The Never Again Dress

I’d like to think I’ve learned a couple things from my most recent project:

  • polyester is evil
  • starting a dress on Thursday night for an event on Saturday is not wise

Now, have I actually learned these things? Will I always in future avoid the temptation of pretty floaty polyester fabrics because I remember how much I cursed this fabric as I was cutting and sewing it? Will I plan ahead better for events I might want to make a dress for and, say, choose the pattern and cut the fabric more than three days in advance of the wear date? No, probably not. But I am naming this project the “Never Again” dress in hopes that that will at least make me think twice before doing either of those things again… or at the very least before I do both of these things on the same project.

Anyway, I did in fact make a dress, and I wore it on Saturday, but I must say it’s got to be the shoddiest sewing I’ve done to date. Floaty polyester does not lend itself to rushing, and rush I certainly did. And although I was hand sewing up the front at work, minutes before putting it on, it was wearable in the end, though it’s not exactly my proudest work:

Ugh, see the extra fabric pooching out under the arms (not taking the time to fit the bodice properly), the wubbly-ness of the front neckline (unstable floaty polyester), the terrible, terrible lazy uneven hem (oh yes, I serged, folded over and stitched without pinning or pressing – hey, I was short on time!)?

On the back my shoddy work is even more evident:

Look, it’s a totally visible invisible zipper and back darts that end in big bubbles… and I don’t even know what’s going on under the arms here.

All that said, I still kind of love the fabric (from my crazy 99 cent store). It’s so pretty, but it frays like mad and couldn’t stay on grain to save its life. It’s a particularly floaty (staticky) sheer polyester chiffonny type thing, and I lined it with a similar, if slightly heavier and a little more stable navy polyester something-or-other. The pattern is Butterick 5181, which I used to make my Old Navy knock-off dress last year. Because I had only made it in a knit, and only the other bodice style, I was way off on the sizing. I cut a straight 12, which was a full two inches too big in the midriff and more than that in the bodice (I clearly should have taken it in even more at the sides), and frankly there’s just too much gathering in the skirt of this pattern (might be because the skirt width is the same for all sizes, so there’s more gathering in a 12 than a 20, say). This bodice version is very, very low cut, which is usually fine on me because I have no cleavage whatsoever, but because of the unstable nature of the fabric the front gaped funny and I had to (hand) sew up the front neckline a couple inches. I am glad I went with this simple a pattern for this fabric, since anything with more than the five pieces this had would have had me screaming (even more) and throwing my scissors at the wall/husband/cat/neighbors. I even converted the front bust darts into gathers (since we can see from the back how well this fabric does darts). The pattern could not be easier – now I’m tempted to try it in a nice, stable cotton. Polyester: Never Again! Until next time, of course…

  1. Good post! I think you’ve shown me alot shout how different weight fabrics affect the outcome. You still look pretty,tho!

  2. teaweed said:

    If I made a dress that had to be handsewn in the end to fix gaposis, I’d probably always see the garment as a red-headed stepchild and you have my sympathies for sewing polyester chiffon. I love the conversion of darts to gathers at the bust (totally looks like a design feature rather than a work-around) and I didn’t notice the weirdness under the arms until you pointed it out. However, the dress looks fantastic on you. That was my first impression and even after reading about it’s shortcomings, I’m still impressed with it.

  3. Sue said:

    Great post! Reminds me of my struggles with rayon making a dress years ago. I may have needed a different needle…but argh….never have sewn with rayon again!
    That dress looks cuter to the people that didn’t sew it, I hope you know!

  4. Jenny said:

    I too have first hand knowledge of how evil polyester can be. After my sewing class I decided to make a simple shirt for my self. It turned out horrible. I’ll be avoiding that fabric till I have a little more experience sewing.

    You still rocked that dress even if there were some minor imperfections.

  5. Pat said:

    You have my sympathy. Just finished the Colette Taffy blouse. Chiffon, cut on the bias, darts, french seams and miles of bias binding. The shirt came out perfect, but never, ever again.

  6. Molly said:

    I share your pain, miniscule budgets mean I costume a lot with fine/slippery/off-grain/stretchy polyesters a lot of the time. Since investing in a good pair of micro-serrated scissors this fabric has become a lot easier to handle but I still approach it with a mixed sense of dread and “just gotta do it” attitudes. I’ve also been through the deadline scenario – hand-finishing a dress and sewing on buttons during seminars, to be worn at the evening event!

  7. I totally feel your pain. Been fighting with a pretty but slippery polyester all week. In the end it’s wearable, but not as nice as yours. Thanks for the post. Your dress is adorable.

  8. Oh no, wrestling with fabric is, umm, well interesting to say the least. I’ve tried out a poly chiffon blouse a while age, with french seams and everything but couldn’t bear it in the end. Just pressing the thing was a nightmare, let alone cutting the long long long narrow bias strips for the ruffles. Lordy. My effort aint wearable though so kudos to you!

  9. Kelly said:

    You look beautiful, love that dress!

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