Butterick 5539 – Measure, cut, sew – repeat at least twice!

It all started with Butterick 5539 – an out of print pattern that is very similar to a dress that I bought from M&S about 20 years ago and which now really needs replacing. I decided to make a ‘wearable’ muslin of the dress using some lovely Makower cotton printed with Yellow roses that has been loitering in my stash for some time.

First I measured myself. Front chest width, upper chest, full bust, waist and hips. Then compared with the pattern size chart and decided that the best ‘fit’ was a size 22. I was very sceptical about this size and it turned out that I was right as the pattern comes up very large.

I cut and sewed the shoulder seams of the bodice, attached the neckline and front facings, then basted the side seams before the first fitting. What a disaster! The shoulders were approximately 1½ inches too wide. There was no shaping over the bust and the entire bodice was way too big. I pinned out some of the fullness with darts from the waistline to just below the apex of my bust and tried again. No, still not right. There was a lot of ‘gaposis’ at the armhole. By pinning out the fullness at the armhole it became apparent that what I needed was a princess seam. So – I hacked the bodice apart and ‘free style’ cut a princess seam line. Not quite as drastic as it sounds as I had already pinned an approximate princess line. A little bit more ‘finessing’ and finally the front bodice fitted really well to the contours of my body. The back could do with some more width removed across the upper back and also in some darts from the waistline up towards the shoulder blades but that can happen next time when I will also extend the length of the bodice so that it comes nearer my natural waist.

the princess seam line

I stitched the side seams and inserted the fully lined cap sleeves. As they had been cut to a size 22 and by now the bodice was nearer to an 18 there was a lot of fabric to be eased into the shoulder cap, but I managed it.

Finally the bodice fits!

The two front edges of the skirt were interfaced with some fusible Vilene ® and the skirt panels were gathered by running 2 rows of gathering thread around the top. By dividing the panels into quarters I have spread the gathers evenly around the high waist seam line.

Pockets – the pattern includes some large rectangular patch pockets which I thought did not compliment the style of the print which is more rounded – why not make some soft gathered pockets from the scraps of fabric leftover from cutting out? I am particularly pleased with these pockets and will be including the pattern and instructions in my next workshop ‘Pockets-a-Plenty’.

Pocket bag (wrong side)

Pocket Bag and band

Stitching the band to the gathered top of the pocket bag

Completed pocket

The dress was finished with 9 buttonholes and a set of buttons in Green and Yellow which came from my stash. Although the dress now fits fine I am a little disappointed with the result so will probably keep it as a ‘house dress’.