Saturday, June 11, 2011

Vogue 8726 - Mother-of-the-Graduate Dress

I am not a dress girl. Let's establish that fact up front. :)

I made a dress last October. It was a black and white Sandra Betzina dress. I have never worn it once, though I do like it. A week ago I asked my daughter, who graduated from high school today, if it would be a good dress to wear for her graduation. She replied that she'd rather see me in something with color.

Rats. Why did I ask her, anyway? :)

I took this as a challenge. I decided to make a dress with some color. I quickly went through the Vogue, Butterick, and McCalls offerings. I clicked on parts of the pattern catalog that were totally unfamiliar to me.


I came up with this Vogue pattern. I liked the side panels, but there was much I knew I would have to alter.

I bought the pattern and fabric on sale at JoAnns. I rarely go to JoAnns, but I was under a time crunch. Did you know that, according to the unfriendly sales associates at this particular JoAnns, that they have removed all mirrors from all JoAnns? It is (so they told me) a corporate-wide edict. If true, that tells me that JoAnns has really decided they are done with garment sewists.

But I did buy a colorful, wild print, even though I was unable to hold it against my body to see if I liked the print/color on me.


  • Sweater knit from JoAnns.
  • Black poly/lycra knit used for contrast bindings.

Alterations and Modifications:

  • The pattern drawing is misleading.

    Note how it shows that the insets land on the waistline. This is not accurate. It's hard to see the details of the finished dress on the envelope, because it's black, but the insets actually land on the model above the waist.

    I lightened these photos and added arrows pointing to the top of the inset seam. It is definitely above the model's waist, not at her waist.

    When I held the pattern tissue to my body, the insets landed on my bust, not below it. This is not a good look for me. The first alteration I made was to slash the pattern, both front and back, between the armscye and bust dart (about an inch below the armscye) and added 2". This lowered the inset and the bust dart.

    The back bodice, lowered, and the back neck, raised.

  • After lowering the entire bodice, I sliced the front pattern horizontally, about an inch above the inset. I then did the FBA just on the upper portion, as I did not want to add width to the lower portion. I then merged the upper and lower portions together.

    The pattern piece is upside down, but the bodice has been lowered, then the lower part has been sliced off and the FBA added. Finally, the upper and lower portions were merged back together. This is how I do an FBA without adding width to the part of the garment where I don't need it.

  • The pattern is designed for wovens, but I made it out of a knit. I eliminated the back zipper.
  • The pattern has no pieces for facings, as it is intended to be completely lined. I omitted the lining and finished the neckline with a narrow contrast knit binding in black. I didn't follow this technique exactly, but here is an excellent video on a neckline binding by Threads magazine, featuring Sarah Veblen.
  • To echo the neckline binding, I put flat piping on the side panel seams.
  • I lengthened the cap sleeves to below elbow length. I finished them with the contrast binding.
  • I topstitched all seams.
  • At the end, during the fitting, I raised the bodice by re-sewing the shoulder seams one inch further down. I think that my original alterations were fine, per se, but the knit was stretchy and a bit heavy, so it hung lower.
  • I sewed the bust darts and upper side seams towards the very end, so I could pin them right on the body.
  • I narrowed the shoulder about 3/4".
  • I made the longer length on the pattern and just did a 1" hem. It's pretty long, and I'm not sure if it's the most flattering length. If I wear this dress again, I can always shorten it further.

Notice how I show the dress with a wrap. This is because I do not think it is a flattering dress on me, even though it fits me pretty well. Is this because of the wild print? The silhouette? The fabric? I'm not sure, but I did wear it, with the wrap. Later today, when the same daughter had a ballet performance, I wore my black and white Sandra Betzina dress. I just think it's a more flattering dress, though I wore the same wrap with it.

Ready for the ballet, though I should have photographed it with the same wrap.

The best shot I could get of the dress, sans wrap.

Pic taken when I got home from the graduation.


  1. Both dresses look very nice, but, y'know what? I love the blue dress! The three quarter sleeves are very flattering, and the rounded neckline. And I really like how you've outlined those inserts in black; making a feature out of these panels that otherwise would just blend in with the rest of the dress.
    And, I adore the hairdo!!!

    No mirrors? Sounds like customers need to start registering their opinion to the sales assistants frequently; to get that changed.... what a silly policy.

  2. I agree with Carolyn, I think the blue dress looks very nice on you, far better than you think it does.

    I have to disagree with Carolyn about complaining to the sales staff about the lack of mirrors, they will have no say at all about the store fixtures, complain to head office, and complain often. 8-)

  3. I don't know if the mirror ban really is a Joann policy, but I can tell you that there was a mirror at my local Joann as of two days ago, when I last shopped there. But the one we have here may be an anomaly... the staff there is quite friendly, despite being overworked, and they actually know how to cut fabric properly.

  4. You look fabulous in this blue dress (w/out the wrap!), and I think you should reconsider wearing dresses more often :-) I love what you did with the piping. Thanks for posting the details showing your alterations.

  5. The blue dress looks very nice on you. It is more colorful. But I do think the polka dot dress is quite interesting. However, the smile on a mom of a graduate - the best of all!

  6. For someone who doesn't do dresses you picked a pretty awesome print and added just the right embellishment to make the dress sing! However, if you don't feel comfortable in amount of praise that we shower upon you and your very lovely dress is going to change your mind. Although I think it's wonderful that you did this for your daughter!

    Diary of a Sewing Fanatic
    (I think it's time I complain to blogger that I can't sign into certain accounts!!!)

  7. I agree with all who have commented so far-the blue dress is very flattering.

  8. I'm looking through the eyes of a non-dress person, since that's me too. I suspect that both dresses look better on you than you think; however, I get why you don't wear them (although I really DO think the polka dots dress is a flattering look on you!). I'm not wild about the lines on the blue dress either, but love the fabric on you! And the blue shoes! YUM!

    But then, I see all these dress reviews on PR that people rave over, & I don't get the enthusiasm.

    All that said, I'm seriously thinking about making a dress for myself this summer? Wanna talk me out of it? ;^D

    Oh yeah...I USED to wear (and love) dresses when I lived in the tropics. Maybe it's cold ass Bay Area weather.....

  9. Well Shams - First, I love the blue fabric. Do I like the dress on you ..... not so much. But I do love the polka dot one. Your 'girls' are so prominent that a dress that outlines them really makes you look pear-shaped. I'm thinking it might be the length as well....? You look like a mother in the blue and in the polka dot you look like a mother with style and sass! Being a mother, it's important to our children that a times we fit what they think we should look like. Keep the blue one for those occasions.

  10. I bought this pattern at the last JoAnn Vogue sale, intending to make an LBD from it, so I'm very grateful for the heads' up about the seaming; I'd never have caught that.

    Though dresses are a stretch for you, I think this blue one is far more attractive on you that you are willing to credit! I love what you did with the trim, too, especially along the seams. It's the perfect touch with the wild print.

    The print is light and fun in a way that isn't Shams-typical, but seems very Shams-compatible. Good for you for branching out! (Good for the kid for giving you a nudge, too.)

  11. I like the blue dress, color looks great on you. Weather-wise I can see why you make a lot of separates and great jackets, with lots of opportunities to wear them. But reconsider the dress - you look good in both.
    as for the lack of mirrors in Joanns - that store drives me so crazy, I try to buy only the 99 cents on-sale patterns and super discounted stuff there.

  12. I also think this blue dress is more becoming than you may think. What I like about it is the color on you. Wear more color! I think you can definitely wear this a few more times and know that it is flattering.

    Now the polka dots...exceptional fabric and design choices for your body, just a perfect combination.

  13. I like the blue fabric, but no so much the pattern. It looks like it is really narrow in the front and back. To me it just looks unbalanced. I think the side panel things would look better if the distance between them at the hem level was wider. My .02 worth!

  14. Your dress is very pretty.The colour is great on you! I think the piping in the skirt did not do it justice though. I think it broke the flow of the skirt. I love the Sandra Betzina dress. You look sassy and confident in it. But I guess we want to please our daughters sometimes so I totally understand you wanting to wear something she approved of.

  15. I love the little extras you add to any garment you make. The print of the black and white dress is really interesting and the way you used the dot gradation, and created the black section at center front is neat. But I think the colors on the print dress are much more flattering to you than the black, and the fit is perfect.

  16. Well, I think BOTH of these dresses are JUST RIGHT. The polka-dots are a little funkier, and the blue one is a great color on you. I don't have much room to say anything since I NEVER WEAR DRESSES EITHER, :o) but I REALLY like both of these on you! Not only that, but I think you look taller in dresses, too -- ha! Maybe it's those SHOES with the blue dress that are giving that impression. You should send them to me, so I could see if I'm right about that. Ha-ha. (Okay, I'm sure you don't wear a size 10!)

    Have you seen the latest Betzina dress pattern? YES, I bought it, so just in case I make it, I can never wear it!

    I'm signing in as "ANONYMOUS," because I never can remember my stinkin' username or password. It's ME, ANNETTE! :o)

  17. Aren't daughters the best? I love the blue on you, and the black piping shows the interesting shaping, but it looks more like you with the wrap!

  18. The blue print is the sort of thing I would pick for myself, and I think its the nature of the print that's not naturally your look. The black/white dots is more funky and your natural style.
    The blue print works well colour wise though and looks fun with the wrap.
    I like the piping detail on the skirt panels and think you could really go to town with that idea, lots of piping on soimething with a lot more skirt panels, but keeping any tops very simple.

  19. Hey, I have that pattern! It's lovely on you, and the fabric choice really makes it "yours". As always, seeing your interpretation is such an inspiration that I want to go grab it out of my pattern stash and start playing with it.

    Our (fairly new) JoAnn's has bootleg mirrors hung in the fashion fabric area, but I'll not reveal it's location lest corporate come and take them away. Heck, they even let people use the restrooms -- anyone remember THAT debacle a few years back? Did corporate rescind that?

  20. Both dresses look great on you, Shams. Your attention to detail and beautiful fit make all your projects look terrific.

  21. I like both dresses -- the color of the blue one is so striking on you!

  22. Kathleen O'Brien klauren designsJune 18, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    As has already been said, you should reconsider the not wearing of dresses - you look wonderful in dresses and skirts too! And those shoes with the blue, you just gotta love the combination, so fashionable.

    Thanks so much for the way you describe your process on construction, it really makes me think about getting certain patterns (or not!) In this case, loved the Sandra Bettiza one so much on you, I got it and already have made it twice!