the? Christmas Dress

Finally to work on my anniversary/Christmas dress for this year.  I made minor adjustments to my pattern. First I added 19″ to the length; folded the over/underlaps out-of-the-way because my front will be on the fold; and walked the side seams of the back and front bodice portion (which I then trimmed a smidge to match).   I made another muslin. Yes this dress was important enough to me to make another muslin;  but the muslin consisted of bodice pieces only.  I wanted to check the neckline depth and that the side seams matched. I used a crisp shirting cotton. Marked my neckline on the muslin and transferred to the pattern.   I wanted my Christmas dress to be like Pamela’s Softly Pleated Dress. It won’t be exactly because I’ve already raised the empire line. Also I decided I didn’t want to do a vastly different neckline just a deep above-cleavage scoop.  I measured the skirt portions of Pamela’s dress and added 4″ ease to the skirt portions of my pattern, Burda #134 from 5/2009. I cut my navy, matelaise fabric thinking this would be fairly quick to put together. After all, I’d worked out all the issues with my muslinS.

I decided to fully line the upper bodice both back and front.  I found my navy satin lining fabric and cut hunks off big enough for both pieces.  I block fused my interfacing.  I like the Pro Sheer from Fashion Sewing Supply.  I like her weft and tricot too but I like the performance of the Pro Sheer with fine fabrics and blouses. However, I hate cutting it.  There is always some place the rotary cutter doesn’t slash and scissors always leave big jagged chunks.  I decided to block fuse, even though this would waste some expensive interfacing.  I really liked the combination interfacing and satin. Nonetheless, I taped front and back neckline and back shoulders. the matelaise is spongy and deeply textured but also tends to stretch.  I didn’t want that happening at my neckline.

I serge finished most edges before serging the shoulders together and finishing the neckline. Followed that by carefully pleating the skirt portions and stitching to the bodices.  I wanted to check the pleat placement and basted the side seams together. OMG!!!  Pleats and this fabric made me look 3′ tall and 9′ wide. Notice I didn’t baste the empire seam? That meant I now needed to rip out those seams.  My thread perfectly matched. I could not see to rip. I’m not sure how I ever got it done. I took out the pleats; trimmed the excess fabric and eased skirts to bodices.  I serged my sleeves into the armscyes. I should have known better and can only be grateful that I got away with it. The shoulder sits where it should.  I had intended to pleat the cuffs; just to do something a little different. But I felt burned after the skirts and simply basted the long side/underarm seam before trying on.

That 19″ I added at the beginning? To make a blouse pattern into a dress?  Well it was either too much or not enough.  It was not enough for a maxi (which I didn’t want anyway) but way too much for the knee-length cocktail dress I planned. After a few tries, I had shortened the dress by 6″ + a 2″ hem.  I turned my attention to the sleeves. As expected they were just too much. Between the knee-length and textured fabric, I now looked like a big navy-blue pumpkin.  I slimmed the sleeves by taking in the underarm seam between elbow and wrist a full 1″ (2″ total). I turned the wrist hem up 1.5″; trimmed the skirt length and turned up a 2″ hem (pinned in place and then took pictures.

This does not say “happy anniversary” to me.

Pic 1 full color; Pic 2 lightened 100% so garment style is visible.

I can think of a few captions. How about

“I’m the new widow and need comforting.”

or while at the funeral of one of my friends  to her widowed-husband:

“So sorry for you loss. Can I do anything for you?”


The neckline eventually collapses down to just above my bra.  Even interfaced and taped, the spongy matelaise will not hold the neckline shape like the crisp shirting I used for a muslin. I knew the matelasie would act differently. That’s why I interfaced and taped AND lined.

OK I know that my trouser-socks with flats and no jewelry/accessories  is not dressed up for cocktails. But the dress just looks dowdy to me both in the mirror and in the pics.  I was thinking ‘conservative cocktail dress’; got stodgy Republican fund-raiser. (I reserve the right to make fun of my own party.)  I continued to wonder about accessories especially a wrap.  Didn’t want to sew anything until I was sure, so took pics with items already in the closet.  Colors don’t match but how about complimentary shapes?


The already-failed attempt to snug up the neckline isn’t helping. Neither is the ‘we lost the election’ look on my face.


The pink/peach second from left in pic 1 might work. But I’d need to be cleavage baring for a ‘cocktail evening’ effect.

I have to ask myself, how did I get to this point?  Is it just my shape?  I’ve aged like most of my family elders but they could pull off se%y looks up until their deaths. Is it the style lines of the garment?  I did think the Blue Challis Rayon quite lovely. Feminine.  Should I have used a shiny fabric instead of textured? Will accessories alone  banish the dowdiness of this garment?  I know that heels and hose will improve the look some.  As well as the Ruby necklace I planned to wear.

I don’t know. I’m stymied.





9 thoughts on “the? Christmas Dress

  1. Bev, I think its is just too big in the bodice and too wide in the shoulders and too wide in the neck. I know that for myself if I don’t make any adjustments in a top, I can usually pinch an inch or two at the neck. that pulls the shoulders together and makes the neckline look better. I am wider in the back then the front shoulders. I thinks its age and sitting hunched over.

  2. No, Bev, it’s not your shape. Heavens, we see all ages, sizes and shapes of actresses who can look like little hotties. Accessories, makeup, presentation and *attitude* all contribute but so do the lines of the garments.

    In the case of this dress, I agree with Kath that the bodice, esp front, seems too loose but the sleeves are the biggest kicker to my eye. Sexy things usually have slim sleeves, often with a bit of arm showing. I know you like long because you feel the cold but could you stand a 3/4 length slim sleeve (with elbow dart for comfort). It would visually slim the whole garment. Do you have enough fabric left that you could try a slim one just basted in on one side. Or, if not, have you any coordinating lace (or better yet, stretch lace) that you could make the sleeves out of. Again, *slim* 3/4 length lace sleeve – instant wow factor to the eye. Sexy without being in-your-face.

    The other thought is that perhaps a 2″ ribbon belt, in the same colour of blue, over the empire seam would help pull it together? With a flat, sewn bow laying against the belting.

    The last thought is what about pegging the hem just ever so slightly? That usually gives a straight dress quite an oomph right off the bat, even if the pegging is imperceptible to naked eye.

    Of the over-tops, I agree that the pink has the lightness and drape that would be required. You know, if you had something like that, same drape and similar sheerness, in a glitz coordinating fabric, it could pull the whole outfit together. As you said, hose and dress shoes (maybe glitzy sandals) would also make a difference.

    • 3/4″ sleeves are good. Outside I would be wearing a coat so the extra 4 inches doesn’t matter. I’ll look for lace while I’m in Sioux Falls. I’d hate to just discard this dress. It really is a lovely fabric best appreciated up close. I can still try the pegging and increase the side seam allowances thus reducing ease. Oddly all of you are seeing the shoulders as too wide but I can tell you the shoulder is right over my own. It has to be the sleeves that are giving that appearance. Thanks for hints.

  3. One more thought on looking at the lightened pics is that darts, instead of the gathering, on the front empire might help create the sleeker, more elegant impression you’re after?

  4. Hi!
    The shoulders seem a little big, the sleeves are a little wide and a little too long, and the gathers at the bust line make your bust look a little collapsed and droopy.
    The peach sweater looks cute with it (but better in a related colour, maybe with a bit of sparkle to jazz it up?) – maybe because it adds some nice long vertical lines? I’m wondering if that’s an indication that a princess seamed sheath (with or without an empire waist) would be more flattering?

    • I prefer an empire without any gathering but the blouses looked nice. I raised the CF to remove the rest of the drooping I saw in the blouses. Thanks for hints. I’ll be working on this dress. Hate to just throw it away. Up close it is a really beautiful fabric.

  5. I agree with you about this dress, and suggest you simplify your look and options, especially with the snow and cold weather forecast for your trip. Take some style advice from the Lafayette 148 holiday and cocktail party styles and layered ensembles, all simple and no gimmicks.

    In terms of dresses, there is nothing like a sheath in a good weight fabric that can go everywhere and be dressed up or down. If you don’t want a dress, wear separates. I can’t live without long straight skirts, long gored skirts and palazzo pants that I can wear tights or leggings underneath, and can be dressed up with dressy embellished or textured tops, cowl neck or plain with necklaces, fur collars and scarves for cold weather events. Carolina Herrera’s signature blouse/skirt looks are fabulous on women over 50! Front tie looks are classic and flattering. There is nothing sexier, or easier to pull off than the blouse/skirt combo like this one where they tied the front shirt-tails (I would wear a dressy tank underneath and forgo the belt). Enjoy your event and the holiday parties!

    • All good suggestions. Thank you Terri. I know that I have to be careful with my typical granny shape but I should still be able to look nicer than that!

  6. Bev: I agree w/Terri. A long, unbroken line i.e., slacks w/top which accents your attributes would be a great look for you. This would alleviate the “I lost the election” look! You always have a gorgeous smile and your coloring is lovely…..Lydia


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