Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Betty's Dress

I would like to introduce you all to Betty D. She is a sewing mentor to many. Her years of knowledge and skill impress me. With Betty I have learned to do Madeira applique hems, how to make French seams on a sleeve, and more. She has a way of taking complicated tasks and making them easier and professional. I am honored to know her and so respect her abilities. Betty is also down to earth and assertive, two qualities I admire a lot in women. We all have a lot we could learn from knowing Betty!

In early Spring the Everything Sewing Forum ran a contest for a summer outfit with basically no requirements other than the garment had to evoke summer. There were some great entries. Betty entered a dress that a I, and many others, fell for hook, line, and sinker. It was unique and darling at the same time. She graciously posted the directions of her original design. I have been dieing to make it ever since. I asked Betty if I could show it on the blog as well as the process and she kindly agreed. I hope I do her design justice.

This dress is one shouldered and the other shoulder has spaghetti straps. The two dominant fabrics are used disproportionately which adds great interest. Between the two contrasting fabrics is a corded piping. This division happens on the back as well but still has a center back opening. In Betty's version there is a placket at center back, the traditional "heirloom" way. In my version I hope to match the print and use an invisible zipper. Cross those fingers! I just think this dress is as cute as the dickens.

When did Betty design her darling dress? Over 50 years ago! She made numerous versions back in the day for her sisters. And you thought this was so contemporary! This latest version is for her great grandchild Chloe if my memory serves me correctly. Betty's memory is far better than mine so I apologize if I am incorrect, Betty!

I will go thru the process with you all. I used two highly contrasting fabrics and a bright lemon yellow for the piping in between.
The two colored fabrics are 100 % cotton and the white is a poly cotton blend. White cotton is just so nasty to iron so I decided to go with the blend.

If you are looking for something really fun to draft, this is the design. It took a lot more thinking, futzing, and double checking than you would suspect but I had Betty check it out and it seems good to go.

I started by tracing off my pattern using the bodice from Butterick 4718. I traced on the fold in order to facilitate changing the neckline. You can see how I left the CB seam allowance for now. This will be folded out when I change the shape.
Next I added the seam allowances. I have found this necessary due to the many times I have changed a line and it was the cutting line, not the stitching line. So for me this is necessary.

This looked too large for Carly so I added equidistant horizontal and vertical lines front and back (in blue) and decreased the width a total of one half inch. I did this by cutting on that vertical line and then overlapping an 1/8th of an inch. I decided not to futz with the bodice length at this point.

Next I folded out the center back seam so I could have a smooth flow to the design line. Using my curve, I drew in the new front bodice upper edge and redrew the seam allowances. I matched the shoulder seams and then drew the back bodice edge. Here is where it starts getting tricky. You need to mark your pieces at this point as to whether they are right or wrong side, very important because by the time all the pieces are cut this can get confusing. Marking the pieces is critical here. You can see the big "WRONG"on the back bodice as it will be flipped to be cut.

After getting the bodices cut out with their new shape and new seam lines it was time to trace the pieces for a lining pattern. For the lining I simply traced the front bodice . This has not been divided for the two contrasting fabrics yet. For the back bodice lining piece I traced each side of the bodice also before dividing. Now I have three lining pieces, a full front, and the two different backs. Once again, mark the right and wrong side as well if you are using a print for the lining. Put the lining pieces aside to avoid confusion.
Now to divide. I placed the pieces so both of the right sides were up, meaning that the seams of the spaghetti strap side were facing each other. I measured over two inches from the center front on the spaghetti strap side and cut. I did the same to the spaghetti strap side on the back. This will be where the piping will be inserted.
Slice up the center back and front now. Seam allowances need to be added to all the seams other than center back as that one is already included. Here is a closeup of the front bodice sliced:

I marked each piece as to whether it was a print or a solid, very important.
And here you can see the lining pieces lined up in the top row and the bodice pieces in the bottom row:

I think at this point you can really appreciate Betty's feat of engineering and her great original design. Betty is one year younger than my Mom and you can see that this 50 plus year old design has stood the test of time. I can't wait to sink my hands into the fabric cutting! Thanks, Betty, for all you input and inspiration.


  1. Oh, Bunny. Thank you for this. I had seen this and read through the instructions -- and promptly gave up! Now I'm going to do a "sew-along-with-Bunny". I think that dress is adorable.


  2. Wow... just amazing! Simple but complicated, and I'd never guess it originated decades ago! Thanks so much (Betty and Bunny) for sharing!

  3. Sweet dress! It will be interesting to see your version come to life.

  4. That dress is wonderful!! I will be doing this one for at least one of my grand daughters. Hum.... which one? Maybe all four.

  5. This is so creative and so much fun - loved seeing all your directions and how to's.

  6. That dress is just adorable! I wish I had a Betty in my life :) Thanks for taking the time to show us the process and thanks to Betty for sharing her design!

  7. Wow, wow WOW! I love it. I want one in my size. Hmmm . . maybe I will make one in my size. Betty is a marvelous soul and quite clever, too. I love the fact that it was designed in my favorite era, too! Now, off to search the collection a suitable pattern to swirl and slice, and some fabric yardage.

  8. Love Betty's design. I might just have to copy that for one of my five granddaughters. So cute. Can't wait to see your version. I started a blog maybe you can take a little look see.

  9. nice and very original. you know, these clothes are small works of art. thanks for showing. have a good weekend, Paco

  10. What a marvelous dress! Thank you and Betty for sharing this wonderful masterpiece!


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