Hot! The “Devil is in the Details” Dress

Gatsby-promo The Facts

Fabric: Cotton voile from 6.5 yards for ~$35
Pattern: VPLL T3946 (Received free from reviewing a previous pattern).
Year: c. 1930
Notions: Vintage lace from Alameda – $5, buckle – ~$1
Time to complete: ~20 hours
First worn: Not Yet
Wear again? If there's a place to wear it.

Total Cost: ~$40 & my sanity

Those who suspect my lack of posting is due to Gatsby frenzy would be very very correct. The good news is that other than some tacking, I'm finished with my own Gatsby dress. This dress has been a saga to say the least (read all about it here) and I've almost abandoned it at least three times. I actually purchased yet another pattern to start as a replacement but then I decided to give it one more try.

The reasons for wanting to abandon it?

1. I still wasn't convinced that fabric felt 1930s enough nor nautical enough.

2. The cascades are yards of raw edges (curved raw edges) that needed to be finished.

3. I thought I might want to go a little bit more casual since I love 1930s day dresses.

4. Did I mention the raw edges? No seriously, the dress basically is one huge raw edge that needs to be hemmed/finished.

About a month or so ago I bought a serger for my every day sewing. Little did I know that the serger would –after way too much trial and error — make this dress possible, more specifically the rolled hem setting. I had already abandoned my dress because every time I attempted to use the rolled hem setting, the upper looper thread would break. Every single time. And this whole process was doing a real number on the delicate voile.a So then I decided to just do a hem with my sewing machine (mind you, not with a rolled hem foot). It looked a mess and with each attempt I became more and more discouraged.

The dress was put to the aside into my fail bin and I actually bought another pattern on Etsy. Because I wasn't going to be able to start that night, I decided to work on the napkins for the picnic. Like last year, I cut up an old table cloth and embroidered napkins with each guest's name. I wanted to use the rolled hem setting yet again and decided to just try something with the serger that seemed to conflict with the instructions. It turns out that the upper looper thread was breaking because i had not looped it around the stitch finger in the correct manner (the instructions are not clear on this at all.) So if you have a Brother Serger and the upper looper thread keeps breaking in the rolled hem setting, that's the issue.

Anyhow, once I got through thirteen napkins with a gradually improving rolled-hem, I realized that the dress could be rescued! I took it out of the pile, cut off all the edges of wonky hemming (thank you rotary cutter!) and started again. I opted not to do the blue trim because I didn't think I was going to be able to do it in a way that wouldn't have flaws (and I didn't feel like making my own bias tape out of the blue satin).

I'm so glad I kept going with this dress because I absolutely adore it. It's very slimming and is just feels so pretty. Of all the dresses I've made so far, I most proud of this one because I really made sure everything was done correctly. The funny thing about this dress is that the devil really is in the details. The construction of the basic dress was simple — it took about two hours. It was all that hemming (false starts and fixing) that ended up taking about 15 hours.

A closer look at the bodice.

Hemmed-detailsThe hemmed edges in question.

The above photo illustrates the back, as well as why child labor laws were invented.

I'm not posting a photo of me wearing the dress because I want to be in full 1930s mode. So, you'll just have to wait.


Mena Trott

Mena Trott started The Sew Weekly to document her attempt to sew all of her own clothes in 2010. Since then, she's made over 125 outfits and has way more clothes than she needs.


Comments are closed.

  1. That’s absolutely gorgeous! The back is completely divine, with that low V and the cascases. I think it will look amazing when you’re wearing it in full 1930s character.

  2. Such a pretty dress. I’m glad it made its way out of the fail pile. Great job.

  3. Good for you! I’m super proud, as if you were my protegee instead of someone more accomplished at sewing than myself.

  4. great job Mena!! I can’t wait to see you in this beautiful piece. It is absolutely gorgeous and I think you made the right call on nixing the blue edging. It looks superb…now…did you end up finishing your friends Gatsby dress??

  5. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!!!

  6. You pushed me to post this with your email. :)

  7. WoW!!!!! Sure looks like you have a dress to be proud of! And I’m sure that your family are proud that you didn’t give it up! Good for you! It looks great! I’m really loving the little white lace option there… it makes it more delicate and vintage looking to me! Very feminine! Well Done!

  8. Oh my gosh it’s absolutely gorgeous! I can imagine the rolled hem would be a devil, and back in 1930 there were no such things as sergers! Think of the work it would have been, wow.. Love the back view, all those cascading ruffles, it’s stunning!
    Can’t wait to see you modeling it, as well ;)

  9. Just beautiful, can hardly wait to see it on you.

  10. Love it!!! Great job! It’s beautiful!
    I’m going to attempt a 1950’s style gown (Butterick Retro 1952) for an upcoming event. How do you like your dress form? I’d like to get one but am not sure which to get yet…

  11. It is so, so beautiful! Way to go for powering through and finishing it. Totally worth it and I’m looking forward to seeing you all kitted out in full 1930’s regalia.
    Well done!

  12. This turned out BEAUTIFUL! Good job!

  13. GORGEOUS! And I really love the fabric.

  14. I’m sooo glad you decided to stay with the dress. Yes, the rolled hem on the serger is a doozy, but man oh man–the results are wonderful. And I love that navy fabric. You are sure to be the belle of the picnic wearing.

  15. What happened to the navy details and the lovely flower? I really miss them in this version, they seemed to make the dress “pop” more and definitely gave it a more nautical feel. So, will you use any navy accessories?

  16. Beautiful!

  17. Oh my what a lot of work but it paid of beautifully. I am amazed at your skill and endurance at this task to say the least. The dress is so lovely and I can’t wait to see the full picture. I just know you will be so beautiful. Blessings, Sue


    Absolutely beautiful. Look forward to seeing a photo of you wearing it. I log in every week to see what else you have made. It is giving me inspiration as I am just getting back into sewing after a very long hiatus.

  19. Lovely!
    A job well done!
    I have had “serger issues” as well, and sometimes I wanted to just throw the whole thing out the window, but if you really figure out how to use it, and just work with it for a while( I’ve had several crying moments!) it really makes a difference on a finished garment. Your rolled hems look great!

  20. What stunning dress. I am dripping with jealousy! Thank you so much for your blog. I am a complete novice myself, but you have inspired me to sign up to my first dressmaking course, which I start in March. Thank you!

  21. I am so IN LOVE with this dress!!! Mena, it is absolutely beautiful!! I am so happy to have found your sewing blog. You are an inspiration.

  22. Amazing…I hopped over here from Grosgrain and I’m just so happy to have found you.