Hot! The “Zip-a-Dee Doo Dah, Wiggle Away” Dress

The Facts 

Fabric: Red and white zip quilting cotton from stash, no idea how much it cost.
Pattern: McCall’s 6243.
Year: Contemporary.
Notions: 3 zips $4.56 (£2.85), thread.
Time to complete: 18 hours.
First worn: 14th October 2012.
Wear again? hmm, not sure….possibly, its a bit short.
Total price: $4.56 (£2.85).

The challenge: “UFO: finishing an unfinished object in our sewing pile”.



I’ve had this fabric forever. I know I bought it in a sale. It can’t have been that expensive because for some reason I bought 5 yds of it….so there’s still a lot left over if I want a further reworking. But I haven’t a clue how much it cost me.

This was also a dress that I’ve been putting off making for a very long time because I was scared to start it. Especially when I became more experienced as a seamstress and realised that I’d have to be cunning to make a pattern for moderate stretch knits work with a highly unstretchy quilting cotton…and that the pattern only went up to a 20, when at my biggest point (hips and bum) I’m a 24/26.

So although I hadn’t ACTUALLY started making this dress, I’m going to count it as a UFO because I’d been putting it off for so long….and I like Barbara’s reworking of UFO from unfinished object into unusual fabric outfit…yep, this fabric is unusual:

I tell you, this is the LAST time I try sewing zips in on the bias. I did it once before on the plaid dress you’ll remember. They are a nightmare, trying to get the fabric not to buckle. Goodness knows how this pattern, designed for stretchy knits, works with the zips inserted! I know Adey did a gorgeous knit version for last Halloween but I don’t think she added the zips, I think she did view A with just the diagonal cuts.

The dress was hard enough work adding 2 sizes to each piece to compensate for no stretch (including the 4 pieces zig zagging down the front) and grading the pattern up to my differing sized neckline, bust, waist and hips. I stupidly thought the grading up would just involve adding width to the sides, but noooo, the pattern has differing cutting diagonals for the 4 sizes it covers so I was grading up 4 sides of each piece. The fact that I managed to make this dress at all, let along get it to fit is a minor miracle.

I swear that skeleton was trying to look up my dress throughout the photoshoot. Sorry about the unexciting venue…we’d been putting up some of our Halloween decs and lights (I still have hundreds of bats to put up on the garage doors) and we realised the light was going fast, so we didn’t have a chance to go anywhere fancy. Must do better Tempest!

If I were to make this dress again, or something with similar weirdly placed zips I think I’d stabilise the fabric around the zip more. On hindsight, though it’s not instructed by the pattern, I think I should have used fusible interfacing around the neck. You can see it’s stretched and gaping outwards….and doesn’t hold its shape at all well when you start to unzip the zips.

And although I like that I sloped the bottom sides in to make it a bit more of a wiggle dress/pencil skirt shape….I think if I made the pattern up again I’d add an inch or two onto the length. These knees have seen a lot of action through the years (cleaning and crawling after toddlers etc) and I’m not sure the world’s ready, even with Halloween coming up, some things are TOO scary for public view.



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.


Comments are closed.

  1. That is fabulous crazy! I think the length looks great on you (let’s face it, few of us love our knees, no-one else notices them), but if you aren’t comfortable with it, perhaps you could add a circle-cut ruffle at the bottom? It would add a few inches, and the diagonal lines of the circle cut would look great with the zip stripes.

    • I might just try this Leimomi, I’m always a fan of ruffles. What I might do though as a compromise but in keeping with the dress is get an extra long zip (like the ones you can buy for sleeping bags or at least a separating one) and make it a zip on, zip off final ruffle for extra drama.

  2. What a cool dress! I love how the zipper print pieces are off-set across the front, and using actual zippers was the only way to go (even though they were a pain). Great job with the fitting. You look hot. I know how it is to have your head full of all the little issues, but you should really wear this often.

    • Thank you so much Lee, this is so sweet of you to say so. Yep, originally I was going to line up the print zipper stripes but I thought ‘what’s the point of not being able to see the diagonal seams, so I cut each piece slightly off each time so the slants were visible. I quite like how that came out.

  3. I like your UFO unusual fabric outfit! You look terrific in red and that pattern is so cool. I think I would have also scooped up all five yards. I have so many old zippers that could find a way into a future outfit like yours. Thank you for the inspiration!

    • Thank you for the kind words Barbara. I’ve been quite interested with zips as a design feature all year….I’m really obsessed with some of the zippers and trendy placings on Alicia Florrick’s outfits in The Good Wife….I can see me making a jacket in the future with extra zips at the wrists. There was also a fab refashion on Trash to Couture of a spagetti strap vest into a zipper-enabled racerback one I want to try sometime….so inspiration abounds.

  4. Zips on zips with zips, this is a great pattern and a funky Tempest concept. I was thinking about the zips on the bias with the stretch fabric? I’m fairly certain they make use stay tape along the seams to stop it from buckling, maybe try that if you sew the dress again in a knit.

    You have a lovely pair of knee’s and you look smashing in red, your Halloween set-up looks brill.

    • I definitely think stay tape might be the answer….they need something to strengthen/stabilise the fabrix around the zipper when on the bias. Can’t wait to see what you make! I love your stuff so much :)

  5. Does the whole dress unzip around you? That would be fun : ) I love your fabric! I think my knees were trashed before I was a teenage from bikes, climing trees and running through fields of weeds (and falling down!). Be proud of your bumps and bruises! You are Devyne : )

    • I have to admit I did look at a big coil of zipper at my fabric discount store during summer and considered doing a continuous zip all the way around the dress, but was concerned I might have some wardrobe malfunctions sitting down in it and it undoing…..or my kids showing people they were real zips in public places. So nope, the zips are only across the neckline and at the hip….but these can both be a bit risque when fully opened up.

  6. Please wear this again because it looks really really great on you. I think that sometimes this length “feels” too short rather than looks too short — for me, anyway. The dress is great and with those turqoise shoes???? WOWZER!

    • haha thank you so much, yes I do know what you mean about feeling too short rather than necessarily looking it. I have that problem with the denim skirt I made for 40s week. I do suspect I’ll wear this again simply because I try to wear everything I’ve made, but I’m not sure just yet when I’ll get the nerve to do this.

  7. I love that pattern too, both the sewing ‘pattern’ and the fabric – I have a definite ‘thing’ about zips!

  8. Your dirndle guided me to this one (I have neglected Sew Weekly lately – too much work going on). This is a pretty cool dress – zip print with zips. Haha. I am very impressed you managed to upgrade this pattern successfully – I don’t think I would have even given this a try (coward that I am…). I think your knees aren’t scary at all but I have issues with my legs myself so I totally understand that you feel the dress is too short.

    • Thank you, tell me about neglecting Sew Weekly, with ‘real life’ going on I only seem to get my weekly sewing done and am waaaaay behind on reading posts and commenting. I’m hoping things might calm down in November.