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April 18

Butterick 7651: My Nautical Inspired Dress

I’m really excited that I can officially share my completed Nautical dress!  I think this dress may be in my top three projects that I’ve ever made for myself, garment wise.

Before you start scrolling through the post I have to say… this also may end up being a really long read.  I did a decent amount of documenting so I’ll be showing you a lot of detail shots and describing how I did each section.  Feel free to scroll and check out the pictures if you don’t want to read everything.  And if you happen to want to see even more images, check out my flickr page here.

As most of you are aware, I try to participate in Sew Weekly nearly every week.  But I consciously try to write up completely separate blog posts for Sew Weekly vs. my own blog.  My Sew Weekly post is all about the weekly theme and why I created a certain pattern/fabric/design, but here on my personal blog I try to give more details and construction instead of talking about the themes.  Long story short… click on this link to read my Sew Weekly Post for the Childhood theme to get an understanding of why I made this dress in the first place.

After work, my husband Felix and I took a cab to Navy Pier to take the photos.  My dress, being a nautical inspired piece, I wanted the photos & background to be as aquatic/nautical as possible.  What better backdrop than Lake Michigan and boats?!  Unfortunately no one would let us on their boats or ships, but I was able to stand next to them which was all I was expecting anyhow.

Cutting out all of my fabric took at least 3 separate evenings.  The skirt is made up of eight gores.  Originally it was only 6 gores, but I separated the center front and center back piece (cut on the fold) into 2 separate pieces.  I wanted to have a center front seam line in order to create the chevron pattern that would fall in line with the center front of the bodice.  Otherwise it’s a simple skirt that is gathered at the top.  Gathered skirts are great since there is no fitting required.  I never make the muslin for the skirt pieces since I can just gather the skirt to fit whatever size my bodice is.

My dress has pockets!  This is my first 50’s dress that had pocket pieces, which is a lovely thought.  I cut the pockets using the contrasting red silk Shantung.  What was tricky is that the lapped side-seam zipper gets affixed through the pocket piece.  Not having sewn pockets onto a dress before I had to pick out my side seam 1x and my pocket seam 1x in order to understand the construction and have an open pocket instead of stitching it closed.

I inserted the regular zipper at the side seam using a lapped construction.  If you recall, the fabric is on the bias, and I was fearful at having a funky rippled zipper.  But no such thing happened to me.  I basted in a 1.5″ wide strip of black silk organza into the side seam of the bodice to help stabilize the zipper seam.  I think this must have greatly contributed to having a flat zipper.  The only conundrum I faced was having not enough of a seam allowance for the lap-side and had to attach a placket on the fly.

After coming home from the Charles James Exhibit on Sunday, I decided a simple hem wasn’t going to cut it for this dress.  Even though I tried to be as thrifty with my cutting layout as possible, I had a decent amount of scraps of fabric from this dress since it was cut on the bias.  Coupling these two things, I resolved to cover my horsehair braid hem with bias facing.

I decided to use a 3″ wide horsehair braid for the hem since the fabric is on the thicker side; I needed the wide braid to accommodate the weight along with the large circumference that comes with an 8-gore skirt.  I cut my hem facing 4″ wide, to allow for a 1/2″ seam allowance on the bottom hem along and turned over the top edge by 3/8ths of an inch to allow a tiny bit of wiggle room between the horsehair and the facing.

Why yes, I did match my facing pieces to match all the way around the hem!  I wasn’t as anal about matching the facing 100%, but either way I think this marks me, officially, as a crazy-stripe matching lady!

It was technically an afterthought for me to finish the inside seams on my bodice.  Being cut on the bias, the seams don’t actually fray like other cut fabrics on the straight grain.  But once I tried it on it was uncomfortable.  The edges where there was metallic thread was making it feel icky against my skin so I threw in some seam binding & bias binding.

I carefully stitched the bias binding just inside my sleeve basting stitches.  I then trimmed the seam allowances to a scant 1/4 inch and wrapped the bias to the opposite side and stitched it down again.

For sleeve hems along with the neckline, I used the same bias binding and stitching, but instead of wrapping the bias to the other side of the seam allowance, I stitched the edge of the bias directly to the dress, invisibly from the right side.

And for the rest of the vertical seams on the bodice, I used hem tape, which I pressed in half and sewed down the length of it in one go to affix it.  (Does this make sense?… I hope it does).

Since there is soo much fabric & weight in the skirt, it was imperative that I stitched on a waist stay.  I used a rayon Petersham ribbon that is 1 1/4 inch wide and feels like butter.  While I got my Petersham ribbon locally, Sunni has some equally fabulous, buttery Petersham ribbons in her shop.  The 100% rayon Petersham is 1,000 times better than the stuff you buy at Joann which is polyester!  I’m never going back to that poly stuff for waist stays.

Let’s talk darts!  This is one of the little details that has me absolutely loving this dress!

I’d never rotating a dart before.  And for this bodice, I had to not only rotate the dart, but I combined two darts into 1 rotated dart!  Not having done it before, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t impressed with myself after doing so.  I did a little happy hop when I was showing it to my hubby.  What’s even better is that the fit wasn’t affected one bit after doing the rotating and joining of darts.  (I did a muslin to test and it was a-okay.)

This is my original pattern piece with the two darts:

After I had sewn up the back waist darts I realized that I needed to do something about the front darts.  I was going to keep the side seam dart as is, and rotate the front waist dart to the front bias seam.  It was a little awkward and so I thought how about rotating it to the side seam.  That’s when I decided that I couldn’t have 2 darts at the side seam and wanted to combine them.

Here’s my working pattern piece where I taped together the two darts and inserted a yellow piece for the mega side dart:

I made up my muslin with this pattern piece and made an additional change to the dart ends since they weren’t completely getting sewn into the side seam.

This is my final pattern piece, all tidied up:

I did a bit of research prior to making the dart rotation and I used this tutorial from Gertie and this one from Miss P.  But just this morning I saw that Ms. Sunni posted up a great tutorial herself, which is equally instructive.

After realizing the need for altering the darts, I shortly realized that I’d have to cut out a new front bodice.  Ugh!  I had hopes of using what fabric I had left over for a shorter skirt.  Now I hacked into what remained of my fabric to sew up a new front bodice.  Ahh well…. such sacrifice is needed when learning the hard way.

I used a silk Shantung fabric for my neckline and arm sashes.  The pattern only called for the neckline sash, but I thought adding a sash to the sleeves would be even better.  Using a Shantung wasn’t my first choice of fabrics, but it was the only one that perfectly matched the red-color of the stripes.  I do love how they seem to glow with the yellow-setting sun.

I had started to make a matching red silk belt, but after joining it all together I found that I didn’t have quite enough fabric for a decent lap at the end.  Perhaps I’ll come across a perfect gold or navy belt in the future…

Thoughts about Sewing on the Bias:

One thing I had to keep in mind about sewing on the bias is the stretch with stitching along with the stretch over time.  Sunni recommends sewing the seams with tissue paper underneath while pulling the fabric slightly while stitching.  I did both of these things and let the skirt relax & stretch for 2 days and also let the bodice stretch for a day.

But one additional thing that is important about bias is the after-affects.  If your dress/skirt is hanging on a hanger it will stretch out over time.  While it stretches it’s going to get narrower, ie smaller.  This won’t be an issue with the skirt since it’s so full, but it will be an issue with the bodice.  In order to accommodate any future stretching, I’ve sewn the bust dart about 1/2 than my true apex, I stitched the side seams with a bit more ease than I normally would have on a fancy dress, and I also stitched the bodice a bit shorter than my true waist (3/8ths to 1/2″).  While I’ll be storing my dress flat (somehow…), even wearing it out and about will cause it to stretch and I want to be able to wear this dress for years to come.  Hopefully  these three adjustments will be enough to ensure that it fits after a few wearings along with the proper storage.

All in all, I’m in love with my dress; I think the fabric is what really ‘makes’ it.

I’ll leave you all with my happy, victory twirl.  :)

  1. little betty / Apr 18 2012

    This dress is totally crazy! Great work. I can’t even imagine all the energy that went into it.

    • Liz / Apr 18 2012

      Honestly, I think I put the same energy towards this dress as all of my other projects. I think I just spent a little extra time (3 evenings) cutting and doing some reasearch for sewing on the bias. That and a few 1am nights… heh

  2. Bobbi / Apr 18 2012

    What an amazing dress! It looks gorgeous on you. The inside is beautiful – what attention to detail. I bow to your sewing skills!

  3. Kerry / Apr 18 2012

    Wow, what a dress Liz! Nice work, it’s so impressive.

  4. Annabelle / Apr 18 2012

    Lovely job Liz! Does the horsehair braid give the skirt all of its fullness or all you also wearing a crinoline underneath? I love that you made the longer sleeves because I think you will be able to wear this dress much later into the fall, and even the winter. I really need to motivate myself to make at least one winter dress.

    • Liz / Apr 18 2012

      Hey Annabelle. First of all thanks for your sweet comment. :)

      I am wearing a crinoline underneath to be extra full. But the 3″ horsehair braid does wonders to help “puff out” the skirt. Since the fabric is thick the waistline pleats alone helped the skirt remain full without a crinoline. Adding the horsehair braid prevents the folds from falling in on themselves; once I added the horsehair braid the folds radiating from the waist ceased to be folds instead there are soft rolls. (Check out the first image to see the soft rolls along the hemline).
      I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love horsehair braid, and adding it helps keep the hem full. But the more I work with horsehair braid I find it ends up creating more of soft ripples at the bottom of the skirt than actually helping the skirt keep it’s puffy structure starting at the waist and hip.
      For an everyday full-skirted feel adding the braid is the way to go. But I find if I want to ensure that I have a lovely puffy-full skirt for the photos I have to add in my crinoline. It gives the 50’s dresses an extra oomph. :) *All this depends on your fabric selection, I might add.*

  5. Sue / Apr 18 2012

    It’s amazing and lovely and adorable! The skirt blows my mind with all that stripe matching. Great work! :)

  6. Donna / Apr 18 2012

    Very cute!

  7. maranda / Apr 18 2012

    wow! it’s gorgeous!!

  8. Rachel / Apr 18 2012

    Wow- you did a fantastic job :) Well done!

  9. Meg / Apr 18 2012

    Oh, my friend! It is just stunning! The lovely chevron detailing, those gorgeous red sashes, the matching facings, the pristine pockets, the fabulous inner seams and finishings – it is just a masterpiece and one of my favorite things you have ever made! Bravo on rotating that dart – what a fantastic skill to have! You did beautiful work and should be so very proud :)

    • Liz / Apr 18 2012

      Thanks Meg! I have no idea how I’m ever going to top this dress…. heh

  10. Pam / Apr 18 2012

    Great job on the dress!! I can’t believe the matching you did! Fantastic.

  11. gail / Apr 18 2012

    Spectacular! Kudos to you! The details are just amazing. I agree it’s one of the very best things you’ve made.

  12. Gina / Apr 18 2012

    What a knockout! You look fab! love this dress on you!

    • Liz / Apr 18 2012

      Thanks Miss Gina! :)

  13. Lauren / Apr 18 2012

    I can see why this is one of your top 3 projects – it’s definitely one of my favorite projects I’ve seen (not just of yours – of anyone’s!)!! I wish I could gush over this in person because you are not going to get the full effect in this comment… but I’ll try: OMG HOW PERFECT IS YOUR DRESS? The chevrons are perfect (the matching!!!!), the zipper is perfect, the skirt with the horsehair braid is perfect, the matching at the hem facing is perfect, the inside finishing is perfect, the little sashes at the neck & arms are perfect. I am so so in love with the fabric and the overall shape. Cannot get over those rotated darts & how awesome the bodice looks now.

    I am going to stop now or else I’ll hyperventilate. Your dress is a knock out! LOVE LOVE LOVE.

    • Liz / Apr 18 2012

      Heh Thanks soooo much Lauren! You started making me all fluttered and excited as I was reading through your comment. :)

      My favorite bit is the rotated dart. It turned out soo good, if I’m allowed to say so myself. I used two different colored threads on my hand stitched, lapped zipper too.

      I think this is why I haven’t been making my Sew Weekly deadlines… I refuse to skip the little details like handstitching and keeping the insides tidy that is needed to sew an entire dress in one week. Ahh well…. Makes for good blog content on my own site. heh

  14. Qui / Apr 18 2012

    the dress is fantastic Liz!! Amazing. beautiful work.

  15. Rachel W. / Apr 18 2012

    This dress is AMAZING. It’s beautifully constructed so and lovely on you! I’m especially smitten with those sashes, particularly the neckline one. I was idly plotting whether Colette Patterns’ Licorice could benefit from such a detail, and the lovely effect of such a neckline on your dress has thrown that plotting into higher gear!

  16. Charity Shop Chic / Apr 18 2012

    Totally blown away by your pattern matching skills. Rotating the bodice dart has made the stripes match perfectly. Well done!

  17. Stephanie / Apr 18 2012

    Wow! That’s all I can really say right now. Just wow!

    • Liz / Apr 18 2012

      Thanks so much Stephanie! :)

  18. Sassy T / Apr 18 2012

    Speechless!! A-m-a-z-i-n-g

  19. Anne / Apr 18 2012

    This dress is sooo amazing, and it looks fantastic on you.

  20. Rochelle New / Apr 18 2012

    What an amazing dress!! And a perfect photoshoot to show it off :) Well done!

  21. Marie / Apr 18 2012

    Oh my, your dress (and you) is breathtaking! What a wonderful job you’ve done, it looks impeccable inside and out…I just love all the little neat touches you added! And thank you so much for the comprehensive write-up, I know I’ll be referring to it again and again!

    • Liz / Apr 24 2012

      Thanks so much Marie! I feel like I keep forgetting to take detailed images of the insides of my projects. But I think the insides are just as important as the outsides with us home sewers. Don’t you?

  22. Evie / Apr 19 2012

    A well deserved victory twirl indeed. This dress is breathtaking. The fit, fabric choice, pattern matching and construction are flawless. I am in awe!

    • Liz / Apr 24 2012

      Thanks so much Evie! I feel like I’m doing a victory twirl after each project now. The full skirt does make it quite easy and tempting to do though. Let’s blame it on the dress… :)

  23. Clare S / Apr 20 2012

    Aww, it looks darling!! Great choice with your collar and cuffs – the colour matches perfectly. Makes me wish I was still living in Portsmouth with HMS Victory up the road!

    Ship ahoy!

    • Liz / Apr 24 2012

      I’m happy to reply back that I actually know Portsmouth… from reading my Jane Austen novels. hehe

  24. Ginger / Apr 20 2012

    Holy cow! That’s amazing! Great job– really clever use of stripes and dart rotation!

  25. meredith / Apr 20 2012

    SOmehow I missed this post even though I was waiting to see how your nautical dress turned out! It looks even better than I imagined! Even more awesome than the original marc jacobs dress in this fabric! Congratulations on such an amazing dress!

    • Liz / Apr 24 2012

      Thanks so much Meredith! I’m happy you found your way to my post. :) I do love the Marc Jacobs version with the angular bodice, but I do like mine too…. heh

  26. Sophia / Apr 22 2012

    What a beautifully constructed dress! Congratulations!

  27. Iron-On Maiden / Apr 22 2012

    Wow, absolutely gorgeous! Can I ask where you got the petersham?

    I think I live near you, since you posted a pic in the Logan blue line stop. I’m about two miles west of there. Maybe we can have a sewing meet-up sometime!

    • Liz / Apr 24 2012

      Oooh Yes! I’d love to so a sewing meet-up. I’m hoping to get the word out soonish for a larger meetup group in the late spring/summer.

      I got the petersham at a little place called Soutache, which is on Damen Ave. close to Webster. It’s a whole store of ribbons and buttons. The owner Miley knows me by face (but I’m not sure if she knows me by name yet) and is very nice and helpful.

      • Iron-On Maiden / Apr 24 2012

        Awesome, thanks for the reco! I hadn’t heard of Soutache, but I’m in need of some nice petersham for a cardigan I’m knitting.

        I’d be happy to help organize a meet-up, if you want help. And if you and your sewing buddy ever want a third to hang out with, please let me know! (I’m so jealous.)

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