I’m going to revisit it next spring with a different fabric. Also, with dresses that I’m not happy with, I just turn ‘em into skirts. It’s usually the bodice that doesn’t work so just cut the darn thing off and make a skirt.jilly

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-E October 22, 2008 at 1:45 pm

Belt :)

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mand October 23, 2008 at 9:47 am

Happened upon you via Laura’s Cafe au Laine blog, and i love your attitude: all failures are interesting. Reminds me of my grandmother – the sewing also reminds me of her, i can design wonderful garments in my head but have three left thumbs with needle or machine! 80)

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theresa October 23, 2008 at 2:16 pm

I went back and read Lisa S comment. Honestly, I don’t see what all the fuss was about.

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La BellaDonna October 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Since the 1950s princess pattern lovelies I find are usually in a Bust Size 28 or 30″, and I am so not, I look at the shape of the pattern pieces on the back of the envelope. Generally on 1950s princess patterns, the waist is more sharply indented – there’s a definite, pronounced cut in, then flare out, as opposed to the oft-recommended “gradual taper” for the waist curve on modern princess patterns. It’s not necessarily a big cut in, but it’s sharply angled (so there may be some seam clipping to do for it to lie open or flat properly). The 1950s princess pattern – even for the 30″ bust (still sized for a B cup, remember), ALSO includes bust darts. Yes, bust darts in addition to the princess seams; this sharpens the fit over the bust. If you have a favorite princess pattern already, you can use it to make a paper copy with the above changes. If you increase the flare at the bottom of the pattern pieces to widen the skirt to a good 120″ or more (to taste), and the length as well (if necessary or desired), you will have a good, usable, fits-you-properly 1950s princess pattern in your very own size, regardless of whether ebay or our beloved vendors actually carries one in your size. You can use this to make up dresses or jumpers as you see fit, while you keep an eye peeled for that elusive vintage original in your very own measurements.

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La BellaDonna October 23, 2008 at 4:41 pm

A separate comment, so it doesn’t get swallowed by all the Princess Seam Denim commentary:Erin – and anybody else who really doesn’t want to go through the whole pin fit (which doesn’t take but a couple of minutes, but sometimes you Just Don’t Feel Like It) of a bodice to make sure the neckline isn’t too much (or not enough), make a duplicate of a bodice pattern you have used before and like (I recommed using a graph-type gridded paper, so you can see how many inches or fractions of an inch more easily, but wax paper or freezer paper’s pretty darned good), and keep it pinned up on a bulletin board, or wherever you keep your Handy Stuff in the sewing room. When you have a new bodice pattern, lay the new one out on top of the Faithful Fitted Friend pattern, matching the shoulder seams at the top of the shoulder. You will see at a glance, or at least get a pretty good idea, of where the new neckline will hit you, as compared with the neckline that you usually wear. As it happens, of course, I tried to GET THAT PATTERN that didn’t quite do it for you, Erin, and I expect that in fact that neckline hits just where it works for me, because it has to work a whole lot harder to cover ground. But such is the adventure that is life. If you think this particular pattern is not going to be All That for you, I will gladly buy it, so you can drop me an email if you’d like to just make it go away and buy one you like better.

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melodie October 23, 2008 at 5:38 pm

@la belladonna–thanks so much for the info on altering a princess to a 50′s style princess. I’ll be sure to wear by best cross-your-heart 18-hour bullet bra when I make one. :)

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Pat in Flint October 23, 2008 at 6:00 pm

looks like a dress for someone in prison…wrong color, wrong fabric

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MinaW October 24, 2008 at 3:34 am

Lisa Simeone and others,I think that this problem pattern is a good example of what I call the “Why didn’t they just make the pattern like the illustration in the first place?” syndrome.(Yes, I know that this illustration was probably done for the pattern envelope after the pattern was made, but the original designer’s sketch was first.)Whatever the person’s measurements, that skirt is not flared enough to be like the illustration, and if it were flared enough, it would hang more gracefully in any fabric, and be just fine in denim. Looking at the illustration in the lighter color, each gore should be at least twice as wide at the hem as at the waist, but it looks even more like 3 times as wide.That flare would make it fit in to the waist better. And clearly the dress itself is not flared anything like that much.I say, if you have to make the drawing of the dress flare so much more to look good, and be so much longer to be well-proportioned – you should draw the pattern that way in the first place.MinaW

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La BellaDonna October 24, 2008 at 6:55 am

Minaw, OH, how I love thee. You speak a great truth, which I will now (as is my wont) elaborate upon:If you ladies have a favorite dress width, either memorize that width, or write it down. Keep it not only with the Faithful Fitted Friend bodice pattern in your sewing room, keep it in your wallet, or your Electronic Whatever. If you have a dress or skirt that’s just right, and you don’t know how wide it is, measure it. Always compare this measurement to the measurement on the pattern you are contemplating buying. Speaking as a sucker for – I mean, afficianada and collector of – princess dress patterns, the fuller the better, I have often been dazzled by the lush, flowing, graceful sweep of a New Princess Pattern – only to look on the back, and read: “Hem width: 88 inches”. And at least the hem width is LISTED on old patterns. The heck, folks – nowadays everything else BUT that is listed on the back of a pattern, but you’re supposed to read the hem width on the pattern itself! Not even on the instructions – the pattern pieces! No, I will not be buying you after all. Anyway. As it happens, an 88-inch hem width doubtless has its function in life, but not my life; I’m looking for 120″ and over, and will whip out my trusty yardstick and Make It So, if the want for the pattern is overwhelming. But I’ll be peeved. I know that 120″ works for me; I wear my skirts long, and for a fitted and flared 50s style, the longer it is, the fuller it needs to be, for proportion’s sake. (I am 5’6″ [down from 5'7", alack], and I will buy anything from a 34″ bust to a 38″ bust, and alter it to fit, because I always have to alter it to fit; I’m an XLarge hourglass, 36D, with a short backwaist, long arms, a REALLY LONG front waist, and a lower belly pad. I give these measurements so you have some idea of Skirt Width:: La BellaDonna Height/Width.)Fifties dresses actually come in an extraordinary number of widths, from pegged wiggle dresses (comfy and practical for a day at the office, running up stairs and lugging file boxes! or … not), to straight, to modest flares with gores, pleats, or gathers, to Really, Really Full!! I think for a good many of us, we are drawn to the fit and flare of the New Look silhouette (Bar, how I love thee! It’s a different love from Minaw, but a true love still.), so we are looking for that fitted shape and full skirt. So many pattern illustrations seem to promise that, and then you look at the measurements on the back – before you buy, hopefully. Then it’s Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire. Now, if you shorten your own patterns – I know Erin prefers her hems shorter than those usually provided – you have to be careful about where you shorten them. If you just whack X number of inches off the bottom of a pattern to shorten it, you are also reducing the width of that pattern. How? Well, the widest part is at the bottom. So then it’s not really the pattern’s fault. If you need to shorten it, and there’s no “shorten here” line (there probably won’t be, on a 50s pattern), then pick a spot up about midway down the skirt. Fold up the pattern up evenly right across the entire skirt half the amount by which you want it shortened [i.e., fold it up one inch if you want it two inches shorter, two inches if you want it four inches shorter], and take your trusty yardstick and smooth out the jagged bit you get when you fold up something flared. I recommend doing this on a COPY of the pattern, and not the original pattern itself, because maybe you’ll want to sell the pattern one day. Maybe you’ll want to make your own copy of the pattern, sell the original, and buy another pattern! It will be much easier if you haven’t altered the original pattern itself.My own trusty Personal Fitted Princess Dress Pattern actually started life in the 1970s, when it was Brand New. (*sigh*) I don’t know that I made it up then, as a matter of fact, but I know it was well underway by the late 80s/early 90s. I started with a not-very-full ankle-length version of a sweetheart-necked dress with straight sleeves, and the mother pattern would be hard put to recognize her grandchildren, which are generally sleeveless, scoopnecked, very fitted through the torso, somewhat shorter than the original, and well over a yard wider at the hem; maybe two yards. A lot of brown paper has gone under the pencil since I started. It is possible to get the result you want, even if illustrations lie, and it’s possible to get a 50s dress, even if you’re Hard To Fit, large or small, in whichever direction your individual variations lie. Mostly it takes a pencil, a yardstick, and a lot of brown paper and determination. It doesn’t hurt if you’ve laid in a stash of fabric that no longer is predestined for X, because it may take several iterations to get what you want. You will then have some very pretty (if unlikely) dresses or jumpers to lounge around in, or even sleep in, if you wind up using that bunch of Christmas or Halloween print fabric to practice on. If you’re thinking of laying in some muslin (which dyes!) or cheap prints for practice, and you don’t know how much to get, what with needing New Layouts for the wider pieces, I usually reckon one full body length per piece (that is, the measurement from shoulder to hem, plus hem width). A princess dress is generally Front, Side Fronts, Side Backs, and Back – seven pieces, whether it opens in the front or back (or side – a center back seam is just easier to fit), so you would buy your fabric Body Length X 7. Now, this is probably enough to make yourself the longest, fullest princess dress imaginable; five to seven yards, between 45″ and 60″, is usually enough for an average, middlin’ sized person to work with. If you’re very tall, or if you are large, and want that 50s princess dress, I would recommend using the formula (which is about 9 yards on me) to acquire fabric.Yes, that can be a lot of fabric, and there are ways to make a 50s dress out of a lot less fabric, but the classic princess dress is made without a waistline seam. Once you throw in a waistline seam, per the pattern that Erin used here (you can use your precious fitted princess dress as a base pattern, remember!), you can move the pieces around on fabric to get a better layout. A 50s dress can be pinched out of 3 or 3 1/2 yards of 45″ fabric, and still have a hem 120″ around, if you make a half-circle skirt and cut a sleeveless bodice out of the remnants. Some folks can even get sleeves as well as the bodice out of that much.Melodie, hee! I’ll pass on the bullet bra, because it would look more like Weapons of Mass Destruction – but the one I wear definitely works on the principal of Nearer My God To Thee!

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La BellaDonna October 24, 2008 at 7:38 am

N.B:For those of you who do NOT currently have a princess dress pattern which fits the way you’d like, and who may be a trifle daunted at the prospect of flinging around a whole lot of fabric and paper, trying to get the fit right, we have yet another Sneaky Sewing Trick:Take your base princess dress pattern, and mark where the waist is on all the pieces. Draw a horizontal line across on each piece at the waistline. Draw a second horizontal line approximately four inches below this. Now copy the TOP PART OF THE PATTERN ONLY, down to the SECOND HORIZONTAL LINE. (The extra four inches is to cover any fitting challenges you may have in the front or back.) Working with this new pattern, ONLY FIT THE TOP PART OF THE DRESS. Yes, all by itself, until you’re happy with it. Now, generally a full princess skirt on a dress pattern skims a lot of body anomalies, and may not need to be fitted separately. Then again, you may have a swayback, as I do, or a high hip, etc., so you may, in fact, want to fit the skirt. You have the waistline marked on your original pattern; mark a second line two inches ABOVE the waistline (I recommend using a different colour to mark this than the one used to mark the seams copied for the top), and copy the skirt section of your pattern, and fit it, all by itself.Once you have carefully fitted each pattern section, top and bottom, in fabric, MARK THE NEW WAISTLINE SEAM ON EACH, TOP AND BOTTOM, ON THE FABRIC. If you are busty, have a bit of a belly, are swaybacked, etc., I can pretty well guarantee that the waistlines you’ve marked before fitting your patterns have shifted.Now you get to take all those pattern pieces with their new markings and adjustments, and transfer them to paper! Yes, you want to do this, because paper doesn’t stretch out the way fabric does, and your fitted muslins WILL stretch out. After you’ve marked your separate paper sections (which you might as well hang onto, because: gored skirt! fitted bodice!), one more pattern gets made: lay each bodice pattern section on its corresponding skirt section, MATCHING THE WAISTLINE SEAMS, yes, right on top of each other, and secure them. Trace all around and transfer any markings, and you now have a fitted princess seam dress pattern of your very own.

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Anonymous October 24, 2008 at 8:03 am

See, this is why my costume design students are taught to read the back of the pattern for suggested fabrics. A light weight denim would have worked much better. Or how about a batik print?

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Anonymous October 24, 2008 at 8:03 am

See, this is why my costume design students are taught to read the back of the pattern for suggested fabrics. A light weight denim would have worked much better. Or how about a batik print?

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3KillerBs October 24, 2008 at 8:15 am

I’ve just finished making up a denim dress of my own which has a darted bodice and a similar skirt. I think perhaps I was using a lighter-weight denim because my skirt seems to lay quite nicely with the little pleats — not “bunchy” at all.http://i15.photobucket.com/albums/a370/MBVoelker/sewing%20projects/Denimdress.jpg

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MadeByAmanda October 24, 2008 at 9:35 am

I think ya’ll are all being pretty hard on her about the “recommended fabrics”. I hardly ever consult recommended fabrics, because often the designer (I’m talking to you, Vogue patterns) has a very narrow view of what exactly would work with a pattern. I’ve only had a couple of clunkers, less as I learn more about the way different fabrics act. We’re only looking at a picture, and it could be that the fabric FELT to Erin to have better drape than it actually had.

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Elle October 24, 2008 at 9:49 am

I seldom even follow the recommended fabrics, but I do take into account the drape and behavior. I try to get something that drapes like the fabric and/or/also alter the patter to fit the behavior of the fabric I use.In Erin’s dress, I’d of added bodice darts instead of pleats and darted the soft pleat of the skirt down several inches to make it lay flat across the stomach, or in denim, avoided it all together.Necklines I don’t bother with. I’m busty and pretty much if they fit without gaping, I call it good. Erin, tho, I might add a faux dickie or something to raise it, or embellish the top to raise it as it’s been stated. Me tho, I’d show the girls off :D

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Judy October 24, 2008 at 10:14 pm

Hi Erin,I love reading these comments. I can hear all the various voices too – like the queens, or the ones who say something like “just being honest here but are you crazy using denim,” and I especially like the ones who are earnestly trying to help. I heart real people. Good post. You should eff up more often. :)ps What would Diana Vreeland do?

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Anonymous October 25, 2008 at 10:53 am

I have the opposite problem–a denim skirt with some stretch (1% lycra?) that is too drapey. I wanted to achieve a more rugged, constructed look, but it has washed into something that just looks like light blue cotton blah. Love the zipper pockets a lot.

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Anonymous October 25, 2008 at 10:55 am

maybe a black chambray? if such a thing exists? I am conceptually behind this dress.

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Terry October 25, 2008 at 3:36 pm

re the neckline: a little voice is whispering to me “camisole!”I second the motions about turning the gathery stuff into darts.I suggest that instead of what appears to have been medium weight denim you try a rayon/linen blend. Or outright rayon, which would have been used at the time I suspect.Just a thought.Karenps I personally am not thrilled with those pockets. But I don’t like them on the sketch either. YMMV.

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Anonymous October 26, 2008 at 3:43 pm

My question would be did you use 6 ounce denim. It is very hard to find lately but might have been okay. I too have noticed that patterns do not always deliver what they say they do. I have been sewing for 48 years and I used to be able to throw together something straight from the patter, but lately the pattern illustrations tell me lies. A tee shirt pattern will show a simple sleeve and then the pattern has a huge sleeve cap that just will not work for the look. And most directions are from the old days when sewers knew the various methods that can be used as alternatives and did not need them mentioned. I think you ran into something like that. You should have just ‘known’ to adjust the neckline to your taste, not what was on the pattern. Make it into a skirt or jumper either one will work.

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goldilocks October 26, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Add me to the list of people who blow off the “recommended fabrics” list all the time. Gamblers unite!My favorite day dress is made out of home-dec twill, which is at least as heavy as most denims out there. (mebbe slightly drapier, though.) And it’s actually not even made from a real dress pattern; it’s a heavily modified maternity blouse. (and I’m not even pregnant anymore.)Whatever works. Or, in this instance, doesn’t. You win some, you lose some, right?

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Coco, not as in Chanel :) October 27, 2008 at 10:44 am

Okay a belt would be good once you remove the pleats and add darts. Also you could add a faux neck edge to give it a “lift” so to speak. I think it looks good anyhow :)

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Anonymous October 27, 2008 at 3:07 pm

Also, many sins can be hidden by a jacket or sweater. That little ballero jacket might give just enought coverage at the neckline and just enough shape to the bust area to complete the look of the dress. -Evalyn

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Miss Kitty October 27, 2008 at 7:21 pm

Awwwww. I’m so sorry to hear about your Dress FAIL. It sucks when that happens. :-(However, with the link to Vogue Fabrics, you’ve now given me one more fun site to browse. Thanks!

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Anonymous October 28, 2008 at 3:07 pm

My 2 cents…the choice of denim (and black, yuck) was the 1st mistake, it’s dreary looking enough in a pair of pleated 80′s jeans, has a mean, sad, dish-moppy look in what should be a pretty light weight summer dress, and the zipper trim is a slightly (no, a lot actually) out-of-date idea. There’s only so many times since the 1970′s when you can see it and go “Oh, what a clever idea!”, it’s just half of a zipper, not handmade lace, beaded trim, or even humble ric-rak, and I’m guessing you are way too old to be trying to do “punk”, come on, have you seen Betsy Johnson lately, she’s a fright…and not making a belt when you can see one on the pattern picture is why the waist darts/pleats show so much, I mean, they’re naked! Also, the facings really should be unobtrusive, neat, and as invisible as possible, otherwise you get that dreaded look-at-me, hand-madey look, sort of like wearing your underwear outside of your clothes. Unless that’s what you were going for.

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La BellaDonna October 28, 2008 at 3:36 pm

Here, troll-y, troll-y, troll-y … Oooh, I didn’t have to call after all, one came all by itself! There’s a certain … repetition in these boorish, cowardly little posts. I’m guessing either no one visits your blog, or you got a review you didn’t like.

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atomicliving October 30, 2008 at 9:31 pm

if this pattern did recommend denim I bet it was really what we would call twill today. Not the heavy denim we now have. I could be wrong, but I love that pattern, I also collect vintage patterns.

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SambearPoet November 12, 2008 at 12:53 pm

I was wondering about the drape on this fabric: maybe black denim’s not the right way to go? Or maybe it’s just *this* black denim. Anyway, I love the idea of dresses with pockets. I wish more of them came with them; I am a pocket aficionado.

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Anonymous December 1, 2008 at 10:57 pm

you really need to have a belt

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