What is red without green for the Christmas holiday? It sounds like a really good duo all broken up. I made sure the two colors of the holidays were brought together by my current sewing.
My previous post, my 1946 dress, documented a red wool dress for wearing to my holiday functions, but actually I made a deep green knit dress a few weeks beforehand. This green knit cowl neck dress became my actual Christmas day party dress. I was the girl in green, with green legs, too, and gold sparkle shoes and necklace. Making a little bit of a modern look to match my red vintage dress gave me one more good reason to anticipate getting snazzed up!
This dress pattern is a definite winner, with some interesting details and different shaping. Just pick a solid color that you love and find a fabric that drapes nicely, and you can’t go wrong with Butterick #5523 for wintertime sewing.
FABRIC: a 100% cotton double knit fabric in a deep ‘forest’ green jewel tone, having a cut of just over 2 yards (60 inch width); my lining fabric was a polyester “active” jersey knit, in a deep navy blue, leftover from lining my burnout knit 4th of July dress (link here)
NOTIONS: none needed; I had the buttons, elastic, and necessary thread
PATTERN: Butterick 5523, year 2010
TIME TO COMPLETE: somewhere between 10 to 12 hours is my estimate; it was finished on December 6, 2013
THE INSIDES: as the ends don’t fray and were quite thick with the lining, I merely zig zagged the ends. Not the best finish, I know, but o.k. enough to make me happy
TOTAL COST: around $12; the green knit, the lining knit, and the buttons were bought about 3 years ago, with the knit being divided between 2 projects (so far). It’s hard to estimate price at this point, so let’s consider it almost free.
As I just mentioned, this dress project is a 3 year UFO that is finally finished, after languishing uncut and in the “idea” stage on my shelf. Even two different cards of buttons, just to let me make up my mind as it was done, were kept with the pattern and fabrics. Another project off a long list of things I’ve been wanting to make is always very relieving!
This dress was relatively easy to put together, with the many pleats across the waist of the skirt and the pleats on the sleeve caps taking up a fair amount of time and skill. The sizing was pretty much right on as well. There is an elastic casing made from sewing down the seam allowance at the empire waist (something I haven’t done before). As a winter dress, it has an interesting cowl-type neckline, which can be changed to twist up the look, but needs some hand stitching time to be finished. I will explain more about these design elements later. Firstly, however, I was on the lookout for B5523’s “personality flaws”, mentioned by many others who have also blogged about making their own version of this dress. I wanted to make sure to fix several quirks while my dress was still at the pattern stage.
One big tricky feature of this pattern is the bracelet length sleeves (i.e. like a slightly high water long sleeve), which are cleverly hidden by the envelope cover model. She has her sleeves pushed up, like they are long wrist length originally, and even the pattern envelope back sadly lies and mentions ‘long sleeves’. If you are making this dress and that sleeve length is o.k. for you, then leave this pattern piece as is. Otherwise, be forewarned you will have to do what I did – use the pattern piece from a sleeve that you like so you can cut B5523 according to a length that you want: long, short or 3/4th. I opted for a long sleeve, and sewed it in tighter because I thought the appearance of a skinny sleeve matched well with the rest of the dress.
The combination of my personal taste and large upper arms dictates the fact that I like nicely fitting shoulder seams in garments I wear, whether made by me or not. Sometimes I fail a bit in reaching this area of fitting perfection, but drooping shoulders are something I (and others as well, I’m sure) cannot stand. This dress pattern has a very droopy shoulder seam, especially at the top where the shoulder seam joins the sleeve cap. The droopy shoulder can be seen looking very closely at the envelope picture and a few finished dresses seen on Google Images, as well as read about on a few bloggers’ reviews.
My easy fix to remedy such a problem, was to first put the bodice front pattern piece up against myself and estimate how much needs to be taken off (considering in seam allowances, of course) so the sleeve ends up fitting naturally around my arm/shoulder joint. I folded in the top shoulder corner facing the sleeve on the bodice front pattern piece, smoothing it into a straight line down to the triangular tab (see my picture). The shoulder area of the sleeve was left alone since several bloggers complained of too much poufiness around the sleeve top below the box pleat. Sure enough, my configurations worked out great – the shoulder seam ends at the right spot around my arm. The sleeve cap pleat also is looking great from being pulled in farther across the point of my shoulder so the fullness opens up right at my biceps’ width. Knits make fitting so much easier, but I regard this dress as one of my project that reached a sleeve/shoulder fitting perfection.
Check out my picture closely and you should be able to see how I raised the neckline at the center so it doesn’t dip quite so low to be revealing. My neckline became more of a U, instead of a curved V, and just this new shape, raising the center up 1 1/2 inches, made a BIG (but good) difference.
I wished I had bought a bit more fabric than the pattern calls for to accommodate all my changes listed so far. As I didn’t have this advantage, some changes I wanted to make had to get “cut short”, literally. The overall length (neck down to hem) of this dress was a bit short for my preference and for many others, from what I have read by other bloggers. My dress’ hem could only be extended 1 extra inch, on account of my fabric amount. Other ladies lengthened their versions 3 or so inches, and I almost wish I could have done that, too. I sewed on 1/2 inch bias tape, in a matching green, along the bottom raw edge, then turned this inside so I would not loose much length as compared to a regular 2 times sewn under hem. Anyway, a shorter hem on this cowl neck dress seems to go well with the flare of all the darts in the skirt portion – I think this dress’ design can look a bit frumpy with the wrong fabric drape or length.
Speaking of length, the bodice portion of this B5523 doesn’t seem to give much room for women who are, let’s say, ‘well endowed’. So, if that phrase includes you, or if you simply do not like empire waists, remember to add length to the bottom of the front bodice and extend the top half down lower.
I don’t know how much of a difference it makes, but some ladies recommended doing box pleats (link here) for all the pleats. The pattern only calls for box pleats for the two center front and two center back pleats, along with the one at the top of the sleeve cap. It seems this dress pattern has been used to make some very nice looking maternity wear, and I was afraid the pleats were indeed a possible root cause to this appearance. However, I did follow the pattern’s instructions, and, apart from being a bit paranoid this dress makes me look fat, I really don’t think the pleats are all that bad.
Doing the cowl neck was fun and interesting. Several others who also made this dress had some really good ideas of how to customize the cowl neck. What I basically understood is that if one wants the large, oversized funnel-neck type of style that can be folded down, than hand sew the inside of the cowl neck evenly matched up with all neckline darts. Otherwise, if you want your cowl neck to look more like a scarf, fashionably draped around the neckline of this dress, then slightly twist the inside seam so that the darts and center back seam do not match and are off in one direction or the other. My finished dress is done in the first “oversized funnel-neck” method I mentioned, with all the seams matched up. I always fuss with the neckline too much, and am not completely happy with how it lays, making me wish I had done the “twisted up” method instead. However, I think the problem is really me…I don’t have and don’t wear cowl neck clothes and this design is just something new to me. In the end, I really do like the neckline of my dress because it not only presents a nice frame for the face, but it also keeps my neck warm!
If you noticed a darker green color at the darts, back tab, and cowl neck, I can explain. (If you didn’t notice before, I guess you do now.) My dress had gone to a trip through the wash, and dryer as well, but the opportunity for a photo shoot arose before the fabric was completely dry. So the dark spots are the damp parts, and with the several inches of snow that were on the ground outside, I was feeling the cold breeze, to be sure. You’d never guess it, though, right?
The part of this dress that really makes it all the more green is something other than the color. My buttons chosen to be sewn down to the back tab are actually 100% recycled plastic. Yes – great isn’t it!?! Who knew! The buttons look like a sort of stone or marble, and are a beautiful, creamy, off-white color.
By the way, is it just me or is the mention of cutting interfacing for the back tab completely missing until you get to the middle of the assembly instruction? I think it is missing, at least early enough to help. I didn’t bother with interfacing…I do all my cutting at one time and that’s that, except for special reasons. The tab is fine without interfacing, and I very much like what it adds to the back of the dress as far as style and interest. About half of other peoples’ finished versions of this dress were lacking the back tab, and also the waistband elastic. “To each his own” as the phrase goes; they can make their clothes how they like. For myself, I found the waistband elastic gathering complimentary, while the back tab gave me the opportunity to show of my love for buttons and all things green.
See – being green is not just for the holiday season. It’s always in season! Be ever green.