Butterick 5520 Black Dress

So, we got the bad news that my husband’s sweet Grandma passed away. She was a lovely lady and just so nice, but she had been suffering for some time now and she is probably in a better place now. We decided to make the trip back to Ohio for her funeral which is really nice in a way, it will be good to see family and pay our respects. I have actually been thinking for a couple a weeks now that if something were to happen to her, that we might be going to a funeral soon and I really should have something to wear. I don’t really have a black dress with any kind of long sleeve that would be appropriate for a funeral in winter, so of course, I needed to make one!

With a quick change of sewing priority from my LWD, I decided to make a classic black dress out of this raglan sleeve sheath dress pattern that I had in my pattern collection, Butterick 5520 view C (the red one on the pattern envelope) with no peplum and omitting the giant 80’s-esqe shoulder pads:

B5520pattern envelope - Copy      B5520

I, of course, had pinned some LBD’s in my Pinterest board that provided some good inspiration ideas for the outcome I was looking for the occasion. Here are some of those dresses I pinned:

KAMALIKULTURE Shirred Long Sleeve Dress    Office Style      Ralph Lauren  Akris - Animal-Patterned St. Gallen Embroidery Wool Dress - Saks.com, $3990

I have this really lovely black tropical weight wool gabardine 1 1/2 yards of 60″ wide end piece from fashion designer Giorgio Armani that I picked up a Mill End Store in Milwaukie, OR a few months ago, just enough to squeeze out this dress. I also had some black lightweight silk habotai on hand for the lining. Both are perfect for this dress.

I would love to do some sort of design twist on this pattern, for example, using leather, lace or some sort of embellishment for the sleeves, but decided that a) I don’t have time to fuss with it, and b) I want to keep it simple, versatile and not show-y for the occasion. Again, next time!

So I started cutting out the pattern right away, but got side tracked by little Gidget who decided to lay right on my pattern tissue pieces and refused to move until she received a belly rub and several kisses! Aw, Gidge!


Moving on, I had to do some real puzzlework to figure out how to layout and fit all of my pattern pieces on to my fabric, but finally came to a good layout that worked:

B5520table layout - Copy

I was able to add 1″ in length to the bodice front and back (after comparing to my pattern sloper that I made for myself in patternmaking class, I could see I needed to add at least an inch to the bodice so that it fit at my waist and was not sitting to high up too on my body), cut out and mark both the outer dress and lining fabric pieces, overlock all of the pattern pieces of the outer dress and lining, sew and crank out the bodice outer part one night, and got this far:

B5520bodice front - Copy

Not to bad for one night!

Last night, I rushed home after work and got started back to sewing most of the rest of the dress, staying up after 1 am to try to finish, as we leave late tonight and I am nearly out of time! I did get pretty far, though and only have to hand slip stitch the lining to the inside of the zipper and around the waist seam, finish sewing the hem, and sew on a hook and eye at the top of the back opening.

Luckily, the fit is pretty darn good for just trusting the pattern measurements and feel that I can actually wear it and not feel like a big sausage.  Here is a photo of my dress so far. It is very hard to see the details of the seams and such, so it does look like a somber black blob, but hopefully once I have it on and I am all ready to go, it will look decent and as I hoped for the wake and funeral:

B5520 - Copy           B5520II - Copy         B5520III - Copy

I will be bringing my sewing supplies and my battery operated tiny hand held sewing machine on the trip to Ohio to finish off the dress, and hopefully, get to finish my LWD and enter it in the contest. Wish me luck!

LWD Sewing Contest Dress

On Patternreview.com, the LWD Sewing Contest is in full swing, with only 8 days left to enter my version of a little white dress. I have decided, after debating over about 4 fitted sheath dress commercial sewing patterns, to sew New Look 6123, making view C with no sleeve flounce or any other drape, sleeve or added style details:

New Look 6123                          6123_fbv

If this dress is successful, I will use this pattern again and possibly use some of the other included design details such as the little tab sleeve, the short, cap sleeve, the crossover bodice, and possibly the draped skirt (just the pleated part though, no extra hip and thigh attention is needed on this body). Plus, it would be a great dress for a client.

Some of my inspiration LWD dresses are the following silhouettes on these lovely ladies:





I am using a white stretch cotton lycra blend woven material, sort of like a stretch sateen minus the sheen, for the outer dress, and a poly/rayon/lycra (at least I think that is the blend) lining material.

As the pattern does not come with instructions for a lining for this dress, and the tight white dress with no lining will surely be too hideous by revealing all my awesome saddlebag cellulite and flabby little tummy pooch, I am going to make my own lining from the pattern pieces of the dress. Hopefully the stretch lining material from Mill End Store in Beaverton, OR I chose will help to smooth out and suck in my icky areas!

Too many of these nice dress patterns come with no lining instructions, or instructions for only lining the bodice. I find that so frustrating! But oh well. I suppose that is one of the many reasons why I have taken the time and spent the money to take sewing, pattern making, draping and apparel construction classes from various sources, conduct research online, and acquire sewing books that will teach me what I need to know about sewing. I plan to take the time to design my own patterns, be more creative, and fulfill my dreams of being a great sewer and designer. For now, I use commercial sewing patterns (I own more than 450 of them. Wow!), and I love every minute of sewing!

So, back to my dress creation. I have decided on a simple silhouette for a LWD as too much fuss on a LWD can just look, well, wrong. The bodice is sleeveless, high boatneck, with waist and bust darts. The skirt is a simple, darted, pegged-in, strait pencil skirt. Very basic, nothing crazy, kind of boring actually. But I want to keep it clean and streamlined. I may install the invisible zipper as the pattern calls for, or possibly the silver metal fashion zipper I bought at Joann Fabrics on clearance for $9, exposing the metal zip teeth for a design edge. I have not decided on that element yet.

The only pattern changes I made were to cut the skirt in size 14 (the bodice I cut the size 12) and taper the skirt waist to a 12 on the front and back top edges, and also to taper the hem of the skirt to be more of a pegged, pencil skirt. Both of these were done using my hip curve design ruler. I know I could get more creative with this simple sheath by moving darts, adding seams, adding a beading or embroidered design and such. Next time.

I am actually using this pattern as a test dress for fit, and if I like it, to use as a base for many style, color and fabrication versions.  White is not very forgiving, nor is it usually slimming, and my weirdly shaped, aging body, is not getting much skinnier! But white is a great, cool color to wear, and has so many outfit options. So, a great fit in a nice fabric, made well, are the only true tools I have for this kind of sheath dress to be a winner and for the most flattering outcome. I hope it fits!

Plus, this is the first time I am using my new, wonderful Babylock Imagine serger in a project! So far, I used it to overlock all of the inside edges of my fabric cut out dress and lining pattern pieces for this dress to prevent fraying and to have nicely finished interior seams. So wonderful!

I will post my finished LWD (cross your fingers for a good one!) as soon as I am finished and follow up with more sewing and fitting notes!

Saturday 2/8/14

I worked on my LWD today for several hours. I basted it together and got it fitted by my husband. I found the upper part of the back too wide, as usual, but the rest of the dress fit well. I made adjustments to the pattern for future reference, and marked and re-serged the back edges of the dress as well as to the lining, creating a new center back seam allowance.

Here is the dress, basted together, and on my dress form. Also a shot of the back side of the dress with the silver metal fashion zipper pinned into the center back seam:

IMAG1750                     IMAG1752

So far, so good! It looks a little “nurse-y”, but that can  happen with LWD’s, so that’s to be expected.

I went on to sew the entire lining exactly the same as the outer dress leaving out the zipper. Here are the twin dresses. The outer dress (right dress) and lining (left dress), all ready to be sewn together and joined at the neckline and sleeve openings:


I decided to not do the silver zipper as it may limit the style in a way, so I chose the invisible zip as the instructions with the pattern include. Here is my progress so far with hand basting in the invisible zip:


Next up:

  • Finishing installing the invisible zip
  • Sewing in my Love, Stephanie label to the lining
  • Sewing the lining to the dress
  • Pressing well
  • Understitching the lining to the seam allowance
  • Stitching the lining to the zipper opening either by hand or machine
  • Figuring out how to do the back vent split with the lining
  • The hem

Update Thursday 2/13/14

Well I got a good ways on my LWD over the weekend, especially since we had a snow storm and the entire city shut down for 4 days, so I got a lot of good sewing done while cooped up in the house.

I followed a great zipper installation video tutorial on Craftsy.com to install my invisible zipper with the lining. It came out really nice! However, after the zipper was in, it was impossible to figure out how to sew and finish off the armholes and the bottom hem of the dress on the sewing machine, so I think I’ll have to resort to doing this by hand. I began pinning the armholes in preparation to slip stitch the lining to the outer material, but had to stop here and begin a new project right away, a black dress for a funeral. See the next post for this adventure.

Meanwhile, here is my LWD nearly done and laying on my table waiting with high hopes to be finished in two days to enter into the LWD contest:

LWD on table

July 31 2014 Update:

I finally completed my LWD! Needless to say, I did not make it in time to enter my LWD into the contest, but I did finish it in time for mid-summer wardrobe opportunities. I really should have finished this dress sooner as it’s a great little wardrobe staple, especially for summer!

I am very pleased with the fit of this dress and will go back to this pattern for more versions of it. It actually make a nice sloper to use for other dress designs. I have some other nice stretch woven materials in my stash, including some solids and a nice Ikat print, that would work very well made up in this pattern.

Also, I have enrolled in and have been watching the Craftsy online class Patternmaking and Design: Creative Darts and Seamlines with Suzy Furrer. In this classes, Suzy takes a basic sloper and shows how to add creative darts and seamlines to make a more interesting garment. I want to try some of the methods to create a more interesting twist beginning with a basic design, and this pattern is the perfect base to begin with.

Apologies for the blurry photos. My in-house photographer/Dear Husband is out of town on a business trip so I had to use the self timer on my camera to take photos today (does that count as a selfie???).

Little white dress

LWD completed

little white sheath dress New Look 6123

Sheath dress in white stretch sateen

back view of New Look 6123

Back view of completed LWD