it wasn’t meant to be


I had high hopes, guys, SUCH high hopes for this dress.

It was going to kickstart years of sewing vintage patterns. It was going to add some unique flavor to my wardrobe without detracting from my personal style. It was going to live in that sweet spot between effortless-casual and pulled-together-work-appropriate.

Or, you know, not!

I haven’t really posted about THIS kind of project before; my posts tend to be about my favorite makes, the success stories. But that’s not really a realistic portrayal of sewing, is it?

So here we go: I made this dress, and I really don’t like it. Let’s punctuate that with many, many GIFs of Liz Lemon, even though I haven’t watched “30 Rock” in ages and can’t remember where they all come from.

Luckily, I figured out my failure before I got to my least favorite part: finishing seams and hemming. Unluckily, I did not figure it out before completing almost all of it and adding all the snaps. Oh, well. I learned a lot. This dress featured:

  • my first collar (admittedly, a foldover collar);
  • my first fly facing, over the button placket;
  • my first Snap Setter snaps.

It also featured an uninterrupted series of disasters. Let’s discuss.


This was my first experience (another first!) with tencel-cotton blend chambray. I got mine from Hawthorne Threads. They’re sold out, but here’s some at Imagine Gnats and here’s some at

I love the stuff — it feels nice, and the tencel is supposed to combat wrinkling. But when they tell you not to put it in the dryer, they are not joking.


[ pillstravaganza ]

I, as a committed member of the school of Pre-Wash It Harder Than You’ll Wash It, threw it in the dryer during the prewash. Well, the whole thing pilled, all 2.25 yards. So the texture went from smooth with a slight sheen to very, very soft and felted. Or, let’s be frank, pilled. I told myself “IT LOOKS VINTAGE” and vowed to attack it with a pill remover when the garment was done. Good thing I didn’t waste time on that beforehand.


anne adams pattern   SONY DSC

Looking at the pattern illustration, I thought I saw  a loose sleeve and a gored A-line skirt.  What you’re actually looking at there is a structured, darted sleeve cap and a skirt that’s slim through the high hip with pleats opening up below that point.

You knew this was coming: I didn’t make a muslin. See, I’m a very typical pear shape, and I generally don’t need to fuss about the measurements of an A-line skirt; it’ll usually fit. But this was a slim skirt masquerading as an A-line skirt, and it didn’t fit at all. Combine a blousy 1940s bodice with a too-tight skirt, and you’ve got a supremely unflattering look.

Those precious little pockets that the model is using — and let me tell you, they’re so preciously tiny that they’re absolutely useless — were pulling open right across my belly. Incredibly ugly.

My solution was to let out the skirt seams everywhere I could, which wasn’t enough. So I moved the snaps to the very edge of the skirt front pieces, which made them visible from the edges of the fly facing (see above). That’s saying nothing of the potential danger of flashing people through a skirt opening that has virtually no overlap.

I was prepared to live with ALL  of this. I was going to make it work.


Then, after the dress was in timeout for awhile, I put it on and discovered the truth: Those big, structured sleeves on my broad shoulders (especially with that fabric) made me look like a Hulk-y extra in District 12 of “The Hunger Games,” and I hated it.

Into the closet. The end.

So! Maybe I don’t understand my personal style after all. I love a 1940s day dress so much that I didn’t really think about how that era’s emphasis on big ole shoulders might actually be terrible for me.

I wish I had that before I had taken the time to carefully trace my vintage pattern, and also before I used up 2.25 yards of not-on-sale fabric (gasp!), but, you know, it gave me an excuse to enjoy some gifs.

And yet I’m not really that bummed about this. Is that a sign of sewing maturation? I learned a lot, and maybe I’ll find something else to fulfill my Vintage Pledge 2015.

I’m currently revising my sewing plans for spring. If anyone has any advice about how to recover from a major wadder, I’m all ears.

Pattern: Anne Adams 4158, 1940s mail-order dress pattern, size 16 (34″ bust)
Fabric: 2.25 yards 58″ Kaufman tencel chambray from Hawthorne Threads, about $18.50, all wasted.


8 thoughts on “it wasn’t meant to be

  1. We’ve all had these types of projects – glad you are posting about yours! It really makes everyone else who f’s up feel normal 🙂 I didn’t know you couldn’t dry that fabric, so you’ve taught me something new. I did think it looked like an outfit from The Hunger Games, but I think it was the color and 40’s style? Either way, live and learn and move on, right?!

    • Right! Absolutely. I’ve already dug in to my next project — a TNT to lift my spirits — so hopefully this’ll be in the rearview mirror soon enough. Or, who knows, maybe I’ll wake up one day with an idea of how to fix it. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Oh no what a shame, could you order more fabric and make a new skirt? I recently did the same thing, I had this beautiful mock silk in a navy/white bird print and thought I’d make a simple elasticated waist dress and have enough left for a crop top. The dress looked AWFUL and when trying to salvage it as a top, it was so wonky and weird, the kimono sleeves suddenly didn’t fit and ugh I finished it but I don’t think I can ever wear it.

    • Ordering more fabric for a skirt is actually a really good idea … unfortunately, I don’t really like the bodice! Ah well. I’m sorry to hear you had the same kind of experience recently. It’s good that we can all commiserate on the Interwebs!

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