Behind the seams: The “Better late than never” dress

If there wasn’t a Sew Weekly Challenge and I wasn’t a contributor, this dress would most likely have ended up as an unfinished project. It was a dress I had wanted to sew and wear for my cousin’s wedding last Saturday. That however didn’t materialize and what you are seeing in the gallery below is the tweaked version. See the original yucky version and find out why this dress is late on my TSW post.

The Gallery

I used a bronze/silvery satin fabric with embroidered scallop edge for the dress. Boy, oh boy, I think satin is really quite a difficult fabric to work with and I really had to handle the delicate fabric with care at all stages- ironing, cutting, sewing and unpicking. It’s really horrors of horrors to unpick and I had to do so much of that to make the dress work.


I have a love-hate relationship with this fabric. On one hand, I didn’t enjoy working the fabric and I think the sheen makes the wearer put on a couple of pounds. But then again, it is the same sheen of the fabric that really brought out the smocking details in a subtle way that is quite lovely.  I have not tried smocking before this but after seeing the very talented Jali’s (Equator Collection) stunning smocked cushions, I was so in awe and absolutely inspired to use the method on garments. See her posts here, here, here and here. I even contacted her smocking instructress but alas, she only has weekend classes (weekday ones were cancelled) which I am not able to attend. My version is really amateurish compared to Jali’s and I’m glad to have tried it 🙂

I’m also clueless what kind of smocking this is since there are so many different stitching methodologies.

The sleeves and the hem patterns were cut on the scallop edge and I love how they turned out.

The Pattern Review

Since I couldn’t attend the smocking classes, I bought myself a vintage dress pattern-Simplicity 4826- with smocking details. The pattern came with simple instructions on how to smock the bodice of the dress. I was surprised that it was actually much easier than I had envisioned.

There was also an iron on dots transfer paper and I was shocked that it still worked after 50 years! However, due to the long periods of time, there were a few extra dots that transfered from other part of the paper onto itself.  The original pattern had 6 rolls of smocking excluding the neckline and area adjacent to the sleeves. When I was done smocking I realized I had 7 rolls on one side of the bodice so I stitched 5 additional smocks to balance it out. The instructions and diagrams were very easy to follow and I really enjoyed the smocking process even though it was time consuming. It was strangely therapeutic!

The Simplicity pattern was an easy 3 piece (excluding facings) pattern with an optional tie belt. I love the smocking details but thought the skirt portion would not be formal enough for the wedding luncheon so I used the skirt pattern from McCall’s 4883. Initially, I used view A despite my intuition asking me to go with B. All because I wanted to make full use of all 3 meters of the fabric I had. Silly me. That resulted in yes, the yucky ‘before’ version. The midriff and skirt sections were really easy to put together and I didn’t have to follow the instructions. The midriff section was however too long so I’ll recommend trying out the length first and if necessary shorten it before sewing. I’m exhausted after working on and tweaking this dress to make it work. Think I need a vacation! I don’t know how Mena from The Sew Weekly did it but she sewed 8 dresses in 6 days! If you have not, check out her Seven in Seven challenge! She’s amazing!

And thank you for everyone who voted for me for the Springtop sewalong. While I didn’t win, I am so thrilled that all three of my submissions got shortlisted. More importantly, I am happy that one of my fave bloggers Novita from Very Purple Person won the judges’ prize. Congratulations and I love Novita’s scalloped hat pattern on Grosgrain’s Free Pattern month! It’s so chic and fun for summer! I’ve a weakness for scallop edges and have already printed the hat pattern out…now to find time to put it together 🙂
I hope you had a better sewing week than me! Blessed week!

21 thoughts on “Behind the seams: The “Better late than never” dress

  1. I LOVE IT! Love! It! The dress looks like a million bucks.
    I heart all of your dresses, you have a sence of style and I salute your understanding of your petite proportions. It´s a feast of the eyes to always come here and marvel at all this fabulousity. But this one takes the cake hands down!
    Gorgeousness!

  2. Oooh I’m afraid of satin fabric. I admire your perseverance in sewing a satin dress AND smocking it! It looks so pretty and light as air!

  3. Oh, my goodness, this is one of a kind gorgeousness for sure! The dress looks somewhat vintage, somewhat space-age and altogether very special. I love seeing smocking incorporated in grown-up clothing in a suitable way and this is just very prettily done.

    Great idea to use the sewing pattern too. I have no clue what the pattern is either but it looks lovely.

    One thing I learnt about sewing satins while making the cushion covers, is that a new machine needle helps prevent puckering and snags. I change the hand-sewing needle for the smocking every two projects or so too (sweaty fingers go away!). Whatever said and done though, the dear fabric always seems to have a mind of its own and begs for special attention:).

  4. Wow, this dress is stunning! I don’t blame you for not giving up on that fabric, it’s sublime!

    Thanks for sharing your trials and tribulations with us – you’ve really inspired me not to give up on a project and try re-thinking it instead!

  5. I’m wowed with every garment you make, and this dress is no exception. Gorgeous cut, lovely fabric and excellent execution. Amazing!

  6. Can share where you mostly shopped for fabrics? had visited chinatown, Ikea, Spotlight but the varieties are so little 😦

  7. It turned out so gorgeous, so I am glad you made yourself finish it. I hope you have an opportunity to wear it for something special soon. Or don’t let it wait, wear it anyways!

  8. Hi Regine, you are kidding! I’ve a problem holding back every time I visit chinatown and spotlight LOL! Anyways, the shops I visit whenever I visit chinatown are those listed on Simone’s blog http://sewinginsin.blogspot.com/ (check out the side bar). I’ve also visited Arab street once and bought lots of floral voile. Hope that helps. Oh, if all else fails, there is always fabric.com, they ship by ups btw so I find that great for my weekly projects.

  9. @Dibs
    @weirdrockstar
    @ Silk
    @Becky
    @Alexandra: Thank you everyone, I am so glad you like the dress! Thanks for the encouragements, you girls are SO sweet!

    @Lizz: Thank you and I hope you’ll try smocking 🙂 It’s pretty rewarding!

    @Tanit-Isis: Thanks babe, I’m glad I persevered too! Thrilled that you like it!

    @Clara S: Thank you for saying that and yes, I strife for a sewing life free from unfinished projects 🙂

    @Jali: Thanks for the great tips and inspiration once again! Satin definitely has a mind of its own!

    @Novita: Thank you so much for the encouragement!

  10. I am so impressed by your dress! Sewing a dress is hard enough let alone sewing with such slippery fabrics! Stunning result.

  11. So glad you could sew along for the sewalong, Adey!! I loved your tops (and they all did really well in the voting rounds too). You should be proud. This dress is amazing!!

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