Introducing SEW BAD Saturday…a day early

Just to liven up this blog, I am adding a feature so that all of you can participate.

There are enough sites where completed garments are shown and the drooling begins and compliments fly no matter what the resulting garment displays. In most cases, it is not the sewing that lets the final garments down…it is what starts in the beginning…a bad pattern or bad design. We are duped into thinking that we can fit into a design made for a size 0, six foot tall model who probably has clamps at the back of her clothes making them more form fitting. We are fooled into thinking that someone ever actually drew these patterns themselves, graded them and did a mock-up to test them. We are further lulled into thinking WE can make these paper patterns into something vaguely resembling the envelope photograph.

This week our first entry/guinea pig submitted her creation. She was given a few questions to help her construct her story and shares her photos. Take it away Lisa….

Here you go—
Now, if I only knew “why” I did things, I could answer your questions so much better!
Why did I pick that pattern, Vogue 1401? Probably because it was made up in red! Seriously! And it looked like it would be fun to make and to wear.
What size did the envelope say I should be: a solid size 16 with a slight decrease in size for the bust area.

Luckily, some kind soul on Pattern Review mentioned that this dress runs really, really big so I checked my measurements and made a muslin for the bodice top in size 12 and it was very comfortable after I shortened the length of the front and back by 1” which I took out at the bust line. I didn’t realize that the elephantiasis started at the next tier down from the bodice.
Alterations to the pattern before cutting:
I am only 5’4” so I took out an additional 1-1/2” in length in the lower front and back pieces. In total I shortened the dress by 2-1/2”.
I stay stitched the entire bodice and any bias edges for the lower tiers. I tried to move the front welt pockets down below the applique but they still got caught up in all that jazz there which made them difficult to turn. I would make the pocket bags longer so they can hold my house key and some money when I am out on the town if I make this again.

I kept taking in the side seams—probably a good 4 inches on each side to try to calm the hot air balloon effect. The upside of hacking away the sides was that the armholes became comfortable for a sleeveless dress so I bound them with bias tape and it is my heat wave outfit. I haven’t had the nerve to wear it outside the house but it works for the garden!

My fabric is an Indian madras/seersucker—very lightweight but I wanted to see the grainlines. My biggest complaint is that the bias tiers make diamond shaped designs in the middle of my butt and my girlie privates—and the pattern does not say that stripes would be a problem. The middle of the dress is a bias applique with bias slices of fabric sewn on top of it and then jeans thread sewn on top of that. I didn’t do as much as the pattern wanted but this was supposed to be a muslin:)

I like the idea of having a dress with “artwork” on it but this silhouette is not quite what I had in mind. I know that this art teacher style is not popular with your readers but I’m an old hippie and still think that tie dye is lovely so what do I know? vogue_1401_plaid_008[1]

Now dear readers, your comments and suggestions are directed to Lisa and she can answer in the comments section. Every Saturday that I have an entry/wadder to share, it will be featured so please email me and tell me what you want to feature here: Also if you want to contact Lisa privately, I will pass along your emails to her.

For me, I do like the top of this dress and the embellishment and colors…but what do I know…my world is ivory satin most of the time! Please tell Lisa how you feel about her dress and her courage to be the first in this series of SEW BAD!

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36 Responses to Introducing SEW BAD Saturday…a day early

  1. Angela S says:

    OMG. I’ve got tears in my eyes from laughing. Hot air balloon it is! And the target effect! I do like your embellishment. Since the top fits so nicely, what about removing the entire bottom tier and just using the top two as a tunic with a little more taking in in tier 2? How did this ever look good on the model?

    • LynneW says:

      Hear! Hear!

    • Ann says:

      Like Angela, I am wiping away tears of laughter… Girlie privates!!!!!! I like the fabric but it really doesn’t work for this dress shape. But I agree with so many posters here that if you cut off the botttom tier it looks really great as a top. I do love the embellishment and the bodice fits so well and you a great job placing the plaid on the neckline/shoulders. I would cut off the bottom and play with folding the hem up at different lengths to see what works best for you.

      And notice, the patten envelope did not show the model from the side! I think you have to be 8′ tall for a dress like that to work for you.

      And ‘fit for a queen’ this is fabulous idea for your blog! So much fun.

  2. Monique says:

    Top marks for perserverance and making this useful and kind of fun anyway. I’m reminded of a folk character in our Free School system, who has all sorts of goodies in her pockets, that children can dip for. Her dress and apron must have been the inspiration for this. 🙂
    Baggy stuff does NOT suit me (I’m 5’3″), so I would have stayed away anyway, but I learned from your experience, Lisa, so thank you for showing us what “a real person” is, in comparison with the envelope!

  3. Barbara Christensen says:

    OK, I love this! Great idea and if I had pictures of any of my disasters, they would be on their way to you right now. Sometimes I learn more by looking at what NOT to do. And thanks to Lisa for being first. I look forward to seeing more of these Sew Bad entries.

    Regarding your comment on clamping clothes in the back for photo shoots, when I was a young thang, I worked in advertising. One of our clients was a wholesale clothing manufacturer and we photographed their line twice a year. My job was to set up the models for each shot. To make the clothes look perfect, I used clothes pins, safety pins, duct tape and the pose of the model herself (put your wrist right HERE to hold this and DON’T move-sometimes for 10 minutes as we continued to set up the shot. ). It was not easy and exhausting for the models. That experience gave me an eye for how a garment might really work on the body, knowing what the photographer did to get the shot. Nowadays, wrinkles or fugliness are probably just photoshopped out, but in my day, it took air brushing to deal with those things, which cost $$ and guaranteed a tongue lashing from my boss lol.

  4. Brenda says:

    I’d funk it up with shoes and necklace/earrings…
    I hadn’t realized the similarity to the Lynn Mizano patterns.

  5. Tia Dia says:

    First off, what a great idea this SEW BAD series will be! I look forward to reading future posts. And now to the dress: I really think the fit is great through the bodice. The colours and details are pretty, but for me, the length is what makes it dowdy. Is there any way to shorten it, or perhaps take off (a part of) the bottom tier? It looks like a good 6 inches could come off the bottom. And I think what makes the Vogue dress “work” is the solid fabric. The gold embroidery draws the eye up. Perhaps the bias tier in plaid is a bit distracting?

  6. Cathie says:

    Bravo for trying so hard, and the alterations you did! I am 64, and a former art teacher, and very prone to choosing artsey patterns. But, now take out the pieces of paper, and measure and modify. The envelope art could even be called “lying”. If you made in plain fabric, no more arrows pointing. Do love the embroidery. Great idea…. Cathie, in Quebec.

  7. Andrea says:

    Lisa, you are a brave woman, putting yourself out there first in line! First and foremost, I love the colors on you, they complement your skin tone and hair color perfectly. Next, I like the top half of the dress, including the appliqué. You did a great job, it’s well done, and plays well with the fabric. For the bad? I completely agree with you. Diamond targets over the bottom and lady parts are not the look we’re going for! Also, the balloon effect is a bit too much. Now, because this fabric is so pretty on you, and the appliqué is lovely, I hope you can rescue this as a wearable piece. Perhaps if you detached that bottom layer at the seam, it may be wearable as a tunic once hemmed. If still too full, then try to see if pinning out some of the fullness in darts from the bottom help. Please come back and let us know what you decide!
    Ok, true confession time, for a minute, I considered buying that pattern myself. It sure looks comfy!

  8. JustGail says:

    Lisa, thank you for sharing! First let me say I like the fabric and really like your embellishment, and the pattern matching on the top tier of the skirt is pretty good. Now as for the pattern, it’s huge on the model, so I’d have passed it by, had I seen it. For your dress, I’d take the same route as Andrea suggested – take off the bottom tier and make it into a tunic. And if you try again, maybe a couple more inches out of the sides at the waist, a bit shorter (just below knees?) and a softer solid or non-stripe/plaid fabric??

    mrsmole – I look forward to seeing (maybe submitting if I ever get around to getting sewing done 😦 ) more SEW BAD posts. Also, thanks for the pointer to the gomi forum, it’s been interesting. One thing that’s been reinforced which I need to work on for my own sewing – pressing, pressing, pressing!

  9. piakdy says:

    I hadn’t even notice the diamond shape until you pointed out. Now it’s hard to ignore LOL! I agree with the others that tunic length might be your best save. It’ll at least get rid of the diamond shape! But it looks like a lot of width at the bottom of tier 2. Is it possible to take it in for a more classic tunic shape?

    The pattern envelop version looks awkward to me. I agree it’s a lovely colorway. But I think the combination of the length + volume + fabric with body just doesn’t work well even on a tall model with platform heels. When there’s that much volume I wonder if a limp drapy fabric wouldn’t work better. And I’d be tempted to extend it to floor length for that Arab / Muslim robe look. Here in London you see a lot of them and actually the loose flowing robes look quite nice fluttering in the breeze.

  10. lisa deering says:

    Wow! thanks for all the thoughtful replies! The fabric was the least expensive one I could find at JoAnn’s with my coupon that had 8 yds on the bolt and the color was a nice surprise. I am glad I didn’t have enough of either the linen or the batik that I had planned on using. Yes, it’s too long and I was wondering if the middle tier shouldn’t be longer and then the bottom, reverse direction tier, much shorter so there is only a slight poof at the bottom. I don’t know what I would do with the sleeves on that pattern to make them less fussy. I didn’t toss the pattern but…:) It’s no wonder that I couldn’t find many examples of this pattern actually made up.

  11. Hi Lisa! well, i think you look pretty great – especially with no styling. The colors and patterns really suit you, and while i can see the diamonds once you’ve pointed them out they don’t draw my eye at all – there’s a whole mismatched line going all around that seam connecting the two skirt pieces, so i don’t get the ‘bullseye effect’. But then – i lived in Berkeley for years and still end up there several times a month, so consider the source! 🙂 Old Hippies Unite!

    “Yes, it’s too long and I was wondering if the middle tier shouldn’t be longer and then the bottom, reverse direction tier, much shorter…” hmm. I’m wondering would it work to cut the two skirt parts away from the bodice and flip them upside down so you get a bit more length on the top tier, then hem? This would cut thru some of your gorgeous applique, but i think the horizontal cut may distract from the ‘diamonds’, emphasizing the applique at the bodice and again at the hem. I don’t have the pattern to look at so i can’t tell if that would give you the length you want, either. Just brainstormin’.

    Choosing patterns is a whole art in itself! And why we make muslins 🙂 You’re brave to admit picking this one for the color, of course Vogue wants the patterns to appear attractive so you can’t blame them for showing them to best advantage. But i hear so many people who are surprised by big volume in patterns. First, i always flat measure and compare again known garments. Just helps me to envision what’s up. Also, when a pattern calls for around 6 yards of 60″ fabric, all that cloth is going somewhere! At that point i find it’s helpful to take a longer look at exactly where all that volume is placed on the design – here technical drawings and pattern instructions are your friends.

    And, like you say – if i’m uncertain about a particular design, i wait until i see several pattern reviews which address my questions. Good luck and have fun with your sewing!! steph

  12. prttynpnk says:

    Is there any possibility of adding a casing half way down the skirt and inserting a hulahoop? I say statement piece. What would yamamoto do? That pattern looks so different on the cover- thank you for putting some light on the truth for us, Ladies!

  13. Cheryl says:

    Thanks for the experiment. Did the pattern not say “not suitable for plaids or matching stripes” ? This is only acceptable in solids IMHO. The side view is the most unfortunate and I always find that it is sometimes overlooked when we stand in front of a mirror.

  14. fabrickated says:

    My goodness! It’s horrible. Not you dear Lisa, but this design. Why do we want width in the middle? It is trying to be arty and different, but most of us want to define and minimise the waist. Fullness elsewhere eg flared skirts makes the waist appear smaller. It’s a great experiment for the designer but not an attractive wearable dress in my opinion. Thank you for sharing this. I will see if I have any horrible outcomes to share.

    I really love that you have started this topic Mrs Mole and hope to see, and learn, more in future. Thank you.

  15. lisa d says:

    Hi Cheryl–no warnings about stripes or plaids on the pattern envelope and that is probably my biggest complaint. Or maybe it’s there and I ignored it just like the clue that a bizillion yards of fabric had to go somewhere (but OMG, not THERE!). That side view is adorable, isn’t it?!

    And Stephanie–the idea of reversing the tiers–have to look at that when the gown comes out of the wash.
    Did I mention that I have been wearing it while working in the garden in hot weather with my beat up straw hat and mismatched Addias slides? I guess I should take another photo. I also have joint compound on my arms, in my hair and between my toes because I am resurfacing the laundry walls and I seem to go back and forth from one project to another as my mind wanders and body parts need resting/icing. The joint compound washed out of the dress nicely as does the garden dirt. Another reason to make a cheapo muslin:)

    • Elle says:

      Oh dear, the side view! And that image, overlaid with your garden accessories and joint compound, had me laughing out loud. You’re a good sport!

  16. Alex in California says:

    Oh my God and General Jackson. I commend you for your “never give up, never surrender” attitude. Not knowing your personality I couldn’t say if I thought this dress suits you. You do sew beautifully.

  17. Nancy says:

    To me it looks like it all goes wrong on the bottom tier. If you try again, maybe just extend the middle tier? (Or do as someome else suggests and cut the bottom off and have a tunic.) My most recent bad sew involves Vogue 8968……I wanted it longer so I added length to the top (as someone on Pattern Review did). When my husband saw it he said it looked like a hospital gown! Unfortunately it wasn’t a muslin and I’d used a piece of fabric I loved and had already made a wadder out of the same fabric last year. Apparently that fabric is doomed!

  18. Din says:

    I don’t know what to say except you deserve a medal for finishing that dress! I agree with the recommendation to get rid of the last tier and make it into a tunic. It could look really cute with a pencil skirt or leggings. I generally love Vogue patterns, but their styling has become more and more suspicious over the years. It’s like they’re determined to obscure the garment. A few years ago, there was a particularly bad set of photos including one where the model was laying down! Now I just look at the line drawings and hope for the best, but it would definitely be helpful if the pattern companies showed how the garments look on someone that’s not say, 6 ft tall and 120lbs.

    • denise says:

      Anyway you could put in a facing/casing on the inside of that waist band… then some elastic ? And yes, cut off all of that bottom tier and maybe a few inches off the first tier. You would then have a peplum top!.

  19. What a great idea for a post series. We only usually see successful projects on blogs, but there is so much that can be learned from the projects that don’t work.

    Now this dress. Hmmm. Perhaps the bottom tier can be removed and used to length the dress a little. Perhaps by fashioning a wide band.
    Hopefully that will remove the ‘rude diamonds’ while keeping the length for a dress.

  20. sewruth says:

    Great idea Mrs Mole and a very suitable name!

    Lisa – I never found this pattern as flattering, mind you I need waist definition so that I don’t go totally square but all I see is a sack with a hole for the head and a bit of fancy stitching. Good for you for having a go but there are much better shapes out there. Whack the bottom tier off and turn your lovely applique into a tunic. The colours are lovely and the bodice fits very well. Thanks for sharing and being so humourous

  21. Mum says:

    Lovely fabric colour, a plain shift would have been lovely, it looks awful, but I can see you have worked hard

  22. Sewellen says:

    Indeed, a very suitable name! I look forward to reading future posts;

  23. Mem says:

    Mmmmm I have this pattern and now I am not at all sure it will ever be made ! Maybe something with more drape would work . The barrel shape of the skirt is pretty ghastly ! Great concept for a theme though . You are a hero for persisting .

  24. Bunny says:

    This was on my list of winter projects and the pattern stares at me from the shelf over my cutting table. I think I am still game but will take out all the extra gobs of fabric.

    Hats off to you, Lisa, for your brave story. We can all relate to sewing gone awry. You are a brave soul for sharing your bullseye skirted dress.

    FWIW, what struck me first was the proportion of the garment. I think the skirt would look much better if the top tier were much longer and the bottom tier maybe just about 12 inches, more of a lantern effect than a balloon effect. I still think I might make this but you do have me thinking.

  25. girl in the stix says:

    I love the colors and the embellishment–very nice. I’m with everyone else–cut off the bottom tier and you’ll have a lovely tunic. Thank you for your bravery in sharing this!

  26. Libby says:

    Oh I don’t think it looks awful at all, and your embellishments are perfect! Just needs a little tweak. I would unpick the bottom tier and turn it upside down (to me the reverse order of the fabric print looks more like a mistake) then use it as the bottom of an underdress. You might have to make a simple thin tunic length under-layer to attach it to, (or not; Mrs. Mole??) but you’d still end up with a long airy unique summer dress that would be fun to wear. Inspired by B5881 but with a fuller silhouette.

    Love this Mrs. Mole! And you’re a great sport Lisa. : )

  27. Melissa says:

    I love this…while I get inspired by all the perfectly sewn dresses posted by other bloggers, it is also incredibly disheartening when I cant make those same garments wearable.
    It’s wonderful to have some reality injected into sewing, with lots of good humour. For the record, I still think you look really nice : )

  28. ja says:

    Sometimes I think that some people should not be designing patterns. Lisa made a lovely top but that skirt should never be designed in the 21st century. I would cut it off and use it for a top with black slacks or shorts. Some patterns I have been using seem to be franken patterns created by amateurs who do not sew, so when I find a half-way good one, I make it endlessly.

  29. SunGold says:

    I love the dress as is – take it to the grocery store and fill the billowing skirt with steaks, caviar, truffles, $100 balsamic vinegar – you can fit a wedding feast in there!

    But seriously, the bodice and embellishment are beautiful. SEW BAD is a wonderful idea!

  30. midori says:

    Thank you for posting the photos. The color looks great. The problems I see with your dress are that you didn’t correct the pattern to fit you, most notably in the bodice. The shoulders are too wide and the width of the bodice in general is too wide. The rear waist is too wide. Next time, and for sewing in general, if you get tracing paper such as swedish tracing paper or thin cheesy medical table exam paper, you can trace your size off the original pattern. Then use your tracing to correct the pattern for your particular body. Once you have the changes the way you like, make another tracing so you have a nice clean copy to work with in cutting your fabric.

    Get someone to take your measurements. For a style like this, you don’t need a complete list as you would with a fitted garment, more like shoulder to shoulder width, neck to shoulder tip width, front and back bust widths, shoulder tip to center waist length, shoulder tip to desired sleeve length, front and back waist width, front and back hip width, shoulder seam to desired finished dress length, shoulder tip to center back waist, front arm scythe to front arm scythe width, rear arm scythe to rear arm scythe width, center front of bust to arm scythe (use this to compare pattern to your own measurements so shoulders aren’t too wide for you, especially needed when making wide necklines etc. so shoulder will be in correct location), center back to back arm scythe, large neck bone to waist length, hollow of throat to center waist. Tie lengths of thin elastic around bust, waist and hip to make measuring easier and for consistency. Compare pattern size chart to finished size measurements of the pattern so you know how much ease to leave in when making your adjustments.

    You can go to the Vogue patterns website and click on the KwikSew patterns link. This will show links for sewing educational materials that you can download for free. Here’s one for some really basic pattern adjustments:

    You can also search online for other free materials on how to make pattern adjustments. Some universities have posted this material.

    With regard to the dress you’ve already made, you won’t be able to correct the back waist due to the decoration, but you could cut the shoulders in a bit. You’d have to make new armscythe facings also. Trace them from the new shape and add seam and hem allowances. Hope this helps. Happy sewing.

  31. mzteaze says:

    Thanks for laughs.

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