Hello friends! I cannot even begin to explain how excited I am to be sharing this particular post! In all the time I have been focusing quite seriously on developing my skills in sewing, I had never once successfully made a dress. I think, similar to how pants and shorts are now my Everest, dresses were a fitting challenge I didn’t quite have the skills to unravel at the time. But having acquired two large pieces of fabric from a community stall event prior to all the shutdowns which simply told me they had to be made into dresses, I knew it was time to confront this challenge again. So when I stumbled over someone selling Butterick B5748, I knew this was going to be the pattern I would sink my teeth into. It’s a gorgeous reprint of a 1960’s pattern, with updated instructions and multiple sizes – which worked very well for me.
I honestly loved this pattern, even though I found certain fitting parts a little tricky. Although it’s also very important to note that it’s a fabric guzzler. The large circle skirt and the need to cut one piece on the fold meant that it required huge amounts of fabric. So I was fortunate that neither fabric – which I think were both large pieces of quilting cotton, had a print where direction was such a problem. Otherwise I’d have thought about dividing the skirt up, making it into more of a gored skirt pattern by creating new pieces with a small seam allowance to reattach them. This did mean, however, that I didn’t have enough fabric to line the skirts with which I am somewhat sad about. In this case I think the dresses would have benefited from the added weight of lining, and it would have made the insides quite beautiful! So this is one pattern where I’d say their fabric size recommendations aren’t pushing the envelope if you want the full circle skirt plus the lining. I even ended up playing a game of fabric tetris with the second one I made, and barely managed to have enough to cut one of the front bodice pieces on the fold!
I chose to make View B both times. And after some testing and consideration I made multiple alterations to the pattern, using my handy dandy rolls of tracing paper. In the first dress, which was made of the white fabric with multi-colour prints, I started with a size 12 bodice in the bust and graded out to a size 14 in the waist from the bottom of the bust dart. This was a bit peculiar for me, as I’ve rarely ever had to grade up to my waist from my bust. But in this case the finished measurements on the pattern itself indicated that the size 12 would match my bust, and the 14 would match my waist. And I always prefer to cut my patterns too big than too small! It also turned out perfect, as both the bust and the waist were snug. I then noticed a gaping at the centre back between my shoulder blades, and so ended up taking out a fairly sizeable chunk from the centre back seam. About an inch in total. However, I’m now not sure if the gaping would have been quite as severe if I was wearing 1960’s appropriate foundation garments or not. But at least it helped with modern fitting.
I quite liked how it turned out. Although after um-ing and ah-ing over it, I did end up unpicking part of a side-seam and using the Tilly and the Buttons side-seam pocket tutorial to add a sneaky side-seam pocket! I would highly recommend this tutorial if you are unsure how to sneak in that extra pocket, especially in garments that don’t already make those kinds of provisions. The tip about using interfacing is so perfect, and stabilises the opening – thereby preventing the gaping I’m used to with side seam pockets. The only thing I didn’t particularly like was the shape of the actual pocket piece, so when I came to do the second dress – with even more changes, I instead used the free pocket pattern from SewStylish and mashed it together with Tilly’s tutorial. And in both cases I aligned a notch on the pocket piece with the side seam notches in the dress. I’m not quite so confident in pocket placement yet, so I could perhaps have inched it up a little higher. But I tend to find it looks terrible if the pockets sit anywhere near the actual curve of my hips.
I was so pleased with the first dress, although I had drastically underestimated the length of the skirt, and had to do the tiniest of hems at the bottom. And after wearing it around I did notice a strange amount of gaping on the outside back armhole curve. I thought I might not have taken my short torso into account, as the gaping and shifting of the bodice would get worse as I sat down. So on the second version, made from the dark pink fabric, I then folded the bodice up by half an inch and added two inches to the length of the skirt, to account for the missing half inch in the length of the bodice and to get the skirt well enough past my knee I could do a larger hem without sacrificing length. This also worked gloriously. The fit of the second dress was so very much better than the first. The positioning of the waist was much better, and the bodice generally felt a bit snugger like I like it to be. The length of the finished dress was also much better, as I prefer mine to finish noticeably below my knees. I am also pleased to say that due to using Christmas present stickers to label the bits and pieces I even managed to sew the zip on the correct side!
However, although these changes had all but eliminated the shoulder gaping issue, it didn’t get rid of it entirely. I spent some time mulling it over and after taking photos of the second dress I realised the issue was the placement of the shoulder pieces. They sat too close to the edge of my shoulders! Due to some long-standing conditions, my shoulders actually sit quite low and I am in the process of training them to get back up into normal ranges. But as a result things are in a perpetual state of sliding down and off my shoulders. And I didn’t even consider this as a potential issue! So if I were to make this dress again I would definitely need to look at making the neck curve less dramatic so that the shoulder pieces sit a bit higher and further in on my shoulders.
As with all things, the second version was incredibly quick compared to the first. And with the encouragement of a new sewing friend I decided to brave it, and broke out my overlocker to finish off the internal seams. I am still struggling a bit with getting around curves, but I took it slowly and am very pleased with the results. As the skirts aren’t lined I am glad to have one overlocked to better prevent the seams from fraying, and there’s simply something so satisfying about a well overlocked edge! Although at the time I also didn’t realise the issues with my stitches not sitting flat and flush was being caused by the knife of the overlocker being too close! Ah well, it was a lesson learned!
Overall I really do adore this pattern, and if I make it again with those changes to the shoulders, it would probably be my ultimate dress pattern. Although, I suppose I shouldn’t say that until I try out a few more! What do you think?
Pattern: Butterick B5748
Views Made: View B in both instances
Pros: The construction is very straightforward and the instructions are relatively clear and easy. If you don’t have a lot of fit requirements this would probably be a very easy thing to make. And if you ignore the understitching instruction like I did, there isn’t anything too fiddly to do. The results are also lovely.
Cons: The skirt being a full circle means that it requires large amounts of fabric, it also isn’t quite as long as you’d think from looking at the picture.
Would I recommend it to beginners: I actually would. This dress gives you good practice with darts and lining, and it all comes together to make something that looks so professional. There is an amount of hand stitching with the bodice lining that might be a bit tricky, but it could also make for excellent practice at slip-stitching.
Would I make it again: If I was able to come by enough fabric second-hand I would definitely consider it. But given how much fabric it needs; I won’t be making it again if I have to buy the fabric brand new.