Sunday, May 13, 2012

Butterick Retro Review

For those who don't care about vintage, sewing, dresses, or sewing vintage dresses, you may tune out now.

Still here eh?

So here's the deal. A few months ago I scored a heap of Butterick Retro patterns for less than $1 each at Joann's Fabric.  I was so proud of my receipt, I stuck it on the fridge.  
Total Spent: $14
Total Saved: $195
(On a side note:  Did I actually save anything if I never would have spent that much in the first place?  I just didn't spend $195, which would never have happened anyway so really the whole thing is a non-event.  Otherwise I could not buy a $400 coat and claim I saved $400. 
This reminds me of a joke:
A commuter just misses his bus at the stop, so he jogs after it for a few blocks where he catches it at the next stop.  When he gets home that evening, he tells his wife that he saved $1.50 by running after the bus.  She replies "next time chase a cab and save yourself $5!")

You must really care about sewing to sit through that one.  I will torture you no more.
Butterick B5708 was the pattern I was attempting.  Had I cut it out straight from the pattern and sewn it together, it would have been a hot mess.  The top piece would have been way (way) too wide to fit on anything female.  As-is, the ties would wind up somewhere around the elbow.  It was better suited for a linebacker in pads. (see how I made you think I know something about sports there?)   I made a muslin first and my wonderful mom fitted it for me.  
(I once tried making one of those duct tape body doubles so that I could fit my own dresses without making my mom do it.
Now let's never speak of it again.)
 So after reworking the bodice pattern completely, it was time to add a skirt.  On the pattern cover, the model looks so nice with a full skirt that has been gathered at the waist.  Then Butterick actually made the dress and put it on a real person.
Sure, anything looks good when you draw it.  They must have realized how bad it looked and spent the rest of the photo shoot trying to hide how awful the waist was:

I took one look at those pleats and ditched the skirt pattern.  Instead, I used the skirt from Butterick Retro B5748:
It certainly is full enough to suit the bodice and matched almost exactly the seams of B5708's bodice.
I also took some liberties with the fabrics and used a contrasting pattern for the waist instead of the top of the bodice and also used it to line the paddle-shaped ties on the shoulders.

 I plan on making the same dress in a pink scalloped material, then maybe making a shirt from the bodice pattern.  If you are willing to put the time into fitting a bodice, remaking the pattern and then sewing it from that, this could be a very cute dress.  Be aware that once it is fitted properly, you won't be able to tie the shoulders twelve different ways like they show on the pattern drawing. 
 End Zone. There. That is all the sports jargon I know.


  1. I know I'm posting like a year late, but I love what you did with the dress!

    I just made this pattern and I had the same problem with the crazy "linebacker bodice." Unfortunately, I didn't make a muslin and so I'm still trying to figure out how to wear this dress. The only way that seems to remotely work is the strapless version. I'm considering taking it apart and trying to totally re-work it. I wish I had seen your post beforehand!

    Also, I love your airstream! I dream of owning one someday.


  2. I just sewed this dress and wanted to see what others though of the pattern as I along with Melissa agree with your assessment of it. One of the biggest problems I have is the armhole. It seems to me far to little room was left for an actual arm.

    I laughed out loud when I read your description of the sample garment photos. When I saw them I too though they must have purposefully had the model hide the waist because of how bad it looks!

    Love the contrasting fabric and the way you have used it, it's very cute and I agree the circle skirt looks good too. I've fallen out of love with trying to wrangle 2m of fabric into a gathered waist.

    1. I hope your dress turned out well! Yes, that is a lot of fabric to fit into one waist!