Hot! The “Better late than never” dress | Adey Lim

The Facts

Fabric:  Scallop edge silver/bronze satin 3 metres $26, poly lining $3 from chinatown
Patterns: Simplicity 4826 and McCall's 4883
Year: c. 1950s/ 1960s
Notions: Invisible zipper, white satin bias tape, interfacing $1
Time to complete: Too long! Approximately 19 hours…
First worn: Not yet
Wear again? Hopefully, after all that effort tweaking it. 

Total Cost: ~$30

It was my cousin Lorance and his wife Ivie's wedding last Saturday and I had originally planned to sew this dress to wear for the occasion.  

At the start, I had envisioned the smocked bodice with view B skirt of the McCall's pattern but just before cutting the fabric, I thought it would be a waste not to sew a view A full skirt given that the fabric has a nice scallop edge and I had 3 meters of it.  I should have stuck by my original idea. I finished the dress on Friday in time for the wedding. The fit turned out horribly, the midriff satin band was too long and reflective, making it unflattering and the full skirt made me look like I was expecting.  All that after something like 13 hours of smocking and sewing. I hated the dress period. Here's a snapshot of it. Yikes! I'm sparing you from the look on my face.

Before Photo


I knew it was too late for me to make any changes as the kids were back home from school. The dress won't make it to Saturday's luncheon. Reluctantly I decided to let go, relax and work on it again on Monday morning. Subconsciously, I was very much aware that my project post would be up Tuesday. Oh gosh! To cut the long story short, after hours of massive seam ripper action through the zipper, skirt and midriff band, I shorten the band, re-cut the skirt and lining pieces using the view B pattern and sewed everything together again. At least now I have a dress I would wear, only with no occasion to wear it to. Well, better late than never.


I have always been intrigued with smocking and thought satin would be a good fabric to try it on. Indeed, as it turned out, I love how they looked on the front bodice of the dress.


This is the first time I've tried smocking and all by following the instructions in the vintage Simplicity pattern. I was surprised that the dot transfer paper still worked after 50 years! However, while the transferred dots were very clear on a piece of linen scrap, it disappeared rather quickly on satin. I had to manually dot them repeatedly using erasable fabric marker. The smocking process was a little time consuming but I found it pretty fulfilling. The neckline was finished with front and back facings followed by bias tape, most probably to complete the look of the smocking or to 'hold' them together. I love that even the shoulder pleats blended nicely with the smocking.

However, this satin fabric is truly not an easy fabric to cut, sew and unpick. It is my first time sewing with satin and I gasped as I felt my nails scratching it accidentally and was relief it didn't cause too much damage. It really had to be treated with care and I had to dedicate more time for each process.

I have an intense weakness for scallop edges and border print fabrics. I can't say no to them. With the smocking details on the front bodice, I kept the rest of the dress clean and positioned the scallop edges for the sleeves and hem.DSCN0541 P5204308On hindsight, I think I persisted in making this dress work  because it's a scallop edge fabric for goodness sake and I wasn't gonna give up on that precious hand stitched smocking :) My lil princess was home when I took these photos and gave me a paper flower from her art & craft lesson in school. Perfect color with the dress I think :) 

Happy ending.




Adey Sew Convert

A former kids' television channel manager turned stay home mum from Singapore, I hated sewing since I attended my first home economic class at the age of 14. In 2007, something miraculous happened when God blessed me with a second pregnancy. I discovered that I was expecting a baby girl. That changed everything. First I went crazy shopping for handmade clothes for her on etsy. Then I decided I needed to make something for her on my own. I was a month from my due date when I took an intensive 8-hour sewing class. In Dec 2008, I made a dress for my princess before she was born and have not stopped sewing since.


Comments are closed.

  1. Beautiful! – You’ll just have to come up with another occasion. (Make husband take you to a really flash restaurant, perhaps?) I love that there is so much tone on tone detail. It gives a real sense of elegance.

  2. Wow! Fabulous dress! I can sympathize…I’m still working on my outfit for tomorrow! eeep!!! I love the colour and scalloped edges of this dress….It looks fabulous on you!

  3. Elegant. That’s how the finished dress looks, Adey. You have made an amazing dress and when the right occasion presents itself you are all ready.

  4. margueritedesigns

    Lovely and those tights look great with it, well done for persevering.

  5. I’m so glad that you persisted because it looks amazing! Absolutely beautiful, now you just need to have your husband take you out on a fancy date.

  6. stunning

  7. Amazing. Way to pull through, the result is just gorgeous.

  8. Oh Adey this is stunning and so impressive. Thank you for sharing your before pictures too. I think 19 hours was very well spent, this dress is so original and represents you as a designer! It is so lovely!

  9. judy roberson

    Very pretty Adey… Many hours of work..but it is just beautiful.

  10. NICE SAVE! feels odd calling such a stunner a “save” though:) certainly there will be more momentous occasions– the tights and precious flower are perfect with it!

  11. It does look beautiful now :) I agree, perhaps your husband can take you out ;)

  12. Wow I am so impressed. You have great skills but this is even more amazing that what you have done in the past. It is a beautiful dress.

  13. What a beautiful dress! I’m sure you will find an occasion to wear it! As a beginning sewer, I am curious: Do you find that it is easier to adjust the fit of a finished garment than to make a muslin?

  14. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!! What a spectacular dress!! It’s just beautiful and looks lovely on you, too. :) Congratulations on persisting and reworking it to something you love.

  15. Thank you so much Sarah! I'm glad to have persisted too.

  16. Thanks Melissa. I think it's a personal preference. I have only made a muslin twice and they both became wearable muslins. I don't have a habit of doing so as I discovered that I don't enjoy the process very much haha. 

  17. Thank you so much Sue, I hope I can find an occasion to wear it to.

  18. Thanks Rachel, I hope he reads this LOL

  19. Thanks Oona, it's definitely a save! I hope that occasion happens soon! 

  20. Thanks Judy, many hours indeed, am so glad I did it.

  21. You made my day Cathe! Thank you so much!

  22. Thank you Leah for the sweet encouragement! 

  23. Thank you Jessie, haha, I hope he is reading this comment!

  24. Thank you marguerite! I heart those tights too. I am so glad you like the dress!

  25. Thank you Jali, especially for inspiring me to try smocking! You rock!

  26. Thank you Debi! Yes, our weekly dose of adrenalin rush hahaha. Can't wait to see yours!!!

  27. Thank you Jen, I'm glad you found it elegant. I'm gonna give a big hint or get hubby to read my post and the comments haha

  28. Wow! This is beautiful – way to save it lady! The color, the cut, the smocking – everything looks amazing!

  29. Wow Adey – Looks SO tricky! I’m amazed at how perfect the fit is as well, thanks for showing us the before photo! You’re a legend!

  30. it’s amazing how you stick to this project satin fabric and all. i’m floored by your determination. it’s a wonderfully elegant dress!

  31. Wow Adey, what a state of endurance you have shown, 19 hours!!! that’s enough to send me into smocking hibernation. Well done as always.

  32. I'm just glad it is completed LOL, thanks sweet!

  33. Thanks dear! I was really quite exhausted after that project! Satin is a killer!

  34. Thanks dear, I think I'm staying away from satin and smocking for a while.

  35. I can understand why you wanted a full skirt because of the fabric but I think you have done an amazing alteration to this version. It looks much more elegant and I am sure you will get to wear it very soon.

  36. Thank you so much Debby, I hope to wear it soon too!

  37. Completely and totally fabulous – I love the detailing on this!

  38. Oh my gosh that dress is gorgeous! So glad you didn’t give up on it after all your work, that would have been a tragedy. Don’t have an occassion to wear it to? I say MAKE and occassion. How about “celebrate this gorgeous dress I made” night?

  39. Thank you so much Meg! I felt rather exhausted at the end of the long project but looking at it now, think it's all worth it.

  40. LOL! What a great idea! Thank you Cathi!