Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer and mom of two little ones. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals.
I believe you can love your home just the way it is, AND have the power to design and make big changes to make it better.
I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

A frustrating pattern, a re-worked dress

I've probably complained before about how dumpy modern patterns are.  Even the cute ones, are meant to fit baggy and without shape.  I think this may be because the main market for dress patterns is older women, and sometimes even on the package the dress on the model looks bad but you can tell it would look better if it FIT!  I usually check my measurements on the pattern, decide I am a 14, cut out a 12 because of my fear of this phenomenon, and have to take the garment in to an 8 or 10 to make it fit!  I also use slightly smaller seam allowances in most places than patterns require, but still.  Does anyone else have this problem?
Case in point, the dress I made from this pattern:
I had some cute cotton/spandex plaid in light colors, and I imagined a cute shirt-dress with sort of a vintage flair, maybe add some lace to it and give it a romantic, soft, Anthro-ey look.  I cut out the puff-sleeve, high collar version of the pattern and started sewing.
I got so into it that I didn't stop to try it on, hold it up, or think about how it was turning out.  I sewed the zipper in and everything.  How silly of me.  I try it on, and it looks like a potato sack with some lace and a collar!  It was too awful to take a picture of with me wearing it, but here's what it looked like first:
Trust me, it was bad.  Several inches too big around the empire waist, HUGE, long puffy sleeves, super high collar that hides all the skin there... I thought about adding a tie sash to cinch it up, but it was too far gone.  I was embarrassed and sad, because I was really excited about using the fabric to make something girly and pretty and original. 
So, ready to give up and start over but without enough fabric to do much of anything, I... gasp! cut the dress apart.
I turned under the edges of the armholes and neck opening.  Because of the interfacing and multiple layers in the very center where the neck placket used to be, the fabric was too thick and looked lumpy and bad.  So I added some trim with more of the lace--
I thought about making a floret but couldn't make one that looked good...
So I just added a ruffle.
I looked at something like this for inspiration:
And here are some other cute plaid dresses, before you see mine:
Hm, looking at these makes me wish I had given mine a natural waist... but, too late now.  Here's a pic!


  1. This seems to be a problem with so many patterns. The Simplicity Project Runway patterns seem to be thrown together without anyone actually making the pattern. Wish they would hire us to make the pattern before they sell it.

  2. What a pain for you! It looks cute though, quite an improvement from the original that you described!

    I LOVE that third plaid dress you showed... where is that from?

  3. so cute! i love the first dress you show with the rows of lace, that would look great on your version too!

  4. Anonymous2/16/2010

    Love the final result!

  5. I acutually had the opposite problem! It was WAY too tight! I had to make the seam tiny! Hmm...

  6. This looks great! I'm so impressed!

  7. Hmmm I'm not convinced patterns are made for my age group as you suggest.
    You did a very nice job on the re-make.

  8. I can see where your vision came from, I was with you all the way - but that pattern just let you down! Love LOVE LOVE your inspiration dresses. I think your finished dress is pretty darn cute but it's the stupid waistline on everything these days that irritates me... a natural waist is so much more flattering most of the time, even if it doesn't feel like the safe option!

  9. Wow! I love all the shirts (from the last few posts) and this dress!! You are so creative!

  10. I just bought this pattern, and I think I like your remake better! Good work!

  11. Sad to say, the fashion-forward look these days is baggy -- take a look at the runway!

    I think that it's actually a look more suited to younger women, since we older women, regardless of our dress-size, tend to have wide hips in proportion to our waists and shoulders (like, it must be said, the fantastic Michelle Obama). Wearing a sack that blouses out at the hips may make for a forgiving fit, but not a flattering one! I think older women these days want sheath dresses with a waistline somewhere between natural waist and empire -- again, taking many of our fashion cues from Mrs. Obama. NOT dresses with gathers at the shoulder, bust or waist, which is part of the baggy fashions-du-jour.

    Thanks for your post -- love the photos and the dissection of the situation!

  12. Just found your blog, looks like you do great work. And I love that you're not afraid to 'mess' up. Good job.

  13. I have that same dang pattern in my stash! I haven't had a whole lot of luck with 'Project Runway' patterns in general... too many options?
    Regardless, your remake is fantastic!

  14. I have found sizing to be a problem too (directions say I'm a 12, I usually make a 10), especially with knit patterns! Knit STRETCHES; you'd think they'd err on the small side. I have never been a size 6! I found a $1/yard knit in the Hancock clearance area and have to use that to make muslins for EVERY knit pattern now. It saves me the good fabric, but does not save me time! Also, it drives me absolutely bonkers that the Project Runway patterns have yardages for each element, instead of an overall. If I had less experience sewing and couldn't estimate for myself, I'd overbuy on fabric every time.

    Your dress looks great! Love the references images too!

  15. Great job! You're intrepid.

    The problem I have with patterns is they assume everyone is a B cup. I'm a C or D, depending on whether I'm breastfeeding, and most patterns leave me quite bare -- or the empire waist line ends up going straight across my chest rather than under it. Pattern companies need to include extra pieces to compensate for it. I'm not skilled enough to "fix" it myself!

  16. Hi, folks!
    Some of you mentioned the Project Runway patterns are younger-looking, and they are, but they're still sized for the same fit as most patterns! Ugh!
    Thanks for all your sympathy about ill-fitting patterns, by the way.
    And Holly, I have used some patterns that have separate pattern pieces for cup sizes A, B, and C/D. I will do a post about this soon. It is really helpful for some of us that don't want to remake patterns to fit!

  17. I am glad I am not the only one with this problem (I just came to your blog through Ucreate, love it!!) I just started pattern sewing and found that according to my measurements I should make a 16 (I am a 10 in real life). So I made a 14 and my shirt was a tent!! Made a 10 after that and it was still a bit big, but wearable. Is this normal for the patterns to be that off????

  18. Silvia4/05/2010

    I had similar problems with Burda patterns... I think I really need to start measuring the pattern before deciding on the size. Using simply the size reference guide might throw you off. If you have tips on how to best do it, I would be happy to read about it.

  19. Yes, I've noticed that following the sizing charts on the patterns still gives me dresses that are way too big (and I'm not even a small person). And they do look like sacks a lot of the time. Even a belt or significant alterations don't help in showing that I have a waist and I'm not just a blob with arms.

  20. Cynthia6/21/2010

    I feel your pain! Sizing and patterns is just so inconsistent. When I buy a pattern, I treat it as purchasing a concept as opposed to a tool. I don't cut the tissue pattern up; instead I trace it off on exam table paper (very inexpensive). I treat version 1.0 as a proof of concept...if it works, I'm happy and I get a free garment! If it doesn't work out, then I solve the fitting problems on cheap fabric that I wasn't too attached to.



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