Thursday, March 17, 2011

The swing dress.

My 1940s "swing" dress is finished! :)

I finished it up on Saturday. Saturday afternoon, actually. I was hemming it and sewing on the button just in time to wear it to church Sunday.

I know I posted about my fabric before, but it is rayon challis. Towards the last minute, I decided to underline it, which was definitely a good decision. The fabric is pretty sheer, and plus it's very slippery and thin and with a little stretch. So I probably would have pulled my hair out and given up this dress if I was sewing the fabric by itself. I underlined it with black broadcloth. I started basting the broadcloth to the fabric by hand (like a few tutorials I read recommended), but soon I realized that it would take me as long to baste the pieces by hand as it would to sew the entire dress. Have I mentioned that, while I love embroidery, my hand sewing skills are pitiful? So I basted all of the other pieces by machine. (I also hemmed it on my machine. The thought of sewing a hem by hand practically makes me hyperventilate. :)

I also ended up using one of the above black buttons instead of a brooch. The red was just a little much-it looked really bright compared to the red in the fabric. I know you can't see the black button on the dress that well, but I like that it's subtle. Plus, the texture perfectly matches my vintage clutch (seen in the pictures).

I really love this dress. It's by far the best fitting dress/garment I've ever made, and I took more time and effort with this one than I ever have. Here's a list of firsts that go with this dress:

1. First muslin. I never bothered with making a muslin mock-up before. It is so worth it!
2. First time altering a pattern. I shortened the bodice by an inch, adjusted the sleeve ease, shortened the sleeves a little, shortened the skirt by 1 inch, and added .5 inch to all the side seams-which, in the end, may not have been necessary.
3. First time underlining a fabric.
4. First time inserting an invisible zipper in the side of a dress. Or a dress period. This was only my second invisible zipper, and unfortunately, it didn't turn out quite as perfect as my first did. But it's good enough.
5. First time finishing the fabric edges before I started sewing. I used the overcast stitch on my machine on every single piece after I cut it out. It seemed like an absolute pain at the time, but it made things so easier to work with! Plus, I didn't have to struggle trying to finish the seams after the dress was sewn.

As far as changes/alterations go, I also left off the back ties and the shoulder pads. I can always go back and add the shoulder pads later, but I think it looks fine.

Sorry for the unintentional scowl in the next picture. It seems that whenever I need to take sewing pictures outside, the wind is always blowing! {By the way, the credit for the photos goes to my mom.}

Making this dress was quite an adventure. It started out a little rough, but eventually smoothed out. :) You can read about the long afternoon I spent wrestling with my e-pattern, scotch tape, and our curious cats here. The muslin went well, after I spent half an hour staring, baffled, at the shoulder yoke tutorial pictures until it finally clicked. :) I didn't even panic when I realized I didn't need the SBA that I had done and had to redo the bodice. It was actually exciting to see the fit coming together so nicely.

The next stressful part was hand washing the fabric. I've never hand washed fabric in my life. But this rayon challis is dry clean only, and I didn't want to deal with that. I tried a sample in the wash, but it shrunk like crazy. So I washed approx. 4 yards of thin fabric in cool water with a little Woolite in our kitchen sink. Yeah. Have you ever tried to rinse the detergent out of 4 yards of heavy, dripping fabric? It was not easy or fun. I had water everywhere, and I realized that the red in the fabric was bleeding. So some of the white flowers are now pink, but it's not noticeable. I was trying to be so careful, because I had read online just minutes earlier that rayon is a very sensitive fabric (sensitive to warm water, a warm dryer, a warm iron, and the list goes on). I lugged the fabric outside to hang it on the line. That was one of those days when the wind was blowing ridiculously. I used all of the clothespins we own so the fabric wouldn't blow away. I stood there and watched the fabric whipping and sliding around and could only think of how it was going to get damaged. After a few minutes, I bought it back inside and draped it across the empty pack-n-play to dry. A real adventure. :)

The actual sewing of the dress was simple after that. The pattern is really great, though I would have been lost with Casey's tutorial for the shoulder seams. Somehow, all of the seams that were a little off or didn't match up quite right in the muslin evened out in the real dress and fit perfectly.

Thanks so much to Casey for hosting this swing dress sew along! I would have never been brave enough to attempt all of the alterations, muslin, etc. that I tried this time if it hadn't been for her advice, tutorials, and the knowledge that there were lots of other people out there attempting this, too. :) Sewing this dress has made me a little more confident when it comes to sewing my own clothes.

Until next time,


  1. Congrats on finishing the dress, it looks terrific!

  2. Sweet!!! Love it, so nice, you did really good!!!!

  3. LOVELY!! And you are just cute as all GET OUT wearing it. You are way too talented, Kristin. So glad you're showing your work on here. :)

  4. It's BEAUTIFUL!!! (& so are you ;)

  5. Oh, I *love* it, Kristin! You did a beautiful job! : )

  6. That fabric is so beautiful and really suits you. Wish I could've participated in that swing dress thingy too.

  7. Kristin, your dress turned out beautifully and you look wonderful in it. I love your little black clutch, too. Great job!

  8. I love your fabric. Your dress looks so pretty on you.

  9. GORGEOUS!!! I love the fabric--and the dress is beautifully constructed. It suits you so well; you look so pretty. :) Thank you for participating in the sew-along!!

    ♥ Casey

  10. Cute! I'm about to learn to sew - my mom is gonna teach me.

    I have a question - is underlining a garment different from lining a garment? Trying to learn as much as I can about sewing...

  11. HI,
    just came accross your blog as I was flicking through the flickers pictures of the swing dress. I missed the sew along but still want to give it a go so I've just bought the pattern! yours is very flattering, well done, I hope mine will turn out as nice ^_^ smile, Virginie

  12. It's gorgeous, Kristin! Great job. I love it :)


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