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Can it be salvaged?

2012 January 21
by elizabeth_admin

So I’ve been working on my B5523 dress.  This version 2.5.  If you will recall, I made one that was too big (sz 14) but yet still needed an FBA.  Then I muslined my first real FBA (that’s the .5 version).  Then I transferred all my changes and cut out a sz 12 with an FBA.  Should have been perfect right?



It’s still too big and where the sleeves attach to the bodice looks funky.  It’s t0o big from the bodice down and it’s way too full in the back.  I haven’t finished the hems yet with my coverstitch because I want to see if I can alter this dress (despite serging all the seams) to make it work in one last desperate go.

Here are some really grainy pictures of the dress on me (reminder to self: get that *%^*&** camera pronto)…

From the front, not too bad.


From the back, not the greatest, but not awful.


From the side, all kinds of hell going on.  The hem isn’t straight, the bodice slants up at least three inches in front.  I look way fatter than I actually am.  This is not a good look.  Why am I still having problems with the bodice after my FBA?  Why is it tilting up so high in front?  Anyone have any suggestions?  Can this dress be salvaged?


I have even called in reinforcements, my teacher Thea.  Remember her?  I emailed her out of the blue and hopefully she can stop by this weekend to help me with the fit of this dress.  I will be honest, I don’t know what’s wrong exactly.  Is this a silhouette that just doesn’t work for me?  Am I beating a dead horse?

I’m hoping an unbiased pair of eyes can tell me what’s wrong and that Thea’s expertise will help me salvage this dress.

Cross your fingers for me.

16 Responses leave one →
  1. Gail permalink
    January 21, 2012

    I am rather fill busted but find that I often need to cut the back smaller. One way to avoid the problem in the future is to try it on before attaching the sleeves, mark out where the seam line should be. Because I often have a problem with the fit around the arms and shoulders, I take the added step of tacking the sleeves in place, then trying it on again. The only salvage job I can suggest is to unpick the sleeves, cut away the excess in the back at the sleeve seam, then reinsert the sleeve. If you love the fabric, it is worth doing.

  2. Karen Mulkey permalink
    January 21, 2012

    I agree that the sleeves need to be taken out and re-inserted with a bigger seam and I wonder if the back bodice needs to be shortened as that would correct the uneven hem. All of this is a lot work especially since you’ve made so many muslins. I don’t want to be unkind but the dress style makes your waist look larger than I know it really is. Of course this isn’t your fault but the pattern/style. Maybe the pleats could be stitched down longer to give shaping. I feel your pain, Elizabeth, as you are a good sewist!

  3. annie permalink
    January 21, 2012

    From the photos it looks as if the sleeves are causing more of a problem. I don’t find the front bodice objectionable but you could lower it a bit if the fabric is there and raise the back. You could also wad the top and start over using the black skirt. In the main, I do like it…

  4. January 21, 2012

    I am so impressed with how you’ve worked on this pattern- I gave up on mine for all of the issues you have shown…but you are much thinner than I am, I assumed most of my issues were related to a pattern not meant for my body type. I wish you a good outcome, but I have no good suggestions!

  5. January 21, 2012

    Oh, no! I’m sure Thea will be able to help you. I think you do need to re-do the sleeves and shorten the back bodice, maybe taking it in a bit, too. I think part of the issue is just the style however. Looking at the model photos, the dress is pretty sack-like, too, not hugging the figure very much below the bust. This works better with a smaller bust, I think. Sorry :(. I think your best bet would be to take it in and give it a bit more shaping than intended, maybe by stitching the pleats closed partway down etc. as Karen suggested.

    Rats! 🙁

  6. jillnjosh permalink
    January 21, 2012

    Hi Elizabeth,

    The pattern shows overlarge shoulders (at least as depicted on the models). It looks like the shoulders are too long on you for what you want to accomplish with this dress. If Thea has a chance to stop over, have her mark your shoulders on this dress to see if you can shorten them. If you make the shoulders shorter, you can tighten up the fit of the dress so that it isn’t so loose on you. You will probably also need to shave off some of the sleeve cap to make the sleeve fit, but that depends on how you end up dealing with the shoulders. If the sleeves end up a bit too short as a result, making some cuffs might solve that issue.

    When you did your FBA, you said that you’d probably need to add more length to the front of the bodice. Did you do that when you made your clean copy of the pattern? As a short-term fix, the back skirt can be separated and lifted to the level of the front, so that everything hangs evenly.

    The neckline is really flattering to you, and the color combination is lovely. If you’re up to taking out the serger seams, I think it is worthwhile to pursue fine-tuning the fit of this dress on you.

    • January 23, 2012

      It looks like the sleeves are adding to the problem. Usually if you fit the sleeves on your bodice it will help with fitting everything else. You might be able to take out some width from the top shoulder seam, this should make the armhole fit tighter. Then true the front waist and the back waist (make sure it’s one straight line). Put in larger darts in the bodice area to make it more fitted, and when you do the FBA you need to true the back waistline and the front waistline to make sure it’s one straight line.

      I usually baste everything now (after making a muslin) in my fashion fabric since sometimes it differs in accuracy from my muslin. You can try everything on in the real fabric and see how it goes, and if it’s wrong the stitches are long and easy to unpick.

      Good luck! As long as it’s too big (and not too small) it can usually be fixed.

  7. Erika permalink
    January 21, 2012

    Balenciaga (I think) made beautiful dresses with that tilted waist, because (I think) that titlted oval is the narrowest part of a woman’s body. It’s a design feature!

    • elizabeth_admin permalink*
      January 22, 2012

      Yes, but I think his tilted waist was intentional. 😉

  8. January 22, 2012

    I think the issue is that you are trying to overfit the dress for the style. The picture on the envelope doesn’t show off the models waist. Also, on the actual photograph, I think that you’ll see that the red photographed item actually seems lower on the models back than the front. When I made this dress I didn’t bother to do an FBA (I made a larger size and ended up sewing the seams inches on each side for my DDD breasts) and while I can get the back and front to sit at the same height, it is only if I bring the front down to show so much cleavage it’s not worth it. Had I made it in the right size and done an FBA, I don’t think that there is anyway that I could have made it even. I am really interested to see what Thea has to say.

    I’m much larger than you and I didn’t try to fit it as you did, but if you are interested here is my version:

  9. Meg permalink
    January 22, 2012

    try shortening the sleeves to bracelet or three-quarter length. Where will the hem hit? Knee? Honestly, it may just be the style. It seems to be overwhelming you right now. You are way cuter than this dress belies. Fuss with it but don’t beat yourself up if you decide to walk away. It happens to all of us.

  10. mrs mole permalink
    January 22, 2012

    I agree with the rest of the gals about shortening the back bodice. That will bring the hem level level with the front and get rid of the drag lines. For now I would add a small shoulder pad…will work wonders for a little loose shoulder area and bring up those sleeves and get rid of the drag lines there too. Think 3/4 sleeves or push them up…younger, hipper and you can show off some bracelets or cuffs since there is no other place to wear bling. Next time things will be better and you could add an inch in length to your front bodice tapering to nothing at the side seams. In the end…blame the fabric….you can never predict how it is going to drape or give vertically over your bust until it is there. Don’t be too hard on yourself…it is a great dress!

  11. January 22, 2012

    I like your idea, but that pattern is just too loose a style for what you’ve got in mind. You’re trying to make that dress something it wasn’t meant to be. You’ve got a gorgeous figure and look great in a more fitted silhouette to show it off. Why not try a more fitted dress with the colorblock idea and call this one a learning experience. Even if you get this one worked into shape, will you wear it much if you don’t feel good in it?

    How about something like this Burda dress in your black and purple colorway (don’t be scared by the crazy colors in the photo – the dress’ lines are amazing)?

    Good luck!

  12. January 22, 2012

    If shortening the back bodice is easy then I would recommend you do this because I have made this dress and it is very comfortable and easy to wear and there are times when we all need dresses like this and not just highly fitted ones. I think this dress looks great on you so might be worth the extra effort to get the back area right.

  13. January 22, 2012

    I’ve been here before and usually I just scrunch it up and take it to the recycling bin. I don’t have your patience or perseverance. How about ripping apart the two halves – make a skirt with the bottom and add an extension to the top! Voila – two garments instead of one! Sorry, can’t help with the fitting issues.

  14. January 23, 2012

    I hope Thea can help. I really want this to work for you (in part because I want to make it.) I’ll have to see with folks said on Pattern Review. Maybe they have some fixes.

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