Note to Self: Don’t Sew Patterns Not Actually Modeled

Dear Burda,

Can you PLEASE show clothes on a real person? Because maybe then I wouldn’t sew a dress before realizing the straps don’t actually sit straight on my shoulders! That they actually sit kind off on the side / edge of the shoulders. The edge of my already very narrow, bra straps slide off, I don’t wear spaghetti straps because of said narrow shoulders.

Sigh. Allow me to start at the beginning.

Remember when I said I wasn’t going to be scrambling to sew ‘one off’ clothing items this year? Yeah. About that….

Here’s how I spent my Memorial Day Weekend (obviously not cleaning my floor. dang.): Starting construction on a formal out of silver silk tafetta. It’s being made from stash purchased at PR Weekend in Philly when I thought I needed a dress for a wedding. During this summer’s Navy Week, there will be a Captain’s Ball. I planned to wear a RTW dress from January. But, I learned  last week that this military ball dress code was ‘black tie’ and specifically dresses to-the-floor.

Against my better judgement, I decided not to muslin. I made a slight FBA and swayback adjustment. Yet, the fit is all kinds of wonky. Essentially, on me (and it could be operator error) the straps rest on the edge of my (narrow) shoulders. There is over 1.5 inches hanging off the side of my shoulder (with a .5 inch seam allowance). It’s not a traditional ‘straight’ sleeveless. It is of course IMPOSSIBLE to tell if it’s me or the pattern since the editorial just shows the dress being held up to the actress. It’s also so wide at the centerfront (because the straps go way off instead of up and down) that you can see the top cup of every single bra I own. And, that’s even with me raising the neckline by one inch before starting!
I ended up taking up the shoulders by one inch so they would actually stay up (they were just flopping to the side). Oh kind of like they are in the photo. And, I took in the upper back by 1/2 inch. It’s *ok* now. Not great. But, I almost am over it!

Why no muslin? I didn’t have time with just two weeks before the ball. The dress is cut out single layer (because of the attached godet) and required 60 inch wide fabric. I don’t have 60 inch wide muslin and there is no fabric I wanted to sacrifice.  Plus, I know how Burda fits me. Allegedly.

My mom wanted to know why I couldn’t wear one of my other two floor length gowns. Well, this dress was four years and 12 pounds ago. Also, before I knew how to make a FBA. Quite frankly, it was before I knew I *needed* one.

I wore it three times. The last time I wore it two years ago, it was so tight with the boning at the ribcage that I had trouble sitting down. And I thought I’d have a wardrobe malfunction at center front.  For real. My cup was running over. So, its been taken out of circulation and it’s waiting for someone who it will appreciate the work I put in to it!

And, Butterick 6410 isn’t my most flattering. Gah. I hate polyester. Totally my fault. I may have only worn it the one time. Plus, Liz wants to wear it (and I never took it back from her) and it looks better on her :-/.

So, now I’m waiting. Waiting for my lining to arrive! I placed a rush order with Fashion Fabrics club on Tuesday for some grey silk lining. The price was right. They called today to upgrade me to express shipping. I WISH it was coming tomorrow! But, I’ll just have to keep sewing after work next week to have it ready for the 14th.


  1. I’m confident that you can make this work (to quote every sewists favority mentor). I remember seeing that Burda pattern and thinking that stylist/editor selected a very strange picture to highlight the dress.

  2. how about going with a strapless bra or one with clear straps and calling it good. It will all work out. Don’t sweat it, you do beautiful work and it will all be fine.

  3. I love your fabric choice and the pleating which is so flattering that I might try this pattern for a day dress. The shoulder seams look much wider than on the design drawing. Have you considered taking them in much closer to the neckline – a racer back effect?

  4. I hope you make it work, it looks so pretty on the form! If you need a set of those lingerie straps that hold the bra straps to the dress let me know, I just bought some in NYC.

  5. I hope that you can make it work, it’s such a pretty dress. It would be lovely if they remembered that they are a pattern magazine not a fashion magazine and that their subscribers actually want to see the garment.

  6. I secretly think BWOF changed their name just to rob us of the satisfaction of yelling BWTF!!!!

    But I think the pleating looks beautiful and if anyone can pull this off you can!

  7. I hope you can make the shoulder straps work. This dress looks gorgeous on the dress form and I think it could look a million times better on you! I also agree with the strapless bra and fashion tape suggestion. Good luck!

  8. Have you figured this all out yet? If not, I have a couple of suggestions, if that’s not being too pushy. First would be to narrow the straps from the outer edges so they don’t stick out past your shoulders. Then add bra-keepers to the underside of the straps at the shoulders to keep the bra straps in place. Secondly, do you have any jewellery chain? And did you put the zipper in the side like it is in the technical drawing? I don’t know how you’d feel about this look, but I think if you had, or could quickly find some pretty silver chain you could tack it to either side of the back neckline a little below the shoulders to ‘encourage’ the straps to stay up. Use a length that will keep the straps up without distorting them. I think it could potentially be a really elegant way to make you feel secure in the dress.

    And I almost hate to ask, but I’m curious: did you change the direction of the pleats on purpose? With the way you’ve done them I’d be tempted to add a belt or sash to the waistline – if you have any nice, wide black ribbon it could look super-chic. Again – I hope that’s not being pushy! I know you’ll make this smashing however you finish it and that fabric looks delicious! These thoughts just happened to pop in my head as soon as I saw and read.

    Really looking forward to seeing pics of it on you when it’s done, I liked this one too but wasn’t 100% sure about how the starburst pleats would behave on an actual body. I too was…..bemused by this photo when I first looked through this issue.

    • I haven’t put in the zipper yet (side) as I’m waiting on the lining. I do like the idea of the jewelry chain… then I might be able to let out the shoulders some (I took them up by over one inch).

      I didn’t change the pleats on purpose, LOL. I admit they don’t look like the blue version, but I thought it was because I pressed them a bit. I definitely followed the ‘direction’ they were turned to though. I like the idea of adding a belt since it looks a little off.

      The only problem with the starburst pleats is they pleat to all your fullest parts! It’s not the worst… just something I hadn’t thought of 🙂

      Thanks for the tips!

    • Oh. Wait. I’m slow. Do you think the pleats aren’t supposed to be sewn like… darts? Just folded?

      On Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 7:37 AM, Cidell wrote:

      > I haven’t put in the zipper yet (side) as I’m waiting on the lining. I do > like the idea of the jewelry chain… then I might be able to let out the > shoulders some (I took them up by over one inch). > > I didn’t change the pleats on purpose, LOL. I admit they don’t look like > the blue version, but I thought it was because I pressed them a bit. I > definitely followed the ‘direction’ they were turned to though. I like the > idea of adding a belt since it looks a little off. > > The only problem with the starburst pleats is they pleat to all your > fullest parts! It’s not the worst… just something I hadn’t thought of 🙂 > > Thanks for the tips! > >

      • Sewing them wasn’t what I was referring to, but it does look like they are just meant to be folded and not sewn down at all.

        I was specifically referring to the direction – your’s face away from the centre front while the ones in the photo (which are far from distinctly clear) and in the technical drawing face inwards to create a starburst effect radiating from that centre front waist point. However, I haven’t looked at this actual pattern yet. If Burda drafted them to be folded the direction you did them, that’s their mistake.

        I’m not sure how much either of these differences change the overall look of the dress, and if you like the way it looks it really doesn’t matter. And while you don’t have the intended starburst effect, I have an inkling that your’s lies flatter over the tummy than the original, which I could see possibly puffing out a little.

        • Oh! I understand now. Maybe it’s the difference between marking the pattern on the front vs the back of the fabric. Mine is marked on the back. I will actually take them out and refold. I didn’t even notice that! Thank you!

  9. I really wanted to make this dress but was put off because I couldn’t actually see how the dress looked. I’m with kimbersew; strapless bra and fashion tape! I hope you can make it work because it will look lovely on you.

  10. I hope you can get it to work, because it’s going to be so gorgeous!
    I wonder if the neckline is stretching a bit because the facings aren’t sewn yet? Maybe things will improve once they are in, or you could try taping/drawing in the neckline a bit, which will bring the shoulders in slightly. Good luck, can’t wait to see it!

    • I thought about the neckline too. But, I stabilised them with straight interfacing before I started sewing. I did notice that one side gapes more than the other though… so maybe I’m not the best stabilizer!

  11. The dress really does look lovely but there’s nothing worse than not being comfortable. The bra and hollywood tape idea is good as is stabilizing with tape to try to bring it in a bit. If that doesn’t work I have managed to fix neckline like this by making a channel and putting some elastic in it – not enough to gather or be obvious, just enough to hold it in.

  12. I have narrow shoulders (about 1/2″ narrow) and in Burda I need to use a size SIX sizes smaller than the rest of me to have a hope of having the shoulders where they belong. It’s not so much a problem of narrow shoulders as a problem of wide neck (theirs, not mine). It really helps to do a quick check with my personal block before I cut out anything. And I’d like to point out that pre-90s Burda was just fine, grrrr.

    Mind you there is an intrinsic problem of shoulders falling off if you don’t have any stay front or back, it’s going to be part of this particular design no matter what. And this is accentuated of course by narrow shoulders. But my small shoulders are a bit sloping as well, so good you don’t have that as it makes everything worse :-).
    I adore your Butterick dress, but you’re right Liz looks fabulous in it. Could you make it again in silk for another occasion?

    • I hate to say it, but I’m slightly sloping too! I kept the Butterick pattern. I just need to make it up in a different fabric for me. I would love to do a 4 ply silk!

  13. I can’t believe no-one’s suggested the real fix for this: wear it like the woman in the Burda shot did! (once you’ve stopped laughing, take a deep breath and go all TIm Gunn on that gown, and you’ll be fine.)

    • HAHAHAHAHA! I totally agree with this styling tip. Except for the cancer stick she’s got in her mouth.

  14. And I thought Burda’s fashion photographs were just an annoyance. They are actually detrimental as your experience shows.

  15. Didnt you know its fashionable to show the top of a lace bra on edge LOL.
    Dont go in something uncomfortable! Im sure you’ll make it work and….have a great time 🙂

  16. Hopefully one or more of the above suggestions will work for this dress! Bra keepers might be just the thing if your bra straps will stay on your shoulders.

    About that, I just had to chip in in case you haven’t found this out somewhere else, you can fix bra straps or spaghetti straps that fall off your shoulders by moving the point where they attach at the back of the garment closer to center back (you can leave the front alone). I end up doing this on just about every strappy top I make or buy, sometimes the straps end up quite close together at CB but it works every time. 🙂

  17. I’m sure that you’ll find a way to make it work, and the color of the fabric is going to be lovely on you! I will think good thoughts in your direction that you encounter no major problems.

  18. You can make it work! And the finished dress will be stunning, I’m sure. I went and looked at the photo of the shorter version of this dress – it appears the straps are supposed to be super wide/at the peak of the shoulders. So I doubt it was user error. Have you considered adding a strip of fabric around the neckline to make it not quite so wide? You could put beaded ribbon or lace or fabric with pin tucks or contrast fabric (maybe to go with the belt someone else suggested?) or some other fancy thing on top of the added strip and make it a “design feature” and not look like a random mistake while making the top not quite so wide. You have excellent taste and lots of experience, so I am sure whatever you decide it will turn out fabulous!

  19. Hi, Cidell! You’ve gotten some good suggestions and the dress will be lovely, I’m sure. I had a thought about adding slightly-stretched-as-you-sew clear elastic to your neckline/facing seam. Or, what about a not-too-wide, self fabric ruffle added to the seam between the neckline and facing? The extra weight of the ruffle would add stability that might help keep the shoulders in place. I don’t know if this would even be possible but could you add bra cups inside the bodice or would that make boning necessary? Just a few thoughts; I know you’ll figure it out!

    My very first thought was that the dress in the photograph didn’t fit the model either and they had to come up with something fast!

    Sherry in Little Rock

  20. I made a Burda envelope pattern with a similar starburst and didn’t like it at all, not flattering. Wonder about that design. As for muslins, for the future, think about making just a bodice muslin, I do that often to check the most critical area (bust, neckline etc).
    The fabric is gorgeous and I hope you can make it work, it will be beautiful on you.

  21. I’ve always been suspicious of this pattern after seeing the crazy magazine photo – I think yours is looking good on the dressform and it sounds like you’ve got some great advice here.

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