Hot! The “Viva Las Vegas Elvis” Shirt Dress

The Facts

Fabric: Quilting cotton given as a birthday present, Red satin sheet & pillowcase set (tons left for future linings!) bought in sales $4.99
Pattern: McCalls 6506 (Plenty by Tracey Reese)
Year: 2012
Notions: 10 5/8″ black buttons $3
Time to complete: 23 hours
First worn: 8th April 2012
Wear again? Yes!
Total price: $8 (£5)

The challenge: “A Little Bit of Local Colour: This week, we’re using city and locales as inspiration for our creations…”


“Viva Las Vegas with your neon flashing, and your one arm bandits crashing all those hopes down the drain.

Viva Las Vegas turning day into nighttime, turning night into daytime, if you see it once you’ll never be the same again”.

Lady Luck appearing in the middle of the desert…ok, you got me, it’s me on a desert-ed road just outside Phoenix, Arizona…..but I’m channeling Vegas and Vegas Elvis.

I have a confession, I started this dress for last week’s VIP challenge. I got the fabric as a birthday present and was going to make it for my next trip to the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend (BHoF) in Las Vegas. I went last year and the city blew me away (as did the quality of burlesque performers, from all around the world, from their 20s into their 90s gracing the stage). But unfortunately money’s a bit tight so I’m having to give BHoF a year off…………but next year – you bet I’ll be there and wearing this frock!

I was very surprised that I liked Vegas as much as I did on visiting it last BHoF. I don’t gamble and I have severe social anxiety and can’t stand crowds or new places. But I’m also the biggest kid at heart (you’re all saying “nooooo reallllly?” very sarcastically now, aren’t you?) and amongst the bright lights and tackiness I felt rather at home. Actually I felt like I was just in an gigantic amusement arcade at any of my favourite seaside holidays back in the UK. Despite the amount of money that’s been spent on the decor and glitz of Las Vegas, it still feels like something stuck in the 60s and 70s…..the eras of my childhood. I can’t wait to get back there. Perhaps I’ll hitch….

And Elvis? I remember how upset people were when he died in 1977. He was probably my generation’s “do you remember where you were when….died?” as opposed to JFK or Princess Diana. I was at school. I wasn’t that bothered. Elvis was a guy who’s films they repeatedly showed on telly during the school holidays alongside The Great Escape, Summer Holiday and The Sound of Music. I didn’t really rate him. I liked the Sex Pistols. I didn’t really see what all the fuss was about.

Now I’m 2 years older than Elvis was when he died, luckily I’ve seen the error of my ways. I acknowledge the huge impact he had on music and have found myself channeling his flamboyance and showmanship through my burlesque (oooh it’s all linked) in particular a glam rock act I do (which explains the sunglasses and attached sideburns btw).

But anyway, on to the dress…..

At first I thought of just making this dress in the cards/dice fabric. But as we were doing VIP last week, that didn’t feel special or clever enough. And the beauty is always in the details. So I broke out a red satin bed set I bought in the sales to make a contrasting collar, pocket tops, button placket and belt. I used a long strip from the fitted sheet and some pieces from one of the pillowcases. But there’s still tons of the fitted sheet, a flat sheet and 3 and a half pillowcases left for loads more dress linings or details for future projects.

The problem with making something you’re telling yourself is a VIP fabric though is (well, to me anyway) this then imbues the material with a certain fragility or vulnerability, it’s special……my scissors didn’t dare cut into it…..for days. What if I made a mistake? What if I didn’t have enough material? I was using a brand new pattern too….McCalls 6506…..a shirt dress from their Spring 2012 additions, therefore not many people have made it and blogged about yet – I didn’t have the usual online advice about whether it cut big/small or had any tricky instructions to watch out for.

So the material sat in my sewing room, looking at me, cowering whenever I came near it with pins or scissors. And this is my excuse why I didn’t make it in time to be my VIP challenge dress and I’m sticking to it.

I had also planned to do a London themed or Venice themed dress for this week. I’m currently in love with Frankie Morello’s Spring/Summer 2012 collection and wanted to do a dress or blouse with Big Ben up it instead of his Leaning Tower of Pisa…..or to do a take on his Venetian Gondolier…..Venice truly is my favourite place on the earth. (But don’t worry these plans may well resurface in a week or two….).

But if I wasn’t going to finish the dress for the VIP challenge….it had stuff that related to Vegas on it…..that would fit the City challenge (Lightbulb!)

The pattern was pretty straightforward to make up although I haven’t fully mastered fitting collars to shirts or dresses yet, this being my second only time. The collar was sewn then unpicked more than twice…..complicated by the decision to make the collar larger and larger as befits my bad Elvis impersonation.

I cheated on the darts at the waist too. The pattern dictates that you should “on outside, stitch darts in bodice”. Although I did use red topstitching on most of the seams, I didn’t want to have stitching on the outside of the darts on the bodice so did them in the more traditional way on the inside.

Learning from my experiences in sizing dresses in the past few weeks I also started the dress as a 20 at the neckline/shoulder, 20 at the bust, 24 at my waist, added 1/2″ to the sides of the skirt pieces, 3/4″ to the length of the bodice pieces and 3/4″ to the hemline. And I think it all worked out pretty well.

Without a doubt I’ll be making this pattern again – I have a couple of thrifted sheets in my stash that are crying out Betty Draper at me, though I will be lengthening the skirt/ lowering the hemline for these. I stuck to the shorter, more modern length of skirt as per the pattern with this dress because I knew I wanted the red net tulle petticoat I made a few weeks back to peep out provocatively…..well Vegas is Sin City.

OK, that’s your lot. Uh huh huh, ladies and gentlemen, Tempest has left the building.



Tempest Devyne is a Brit who loves rain. She was therefore exiled to the deserts of Arizona. She started tentatively sewing about 3 years ago to make her own burlesque costumes. She'd now like to make pretty clothes for herself that don't rely on velcro and poppers to stay on. She's self-taught with help from the internet and lots of books from the library.


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  1. Ms. Devyne I love your posts. They’re always so clever and funny. I made this pattern up a few weeks back and struggled with the skirt pieces. When I went to attach them they were way to big for the bodice. I figured it out, but now the skirt is definitely not full enough to allow for a petticoat. Was wondering if you had a similar issue or if my pattern and I are challenged.

    • I can’t say I had that issue, sorry Clarissa HOWEVER you have to measure that against I adjusted the pattern before cutting out. I don’t so much have a pear shape as a Christmas tree one – my measurements are 42-45-51 so having had a few weeks/previous dresses learning how to make to fit this I basically cut the pattern as a 20 neckline/bust/armholes then graduated it up to a 24 at waist and added 3/4″ to the side of the skirt pieces (which I’m not sure without looking either made it a 26 or possibly 28 skirt). I suppose it’s better for the skirt pieces to be too big and you can adjust them with the multiple pleats than too small…I would definitely not say you’re challenged!

  2. Adorable, adorable, adorable. That’s all I have to say about that : ) No, seriously, this is Vegas Fabulous and I’m sure you’ll ROCK IT when you get there. Glad to see you made it in time for this week, we missed you last week.

    • Thank you (I’m laughing and blushing). I was actually here last week in the end …. I sneaked in a last minute Kazz special squaredress, which was a worthwhile experimenting but glad I took the extra time to finish this one.

  3. Ok Tempest, I almost fell off my chair with laughter at the Elvis Side burns. I remember here in the states when they would play Elvis movies for the week, it was the 4:30 afternoon movies. I love the dress and it looks great on you. I knew this weeks challenge was going to be fun to read!

    • Note to self: don’t be too silly next week….definitely don’t want to be responsible for chair-related injuries. Thank you, this was a really satisfying project to complete.

  4. Lovin’ the dress and the shoes!!! Not so keen on the sideburns lol – my favourite Elvis movie? Follow that Dream.

  5. Heh, that’s fabulous! Love the Elvis impression with the sideburns. You crack me up. :-) (Great fabric for the dress, by the way.)

  6. I think you’re my favorite sewer on here…I always read all the way through your posts because I know they’ll be great! I’m really glad to see this pattern made u because I too have bought it with delicious plans in mind. Your version is really awesome and I love the card novelty print.

    • Thank you :) I think this pattern is fab. I’ve always wanted some shirt dresses for the 115F/46C summers we have here in Arizona and I think you could make some very different looking versions….without a doubt I’ll be revisiting the pattern at some point during this year.

  7. I just so LOVE reading your posts. Your dress is great – nothing I’d wear myself but that’s not the point anyway) – it suits you very well and is another quirky dress that complements your personality so well. I lived in England for just one year but that was enough to make me fall madly in love with the people there. I just loved them because they were all so wonderfully eccentric and lovably crazy. You are the perfect impersonation of all the good things I remember about England. It may sound cheesy but you’re my little England now (even though you live in Arizona) and I am looking forward to every single one of your posts.
    PS: Those shoes are to die for!

    • Thank you. You’re right about it being quirky, one of my aims when joining the Sew Weekly challenge was to make pretty unique clothes that let me have more fun with fashion. This dress was a delight to make and makes me happy (whilst bringing out the crazy too).

  8. Did you get any offers of a drive? ;)

    From reading your posts, it is very hard to believe that you have severe social anxiety!! You are so full of awesomeness that I can’t believe you aren’t the gregarious centre of every crowd…but seriously, I’m glad you talk about this because so many people are ridiculed about social anxiety, which makes them more anxious, etc. etc. etc. As a very introverted child, I’ve learned over the years to fake it and “act normal”, whatever that means…but I’d usually rather have my nose in a book than talk to people.

    • Oh I’m incredibly brave in front of a keyboard ;) I have cyclothymia, which is the mildest form of bipolar, and my social anxiety is very much linked to that (and if you want to hear me drone on and on about that check out my blog but social anxiety comes in all levels and at different stages of people’s lives and you’re totally right doesn’t get proper or serious recognition. Faking it till you make it is a very good technique and shouldn’t be put down. I’ve also had a lot of CBT help and it’s taken me 44 years to keep it under some sort of control. Some people find it strange that I can be the biggest extrovert (exhibitionist) on a stage, but off it seem quite stand-offish because of the social anxiety….I’m usually found when out with my head down using my mobile ‘phone/cell as a defence mechanism. You just have to make sure that your comfort zones aren’t making you miss too much of life….sometimes you have to force yourself out of them for short bits to have fun, but it’s ok to know they’re there when you need them back. Finding friends you can be honest with about how you might need help in some situations is also major. I’ll shut up waffling now :)

  9. You are too awesome. We can always count on you to do something out of the ordinary and totally rock it. Beautiful work!

  10. Oh my friend, it is just TOO FANTASTIC. The fabric, the Elvis glasses, the fact that you are a Burlesque dancer – love love love it all. You are definitely one of my favorites on here – your posts are fun and entertaining and you give us such fabulous stories :) PS – Your “waffling” reply above made me tear up a little – you are my hero, my dear

  11. Great dress! I particularly like your choice of setting. That vast empty desert and then “POP”, right in the middle is this wild gal in a head-turning outfit with lots of tricks up her uh, no-sleeve! Ha ha awesome! Keep um coming.

    • YES! You get it :) My husband said “why do you want to be photo’d out here, it’s desolate” and I explained the brightest of the dress AND that’s what Vegas is, in the middle of nowhere brown-ness.

  12. Tempest you are a gorgeous addition to Sew Weekly I just love your posts. You are ridiculously funny and talented. I too teared up reading your waffle. Keep being you, the awesome you!! Don’t change a thing. You look fabulous, your outfits match your personality perfectly. You go girl!

    • Thank you, I try my best :) I do LOVE the spread of all our personalities, sewing experience, style choices. It’s what makes reading all the posts and getting excited about what we’ll all concoct each week so fab!

  13. Freaking hilarious, as usual. I absolutely love the photos, and the sideburns are totally freaking me out. In the best way. And I’ll echo everyone else, thank you for being candid about social anxiety. And I would so love to see you perform!!!