Hot! The “Perfect Balance” Dress

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image from The Facts
Fabric: Thrifted tablecloth print cotton, $1
Pattern: Simplicity 2465
Year: c. 1945
Notions: vintage zipper, boning
Time to complete: 4 hours
First worn: May 2011
Wear again: YES!

Total Cost: $1

Even though I ended up with two UFOs in the process, this challenge (or rather, my final creation) afforded me with the opportunity to get excited about sewing again. I know what you're thinking: "aren't you always excited about sewing?" The answer is "mostly, yes."

I received a comment about last week's top (which I have, in fact, worn again) and my sewing burnout that forced me to think about how I approach the challenges. Amy writes:

I'd rather see you make something you like and will wear again instead of throwing something together for the sake of a challenge! I don't think anyone would be upset if you took your time and posted on Wednesday instead. It seems silly to rush through an ambitious task just to get it done "on time" when you're already feeling burnt out. Sewing should be fun! Don't make it another chore.

Amy had a very good point. Why rush something just to meet a challenge when I may never wear it again? Not only is it a waste of resources and time, but it's a bad standard to set for The Sew Weekly readers. While I tend to do things fast (that's just how I have to work), there is no point in rushing something for the sake of a challenge.

As I mentioned above, I ended up with two UFOs during this challenge. Instead of forcing myself to unhappily finish either one of them in a rush, I decided to set them aside and readdress them in the future when I had more time and more motivation.

This challenge is all about the PERFECT summer dress. I think I needed to go through those two UFOs to get to the dress that, to me, is absolutely perfect. 

I've been holding onto this 32" bust pattern for quite some time — at least a year. When I first saw this pattern, I loved it so much that I didn't care that it would have never fit my 38" bust. When it finally was my size, I was intimidated by the instructions to add boning. After I added boning to my Eclair from the 7in7 Challenge, I knew I could tackle it.

The fabric was thrifted for a $1. You may recall that when I posted about it in my Friday Fabric Finds, I said "There's no way I can use this without looking like a tablecloth, but mark my words, I'll find a use for it." Well, I can't think of anything better than a Memorial Day dress for a picnic table print.

The pattern itself? OMG, it was a dream to construct! The only challenge came from a missing pattern piece (the lower front bodice) that I was able to reconstruct. Other than that, it was wonderful! The best thing: the bodice uses casing for the straps and is adjustable!

I love this pattern.

The photos were taken on our Memorial Day weekend trip to Monterey. It is, indeed, the perfect summer dress.

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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.


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  1. That is a FANTASTIC summer dress! Congrats. I’m taking advantage of the holiday to work on a summer dress of my own. The fabric is a print with lawn chairs all over it. :) This is the first day in forever that I’ve had a block of time in which to sew. (Taking a break right now for lunch and blog reading!)

  2. Oh, Mena, this is fabulous! You look amazing, and just picnic-tabley enough! This dress is so summer, it screams barbeque and beach and Giget (The Sandra Dee film, not the Sally Fields show) and lemonade and fun! Happy memorial day to you and your family and your amazing new dress!

  3. Mena – the dress is fabulous and you look wonderful in it. Also, congratulations on keeping the length of the skirt in its proper length instead of chopping it off above the knee as “everybody” seems to be doing now with the vintage patterns. That length is a great part of the charm of this style. Thanks !

  4. margueritedesigns

    I like the length too – really shows off the fabric well.

  5. What an amazing dress, I love it! And you pose so beautiful every time again, very inspiring :)

  6. Adorable! I’m glad you did go back to the ‘sewing as fun and not a chore’-concept! Funny thing – I’ve been eyeing the same kind of fabric at my local fabric store – I won’t use it for this week’s challenge but I will make a dress with it for this summer – that’s for sure!

  7. I LOVE this dress! It is indeed PERFECT! You look so happy too! And you know me, I LOVE your hair in victory rolls :) Perfect shots…it looks like it was a lovely Memorial Day weekend!!

  8. wow, that really IS a perfect dress! Perfect for the weekend, perfect on you, etc. awesome! You’ll have to wear it for July 4th too…and any other summer outing!
    I have to say your article on getting excited to sew for your body and all the benefits that came with it was such an inspiring piece for me. Thanks for sharing that! (and this awesomeness of a dress!)

  9. judy roberson

    Well Mena…
    I remember when you thrifted this table cloth and you said, you would look like a table cloth.. [I thought you won’t.. I would ..but you will be adorable..and you ARE!!!!
    That pattern is just perfect for the red check .I love,love ,love it.. In my opinion…it is one of the prettiest dresses you have done..
    so proud you are feeling like sewing again..[was kinda worried about you..old woman coming out in me.sorry]..
    Happy sewing..and a beautiful job..

  10. Lovely dress- and the fabric looks great as a fun summery dress :)

  11. You look a lot happier in these photos than you did the week before (although I am glad to hear that you are getting more use out of last week’s top).
    It’s a great pattern and the fabric is so cheery and ideal for a beach dress.

  12. I LOVE IT! And I’m sincerely happy you took my comment to heart and didn’t get offended. It was coming from a good place. I love this blog and I would hate to see you get burnt out/frustrated/fed up and call it quits. You are so talented and I always yell “I want that!!!!” when I see your dresses, and I’ve gone on exhaustive eBay/Etsy searches for some of the patterns you use.
    Yay! You got your “sewjo” back!

  13. It’s beautiful, Mena! You look so gorgeous and happy. The tablecloth, I mean, fabric is perfect for that design. Amy has a good point – why are we so obsessed with challenges?! Because they’re fun, I guess, and encourage us to celebrate our love of stitching :)

  14. This dress is FANTASTIC – I love it …. and you look amazing!!

  15. Thanks, Stacy! I hope you had enough time to finish!

  16. Thanks, Leah! It really was a fun dress to wear and I was happy to find a good use for the picnic table fabric!

  17. Thanks, Donna! I actually took about 4″ off the hem and I’m wearing a crinoline! It was way too long initially but I’m rather happy by its final length.

  18. Thanks, Diane! I really wanted a longish dress so this was a good pattern to work with.

  19. Thanks, Karin! I try to think of different poses than my hands on my hips, but that’s just the most flattering for me and the dress.

  20. Thanks, Ann! I was quite surprised that once it was a dress it didn’t feel like a tablecloth. You just need to embrace the fabric!

  21. Thanks, Debi! I took a whole bunch of photos with the rolls but it was raining and I just didn’t like how the photos turned out. I had worn the dress all day and was tired. So, the next morning I put the dress on again and headed to the beach. Those photos turned out better but I couldn’t resist putting up one shot with my hair all done up.

  22. Thanks, Juliette! I’m so glad that the article inspired you. I really want women to feel comfortable working with what they have bodywise!

  23. Thanks, Judy! Yeah, I’m feeling much better about sewing since this dress turned out nicely. It’s important that I really don’t overdo it. That said, I’m still very happy that I did the 7in7 Challenge. It was quite a fun experience during the actual event. IT was after I was finished that I crashed. :)

  24. Thanks, Rachel!

  25. Thanks, Jen! Yeah, if I’m not totally feeling the creation, it shows. I just can’t fake it.

  26. Thanks, Amy! No, you were right and I just needed to hear it from a reader (and someone else than my husband). I love the term “sewjo.” :)

  27. Thanks, Tilly! Challenges are what motivate me — I just have to realize that there’s a limit to how much motivation I can have in a week.

  28. Thanks, Debbie!

  29. Oh, that dress is simply stunning! You look like a 1940’s/50’s pin up in it, almost – looks amazing on you. (If you ever get tired of wearing it, feel free to send it my way! ;-)

  30. Wow Mena, that really is the ‘perfect’ summer dress. I love it! Great for lifting the spirits – I’d been sensing the burnout. Totally pinching the word ‘sewjo’ from Amy too! My sewjo is lost beneath mountains of tissues – sniffle – ..way to start a new season. But I will pull through with a summer/winter dress for the challenge.. I hope.

  31. It is really cute Mena. Good job and I didn’t realize it was a table cloth till you said it in the thread.

  32. This dress is a knock-out!!! I really adore the pattern, but most of all that you repurposed a classic table cloth fabric and made it really cute (and not table cloth-ish!). Bravo! Love the Victory rolls you’re sporting too. ;)
    Great points about slowing down with sewing for challenges too. Often I get caught up in little deadlines I set for myself, and make a huge mess of the project. (And yet, I continue to do this again and again… haha!)

  33. Mena, I love this! Perfect for a summer BBQ or beach outing :) The fabric and style are just delightful – and your hairstyle is just fabulous!!

  34. MB@YarnUiPhoneApp

    I love the dress too…it’s definitely Memorial Day to the hilt. But you could wear it straight through Labor Day. After that, maybe if the weather’s right, no? The dress makes me think of a ReadyMade Magazine story I think on a dress made from a picnic tablecloth just like yours. Anyhow, I’m sure Erin over at Dress A Day could appreciate your creativity, Mena!

  35. How cute is that!

  36. Lovely! That tablecloth print is perfect with that dress – way to go! Also, majorly jealous of your amazing pin up hair – looks divine!

  37. I’m with Sarah, the hairstyle is divine! I love the bodice of the dress with the adjustable straps, wonderful!

  38. Gah, I love it!! I was delighted to see you use the ‘tablecloth’ fabric, too. So pretty! Your pin up hairstyle is divine!!!

  39. you look rested happy and fabulous! nothing like a tablecloth, i never would’ve thought to use tis fabric for a dress but it’s amazing. now i’m thinking about all those fabrics i’ve designated as picnic blankets…..
    amy does make an excellent point. how will you make it fit your shark like tendencies?

  40. Thanks, Casey! Yes, sewjo is a truly awesome word.

  41. Thanks, Casey! We’re creative people, that’s what we do :)

  42. Thanks! I definitely see this dress getting use on warm days or on vacation (if I ever plan one!).

  43. Thanks, Annie!

  44. Thanks, Sarah! Good job this week to you — your dress is adorable!

  45. Thanks, Adey! I really couldn’t believe how easy it was to do the bodice. And I just love that it adjusts — I want all my dresses to do that! :)

  46. Thanks, Sarah! I was really happy to find a use for it too — this was the challenge for it!

  47. Thanks, Oona! Right now the shark is swimming really slowly — alive but not all manic. :)

  48. Thanks lady! PS: Loving your articles on XOJane – also, glad there is some incarnation of Jane again – miss that magazine :O(

  49. Mena, I have a question for you. Like you, I LOVE making dresses. But we live in the Bay Area! It’s frickin cold! How do you managed to wear all your dresses but stay warm, especially in our San Francisco summers?

  50. It’s just beautiful Mena! A wonderfully shape bodice and bustline… and it’s rare for me to see a vintage pattern with spaghetti straps!