Monday, March 17, 2014

A Dress with Draped Hem - Butterick 5986

When this Katherine Tilton pattern came out I didn't see it as a great look for me.

It didn't help that the model on the envelope obscured her midsection by clutching her arms. What is she hiding? :)

I prefer a closer fit through the torso, rather than an a-line dress that hangs from the bust. When you are busty, and a garment increases in girth from the bust, it looks like you just keep getting bigger.

Not a flattering look for me.

When I looked at the line drawing, it definitely looked loose through the torso.

Then I saw this dress in the Tilton fashion show at Puyallup. It was worn by a busty model and it fit her closely through the torso. I quite liked that look, though I think it was made in a much smaller size than what would have been indicated for her bust measurement.

I loved the asymmetric hemline and the draping of this very Lagenlook-style dress, so I decided to give it a try, hoping that I could fit it more closely to my body.

There are no finished measurements on the pattern tissue and, in fact, the bust point is not marked. This pattern has no side seams, no shoulder seams, and consists of a single pattern piece that extends from center front to center back. That is not strictly true. There are TWO (huge) pattern pieces, but they differ only in the hem shape - there is one for the left side of the body, and another for the right side. The cowl collar is "cut on" - it is not a separate pattern piece.

The best feature of this dress is the draped hem. Make sure that you mark all of the marks at the hem. The marks are labeled A to H, and you will need those marks. Two pleats complete some of the hem, a casing (filled with elastic) completes some of the hem, and the rest of the hem is turned up and sewn. In this last section of hem, after hemming, there is a corner which is turned to the inside and attached to another point on the hem.

The wild hem really makes this dress!

The design of this pattern makes it difficult to determine how a given size will fit. I made a size 16 and it was quite large through the torso. If I make this again, I will make the smallest size on the pattern.

I mentioned that this dress has no side seam and no shoulder seam. This means that the armscye is a hole that you cut into the pattern piece. This can be a bit problematic if you need to narrow the shoulder.

I always have to narrow a Vogue/Butterick/McCalls pattern in the shoulder by 1.5" - 2". You might wonder, how the heck does one modify a pattern where the armhole is a hole cut into the fabric?

I will tell you!

What you do is "move" the hole. For example, to narrow a shoulder by 1.5", you move the armscye hole up (towards the collar/neckline) by 1.5". Make sure you do this on both pattern pieces since there is a separate piece for the left side of the body, and for the right side of the body.

This might be a good garment to make in a test fabric before you cut into the "good" stuff.

For this dress, I used a slinky knit that was gifted to me in a fabric swap of local sewers.

Because the dress was too loose through the torso, I made a couple tweaks to achieve a closer fit:

  • I "scooped" more fabric from the CF seam below the bust.
  • I removed fabric at the side waist by taking a very generous "tuck" where a side seam would have been, if there were a side seam. You can see this effect in the twirling photo below.
Check out the side tuck

I also tapered the sleeve from the elbow to the wrist, removing a couple inches at the sleeve hem for a closer fit.

I did NOT do an FBA on this dress. I certainly didn't need additional width for the bust, and it wasn't needed vertically either, since the hem is already asymmetric.

This dress has only a few seams and is a very fast sew!

With my fit modifications, which removed approximately 18" through the torso, I like this dress. It's very comfy, though I think I would wear it with taller boots next time!

There have been a few more posts about Puyallup 2014! I've updated my list. (I am keeping the list on the Puyallup Inspiration post to keep everything in one place.)

I hope you had a nice St Patrick's Day! I searched my wardrobe for green and I ended up wearing the only green thing I could find, my Swamp Green Mizono top!


  1. I love your fabric choice! It really makes the dress sing. I'm surprised that you didn't like this for you before Puyallup because I thought of you when the pattern first came out!

  2. Great fabric choice for the pattern and I love the boots!

  3. That is a great look for you, I think that the design balances your body beautifully!

  4. Gosh, how productive you still are, despite your new job! More so than me atm, but I so enjoy reading your posts and this dress is brilliant. I was wary of the loose fit too but you look great and the draped hem is awesome.

  5. Thanks so much for sharing... I had planned on using this pattern soon; so helpful to have your insights!!

  6. This dress looks awesome! Great fabric print too.

  7. This dress is super...the fabric is gorgeous. You were right to tweak the's very flattering.

  8. "what is she hiding" hahahaha!

    I knew you would make this, and that I would love it :) Nicely done!

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    1. Thanks for the review of this one! Cute dress...did you change the neck depth at all?
      Now, off to revisit your Puyallup list! ;)

  10. What a hit! Looks fantastic on you. You've convinced me to give it a try.

  11. Super interesting dress! Love the fabric and the hemline...

  12. I made one this weekend! And working on number 2 in the "good" stuff, although I realized after cutting that I could have modified some more .... but am coming up with a creative work around. Yours looks fantastic! - Heather

  13. Another pattern I thought I wouldn't buy..............until now

  14. Lovely! and I agree--great fabric! :)

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  16. VERY nicely done! heehee, i love it when creative thinkin' wins out!! i was writing with Alison (of Acorn Cottage) on an unrelated matter recently, we were reveling in the fact that age and craftiness is so many times triumphant ;)

    i've had my eye on this pattern since it came out, i love the hem and the neckline. I'm pretty busty which wouldn't be so overwhelming except i have very wide square shoulders on top of it, unless i 'cut that space up' it's way too imposing (i ain't maggie thatcher). So i immediately thought of the workarounds you performed when envisioning this dress for myself.

    I've found that if you indicate the bust and the ribcage for around 2" ( + or - ) below the bust, even us full figured gals can wear just about anything we want. If you don't want, why bother ;) i really like this choice of fabric, too! you know you could wear a long, skinny scarf with or a long lean necklace, even dangly earrings if you want to boost up the long line feel (as well as higher heeled boots). Or try a closer-fitting little cropped jacket, could be fun too.

    Great look on you, great example to encourage ladies to try some looks they'd first thought of writing off, and great tips!! Happy Day, steph

  17. What a dress! The shape is wonderful, and it looks great on you!

  18. This is great on you! I looked longingly at this pattern and decided that it would never look good on my busty, curvy body and let it pass. You've surprised me with how wonderful the changes you've made work on this to fit your body and your style. Love the fabric as well.

  19. shams, you got your own great personal style finding those unusual patterns plus your awesome skills= winner

  20. I did the same thing. After wearing the dress a few times I realized the fullness in the front was driving me crazy... Pinned out many inches in tucks at the sides. I like the dress on you but I can see that the skirt is wonderful.