Hot! The “Indecisiveness Rules” Dress

The Facts

Fabric: 3 yards rayon, from stash
Pattern: Simplicity 4573, from stash
Notions: Embroidery floss, bias tape and a zipper from stash, $0
Year: 1960s
Time to complete: ~15
First worn: September 2012
Wear again? Yes

Total Cost: $0

I really took stock of my clothes last week. Lots of summer and spring garments…. and hardly anything for fall and winter. Since I am trying to sew with material from my stash, I decided to go with a long sleeved dress.The weather here in Missoula is still pretty nice, although smoky as can be, so it’ll be a while before it gets worn.

Due (mostly) to a ton of indecisiveness on my part, this dress took forever and a day to get done. I’ve never really sewn with rayon before and was seriously concerned when I tried the dress on. I noticed that there were obvious holes where the needle had sewn the fabric together, almost as if there was too much stress on the seam. The front of the dress fits really well, so I don’t think it’s excess stress?? I used a universal needle, which according to google, would work…but maybe that’s the reason? Since this freaked me out, I went back in and hand stitched some of the seams really, really well.



 I also had trouble with the sleeves, though maybe this is common for woven garments with sleeves? I can only lift my arms to below armpit length, any higher and the dress lifts up. Does that make sense?  I noticed that for a vintage pattern, the sleeve ease is not the normal monstrosity….could this be part of the problem? I checked the back and it seemed to fit well across my shoulders but who knows…. I’m still indecisive about parts of this dress. For instance, are the embroidered buttons too freakin’ huge for the front? Should I make them smaller? This dress makes me crazy and is still giving me a headache!



Emma Simuns is a fashion loving, penny pinching girl who has just started a love affair with all things vintage.


Comments are closed.

  1. The sleeve fit issue seems common enough with vintage patterns. If you think of how much more demure women were (can you picture a mid-century woman getting something up high for herself, or would a nearby man come to help her because he had good manners?) it sort of makes sense. I do think if the embroidered buttons were smaller you might feel better about it. Smaller and an odd number (5). I love the belt detail! That’s embroidered too, right? Maybe make the buttons in the darker thread that you used on the belt?

    • Hm.. I don’t know why but my comments aren’t showing up. Anyways, I’m relieved to know it’s probably just the pattern. I think a button re-do is order, but probably later rather than sooner, as I’m seriously burnt out on this dress.

  2. Rayons are notoriously loosely woven fabrics so don’t panic. If you have a serger, or access to one, you can serge the seams and that should hold. Your needle is fine, sometimes the thread is the issue (those pretty spools we inherited from our grandmother? NEVER sew with them! Thread has a shelf life!) If the thread is too heavy it can leave “holes”. Press everything, then see what it looks like. The whole arm lifting thing is common in vintage patterns. You weren’t “supposed” to be able to play basketball or do yoga, this was probably meant to play bridge in : )
    The buttons are adorable. I’m not sure it would be worth the effort to rip them out and re-do them given the headaches you’ve endured. Wear the dress with pride and a smile!

    • I’m going to add a different viewpoint here. Almost all of my thread is inherited from Grandma, Nana, or thrifted. 90% of my personal sewing is done with vintage thread. And I’ve never had a problem with it. No breakages in the machine, no breakages in clothes I wear (including ones I made over a decade ago, and still wear), no funny pulls or tension issues. I use new thread for commissions and when sewing with students, on the same machine, and get the same results. I’ve heard the ‘don’t use vintage thread’ rule so many times, and tested and tested it, and I just don’t think its true.

      I do match thread to fabric – I use my vintage cotton threads for vintage cotton and rayon fabrics, my slightly less old cotton thread for slightly less old cotton and rayon fabrics, and only use new poly thread for synthetic fabrics and knits.

      Do I just have the miracle thread collection?

      • LOL, I think you do! I have some thread that I inherited when the College I used to work for disbanded the Apparel Design program. It was new at the time but within a couple of years it started breaking every foot or so. It may depend on the conditions in was stored in – I know we kept things in a shop that was underground so temperature and humidity were constant. I figured that stuff would last forever but no… I know the thread vendors I met as a fabric store manager always said thread had a 1 year or less shelf life but I tended to NOT believe them since they had a vested interest in the purchase of lots of thread : ) I think we finally said if thread is over a decade old perhaps it ought not be used. Test it first and then you’ll know.
        The one thing that always amazed me was people buying thread that was WAY too heavy for a project – they’d buy upholstery thread for cottons! You ALWAYS want the thread to be the weakest part of your project. If something’s going to give you want it to be the thread in a seam and not the fabric. Have we totally confused you? I hope not : )

    • I used serger thread, so I don’t know if that would have affected it? I have mixed feeling about really old thread… some of the stuff I’ve seen at thrift shops or estate sales is so terribly thick and coarse,that I couldn’t imagine sewing with it.

      • Serger thread is notoriously cheap thread – full of small lengths and different widths, that’s why it’s so inexpensive : ) Invest in decent thread like Coats & Clark or Guttman. I have preferences but I don’t want to influence your decision any more than we have. Look at your needle size as well, larger needles leave large holes. Technically you should use the smallest needle possible on every project, I think I keep about a 9 or 10 in unless I’m working with lots of layers or heavier fabrics like denim. Keep up the great work, we’d love to see more!!

  3. I think the buttons are perfect!

  4. I love the embroidery, a bit of whimsy in this so-serious world. Re the sleeves: why not take your vintage pattern and a modern one of similar style and compare the pattern pieces? It might be instructive. My sewing books offered no help. Sorry!

    • Thanks for the sleeve pattern idea! Pure genius! I’m sure I’ll come back to this pattern for a round two and will definitely have to do that!

  5. I agree with Loran above: thread is everything. Are you kidding about the embroidered buttons????? I LOVE THIS LOOK! You are so clever!

  6. Very pretty.Love the embroidery on it. Happy sewing.

  7. I love it just how it is and the large buttons make a great feature on the front. Well done!

  8. Very cute – love the embroidered details!
    I just sewed with Rayon for the first time last week. I used a universal needle at first and noticed the big holes. I then switched to a microfiber needle and the problem was eliminated.

    • Thanks for the microfiber needle tip! I’m going to have to hunt one down, those big holes seriously freaked me out!!

  9. She’s super super cute Emma, embroidery and all. Loves it!

    I once made a dress where I could only wave to people from the elbow down your wave would come across a lot more energetic :)

  10. I think it’s adorable, especially the super-large trompe l’oeil buttons. Vintage sleeves do have a lot less ease in them than modern patterns, and were made for arms that were (on average) skinnier than modern arms are.

  11. This is just gorgeous! I love the embroidered buttons/belt! I think they absolutely make the dress and I think you have started a new fashion trend. Maybe next time you use that pattern a fabric with a little stretch in it will enable you to reach high objects in it! It looks so sweet on you ! Great Job.

    Leimomi – I sew with thread that is 20 years old. Haven’t been game to use thread older than that though – interesting point.

  12. I really like this dress, including the embroidered buttons. Mayb you could add another ring inside them to give them a little dimension…

  13. I agree with Monica, I think another ring inside the outer ring would make them look more realistic. I really like your embroidered details. It must have been a lot of work. To bad about the sleeves. Are you sure you didn’t accidently reverse them? The old, light-colored wood against you and your blue dress make for a very nice affect in your photo lay-out.

    • Oh yeah, the first thing I thought of when I tried the dress on was… did I screw up matching the sleeve notches? I double and double double checked,but they matched.

  14. I agree with both Monica and Babara about the ring inside the outer ring. Nonetheless, the embroided buttons are so adorable. Love the shade of blue too! For the sleeves, maybe you could draw your own sleeves and edit from there? Patterns drawn with your measure should fit 98% of the time!

  15. Love the embroidered buttons!!!! Super cute. I agree—I think another ring might make it even more amazing. Good luck with the sleeves. Would you prefer to rip them out and just wear it with a sweater? (this is coming from a woman who has never sewn sleeves, hahaha)

    • I think I’m just going to leave the sleeves. I actually seam ripped them both out once before because I thought they were on wrong and they weren’t….so I think I’ll just call it a learning experience and use a different sleeve pattern next time! Ah, see, I need to make some cute sweaters or cardigans. All I have are old ratty sweat shirts …maybe that’ll be my new trend I start! :)

  16. I think you look lovely in this dress. It fits perfectly. The buttons are so daRn cute and I love the red thread! Very gutsy! Love it!!!

  17. This is so pretty, I love the embroidered buttons.

  18. It’s taken me awhile to respond because I was thinking over your button question.

    I love the dress the way it is and I think you should wear it and have fun with it. I do think another ring on the inside is a good idea if you think you have energy to revisit it.

    Make the sweaters-I’ll pass your trend along!