A damn good dress!

I was lucky enough to win the Forest and Thread Damn Good Dress pattern in an Instagram competition (#MyMakesForTheMonth), and I felt that it would be a great dress for layering as the weather moved into spring.

I really liked the shape of the bodice and the skirt.

The pattern includes lots of really nice features: a fully lined bodice which gives a beautiful clean edge on the neck edge and armholes, a faced hem, French seams throughout, including the optional pockets, and mitred corners on the side splits.

The fabric I chose is some vintage (1960s?) fabric which was given to me by my friend Leonie; it had been her mother’s. The selvedge was stamped with “Tootals” and “Made in England”. There was a Tootals factory in Tasmania, but I don’t think this was made there. I’m not sure of the composition of the fabric but a burn test tells me that it’s all natural fibres. The fabric was just 33 inches wide, but I had 4.5 metres of it, so I thought I’d have plenty.

This is what I had left over.

I basically finished the dress before I tried it on and this is what I found

Yep, that armhole is huge. I have the feeling I would be indecent without the underneath layer!

I was wondering whether I had made the wrong size as it seemed huge. Given that I had used French seams throughout, and that bodice is fully lined, I didn’t think I could alter it easily. I hadn’t noticed the size of the armholes in all the versions that I had seen, but when I googled it, I found a hack on YouTube, but it needs to be made right back at the beginning, so that was no good to me!

I did think about just sewing up those armholes, but I didn’t think it would look nice, as I wouldn’t be able to work round the clean finish, so I made two little triangles out of a couple of scraps and sewed them in like armhole gussets to pull the two sides together and raise the height of the armhole. What a difference. This photo shows a comparison of the two sides.

Ignore the look on my face – this is how I look when I’m sewing! I am really pleased with the shape of this bodice now. The fit is perfect and it feels quite elegant.

I wanted to wear this to a lunch with a group of ex work friends, one of whom is Leonie, as I thought it would be nice to see what I did with this piece of her mother’s fabric (she’s given me quite a bit). About half an hour before leaving, I decided that the front split was too low. I changed underwear three times, but it made no difference, I was going to be flashing everyone! So I quickly made a piece of bias binding from a scrap and sewed a little loop into one side. I found a perfectly matching button, and I had solved the problem! I think it needs a tiny tweak to make the loop a little tighter but it worked. Next time I’ll just sew the centre front seam a little higher, and I won’t have the problem.

Now I’ve made these modifications, the dress is really wearable and the skirt is surprisingly swishy, which I love.

I only took one photo of the back, which isn’t like me at all, but here it is.

I have a feeling that the tie should sit higher, but it just falls to my waist. It has quite a cleverly designed elasticated bit at the beginning. I’m not a massive fan of ties on me, but I feel that this dress needs it on my short frame.

I followed the instructions for the pockets; it said to place them 5 inches below the hipline. Hmm, I put them 5 inches below the waist and they are still a tad low.

In summary, I think this is a dress that I will reach for often when the weather gets warmer. The fabric is lovely and I find the style quite elegant, but really easy to wear. I will definitely make the top version too, the instructions for which are here on YouTube.


8 thoughts on “A damn good dress!

  1. You did the fabric justice, Sue. Thank you for the heads-up on possible pitfalls! I’m glad your solutions resulted in a beautiful, wearable dress!

    1. Thank you Kristen, a better person would have worked all this out before starting, but I have a monkey-see, monkey-do approach to patterns! I rarely check anything before I start 😂

  2. Very nice. I think the neckline looks better with the little button. Also, I’ve just practised the ‘sewing face’ and have decided I will be using it from now on!

  3. How lovely to have a Tootals dress! It’s such a long time since I’ve heard that name. I think Tootals made my school uniform too, which just shows you how old it is! Tootals were local to me ( I see from helpful Wikipedia) but are now part of Coats Viyella and I think make rather posh men’s cravats, scarves and the like which you get in more exclusive gents outfitters. It’s a very pretty and useful dress; should be cool in your hot summers too!

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