Thursday, July 23, 2015

A Real Summer Dress - Butterick Vintage Dress B5209 & Gusset Hack

After all the adjustments, this dress fits like a glove. I hand stitched the hem and the inside bodice lining.
I was shopping with my sister when I stumbled across this novelty Swiss Dot cotton fabric. I really fell in love with its unique, vintage nature, while my sister thought it a bit dull. It does have an odd grey and pale yellow hue, but I think it only adds to its charm.

Close-up of the bodice. I used silk organza interlining on the wide waistband. It helps hold its shape.

I cut the bodice in a size 16, but extended the waist all the way out to Size 20.
Making a vintage dress was not on my sew list this Summer, but I have become very inspired since attending the History In Fashion exhibit. I took many chances with this project, and I did have several fitting issues with the pattern. First off...I did not make a muslin. I measured and cut the pattern cold turkey. After stitching and fitting the bodice, I discovered two things: the waist was slightly too long, and its width was too small on the waist bottom and too big on the waist top. What you say? Apparently, my back is a lot more curved than I realized. Since the halter back is cut so low, the curve rested at my arch. This is how I fixed it my fitting issue...

I added a gusset in the center to widen the base of the bodice but not the top. This gave me three more inches at the base of the waist. The zipper is on the left side, so this made it easier to adjust. You can see that the added fabric gave it a unique design detail in the back. Notice how the back is more curved now? I needed this to wrap properly around the curvature of my back without bunching.

Gusset addition.
I am terrible at adding gussets, which are usually cut in a triangle. I created a simpler way to add the piece without grief. It does include a center stitch line instead of a smooth triangle. I measured out a piece of fabric, including the seam allowances. I sewed both left and right back bodice pieces to the extension. 

I have created a diagram which might help interested folks...

Then I folded the back in half at the center of the extension piece, and stitched down at an angle. This created a nice even triangle without having to mess with sewing the sharp tip of a regular gusset. Now, if you're really good at gussets, then you don't need to follow my instruction. But my gusset tips are always puckered. This method avoided the pucker, but does add a center seam. Be sure to trim the excess seam with pinking shears. 

If you are not sure about the fitting, baste the angled stitch first and try it on before sewing. This kind of gusset lets you customize your waist as long as you have made the extension piece wide enough. In my case, it was exact.  If the extension was too small, I would have had to cut another piece. Whew! (I can't believe I figured this out myself without Google.) 

This is also my first side zipper. It's not invisible (thank goodness). The zipper has to be added to the main bodice, and then I pick-stitched the lining piece to the zipper. 

Left side zipper was not that easy to put in. 
Inside lining stitched to zipper. 
The top was too big because one, I don't have fullness at the top part of my breast, which also makes for a lower breast dart, and two, the upper back curve is pretty sharp. What this means in a halter bodice is the peek-a-boo nature due to the extra space. I don't want people seeing more than necessary.

I had to adjust the dress in two ways. The first was by adding a dart at each of the back side pieces. I measured four inches from the side seam, and created a 2.5 inch dart. I had to make identical adjustments to the lining as well. See it here...

Look closely to see the dart.
Then I had to adjust the neck strap. The back of the neck strap piece is curved. I thought I was supposed attach a button, but the directions said to sew the left and right pieces together. I had difficulty doing this because of the curved pattern ends. Then after sewing them together, I realized that I needed to pull the straps up in order to fit the front bodice tighter. At this point I did not want to rip it apart because my delicate fabric was starting to fray. I just sewed the straps together at an angle, which tightened up the edge of the halter that wrapped around the breast and to the back. Then I just sewed the ugly seam down by hand. Since the seam is biggie.

Looks fine once it is back in place.
Lastly, I cut one inch off the bottom of the waistband to accommodate my shorter length. This prevented crinkling in the midsection and automatically raised the hem slightly without losing fullness at the base of the skirt. By doing this I also saved time without having to redo the gathers from the top of the skirt.

I did not pay enough attention to the neck strap instructions beforehand. If I had to do it all over, I would have adjusted and sewn down the front neck strap after completing the gusset and dart adjustment before sewing the bodice lining. This would have prevented the exposed seam.

Here is a few shots of the pattern pieces to provide a preview to folks interested in sewing this dress.

There was also the odd instruction to understitch the lining bodice, and it read "Understitch the lining as far as possible." What? As far as possible? Well, the instructions were correct. After sewing the lining bodice, there is not enough space to stay stitch the whole piece. This sorta irked me.

To line or not to line? The fabric is slightly sheer, but I don't want to add more poof to the waist gathers so I opted out. My only regret is that I did not finish the skirt seams. Overall though, I had many glitches which were due to my not paying enough attention. I don't count fitting issues glitches. I learned much about making halter dresses, and something new about the shape of my body. The result was a dress that fits like a glove!

Happy sewing!