Advice for Jenny

posted in: Guest blog, Style advice | 23

One of my dear followers Jenny has been in touch.


She is going to a winter wedding and has bought this lovely deep pink fabric, a colour I think will look great on her, and a Fake Fur jacket that she got off eBay (£4.50 – bargain!). In terms of the styles she likes she explains:

“I am in my 70’s, but whilst I don’t like to stand out with statement clothes I am definitely not Beige Granny. I like casual and sporty, not frilly and glittery. ”


Jenny bought this fabric planning to make it up as New Look 6000.

New Look 6000
New Look 6000


This pattern is very popular with dozens of version available through the Google search engine. In its simplest incarnation it is a simple sheath dress with bust and waist darts. Alternate views have a rolled collar for a “retro” look, short sleeves or elbow length sleeves with cuffs. The nicest feature in my opinion is the asymmetrical look with six pleats radiating from the side waist. Jenny has been planning View C, with covered buttons.

But, she writes

having made 3 toiles I don’t think it is right for me. I made it firstly using an old duvet cover and liked it so adjusted the pattern and made it in a piece of leftover peachskin and hated it. I decided I was using the wrong size so went up from a 14 to a 16, even though many reviewers said it runs large. Anyway I decided it was wrong for my figure and fabric. Could you help with suggestions for a pattern please?

Let’s have a look at Jenny wearing her”duvet” toile which she feels highlights her tummy. She fears that in a solid, heavier crepe this would be worse. What do you think?


Let’s consider Jenny’s bodyshape. Her bust and hips are fairly evenly balanced, without a very indented waist, so she has a semi-shaped figure. A sheath dress is ideal on women with straight body shape, although it can look good on a semi-shaped body so long as the shaping is carried out effectively. Jenny notes, correctly, that she doesn’t want a large skirt – “knee length and fitted suits me best”. That is right – the large skirted dress works best with a shaped (hour glass or pear type) figure.

Jenny has asked for some other pattern suggestions.

I am stuck mainly because to my eye and understanding this dress is good. She could go for the darting instead of the pleating, but in my view done well (so the fit is close but not at all tight) the little bit of pleating disguises any slight tummy issues, and the overall silhouette is very good. I think the built up neckline would be very pretty and frame Jenny’s face. It also makes the dress more interesting and dressy  – allowing a button, or even using the shiny side of the fabric. From her letter there seems to be a bit more of an issue to do with the size and fitting rather than the pattern itself.

So I am putting Jenny’s question out there. I know many of you are more familiar with patterns than I am – Ruth F and Demented Fairy to name just two of my favourite experts.

Let’s see if we can offer some help to this lovely lady who emphasises that she is an introvert (in clothing terms I think she is a Classic dresser).


23 Responses

  1. Stephanie

    I love the fabric (stunning colour) and the dress pattern that Jenny has chosen – classic but with a punch. I feel as though this would suit her and frame her pretty face. I especially love the folded-over collar with the large button. I am not an expert like the others, but my sincere gut feeling is that once the sleeves and collar are on the dress will look quite different. Perhaps she could try basting on some sleeves to get a feel for how it will look assembled? I also wonder if the pleating could be a little bit deeper/tighter in the waist and leading up to the bust, if that is comfortable for her. I eagerly await the views of the experts!

  2. Christine

    I have never made, but always loved the look of this pattern and as a semi straight myself feel it is a good one for my figure. I do not think the fabric her muslin uses works with this design and that is a distraction. She should perhaps go back to the first muslin that she liked nd start from there again. Certainly going up a size does not work. And if there is a tummy issue then consider good underwear for the occasion.

  3. Sew Ruthie

    I have a bit of a tummy on a semi shaped body. what works for me is
    – add a little extra ease on the front for the tummy so it doesn’t pull, this doesn’t need to mean going up a size, just add some extra tissue at the sides for that pattern piece to give a skimming fit. The joy of sewing for yourself if you don’t have to just have the size 14 or 16, you can have the 14 shoulders, 16 skirt, lengthened, with wedges removed etc etc basically whatever you need to make it look good on your body.
    – the other approach is complete distraction and I have had very flattering looks from a dress pattern with side ruching going on in the tummy area. Vogue 2989 is for knits and I’ve made it up in a ponte with great success.
    However I am sure there are other patterns out there which are for wovens as well which have this sort of feature.
    Vogue are a bit more slim fitting so I find I get better results if I measure myself and then sew the pattern sizes that corresponds to even if I don’t like the number. No-one can see what size you are wearing, only how well something fits.

  4. Elle

    Per the drawing, the center of the ruching should be at waist height, but on Jenny seems to be lower, causing the odd fullness at the level of her tummy/hips. I think it could be adjusted to be more flattering. If Jenny is still uncomfortable with the rushing, perhaps View D is the way to go.

  5. Sam

    I agree with Elle that the ruching appears to be a little low on Jenny. If she really feels this pattern is not for her, what about the new Sew Over It Joan dress?

  6. mrsmole

    The 2 center pleats of the 6 should be resting on her waist which they is not doing. I suspect she is shorter waisted than the pattern, this can be altered on the paper. Her shoulders and bust have an excess of fabric and I’m with Ruthie on adding only to the front to allow the pleats to lie flat instead of being stressed. Once the pleats are in the proper position, it may be flattering but it is hard to imagine a shocking pink dress with covered buttons, showing off the 6 pleats, something a true introvert would want to wear to a public event. A solid color muslin will help her make the decision along with more ease in the front across her tummy and pleats raised. The other issue is the fact that she may not be wearing a supportive enough bra to bring her bust up high enough for the pleats to be the main focus. And I see on the left side (her right) there are no darts or shaping seams so that will add to the bagginess on that side. Not a fan of the collar that might just be one too many features and not lay flat under the jacket.

  7. DementedFairy

    I’m with La Molista! I noticed the excess across the chest/shoulders, which indicates a smaller size is needed. She should definitely put in at least one sleeve though, as that changes things a lot…and yes, the bra is not helping with waist shaping/definition. Nice fabric, although way out of my colour range!

  8. Mary Funt

    I’m going to agree with much of what’s been said. Mrs. Mole is spot on with the waist length being too low. I don’t have her measurements but judging from her photo it’s hard to imagine she needs a size 16 or even 14. It’s easy to make this mistake on a sheath dress since there is no waistline seam. Mark the waist on the fitting toile and see where it should sit. The shoulders and neckline are way too big which makes for a dowdy look. She should choose a pattern size based on her shoulders and add in the other areas if needed. The print toile complicates fitting issues; you can’t see what is going on. The toile needs to be made in a plain muslin with sleeves and collar before you can really judge. Don’t add just one sleeve (throws the look off) and do get the sleeves properly fit. Slim sleeves make a figure appear much sleeker. That’s why Coco Chanel was such a fiend about sleeve fit. Like others suggested, perhaps better fitting foundation garments would also help. I also agree with Mrs. Mole that the dress collar fights with the big fur shawl collar. Choose one or the other.

  9. Sue

    My first reaction was that the pleats are too low also. Maybe Jenny could open up that side seam take out those pleats and play with the placement for a start. She may also need to shorten the bodice length. I agree that the print is distracting and good foundation garments a must.

  10. Annieloveslinen

    Firstly, well done to Jenny for the eBay bargain, it looks fab.

    There is some sound advice here but may I would go further and suggest a complete rethink? I don’t think the pattern and fabric are quite compatible. As Jenny is asking about suitable patterns a couple that I think would work are:

    Both are uncomplicated and made up in a stable jersey like ponte could look stunning. Ponte is not too costly and it comes in many hues for infinite combinations that could look contemporary and stylish – think, burgundy, lime and orange – lush.

    I did a double take when I read that Jenny is in her 70s she looks amazingly youthful. I hope she tells us what she decides.

  11. Sheree

    What great advice you have all given Jenny. Nothing much more to add, except I certainly agree about keeping the sleeves slim. Also, I looked up the pattern Sew Ruthie suggested and think this would be a lovely choice.

  12. Ruth

    Got to agree with the experts here – nought wrong with this dress style, in fact it’s positively perfect for Jenny – the waist is too low so that the pleats are more at the hip than tummy.
    How about a two-piece? Jacket and dress like Vogue 9036, or Marfy 3182 with a simple sheath underneath.

  13. Cissie

    I’ve made this dress twice and love it. I worried that the pleats at the waist would call attention to the fact that my waist is not very defined. I really think that this feature gives an illusion of a waist. It would be lovely in that fabric!

  14. Amanda

    To me it looks as though she needs to grade to a smaller size in the waist and maybe do a tiny bit of a full tummy adjustment just so there’s no horizontal pulling in the front to compete with the pleats as a design feature. I think the dress style will look great on her, especially in that lovely fabric and with the jacket she chose 🙂

  15. erin

    I am not knowledgeable enough to offer any suggestions, but I am learning a great deal from reading the advice from your readers. I have tucked away in my mind Mary Funt’s advice of choosing a pattern size based on shoulders and modifying from there on. So simple yet so brilliant! I hope Jenny finds a solution to her question, that gorgeous pink needs to be made into a pretty dress!

  16. Jennifer Miller

    That pink fabric is gorgeous! I love her pattern with the collar and sleeves, although I think the buttoned cuffs may be a bit bulky. Also, on second thought, would the biggish collar be too much with the fluffy jacket? I love the McCalls 6988 with the front panel, very simple, flattering lines. And wow! Does Jenny look great for 70! The pink will be lovely with her complexion.

  17. Jane

    I made this dress with the pleats and the collar but I kept feeling it was a bit a-line and boring. In the end I pegged the skirt in by a couple of inches at both sides and now it is much more chic. I suggest a similar adjustment might work for Jenny

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