Not Quite Finished Project: The Almost Thanksgiving Dress

While at the fabric store we saw it and were drawn to it, like moth to flame. No, not a super nice wool, not a basic cotton, not a linen or similar… it was one of those fabrics that nearly always spells sewing failure for me- an oversize novelty cotton print.

“But,” thought I, “it has everything I love.  Trees, leaves, autumn colors.  Thanksgiving will be here in a few weeks, but surely I can whip together in that time.  I even have the perfect buttons to match.”  And my husband, who was with me, encouraged the fabric purchase by saying it looked “So 1950’s.”

I get the fabric home and search to the stash.  I wanted a dress more “vintage inspired” than dead spot on authentic 1950s that I could wear often with a retro vibe but a shorter hemline (just at the knee).  Thinking of a basic shirtwaist along the lines of the ones Debi has been making up, with classic and timeless lines, I was shocked to find that I had not-a-one basic shirtwaist late 50’s/early 60’s pattern in the stash.  Not one! I suppose when I culled the herd I thought they were basic and “there will always be more…” but I’m experienced a near drought when looking for pre mid 1960’s vintage patterns locally within the past year!

So… obnoxious fabric. Check.  Obnoxious button. Check.  Basic pattern to attempt to tone down the obnobious effect… I pulled out a few options and thought on it for a week before I selected this pattern, McCall 3316 (my copy of which just so happens to be on sale now in my Etsy store).

First thought was that it’s cute and looks like a nice fit.  It’s got a shirtwaist, it’s got waist definition.  Only qualm was the way the big pattern would line up with the cummerbund waist.  Oh, and look! The one in the center is shown in a wild fabric!

I don’t generally sew much from the 1950s and most projects I have made without making a muslin have come out unsuccessfully, to say the least.  I knew that I would need to make up a muslin, not only because the pattern was a size smaller than those I normally wear, but also because I wanted to counteract any foul play on 1950s shape + my figure.  It’s a darn good thing I did!  I didn’t think to take any photos, but when I tried on the muslin it was NOT going to fit my figure.  The shoulders were too wide, the empire seam hit higher on my bust (and I generally make things with a bit higher bust point), and the fit was just not right for me.  Just goes to show ya… gotta make a muslin up.

I decided the changes I wanted to make and the muslins required to make said changes would far outweigh the time span I had given myself to sew, so I raided the stash again and came up with McCall 3229.  This was one of the few vintage patterns I had found locally within the last year, and I just happened to pick it up a few days before the pattern switch-a-roo was needed.

 Another image with a large print, and I could just picture this one made up with a bit of a shorter hemline to carry me into more retro wear.  Thinking of what happened last time, I made up a muslin of this one.  This one was one size larger than I usually wear, so I knew it also would need some fiddling.  I made it up and it was very big on me, more than a size larger.  I don’t nearly have the idea 1950’s figure, so large tucks were needed here and there, and I made all of my changes on my pattern tracing so I could reference them later.  It looked ok.. and with a few days left before Thanksgiving I just decided to was “good enough”, and set out to cut out my fabric.

It was a good thing I bought extra! This pattern took a lot of fabric, even after I shortened the skirt a good three inches.  It was pretty quick to sew, except where crazy me decided to do piping and bound buttonholes from piping (which are not quite as good as they could be).  There’s a few other things I don’t like about my sewing or quick construction on this dress, but I won’t bore you with details ;)

Sewing finished, I tried it on, and… ICK! It looked HORRIBLE on me!  The cut was not at all flattering to my figure! I took in the waist a bit more, even tried it on with an *ahem* better bra… it just didn’t look good!  WOE!  So my sewing rush was for nothing, and I didn’t wear it on Thanksgiving after all.  It looks so much better on my dress form (which has a larger bust to waist ratio than I do) so I’ll show pictures.  Shame it doesn’t look the same on me!

So… it’s shelved for now, and my backup plan, since I still think the buttons and fabric are fun and I REALLY like the way it buttons up on the side like that, is to make this a sleeveless dress. I think the fit on me will look a lot better, and I can just pair it with a pumpkin colored cardigan I have in my closet.

So, my moral of my story is (as I tell this to myself)… don’t sew things in a rush.  Even if you are determined to get it done in time, chances are you’ll get it done but you might not like it.  And just because that cute crazy print cotton is calling your name doesn’t always mean you need to wear it on your body because no matter how much you love it, it might overpower you.  Cause no matter how cute it looks on my dress form, if I don’t wear it chances are it was a waste of time and money.  And don’t forget to make your mock ups, kiddies, especially when dealing with a different era than you normally sew.

That’s all.

28 Comments on Not Quite Finished Project: The Almost Thanksgiving Dress

  1. The Glamorous Housewife
    November 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm (12 years ago)

    I think you might be being too hard on yourself. You should post a picture and let us decide! I bet it looks amazing, just not as you had pictured it, hence why you dont think it looks good. I love the dress and the fabric! And the piping was a really nice detail.

    Thanks doll,
    The Glamorous Housewife

    • Lauren
      November 29, 2011 at 9:54 am (12 years ago)

      Thanks for the encouragement! I do have a tendency to be really hard on myself, so you hit the nail on the head with that one ;)
      We’ll see! I might show pics if I get up the gumption… but I probably will do before and after pics if I fix it!

  2. Stephanie
    November 28, 2011 at 5:18 pm (12 years ago)

    I LOVE the fabric. I hope you find a way to save it!

    • Lauren
      November 29, 2011 at 9:52 am (12 years ago)

      Thanks! :)

  3. Rozann
    November 28, 2011 at 6:24 pm (12 years ago)

    I think the dress is darling! You may have just been sick of it when you tried it on. Try it again with a chocolate jewel neck or turtleneck (real or mock) knit top on and see what it looks like. The cardigan idea is good too. The fabric and buttons are just too cute to waste. (And as a redhead I just love the colors!)

    • Lauren
      November 29, 2011 at 9:52 am (12 years ago)

      Thanks! I had never thought of pairing it with a turtleneck, but that certainly is a 50’s thing to do, isn’t it!
      Aww.. it will have another life. I think after I make it sleeveless it will look better on me. It’s just the fit of the upper bust + sleeves I don’t like on me!

  4. Laurie
    November 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm (12 years ago)

    Thank you so much for sharing this because you have given me hope. How many times has this happened to me? Nearly every time. I have come so close to giving up sewing, completely in despair. I think I have finally learned the importance of muslins, not that I’m exactly sure how to go from the fitting of the muslin to transitioning to the fashion fabric, but at least now I know it’s not all me. It’s just that patterns are like general guidelines to a specific look. I’m usually in too much of a rush (sheepish grin) to want to do more, but you have encouraged me to take the time to do this.
    I hope that after all that time you put into your much wanted dress, you can make it work to your pleasing. =)

    • Lauren
      November 29, 2011 at 9:22 am (12 years ago)

      I am so glad this post encouraged you! Man, this project was a pain… but I know I brought it upon myself! I’ll still revisit it and fix it, but I need a break ;)
      Totally true about patterns being general guidelines- there’s just no way it will fit every figure out of the packet. Such a pain when you’re in a rush, though! hehe.

  5. Val LaBore
    November 28, 2011 at 7:47 pm (12 years ago)

    Oh, it’s cute. I love the cwazy fabric!

    • Lauren
      November 29, 2011 at 9:51 am (12 years ago)


  6. Ruthanne
    November 28, 2011 at 8:08 pm (12 years ago)

    It looks super cute on the dress form, but I get how that doesn’t always translate well once you get it on. Heh, if I thought your measurements were anywhere near mine, I would happily take it off your hands ;) I have about as right a body for 50s styles as you can get, that does however mean that 20s styles are death and I’m pushing it with 30s stuff. The 40s and I get along pretty well…

    • Lauren
      November 29, 2011 at 9:50 am (12 years ago)

      That is so true! Some things looks so good on the dress form (or on the hanger in the store) but darn it, they don’t look the same on!
      Funny how we all have our eras :) I have found a few 50s things I can wear, but not many!

  7. StephC
    November 28, 2011 at 11:13 pm (12 years ago)

    It’s funny, sometimes that happens to me, too. I *know* I’m breaking all my rules, I know I’m taking risks and somehow think I’ll get away with it. That’s a super cute pattern, by the way…

    I agree with the first commentator… Try it on and maybe let us see? It’s just possible you’re “too close to the project”… More times than I can count, I blogged something I felt very MEH about (because it’s only fair to blog the boo boos, right?) and once I saw it through other sewists’ eyes I learned to love it.

    Very very cute fabric. :)

    • Lauren
      November 29, 2011 at 9:49 am (12 years ago)

      HA! So true! And the whole while I’m sewing I’m feeling naughty and rebellious, but should have listened to that inner voice.

      We’ll see! I might do “before and after” pics. I really know I won’t wear it as-is. I think the cut of the bodice+sleeves is bad news for my torso. This is the second dress with this sort of cut to the top that I’ve made and both times it just looked bad… of course I didn’t remember that until I was halfway through sewing it ;) But maybe if I get the inclination to get out of my pjs I’ll show pics. Lol!

  8. Lizzie
    November 29, 2011 at 12:05 am (12 years ago)

    I’m seeing a wiggle dress, still with the 50’s flava but much better on your willowy frame. Great fabric

    • Lauren
      November 29, 2011 at 9:23 am (12 years ago)

      Lizzie, you’re right! In retrospect I wish I had done a wiggle dress. I still love the button placement and the curve of the opening, and am really seeing this as a wiggle dress in gray wool with pink bound buttonholes and piping. Someday!

      • BoPeep
        November 29, 2011 at 11:00 am (12 years ago)

        Pink and grey…wool…wiggle dress… *swoon*

  9. Kate in England
    November 29, 2011 at 3:02 am (12 years ago)

    Oh, I feel your pain. I LOVE looking at all the patterned cottons in fabric stores, but prints of almost any kind just do not suit me. Occasionally I get the urge to make something like this – I loved Debi’s similar dress the other week – but I just know I will hate it on me. I also worked out a couple of years ago that if something’s not black, blue, white or grey, or some combination thereof, I’m very unlikely to wear it. I’ve applied that principle to all new clothes I’ve bought or made since then (sometimes involving HUGE restraint) and I have to say, I’m wearing a much greater proportion of my clothing than I ever have before. But I still need reminding sometimes, so thank you for that! I must stick to my own rules!

    • Lauren
      November 29, 2011 at 9:40 am (12 years ago)

      I totally know what you mean! They are so cute on the bolt… but when I make them into dresses I never wear most of them. Maybe it’s the “joy of sewing” or something, but I have to tell myself that if I won’t wear it I shouldn’t sew it. Maybe make it into something like an apron or a bag or something instead if I just HAVE to have it ;) So hard to stick to our own rules sometimes!

  10. Martha Gallo
    November 29, 2011 at 5:47 am (12 years ago)

    Those bound buttonholes – WOW! Gorgeous! I’ve tried and tried but now I just shy away from making them because they always turn out a mess!

    • Lauren
      November 29, 2011 at 9:40 am (12 years ago)

      Thank you!

  11. Andrea
    November 29, 2011 at 6:06 am (12 years ago)

    Try it with a chocolate brown cardi over it. The cardi will hide a multitude of figure sins and tone down the crazy print so you can wear it on other days beside Thanksgiving. It’s a really cute dress! Since I’m built for 50’s but love 30’s, I have this problem quite frequently. I always try to wear a dress at least twice before I decide to get rid of it.

    • Lauren
      November 29, 2011 at 9:40 am (12 years ago)

      That’s a good tip! I will add a brown cardi to my list of must-haves :)

  12. BoPeep
    November 29, 2011 at 10:59 am (12 years ago)

    Oh, what a shame you’re not happy with it! It really does look amazing! But I think we’ve all done that hurry-and-get-it-done-for-a-special-event thing, so don’t feel bad. Odds are, you’ll be in that situation again sometime. ;) lol

  13. wundermary
    November 30, 2011 at 10:28 am (12 years ago)

    Are you sure you aren’t being hard on yourself? It looks great on the form (okay, I’ve been there, but, I’m thinking you should do better than I) it must look good on you! It’s not just the print, the details are great, too. I third the cardigan idea. It is a pretty assertive dress and could use a little beat down :)

    • Lauren
      November 30, 2011 at 12:38 pm (12 years ago)

      I might be a hint too hard on myself ;) I think the cardigan idea is great! I also like the details, it’s just the darn fit of the thing that makes me look swamped, I think. Or too much print near the face? We’ll see! I definitely want to revisit it :)

  14. wundermary
    November 30, 2011 at 10:33 am (12 years ago)

    I just looked at it again and now I am thinking “bolero”. See, now I want you to sew something else to go with the thing that you already aren’t feeling. Don’t listen to me.

    • Lauren
      November 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm (12 years ago)

      LOL! :)

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