The last of the summer dresses

posted in: Finished projects | 3

This week I made a yellow dress. A primrose yellow. It expresses perfectly the moody weather we are having – the last remaining weak rays of summer sun, with sticky days and squally showers. Light cool yellow, combined with grey. I love this lemony yellow and think it is  a beautiful shade; an easy way to wear yellow if your colouring is light and cool. The grey print on this dress makes the yellow appear more muted from a distance – but light, muted yellow is said to be a shade that suits everyone. I made it for an important lunch event and I needed tights, a grey cardigan, a cotton scarf, my grey flannel jacket and an umbrella. But I got to wear my sunglasses too. But the core of this outfit is a light summer look and I shall take it on holiday with me during September when we go to Spain.

Unfortunately constructing this dress turned out to be very hard work, all of my own making. It took ages and it is not entirely satisfactory. Usually my makes are uneventful, especially when I have made the item at least once before. I am competent enough to make up a garment that fits and looks nice, nine times out of ten. But sometimes I don’t think it through properly and things go horribly wrong. Some readers have said they like to read about disasters, so here goes.

Sleeveless light yellow and grey dress on dress stand Butterick 3636
Late summer dress

Style, pattern and alterations

I used a pattern I had made before. This time I wanted a sleeveless dress.  Reusing a pattern is normally a great idea, as this means it has been tested (or proved), both in terms of fit and making up. However, the downside is you switch to auto-pilot and your concentration fails. Then it is stressful as you have to undo and redo.

Previously, with the green dress, I added an inch to the length of the torso, just above the waist. While the fit was pretty good I found the under bust seam was just a little bit high, and that I would rather have the additional length above the bust-line. I slashed the pattern and pinned the shoulders together. I found I needed an additional 4cms of depth in the bodice piece (front and back). As a result it is far more comfortable and looks decidedly retro in the bust area (perhaps 1940s nightdress rather than youthful 1970s dress).

But unfortunately this alteration created a new issue that I should have anticipated. The surplice (wrapped front) is too low and slightly more revealing than I want. I fixed this by tacking the wrap together. Yuk.


The construction was not straightforward. With a sleeveless dress there is always the question of how to finish the neck and armholes, and the pattern proposed  and supplied a pattern for interfaced facings. With the green dress I lined the bodice to avoid facings, and it worked perfectly. This time I decided to line the whole dress – skirt as well as bodice. As I try to be economical I used two pieces of left over fabric for the lining – one recycled from the pirate outfit (muslin) and the other the left overs from my recent printing swap experiment (cotton shirting). This worked OK, although the muslin is much lighter and more flexible than the shirting. Unfortunately the problems didn’t stop there. Lining the wrap feature of the bodice gave me a major problem which I should have foreseen. The surplice is attached to a straight edge of the front piece, creating an issue with the lining. I had to do quite a lot of unpicking. I solved it, but not very well, by treating the lining as lining for the back, and underlining for the front. I overlocked the lot (six thicknesses in the centre) in the end. It is OK but not so pretty inside. And I did the hem, in which the fabric was attached to the now-attached lining and underling,  badly and had to redo it.


I hate it when a project doesn’t work. It is my own fault for just not thinking it through. It is still a wearable dress but I spent two or three times longer on it that I should have, with a suboptimal garment at the end, and a feeling of anger and misery rather than joy. I was close to throwing it out, but I like the yellow Turkish viscose off-cut that I got in Simply Fabrics for about £5. And I do love a bit of happy yellow when the summer starts to seep away.

Butterick 3636
Butterick 3636


3 Responses

  1. Stephanie

    I’m not at your level of skill, so I have disappointments all the time (such as my dots dress, which I managed to fix adequately but not perfectly as I can’t add more fabric at the armholes!). I think the end product still looks good and you look very pretty in it. The final fit is quite nice. I also like your haircut!

  2. Joyce

    The fit is fabulous, and I really like the pattern, and colours. Good on you to hang in there till the end….because its wonderful and the perfect guest dress to any lunch table (I do hope the centre piece was blue flowers ;~ ) I love the shape of that dress on you.

  3. 1966 Pierre Cardin suit – using Vogue Paris Original 1662 | Fit and Flare

    […] What a nice surprise! The fabric behaved beautifully, the bias cut is actually quite flattering, the cheap lining sat quietly in the right place. I put the zip in by hand, as instructed and I used 2″ bias braid in the hem to give a nice, soft finish. I loved the faced “contour” waist band that sits very slightly above the waist, which is stayed with tape along the top seam. For the final version I will take half an inch off each of the back side seams as the gathering is a little bit too much in the back, and I may make the waist band one inch bigger to allow for the odd lunch time excess. The uneventful construction has restored my faith in my own ability to actually sew after the horrible yellow dress. […]

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