How Not to Sew a Dress

This is the story of a dress that won’t die.

It starts with the first project I completed with my renewed interest in sewing.  My friends picked out the pattern for me (Butterick 5177) because it seemed like something could accomplish on my first attempt – no darts, pleats, or any other jargon I hadn’t heard of yet.  It turned out to be cute dress which unfortunately fit me like a sack.  I later added a removable elastic waistband in an attempt to give it some form.  I’m pretty sure, now, that the issue was really the ruffle attached to the lining: it was too poofy and made the dress billow around me.

I stared at the dress on and off until I finally took the plunge and undid the entire thing.  I was convinced that I could turn it into something better.  I picked out a new pattern for the top (BurdaStyle Danielle) and decided to attach it to a half-circle skirt.

(in retrospect, I should have stopped here.  It would have been a perfectly acceptable shirt)

The dress came up too short and flared out too much from my bust, so I decided to “solve” the problem by adding 1.5” strips of fabric until the waistline was where I wanted it.  This was a bad idea.

The dress was a wreck, but I didn’t realize that until six months later.   I ended up naming this dress the “Franken-dress”.  The top half of the dress had to go, however the skirt was still acceptable.  With minimal surgery, I was able to make a nice stand-alone skirt.  Am I finally happy with this? Not in the slightest.

I still eyeball that skirt and grumble about the crappy job I did with the zipper.  It was my first zipper, so it sits weird and I’ve never been able to fix it.

It will haunt me for the rest of my sewing life.

But, meh, what are you going to do?  I’m a perfectionist and it’s burned me before but I never learn.  Eventually, I may go back to this project and finally end up with something that I like.  But then again, I may roll it into a ball and hide it deep within my stash of scrap fabric.

Everyone has projects that they’re not satisfied with.  I don’t sew just because of the final product.  I sew because each project is puzzle and requires me to learn something new.  This post is the story of a project that (I feel) slowly went downhill despite my best efforts.  My future sewing posts will be about my successes but also share the tricks and cheats I learned along the way.  Hopefully, someone out there will find all of this useful.


Below is the chronicle of this project:

The Facts (The First Dress)

Difficulty Easy
Completed June 2011
Pattern Butterick 5177
Fabric 2 yards Blue on brown cotton + 1 yard brown lining
Notions 1” elastic
Total cost ~$20
Lesson learned Hooray! I can sew!

The Facts (The Franken-Dress)

Difficulty Easy to Frustrating
Completed July 2011
Pattern BurdaStyle Danielle (bodice) + half circle skirt
Fabric Reused fabric + 1 yard more
Notions Invisible zipper
Total cost $10
Lesson learned Ripping seams(sooo many seams O_o)Installing an invisible zipperHow to make a half circle skirtCombining two patterns

The Facts (The Recovered Skirt)

Difficulty Easy
Completed January 2012
Pattern None
Fabric Reused fabric
Notions Reused zipper
Total cost $0
Lesson learned Oh god!! Why didn’t I stop two versions ago?!

One thought on “How Not to Sew a Dress

  1. I quite like the result, but i guess you are always going to be your own worst critic! The colours of the fabrics work great together!

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