Hot! The “Madras Mash-up Melt-down” Dress

(also known as The Dress That Skooled Me).

The Facts

Fabric: 4.5 yds madras $13.50 with coupon (£8.50).

Pattern:  McCalls 6324Year: Contemporary.

Notions: 18″ Zip 97c (61p) in sale & thread from stash.

Time to complete: 20 hours (I was all fingers and thumbs and kept making mistakes whilst watching the Paralympics).

First worn: 5th September 2012.

Wear again? Yep, made this dress because I need it for the summer dragging on and on, 104F/41C today.

Total Cost: $14.29 (£9).

Challenge: “Mad for Plaid: This week, in celebration of going back to school, we’re breaking out the plaid”.

Oh this dress. It taught me so many lessons. This is what I learned:

Firstly: plaid is pronounced plad not played….got that one from a nice lady in Jo-Ann’s. Somebody could have told me! I’ve been calling it Dead Men Don’t Wear Played for decades now and no-one corrected me. Mind you, that’s probably because no-one else in the UK knew how you Yanks say these strange words…to us it’s madras, gingham, check (including glen and windowpane) or tartan…..much more straightforward ;) OK, you’re right, it’s not. Having one word to describe all fabrics that have stripes that criss-cross probably is more sensible.


Secondly: if you’re going to try and be clever and cut pieces out with the grain horizontally, vertically and on the bias to mimic Alexander McQueen beauties or Dolce and Gabbana delights you need to get a plaid with a regular square pattern not irregular rectangular one. Doh! Also if you think yourself ever-so-clever using french seams throughout to prevent the bias cut pieces stretching too much, you need to learn a) how to french seam a side seam with a pocket inserted on the seam without leaving any raw edges (did I say seam enough times there?)….I just couldn’t get my head around that and b) remember that the fabric will stretch and warp around a zip….need to work out a way to cope with that too.



Thirdly, if you’re going to use a zip from a shop’s clearance sale….just have a think that it might have been folded up inside its packaging for a very long time and no matter now much you iron it, the kinks won’t come out and ruck up the flat-sitting of your panels.

Fourthly, McCALLS SIZES RUN BIG. I don’t know how many McCalls I’ve made this year and I still haven’t gotten my head around this, I don’t need to grade pieces up as much for them as I do for Simplicity, New Look and definitely not as much as Vogue. I took the side seams in 3 times on this dress before I was happy with it. And I know I haven’t lost weight.



Fifthly, when making adjustments, do them LITTLE BY LITTLE! It’s so much easier to cut a little extra off than repair or adjust when you’ve cut too much off to expose a zip…..and then try and fool everyone by building the gap for the zip back up with bias tape, cough cough.

Sixthly, when you’re doing french seams, make sure you REALLY trim the edge of the first wrong-side to wrong-side seam before you stitch the enclosing seam… you don’t have raw edges sticking through that need trimming and to be honest you never cleanly get rid of them.

Seventhly, make your own bias tape (I usually do but I tried to cut corners with some bought stuff I had in my stash that matched) then you can make it the width you want it, and don’t have to fiddle trying to pin it to a rapidly fraying edge whilst shouting, crying and jumping around in excitement watching Alex Zanardi or Jessica Long or James O’Shea or the blind long jump or so many other of the amazing moments from the superhumans at the London 2012 Paralympics.

Eighthly, don’t write a post starting off with firstly when you have loads of points….fifthly probably should have been the limit here.

Those of you watching my instagram or tumblr this week will have seen why this dress is named the melt-down dress. Anyway, it’s over, I’m not entirely happy with it but it will be useful for the last few months of this seemingly eternity of a summer….if it could just get under 100 I’d be so much happier, heat wears me down.


Oh yes, one more thing……why the huge sunglasses? (Well, other than the blinding sun). They’re there because I really don’t think plaid eye make-up is a trend that’s going to catch on anytime soon:



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. I dont’ know, I’m kind of digging the plaid eye shadow : ) And the rest of the dress is pretty fun too…eighthly…. I hear you on the weather, we may be about 5-10 degrees under you but I’m tired of sweating through my photoshoots. I guess I shouldn’t complain, I “could” travel a half hour to the other side of the hills where it drops 20 degrees or more but…sigh…that’s just not how life works out some weeks : )

  2. I commiserate with your many points as I’ve struggled with every single one of them. Despite the meltdown, you’ve knocked out a cool dress. I absolutely love plaid going every which way in one garment. And one always needs an easy happy dress for low-key, not to mention HOT, days. Your eyeshadow skills are impressive!

  3. I need you here to teach me how to apply make-up. I’m not very good at it

    I really like your dress. The panels, the zipper, the shoes, the flower. It’s all good. I will not complain about the weather around here. It’s so much better than cold snowy icy days when all I can wear is boots and I feel like I never get to take my coat off and show off all my pretty clothes. To be honest though, your weather does not sound fun either.

  4. Plaid eyeshadow! You are the best.
    For what it’s worth, I really like that bias tape around the zipper.

  5. I had plaid meltdown last year … my skirt ended up as a bag … trying to be clever and cutting on the cross … anyway, I really think that the red bias down the front makes this dress. So I would call that a happy accident! All in all, it looks great!

  6. Lol I have only heard Plaid pronounced Plad and am from the UK lol. I actually got the pron. from the film Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid lol. I love this on you and the plaid is gorgeous. Great dress.

  7. I had no idea it was pronounced Plad either, I’ve been saying ‘Played’ all this time. Despite all the hassles the dress looks great, and the matching eyeshadow is fabulous.

    • In the U.S. it’s definitely pronounced plaid like /plahd/ rhyming with “dad”. :)
      Here in Germany, if you’re looking for the stuff it’s called “karo” like /KAH-roh/. I wouldn’t have ever learned the word if not for the fabric shop. I basically go around pointing and asking how everything is said, and buying a bit every now and then. :D

      • I love this learning stuff, it’s cool. I’m glad I’m not the only person in the world who’s been calling it played Taracat, and I love now knowing its karo in Germany Adri, though as I have an unclassified (fail) German O level (an exam Brits took at 16yrs old in olden days) I’m sure my pronunciation would be off ;)

  8. I loooove this dress! Exposed zipper, double top-stitched bias tape… love the details and hope the weather gets cooler. It feels like summer’s already long gone over here. :/

    • I feel bad moaning about the weather now but I’m such a Brit, I miss my rain and snow and being able to wear layers….oops moaning again, sorry ;) I don’t think it shows up very well but my favourite bit about this dress is that the double stitching is in a beautiful bottle green thread. Little things make me happy :)

  9. WOW!! very impressive dress and very flattering. I was like plaid how unflattering, but you came along with flying colours!!!

    • Hi Carla, thank you so much. You should definitely check out (hoho couldn’t resist) Alexander McQueen’s tartan dresses, Dolce &Gabbana’s 2008 F/W dresses, and track down Lorraine Keilly’s tartan dress to a tv awards in the UK (I’m sure you’ll find it on Google images) it has a beautiful bias bra top bodice and full circle skirt, incredibly flattering….and I love some of the Vivienne Westwood tartan suits and dress, see Helena Bonham-Carter getting her OBE or MBE, I forget now. I think plaid can be pretty flattering and look forward to next year when I can take longer than a week to make something because I’m definitely going to revisit plaid and use what I’ve learned to make something even better.

  10. Plaid dress and polka dot shoes! Two things that make me very happy in the same outfit – a woman after my own heart! I also like how you did bias and straight grain on different panels. I love checks of every kind, but for the time being I am just happy matching them on both side of a zipper. One day I’ll be as skooled as you are!

    Last but not least, how lovely to see a mention of Alex Zanardi!
    Of course both the Olympics and the Paralympics have been everywhere here in the UK, but he has a special place in my heart.
    I was still living in Italy when he had the accident where he lost his legs, and I will never forget his first interview. He was realistic, yet incredibly positive and determined. I remembered there wasn’t a dry eye in front of the tv that day, so when he won the gold the other day I was beyond chuffed!

    • Actually you can’t quite see in the pics but my shoes have tiny cross bones and skulls on them…the kids where I volunteer like most of my shoes, but these are their favourites. I think they think I’m cool haha.

      Isn’t Alex Zanardi the best? And a second gold medal for him this morning, so chuffed for him. He is so positive and full of life, a total inspiration and a real statesman for sport and living life to its fullest. I remember seeing his crash for the first time and thinking there was no way he could have lived. I’m so glad that people like Alex have had a stage through the Paralympics.

      • Skull and cross bones! I bow to you, awesome woman! I have been making a polka dot dress and I am seeing them everywhere – which makes for a lovely world around me!

  11. What a great dress! I love all the different panels and how you cut some on the bias. It makes it so interesting to look at. You wear red so well! Sorry it’s so dang hot there. We used to visit in the summer and to amuse the kids we had them fry eggs the sidewalk! It worked too. ;)

    • Thank you so much Barbara. I’ve always thought that red was my favourite colour but I tried an interesting experiment this week and cut out everything that appealed to me from the latest fashion magazines and the overwhelming colour that stood out a mile (even thought there’s tons of red too) was bottle green….so I’m seeing this as a mission I might need to conquer. Yep, we’ve done the frying eggs on the tarmac too….and then had to stop the kids trying to pick it up and eat it :)

  12. I’m with you on this Tempest. To me plaid is Tartan, or something flannel like….You are super adorable and I love this dress on you.

  13. cool cool cool – love it, and the eyelids too. (Can we have some of that heat please. It’s been blowing a gale today and the rain keeps turning up unexpectedly!)

  14. I have never liked plaid, and after watching everyone blog about the pains of matching the plaids I swore to myself I would never ever never try it. But then I saw the super cute Alexander McQueen dress (I sooo love his stuff) and your dress, I now feel brave! I love the idea of the plaids purposefully not matching and love the color choice of fabrics. I want to do this dress and even copy the use of the green zipper cause it just looks so fun! Nice job!!!

    • Joan doooo itttt (I would have said ‘just dooooo itt’ but I didn’t want to get told off by a sportwear company….ooops). The not matching of directions and stripes was a happy accident really, and me being a rebel because of the ‘back to school’ thing, I’m not playing by nobody’s rules…..but it worked out really well and I like it. Copy whatever you like and make it even better and your own, then strut around telling everyone you know you made it and you’re so on-trend for Autumn! I am most definitely going to make something nearer to McQueen’s ones or my own version of this: when I have more than a week to complete a dress.

  15. All that drama, and yet, it’s a fabulous dress! It looks perfect in the pictures, and I love the plaid eye makeup!