Sunday, 27 January 2013

Sew What?: Butterick Retro '47 B5209

Happy Sunday dearest readers!

I do hope you are enjoying your day. I am at present snuggled on the sofa under a blanket, eating sweets and watching Annie. Now that is most certainly what Sundays are all about!

I recently purchased myself a few dressmaking patterns, in an attempt to satisfy my craving for more clothes without breaking the bank. One of those patterns being the Butterick B5209, a reproduction of an original 1947 pattern from their 'Retro' range.

Now, I chose this pattern because it was rated 'easy' according to the packet, and so I thought "what could be more perfect to satisfy my cravings?"...for, when sewing for myself, I am incredibly impatient! Terrible I know, but when I get an idea I want it finished as quickly as possible so I can wear it immediately! I suppose part of it is just that, because I sew for other people for a living (through I'll Be Darned!), sewing for myself often just feels like 'work'.

As it happens, this was the very first time that I've sewed from an actual commercial printed pattern....ever. I am fully aware that that seems ridiculous considering how long I've been sewing, but it is true! I did a degree in fashion, and have over the years made many items for myself and others, however at university we always drafted our own patterns from a 'block', and when making for myself I usually take a item I already have and strategically trace the pieces straight off of the fully constructed garment and then make the relevant changes and add seam allowances to become a pattern to work from. So I must say that at times I had to check and check again what certain markings and terms meant, as they were ones I had not come across before!

When the pattern arrived, I ran out in a snowy blizzard (that's how impatient I am) to my local cheap fabric shops to find something suitable to run it up in. Now, I wasn't too sure how this dress would fit straight from the pattern, so I certainly wanted something cheap so if it wasn't quite right I could treat it as a toile and adjust the pattern before the next time I made it up without feeling like I'd wasted a load of money. Having researched other people's attempts at this dress on the internet, I decided I wanted to try it in a nice slinky material . I've seen lots of lovely examples where people have run it up in a cotton which looks lovely as a sun dress but as the skirt isn't quite my usual shape, I thought I'd try it in a fabric with more hang so as the skirt didn't have the fullness that the cotton versions tend  to have. 

I found a lovely green floral fabric for the bargain price of £1.50 a metre, and I think it has quite a 1940's look to it, don't you?

With the fabric purchased I ran home to get started with cutting the pattern. This is where I began to regret my fabric choice; pinning and cutting my pieces took an absolute age....slinky fabrics slip and slide and warp like nobody's business!

Once I had finally cut my pattern pieces I was able to move on to the sewing! I must say now though that although the pattern professes to be 'easy', I found some stages of the pattern to be terribly badly explained and with diagrams that are hard to decipher. Now I could probably have gone freestyle at these parts using my own sewing knowledge, but I was determined to follow the instructions. So instead I found myself reading, re-reading, staring blankly at the instructions, scratching my head....and reading again! Such instances made the making of the dress much more lengthy that it should have been, but I plodded on and managed to finish it.

Lastly though was the hemming of the skirt. At this point I tried on the dress and discovered that the length of the hem was a little shorted than I would like it to be, pre-hemming. So I went freestyle on this part and decided to use bias binding, using only a narrow hem allowance of 0.6mm and then turned the bias up without folding, and stitched it up by hand, thus leaving as much length in the hem as was possible!

I should have used a green bias binding, but I was rushing to have this finished before I lost momentum, and had only black, navy or burgundy in my black it was.

I also at this point discovered that the bodice was rather too long and thus created an  unsightly wrinkly/baggy under-bust area, so I took the wasit up a little at the front of the bodice which solved this problem. I don't know whether anyone else has found the same problem or whether I am just a bizzare shape- although I must say it's not a problem I have had before with any garment!

I also found that the neckline was too low for my liking. It came low enough to expose my bra (I wear the Triumph Doreen bra, which comes rather higher than modern high street bras), so in future I will have to adapt the pattern to remedy this!

Do you want to see the finished dress?


During the process of sewing this dress I was invited to attend Blitz Party, acquiring a ticket last minute. So although the dress was a later pattern than the strict WW2 era dress code the website insists upon, I thought that this would be the perfect event to air my new dress! (As it turns out, I needn't have been so nervous about the dress being from a later pattern as there were many a 50's-style polka dot circle skirt and pant-flashingly short floral mini-dresses!)

This is a photo on my way out to Blitz Party, showing how the dress fits on me:

I wore my lovely new Clarks shoes, bought in the sale for £40, which I think have quite a nice 1940's platform look to them. I accessorised them with some matching shoe clips I made from scraps of the dress fabric!

I wore one of my handmade hair flowers and a set of diamante jewellery. The diamante earrings were from a supermarket of all places! The necklace is one of a few I have been given over the years. And although you can't see it in these photos, I wore a beautiful diamante dress clip my Mumma gave me at the centre front of the bodice, which hid my bra and the revealing neckline (which I had temporarily safety pinned together, classy!).

I also wore my amazing black 1930's bag, which I picked up a few months ago from a charity shop for a mere £2!

So, how do I feel about this dress after it is all sewed up? Well, although there are a few little problems to iron out the next time I work from the pattern, these are all pretty minor and fixable! For a dress that cost a grand total of..........£5.......yes, five whole, teeny, tiny pounds, I can't very much complain! And I'm sure that made up in a light cotton it will be a much quicker project too.
I shall certainly be making this dress again. However, I just hope that next time I use this pattern I remember how I did those badly explained bits that had me stumped first time round.

Have any of you lovely ladies had any experience of this pattern? If so, did you find it easy to use or stumble across any problems?

Pip pip! x


  1. GLORIOUS! I love the pattern. LOVE. IT!

  2. That dress is gorgeous, I love the colour and the cut! I'm having major shoe envy over your platforms, they look like they'd be great dance shoes too :D

  3. The dress looks lovely and you chose a wonderful fabric for it. Very authentic looking I think. (And I wish I could make a bargain like that in one of my local fabric shops.)

  4. You look lovely! I would love to make my own dresses, I planned to give it ago this year. Hope the Blitz party was good, I'm very jealous :( x

  5. Lovely dress and I love those shoes...I've been eyeing them myself recently - are they comfortable? xx

    1. They are indeed, although my feet are a little narrow for them so I tend to slide about in them quite a lot...but this happens with most shoes on my skinny feet!

  6. Love the fabric, I simply don't sew at all so I'm in total awe!

  7. I too have this pattern and I made up the version with the backless halter in a crisp balinese cotton. Like all the retro patterns it has far too much ease, so I cut a size down and even then have to make little changes for a good vintage fit. I must post my pictures one day too! Have wanted to try the cap sleeve version - thanks for sharing!

    1. Oooh, yes I love seeing other peoples versions of this dress!

  8. My mum has this pattern and I have a couple of dresses made from it. Recently wore it made from a blue floral silk to a wedding :)

  9. I think it looks fab. I have this pattern next on my sewing list.
    Where did you get that fabric for that price? Cheapest fabric I've found is at least in the £3 mark.

    1. From a cheapy fabric shop in Turnpike Lane, North London. It was a steal, as it is a lovely print! x

  10. I have that pattern as well and three dresses late I want to stab my eyes out with rusty spoons. But I am going to try yet again after combing the world wide Web for tips regarding this pattern, namely yours! Thank you


Please leave me a comment, I'd love to hear what you beauties think.