Wednesday, January 19, 2011

green dress dud!

Have you ever made something you just didn't like? Please share! I could use the support after this dress!  I do indeed have a dud for your laughing pleasure. I really am reluctant to post this one but when I started this blog, I promised I would share with you my sewing projects, despite if they were great, good or just bad. I could share with you only the great stuff, but learning comes from mistakes. And if you get anything from this post that is helpful, I will be happy in the knowledge that this dress helped someone out there to sew a little better.  So humbly,  I'll let you in on this one. It all started when I had made this dress before in cotton and loved the result. So, I thought, I'll whip one up in this nice satin green material. Wrong!

Here's some issues I had with putting this garment together.

1. Considering DRAPE and FABRIC!  Drape effects the way a garment lays. Well, as you know, satin has more drape than the cotton I used before. Although this pattern can be made in satin, according to the suggested fabrics on the back of the pattern, it didn't do well in my opinion. You can see where it droops and bulges out under the breasts. This is my first experience with satin, I am sure it's a wonderful fabric. It's funny how different fabrics can lay well and be forgiving of  pattern designs, while other fabrics tell the whole story. It just goes to show, that fabric matters and can change a garment drastically. I noticed, even with the loose fit around my hips, the fabric still showed some bulges and bumps that I want to keep secret. I am sure a girdle would help but I don't always want to wear a girdle, especially in summer! 

2. Pattern design.  Although I didn't go into this blindly, I knew the pattern called for these sweet little gathers around the waistline, which is not my favorite thing because it can look bulky. And it did just that, added too much bulk. In general, the fabric didn't play nice with the gathers.  All the extra fabric around my middle made for a messy looking bodice. Although gathers can look nice and the dress was designed this way, it wasn't working for me this time around. In the future, I will be considering body shape more closely and try to match up a more suitable garment style.

3. Dart issues. The other problem I was having with the bodice were the darts from the pattern itself, they were too high. After doing some research, commercial vintage patterns in general, make a pattern for a body of a 20 year old. This was the standard back in the day. If you are struggling with dart placement and are no longer in your 20's this may be your issue. I am not in my 20's anymore, so gravity and nursing has effected my bust line. I did take a stab at adjusting the darts but made them too low which causes dimples. Later, I was able to get them in the right position as you can see the bodice looks a bit better in the second picture.

4. Color. Making the whole dress in the green satin was just too much. My kids said "Mama, you look like a leprechaun." Kids are so honest, I knew they were right.
Here it is in all it's glory, I had a really good laugh because my husband said he liked it! lol

In the end,  I changed the darts. Tuck in as much of the messy waistline that I could and replaced the skirt with a black one I made. I even added trim to the sleeves. After all this I don't like the end result! This dress in going into a storage closet not hemmed, not to wear but as a reminder of all the hard work I did and all I learned in the process.  I hope this post will encourage you to know that sewing can be a challenge and it doesn't always produce a beautiful garment but that's okay because we are learning and getting a sew degree and that will produce something very good!

Until next time I hope to bring you a winner but for now, a good laugh is all I can offer.
Have a happy vintage day,



  1. Such a shame the dress didn't work out, because the colour suits you so well. Good idea to make a note of what went wrong so that you can learn from the experience - I don't think you'll be making too many more mistakes :)

  2. You are very kind, I needed some good encouragement Mrs. Exeter, thank you. I am starting a new dress today to wash the memory of this one away! We are learning for sure!

  3. I actually also really like the colour on you but I love your kids' comment more ;o)
    I think it's a great thing to include projects that don't work out so well on our blogs. After all, that's how we all learn, right?

  4. Thanks Donna, I agree with you about posting things that don't work. We can learn so much from one another that way! Thanks for the feedback!

  5. I also think people forget that during those times, the undergarments were much different. Long bra's pulled your breasts up in a perky pointed fashion, and girdles slimmed and trimmed your waistline and buttocks. I see several people who start sewing vintage articles and wonder why the darts are so high, or that the dress does not look as good as the illustration.
    When we adapt it to our modern day bodies, it looks frumpy and baggy. Good luck on your next one though :)

  6. I have to agree with Nikki about people's misconceptions, I don't think many realise these patterns are designed to be worn with specific underwear and sometimes they don't think about their figure. I work in costume and often despair at the actor who doesn't understand why I can't mold their apple waist into a svelte hourglass with just a scrap of fabric!

    I do own several 50s bras and girdles for wearing under vintage garments, to me its necessity but I understand that some girdles were made from lace and other thin fabrics so much more suited to summer weather and slightly less stifling. I can only assume women were used to suffering!

    Of course, if you want to look like one of the girls from the 50's patterns for cropped tops and shorts then you have to be 20, slim and hourglass. Can't win them all!

    If I may offer an opinion, the first dress doesn't look that bad at all to me, but in need of some further fitting. The most obvious is that its waist is sitting on your hips not at your waist line so I would have taken at least an inch from the bottom of the bodice to life the waist. This would make it flare out over your hips more flatteringly too. I do this adjustment quite often (I have a short torso and noticed it on another of your dresses) and it always makes a difference.

    You'd need to redo the darts front and back to take in excess fabric (instead of trying to stuff it into the seams as gathering). At the front sides pinch the side excess out into side or french darts and the deepen all the waist darts, making them all end around 1 to 1 1/2 inches from the bust point.

    I would also add a silk lining. Firstly to prevent the fabric clinging to your figure (where you don't want it to) and because synthetic satin doesn't breathe so you would end up with dark patches (especially noticeable on that colour) where you "glow" in the heat!

    I can see from your other photos you do have the body-type to rock these fashions, you need to be best friends with your fitting book and mirror (don't we all?!). Don't leave the dress in the closet forever though, get it out another day and turn it into something else that you will love. Have you read this awesome post "The dress that spanned space and time"?

    Good luck with your future projects!

  7. Molly, Thanks!! I was thinking of darts instead of the gathers, so smart. What I job you have with all those actors, I bet you run into a few problems with fitting everyone. You really need to think fast on your feet, I am sure! I am going to fix the dress! Nikki, Really great reminder! I don't own a 50's bra, been looking.

  8. Hi Gina,

    Actors are a funny breed, always a challenge but great fun. My favourite has to be a male actor I worked with a few times and who always turned round in his fitting and asked "does my bum look good in this?", worrying thing is he was being serious! Quite often getting them fitted comes down to the copious use of safety pins and tacking!

    Try ebay and etsy for vintage undies, I bought all of mine from ebay (corset, several girdles and two bras) at very reasonable prices, they don't often turn up but you can save your search and get ebay to email you when something matching it is listed.

    At some point I am going to try reproducing mine, especially the girdles in fine tricot or lace for summer wear. There are patterns from the 60s too, I see around quite often.

  9. Molly you crack me up, your stories are great! I think I will try eBay, also been thinking about pulling that dress back out, maybe she will get fixed! Reproducing girdles seem like a hard task, you must be very good at what you do! I would love to see how you do that.

  10. You ask have we ever made anything we just don’t like? Yes, you bet. My worst experience was in sewing class. I didn’t take sewing classes to learn to sew - I already knew how - I took them so I didn’t have to spend my free time sewing at home. I could do it at school.

    My mother made my clothes until I was older. Once in high school it was up to me. If I wanted store-bought I had to earn the money. We were learning how to make basic shirt dresses. I would rather make an outfit to wear bowling or skating but at least it didn’t have to have gathered waist or puffy sleeves. I guess there was some option in choosing the pattern because I was the only GIRL - boys weren’t allowed to sew - to make a straight dress.

    The fabric I chose was one of the earlier cotton blends. It was light, with a soft drape so likely would have been 60/40 poly. The colours were nice: soft peach, pale turquoise, yellow and pale orange with a thin line of blue. The problem was it was stripes. I hadn’t made stripes before so the result was unpredictable. A print would have been better, but l liked the colors and my mother liked the price.

    I/we didn’t make a muslin or ‘sloper’, we just made. Not long into it, I could tell I was going to have to come up with an excuse as to why it should go to thrift. Should I tell her I like it so much I want a poor girl to have it? Hmmm

    Coming into the home stretch, I couldn’t wait to finish it so I could get rid of it. It made me look like a dumpy frump, not Audrey Hepburn. I was 14, with big boobs and no hips or waistline, and it looked like something even my Grannie would hate. I wanted to look ‘cool’. It was like a big pajama shirt… Aha!... no, too tight to sleep in. Definitely aimed for charity… or maybe I could slyly cut it into rags? My father would be angry at my waste. Hmmm

    The teacher insisted I make a belt - see my eyeballs rolling? She always wanted something extra. She was SO much better than the last teacher so I complied. She was a nice old woman. Finally! Done! Horror over…

    But NOT !!! She announced there was going to be a student / parent assembly and the students were going to show off their talents to … the whole world! EEK. I was mortified. Next, the worse news. It was going to be an evening assembly so Dads would be coming too. Oh, NO !! Now I lay me down to sleep… I pray….

    Finally the evening came. I have no idea what any of the other girls modeled and I have no idea what boys did to show off their talents. I was in some morbid fog except fog sounds soft and dull and those I was not!

    Lights, cameras, action…. I was shaking like a leaf in a winter wind. No, it was too late to go to the girls room. The white haired teacher lined us up behind the stage curtain. We had practiced once in the day - with the lights on. I expected the room to be filled with faces and all of them would be laughing at this 14 year old girl in the striped nightshirt she borrowed from her brother… or something like that. I was sure they would start laughing - or crying from the fright. I froze.

    It’s amazing how, as I write this so many years later, I can again feel the feeling - my sense of relief - when she shoved me onto the stage. The room was dark and lights hit the stage. I couldn’t see a damn thing! No one was laughing. No one shouted “Boo”. No one threw tomatoes. It was a total anti-climax and somehow, oddly, I felt let down.


  11. The dud green dress reminded me of a memory from years& years ago. My bff was scheduled to attend a fancy dinner w/her dad. He was a lawyer. Day of the event we got up real early & went to the fabric store to select material & pattern. Unfortunately she chose a Vogue halter style dress, a terrible selection for her large bust. Pattern suggested drapey fabrics. She picked out some sort of crushed synthetic velvet (the crushed velvet look was real popular at that time) Fabric was totally stiff w/ NO drape whatsoever. We set up on my mom's kitchen table & began to cut, try to fit, & sew. Eight hours later when she was in tears I made matters worse by asking if i could have the soon- to-be-abandoned salmon pink monstrosity to upholster the car. She ended up wearing a black dress from her closet to the dinner.