The “Double Duty” Dress

Okay, might as well just say it right off the bat: I take awkward photos outside. This one is the best I could do. To be fair, I wasn’t quite ready for the camera when it snapped. On the other hand, I think this photo gives a pretty good representation of what I’m actually like in life, personality/behavior-wise; earlier today, I had to stand up and introduce myself in front of a roomful of people; I tripped over my water bottle. I’m trying to view it all as funny.

Anyway.

Project details:
Fabric: Navy blue polka dot crepe, gift from parents = free / tiny piece of white lining of a similar consistency, probably $.50 from Scrap
Pattern: Butterick 3029 for the bodice, used a million times so it must count as free by now / McCall’s 4535 for the skirt, from Mom’s collection and used repeatedly = also free
Year: 1960s (B) / 1975 (M)
Notions: Zipper $.85 / Rayon seam binding $.25 / Button, reclaimed = free
Time to complete: A couple days
Sewing soundtrack: Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Fever to Tell) + OPB
First worn: Just for photos
Wear again: Yes
Total cost: $1.60

This was never intended to be my polka dot challenge dress–I actually made another one for that, but haven’t photographed it yet because it’s very hot weather, and we don’t have that any more. I know the rose photo maybe suggests otherwise, and today was I guess pretty okay for the end of September, but the actual polka dot dress is very hot weather. Trust me. Since this blue one fits that theme so well, too, though, and they were right back to back, I’m tagging both this time.

It’s not really a challenge for me to make things that are blue; I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I counted up and found that I had more blue garments than all the other colors combined. This was actually the only useable blue fabric in my stash–not because I don’t like blue, of course, but because I usually use it right away whenever I acquire any.

The fabric was part of a big pile of vintage fabric my parents gave me for my birthday last year. I’ve been saving it because it’s fancier than what I usually use–I think it’s crepe–and because I immediately knew exactly what I wanted to do with it, and I wanted the pattern to be just right.

Well, more than a year passed and I still hadn’t found the right pattern. Faced with this challenge, I decided I wanted to go ahead; I could put it together using patterns I already had. I actually wanted something very simple–a basic bodice with a round neckline, no sleeves, full skirt. Nothing fancy. Essentially, I wanted something that looked like a child’s party dress, only a little more grown up (relying on the fabric for that bit–think it’s passed?). The neckline’s not quite as round/deep as I originally envisioned, but pretty close.

Butterick 3029 and McCall’s 4535 are my two TNT patterns. I don’t make either of them straight any more, but probably at least a quarter of my self-stitched closet contains some element from one or the other of them. I know these patterns really well by now and have got them pretty much just how I want. Putting this dress together, I really realized how much extra time I spend redrafting new patterns to make them fit. It was nice not having to do that, for once.

Of course, the dress still took a long time because I put in a lining (something not called for in either of the patterns) and then kept redoing things. I used to not be at all a perfectionist about sewing. I think that as I’m getting better at it I’m becoming more obsessive; I think this might be the best-fitting bodice I’ve ever managed, but I still have things I want to pick out and redo.

I also put in a little keyhole at the back neck so I could get my head through (the pattern has a tiny neck opening and calls for a center back zip, but I almost always move my zippers to the side). This wasn’t part of the original vision, either, but I think it’s actually my favorite thing about the dress.

And I still, somehow, have more than half the original yardage left. That’s nice, too.

Author

Z.

Z. has, much to her surprise, been sewing since 2007. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and uh 1955-fantasy-land. In addition to sewing, she likes words, music, and old things. Her life is a story.

19 Comments

  1. Z–I love your dress. I think you look great in it! I’m a shy introvert that gets nervous and then becomes stupid. I am slowly over coming socil anxiety. I love words…but have always thought that my words aren’t important enough to pursue. Since you seem to be a little like me, I think you probably don’ know how nice you look. You did a very nice job onthe dress. it accents you very nice slender arms. The color looks good on you, plus it fits! I think you should pat yourself on the back and reward yourself with chocolate!!!

    I am working full-time and going to school, so I haven’t completed anything to post, yet. I don’t think I am brave enough for that even if I did have something finished. So, I also take my hat off to you for the courage to post your very lovely completed project.

    Lora

    • Thank you, Lora. That means so much to me. I’m definitely a shy introvert as well, definitely a lot of social anxiety. I’m (hopefully) slowly overcoming it. Terrifying as all this is, I think it helps. If you do find time (kudos for school on top of a full time job–I could never manage it) to finish something, I hope we get to see it, too. Good luck with it!

      /Z.

  2. LOVE this! I think if I could make a perfect, classic dress, I would make this one. It’s beautifully fitted and the keyhole at the back neck is a wonderful detail. You look Lovely!

  3. THIS is how I want all my garments to fit! It’s spot on. (haha spot on. didn’t mean to do that) You look effortlessly elegant, even if you don’t think so.
    (And just to let you know, I used to be cripplingly shy, but I’ve kind of grown out of it in my shameless middle age. And I tripped over a perfectly flat carpet two weeks ago, on my way up to the front of a meeting room to present my research summary to my funding agency. Awkward!)

    • Thanks, Vicki. I went through my closet after I posted this and figured out that I’ve made this bodice (with variations) at least seven times, so it should fit by now…
      Always comforting to know that the shyness gets better (and that other people are doing awkward things, too, not just me). Hope the rest of your presentation went better, though.

      PS Never apologize for puns. I love them.

  4. The fit of this dress is absolutely perfect! You look amazing in it. Also, I think that we would be friends if we knew each other in real life. I totally identify with your tripping-over-your-water bottle story. I’m constantly tripping over/running into things. I once ran into a wall, bounced off, and attempted to keep walking as if nothing had happened while my partner died laughing. :)

  5. What a great dress! The fit is just sublime, and that back-keyhole opening is adorable.

    I can tell you from lots of personal experience that the best way to make yourself comfortable in front of a camera is to be in front of it a lot, so hopefully we’ll see lots more of your gorgeous creations, and you’ll turn into a total camera hog like the rest of us (OK, not really, I’d still rather be behind the camera but at least I’ve gotten happy in front of it too!).

    • Thanks! I was actually really surprised by how much I liked the finished dress.
      I’m definitely more used to being behind the camera, and have been for a long time, but it’s getting better slowly, I think. We’ll see…

  6. This is beautiful. The fit is perfect and I love the fabric.

  7. Z., this dress looks absolutely beautiful on you. The fit is perfect and it really accentuates your tall and slim figure. You look so graceful in it even if you might not feel graceful most of the time. ;) I, too, feel very awkward in front of cameras. I am getting better at it but I still hate to pose and to smile on cue (I always look stupid when I smile this way). You look so beautiful in that dress…may I ask why you move back zips to the side? Because they are less obvious there? I love the keyhole on the back and might actually steal this idea for my own dresses.

    • Thank you… I hate posing for pictures, too (especially when my “photographer” is the self-timer, which it is most of the time). I always feel so foolish.
      I’m not sure why I started moving my zips over. Possibly because I’m lazy and like cutting my back pieces on the fold instead of in two. But I also like that they’re less obvious on the side, and a bit easier for me to get into and out of. So I guess just the ease of it.

  8. This fits you so perfectly, well done!

  9. Very pretty! It fits so nicely and I love the keyhole in the back. Nice work.

    • Thank you! I’m really glad I decided to go with the keyhole after all. Now I just have to hope I can get future projects to fit this well, too.

  10. I missed this one last week. I’m glad you mentioned it in this week’s post. This dress fits you like a glove! So pretty-

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