Thursday 15 November 2018

Frocktails 2018 - Butterick 5882: Sort of

Frocktails! The one time of the year when I ignore the kids and their demands for new stuff, food, shelter etc... When I ignore almost every other aspect of my life and sew something just for the heck of it.

My annual excursion into sewing what Closet Case Patterns and True Bias are calling Sew Frosting - the trivial, frivolous, fabulous icing on the cake kind of sewing. For me this dress is 100% frosting - and true to the cake analogy I was only happy to dabble with it once I knew I had my solid back up cake outfit seen here

I had a vision in my head of using a wax print to make a vintage rockabilly style dress. I live in an area that has seen a large wave of Sudanese migration and wax print is often seen on the streets - usually worn by gorgeous, tall, leggy, dark skinned Sudanese women. There's no way I could wear it in the traditional manner without it looking like cultural appropriation at best, or just plain awful at worst.

I needed to find a middle aged white lady way to wear my wax print :)

Enter Gertie's patterns for Butterick... B5882

The words that I fell hard for were "shelf bra". Could this finally be the pattern that gave me cleavage? In my imagination that bias band that became the shoulder straps would go under my boobs and lift them sky high....

Before we dive in to the story of woe that is B5882, let's have another peek at what I'm calling my final success. It's not a trick of light, there is almost cleavage, folks!

Are you already cleverer than I? Have you looked at the sketch on the right of the pattern envelope and realised that there is no lift in this pattern? It took me a muslin to work that out...

My first muslin: Size 12, almost exactly as per the pattern (I'd already added 1" length at the waist here). Great fitting bodice but what is with that bust seam line? The "shelf" bit hits right on the apex of my boobs. I thought that must be a fitting error, but when I went back to the pattern there was the nipple target thingy (you know the circle plus thing that indicates bust apex) right on the seam. Wha???

So half my boobs are submerged below the seam line and the euphemistically labelled "cups" are actually like little pleated lids on top. I don't want tit lids. I want cups damn you.

What if I hoick it right down at the front?...

Getting there but I now have dangerously little coverage and those tit lids are so flat that they don't curve with the fullness (yes that's tongue in cheek) of my bust.

And of course hoicking down the front does no favours to how the bodice fits. Check out the amount of front drop as evidenced by the wonky waistline

So, I thought I can work with this,...
I just need to give it the ol' Melbourne treatment and lower it, mate

So I scooped probably two inches out of the front pattern pieces just by taking a texta and drawing a line under my bust where I thought the seam should hit.

Maybe I was flattering myself, but Liz was my inspiration and I hoped it could work

There's lots of reviews of this pattern where others have either not minded or not noticed the semi-submerged boob issue. A few good souls have called it out for the weirdness that it is. I pored over lots of pattern reviews, including Gertie's own version and found that there was also a lot of discrepancy in how the band was intended to be worn.

I let Liz lead the way and had it turned up all the way around, which of course, if it's supporting your bust as a true shelf bra, is how it would have to be.

Muslin number 2. Lowered, but then I had to figure our how to create real cups. I've never made a bra before but I searched for some online images of bra patterns to get an indication of what shaped pieces constituted a bra cup. This Cloth Habit post was really helpful.

I fashioned a cup similar to those in the link above, then draped my fabric onto a padded, strapless bra and pinned it in place to get the pleated outer cups.

I narrowed the straps from the original pattern and then cut only the section that was to go under and around the bust on the bias. You can just see the join where the bias cut bust part meets the straight-grain cut shoulder strap. The pattern has you cut the whole thing on the bias and other pattern reviews had already pointed out that that leads to the straps stretching out.

Here you can see my self drafted cups and the weirdly shaped, self drafted pleated cup piece underneath.

By now I was completely ignoring the pattern, so I invented my own way of giving the whole thing enough support. I handsewed horsehair braid onto the seam allowances of the bust seams, then stitched Rigolene boning to the front seams, and constructed a little harbour bridge of support. There is also a bent, formed piece of Rigolene sewn into the seam allowance under the bust where the bodice and the cups are joined.

It turns out you really can just make this shit up and it works. I never would have imagined!

Then I had a crisis of confidence about the skirt. I loved the way the wax print looked without any seam lines. The way it shone a little and swished as it moved. It has a really nice, crisp hand that makes it just perfect for a cocktail dress, or a seventies maxi dress....

I had been super careful to cut my bodice so that the front seams, centre back seam, and side back seams were all pretty much invisible as far as pattern matching went.

The idea of chopping the skirt into six bias cut sections and throwing pattern matching to the wind filled me with horror. But you know I did, so let's see that six panelled skirt twirl!

I went backwards and forwards on the skirt. I traced off no less than three different seventies patterns for their maxi skirt, before finally going to back to Gertie..

... and discovering it didn't fit on my fabric!

I had heaps of this fabric, but the print has such distinct bands of stripes that it would never have worked to cut panels up side down, or at staggered heights on the fabric. Every panel had to be cut with the centre bottom at the same height on the fabric. And suddenly my "heaps" was not enough.

That little hiccup at least hardened my resolve to make the Gertie skirt be the one I used (stubbornness being my middle name) and I shaved 3/4" of the bottom width of each skirt panel, tapering out to nothing by about two thirds of the way up the side of the panel.

I swapped out the lapped zipper for an invisible zip and lined the whole thing in a lovely bright grass green acetate lining.

Here's the only view of the back which my poor posture in the picture makes it look like I'm busting out of the seams - I didn't feel I was...

Now, I had my wax print rockabilly cocktail dress and I was ready for Frocktails. I couldn't work out what to do with my hair that would be quick and easy and so I made a little version of our Frocktails logo as a hair ornament

A friend had lent me her Silhouette Cameo stencil cutter - my gosh they're fun. I cut the Frocktails cocktail lady logo in two pieces of Kraft-Tex washable paper and then glued them together with a bit of my green lining fabric in between.

My hand bag for the night - which I can't tell you anything more about yet, was also brown Kraft-Tex. I'm really excited to share this with you, but it has to remain secret a bit longer (eeep!)

My co-organiser of Frocktails, Lisa, blew me out of the water with her dress - completely designed by her, from the fabric design and printing to the pattern drafting - all to match her crazy good Karl Lagerfeld shoes. How's that for Sew Frosting!

We sucked at synchronised twirling! :)

But I think we threw a pretty good cocktail party.

And now that I've finished ranting about the sucky pattern I'll close out with more pictures from Melbourne Frocktails 2018!

Prize Giveaways
First guest to turn up has to pose with the organisers. Thanks Lexie!

Finally meeting Sew This Pattern Annie - and look she's wearing green
Hang on, everyone is wearing green! :)
Lisa got a Silhouette Cameo cut logo hair thingy too!

Giving more stuff away thanks to our sponsors
And then I came home, completely smashed, washed my face and went to bed.

Pattern: Mostly B5882 but with the whole upper front completely redrafted. Proceed with caution.
Size: 12
Fabric: Vlisco wax print (from the stash via Brave Fabrics online shop - now closed) and acetate lining from Fabric Deluxe
Notions: invisible zip and Kraft-Tex hair accessory and bag.
Katie helped me with a 10 minute hair do and my face is entirely thanks to the MAC cosmetics counter at David Jones because I absolutely know my limits!


  1. Wow, Shelley!! First: you look STUNNING. That dress is gorgeous and so worth the time you put into muslining and making the final. The print is amazing and the color looks fabulous on you!

  2. You look fantastic! Your changes to the pattern make it so much better!Love all that green!

  3. your dress looks fantastic and all your alterations were worth the effort, great fit. And everyone looks so color coordinated in blues and greens in that group photo - so pretty.

  4. INCREDIBLE!! Although my favorite part of this is the search for cleavage! "I don't want tit lids. I want cups damn you." Dying!! But the final result is truly stunning. And your sewing is just amazing! Well done!

  5. You certainly rocked this dress and your adjustments for the bodice made this dress very special that I'm sure 'Liz" would have been a bit envious.

  6. I'm in so fabulous. You look amazing and I think the modifications you made ("It turns out you really can just make this shit up and it works." - HAHAHA!) make the dress so much better. I agree with @Sharon - Liz would have been envious.

  7. Frocktail party looks like a blast! Your dress is gorgeous and your bodice remake looks great on you! Love the green colors in this fabric and suits you well.

  8. HOT! You look stunning in that frock! Amaze-balls.


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