|Pattern Description: "Retro Butterick '52: MISSES' DRESS: Flared dress, fitted at bust, below midknee or floor length has back zipper and tie ends extending from bodice back."|
Many others have already described the particular features of this pattern. Just to summarize:
Pattern Sizing: US standard misses' pattern sizing 6-12 or 14-20. My measurements are close to the 14, that's what I used, and it worked out well with a couple of alterations I made before cutting.
- You might assume it's a halter neck from the front drawings, but that isn't so. Shoulders are cut in somewhat, but other than that the back is completely covered up.
- Skirt is a full circle cut in four pieces, with CB, CF, and side seams.
- Bodice front wraps (with extensions) and fastens under bodice back.
- Bodice back tie ends are cut in one with bodice back.
Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? As of this writing, the pattern is still in print and shown on Butterick's website. I feel that the sample photos on the models give a more accurate impression of both the skirt shape (not gathered) and the shape of the shoulder line (the gathered sections don't really climb up the sides of the neck as much as the drawings show.) You won't get the domed/bell shape to the skirt unless you have some serious petticoats.
Speaking of which, the dress looks WAY longer on me than it does on the envelope. I can think of several possible reasons that might contribute to this:
In any case, I actually sort of like this length. It's not the most flattering length on me as far as stopping on the optimally shaped area of my leg, but the whole skirt length thing (for me) involves so many conflicting constraints that I tend to just throw up my hands and pick something. If this one were much shorter, it would probably end up looking much too wide for its length, and if it were longer, it could look too formal or conservative. As it is, I think it's a good compromise.
- It may have been drafted with lots of petticoats in mind.
- So far I've decided not to finish the hem, although this wouldn't make a huge difference since the hem allowance is just 5/8".
- Most patterns, as drafted, are too long on me (though not usually by nearly this much).
- I have found surprisingly excessive lengths on original vintage 1950s and 1960s Buttericks, even on straight skirts.
- Maybe circle skirts were given even more extra length, to allow for leveling out the hem if it dropped particularly unevenly.
Were the instructions easy to follow? I didn't really follow them. I'd read a lot of the existing reviews and got a good idea of how the dress worked, so it wasn't really necessary to do much more than glance at the instructions. I also made some construction changes that made parts of the instructions irrelevant.
I will say this: you want to do as much as you possibly can to finish the bodice before attaching the skirt. Attaching it earlier than you have to will just add lots of fabric to get in your way, not to mention weight that might stretch out the neckline and armhole edges if you haven't finished those yet. I looked at the instructions afterward and saw that they do in fact put off attaching the skirt as long as possible, so that's good.
What did you particularly like... First of all, it used up this huge amount of allover "lace" I had in stash. Second, the waist is somewhat adjustable. I say somewhat because there is a definite upper limit — once the zipper is closed, the circumference around the waist seam is set. But you can make it smaller by using the ties and/or fiddling with the hook placement on the front bodice extensions. Third, the front bodice isn't cut away much at the front armhole, so there's lots of coverage there, which can be helpful if your bra doesn't quite fit right. Finally, while the under- and overlapping construction of the bodice might seem excessive, I think it helps keep the bodice in place and fitted into the waist.
or dislike about the pattern? It calls for self-lining the bodice. That wouldn't have looked nice in my semi-sheer fabric, it could easily add too much bulk in the gathered shoulder area, and it adds more layers of fabric onto the waist, which already has those tie ends piled on. The neckline was also lower than I wanted, but YMMV; I think at least one reviewer made it lower.
Fabric Used: A very synthetic (thermoplastic, ask me how I know) stable knit with a cutwork-ish pattern accented with raised textured threads.
I had the 4.5 yards the pattern calls for, except that my fabric was 54" instead of 60" wide. Even though I saved some by not cutting linings for the bodice, I still had to piece one skirt section near a side seam.
The skirt and the bodice back with its cut-on tie end are the real fabric hogs here. If you do have the right fabric width, you might be able to save a little by not doing the self-lining, but I doubt it would be much — and as designed, the tie ends are single layer, so you may even want to add more fabric and bag those out, especially if your fabric wrong side is unattractive. On the other hand, if you shortened the skirt before cutting, that might save quite a bit.
Pattern Alterations... I shortened the bodice back because the waist length there seemed much too long compared to my fitting shell. This is a common fitting issue for me; I think I need relatively more length on the front and less on the back than standard (probably due to a swayback and prominent bust). I took all the length out above where the tie ends start, because I didn't want to meddle with those or make them narrower.
I have a "maximum neckline depth" mark on my fitting shell and this neckline was deeper, so I raised it just by drawing it higher. This is very common for me; apparently I have a high bust.
It seems that many reviewers had trouble with the bodice gapping at the neckline and/or front armhole area. I did try to forestall any of that by fusing on a bias fusible tape to all of those edges before working with the bodice at all. To get the tape lengths right, I walked them along the pattern pieces (where the seam lines would be), stretching them all the while, but particularly on curves and on bias areas. I marked matchpoints where possible, and pinned the tapes on before fusing. Beyond that, I have two lines of machine stitching in my edge finishes, which I hope will also help keep them firm over time, and I'm not going to have to keep this dress hanging in a closet. I can wad it up in a drawer all I want since there is NO chance of this fabric wrinkling.
or any design changes you made: I finished the neck and shoulder edges with bias tape — the usual not-very-nice (IMO) cotton/poly American kind, which I had on hand. Here I could at least get a good color match, and I don't think this fabric merits couture techniques anyway. I did a lot of edgestitching because trying to press the seams wouldn't have done anything on this fabric: the neck and armhole edges, the shoulder seams after turning the SA to the back, the waist seams after turning toward the bodice (I also topstitched 1/4" away on this one to try to further support the weight of the skirt), and the CF, CB, and skirt side seams on either side after opening them flat. I trimmed most seam allowances close to the edgestitching for more sheerness in the openwork areas.
I had been wondering about the full-length center back zipper (specifically, whether this was original to the design, given that so many vintage patterns use side zippers). Someone had helpfully posted a photo of the original envelope front on Wikia and tagged it 1952, so I was able to find it pretty easily: 6338. Interestingly, it looks like the zipper indeed was placed at CB, but it only went partway up the back. (And the drawings do also make me wonder how the tie ends were originally meant to be used, since I don't see any ends hanging out in front or back, or any fancy bows like on the Butterick website. Maybe they were actually meant to be tucked in?)
Anyway, I decided to put the zipper on the side seam, which allowed me to use a much shorter zipper. This doesn't seem to make it harder to fasten the bodice front extensions inside the back, because the bodice's sides are not sewn together above the waist.
I sewed 5 snaps onto the bodice front extensions to make extra sure that all the layers would stay in place and flat. I thought they might ripple if I used only two skirt hooks, as the pattern shows. (I also didn't have two black skirt hooks on hand).
As of yet, I have not hemmed it and I am considering leaving it raw. I have to admit I usually resent this when I see it in RTW, but there's something sort of tulle-like about this fabric that makes me think that maybe no finish is what would look best. Being a knit, it doesn't fray. I might change my mind, but that's how it is in the photos for now.
Would you sew it again? Maybe, but I don't think I have any other suitable, huge pieces of fabric in stash, so probably not for a while.
Would you recommend it to others? Yes. Just be very careful not to allow the cut edges of the bodice to stretch, and check whether the bodice's waist length and neckline depth are right for you (if they're too long, that could also cause gapping). Some didn't like how much fabric (fullness?) there was in the upper bodice, but I didn't have trouble with this; it may help not to line the bodice, or to avoid crisp fabrics.
Conclusion: It's not as straightforward as it might initially look. But handled carefully, and maybe with a few changes, this pattern can make a very nice dress. It can be formal or casual, as the numerous other reviews show.