Monday, 12 June 2017

Making a dress for Alison from a RTW favourite

Alison asked me to make a dress for her from a much loved dress she already had but which was too short for work. She needed to wear leggings or tights with it, but then found it too warm in summer when that's when she wanted to wear it.
The two dresses together

The dress is a princess seamed skater dress with a filled in sweetheart bodice - I don't know if that's a reasonable description! In the front and back skirt princess seams, there are long godets, nearly the full skirt length

The original dress
I considered simply adding a piece of matching georgette (assuming georgette was the fabric used for the bodice and sleeves) to the hem as a band. This plan was scuppered when I couldn’t find suitable fabric. I had some leeway as the pieces would be separated by the fabric of the rest of the dress but even so, I didn't get close enough.

I therefore decided that I did need to duplicate the dress then make it longer. Alison said that otherwise the dress fitted well. I did ask if it needed a little extra ease as some of the seams were stretched but she said no.

The first part of pricking the pattern out was fairly straightforward.

What I had was:
  • A skirt, joined at a waist seam. The skirt had a front and a back, each with two godets inserted into a princess seam. I traced out the lines.
  • A bodice consisting of several pieces
    • Upper bodice front - round neck and sweetheart shaped bottom
    • Upper bodice back
    • Lower front  bodice central with sweetheart shape at top
    • Lower front bodice sides
    • Lower central back bodice
    • Lower back bodice sides
  • Sleeves
  • A side invisible zip, extending from under the left arm through the waist seam and the skirt.

I traced out all of these pieces and found, of course, that the sides didn’t match. My next step was therefore to true up the pattern. I also had to decide how to lengthen the skirt. The options were really to increase at the hem which would widen the skirt a bit or to cut across and lengthen part way down. This would impact on all pieces and the godets so I elected to go with the former method.

Dan checked my trueing of the pattern

I did have particular difficulty drawing out the sleeves, due to their method of insertion. I hope I have a photo that will show this as I'm not sure how to describe it. If not, I'll try to draw it.

Sleeve underside on hacked dress
I then cut out the toile. The fabric is much thicker, a nice soft almost brushed cotton floral for the patterned elements and a single crepe for the black components (Upper back and front bodices and sleeves)

Front view of hacked dress

Back view of hacked dress
Back view of dresses together; the original has more of a curve I see now 
I constructed the skirt including the godets with no issue. I had a bit more difficulty joining upper and lower front bodices at the sweetheart shape and Dan helped me. Otherwise, the bodice came together okay and attached nicely to the skirt. The invisible zipper went in beautifully.

Out of focus beautiful zip insertion! 
I did have problems with the sleeves, though. Firstly, the sleeve cap is very gathered and I had found that a little difficult to recreate in the pattern and more difficult to sew. I basically set the sleeves in but add I mentioned previously, I found the bottom of the sleeve very difficult and asked Dan to sew rather than just demonstrate! Thankfully, she did that but confirmed that she'd help me modify the pattern to make the process easier.

Original sleeve cap
Then I overlocked the outside edges and created simple turnover hems and edges, which were simply topstitched

None of my inside edges were finished - this is a toile.

When I was taking the photos shown here I noticed that there are marked lines at the armhole, where I was having all the problems. I see they also exist in the original.

I posted the toile and the original dress to Alison (she has  received them) and now I'm waiting to see how it fitted.  I'm not going to make any changes to the pattern until I have clear feedback.


  1. I do hope she is thankful for the love you pour into all the projects she requests, and you amazingly deliver time and again. Copying garments is something I would like to learn..thanks for sharing! I look forward to eavesdropping on the rest of the story as it unfolds.

    1. Thank you. I have 3 daughters and this is the first project for this daughter in a while. I haven't heard back from her yet (grrr!).
      I have picked up a few tips about copying garments from Dan who helped me. One of the obvious is that a garment doesn't usually come out symmetrical and needs to be trued - and of course, I might have done that truing in the wrong direction. The second, less obvious, at least to me, is that garments often come out too small, because, I think, it can be quite difficult to properly sort out where the seam is when they are not being taken apart. Darts are a little tricky but workable with some brief guidance. The sleeve cap, however, required a bit more guesstimate than the rest. I will update when I get further info.


Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. Please leave a comment. I welcome each and every one. I value criticism (constructive of course! ), love hints and tips and would appreciate suggestions for future direction.

Update and Continuing with Machine Embroidery Course

I haven’t been sewing anything recently. I’ve managed a few alterations and repairs and a little bit of machine embroidery - though I’ve f...