Tuesday, May 28, 2019

1997 Butterick Dress, Modernized

I picked this pattern up at a thrift store quite a while ago -- I had it put aside along with my recent New Look 6542 as styles I'd like to make in a slightly more modern version. But I'd almost forgot about it, until I was looking at some recent indie patterns that I was coveting -- The Hinterland Dress, for example. Then I recalled I had a old pattern that might have nearly the same result.

Butterick 4948  c1997 
So I dug out this Butterick 4948, and a piece of rayon challis that's been marinating in the stash for about 3 years. This was a tough piece of fabric to use; I bought it because I loved the bright print on the black ground, but only realized when I got it home that the blooms bloomed horizontally, not vertically. So I always wondered what would work with this fabric cut on the crossgrain. This was it.

It fit nicely onto the fabric, actually leaving a little over (I'll talk about what happened to that remainder in another post). Since I am so short (5'1.5") I had tons of room to cut the skirt and bodice pieces on the crossgrain, even allowing for bodice placement to avoid bust bloomage.

Because it is a rayon challis, it was a bit fiddly -- I carefully staystitched the neckline but there was still a bit of stretching happening when sewing on the bias facing -- not terrible but still there. And I did make a few alterations to adjust fit both for my body and for a little bit more of a 2019 silhouette than a 1997 one.

What I changed:

I added pockets. Of course! Why would you have a dress with a full dirndl skirt and no pockets? I used my trusty pocket pattern, and attached the pocket bag 1/2" below the top of the skirt piece so that it would be able to be sewn into the waist seam along with the gathered skirt top. That way it reduces the floppiness of a side seam pocket.

I also found that the raised waist was just a little too roomy in the end, since I left off the ties that were intended to gather the back waist. I dislike ties in the back -- they seem just that bit *too* 90s to me. So I made the back waist seam into a casing and inserted a piece of narrow elastic that was about 2/3 the length of the back seam. It gathers it up just enough and is basically unnoticeable.

And when I tried it on, I found I could easily slip it over my head so didn't bother making front bodice buttonholes. I simply tacked the fronts together with a bit of handstitching then sewed buttons on right through both layers.

I really like it. This pattern was a 16W - 20W Petite sizing, and I wasn't sure what the "W" meant. Was that the "plus size" notation of the 90s? In any case I found the size fit my petite, plus figure pretty much perfectly. Almost every single change I made was just to the length of both bodice & skirt. I might narrow the shoulders slightly and shorten the sleeve a little bit at the bicep level if I made it again, though, as my shoulder-to-bust area is really more of a 14.

And this fabric turned out to be a dream to wear. Thank goodness it is out of the stash and into the wild!


  1. Your fabric choice and placement is perfect. It looks so comfortable. Well done!

    1. Thanks! It is very comfortable & the fabric is just so soft to wear!

  2. nice! 'W' is the women's sizing which was around for a while, allowing for not necessarily a LARGER but a more mature figure, so a little more boob space, fractionally lower bustline etc. Saved on some of those 'minor' alterations lol. A pity as most people sewing are NOT young and ..er..perky lol

    1. I did notice that there was a little more room in the bust - thanks for the explanation! Makes a lot of sense 🙂

  3. Lovely dress and WOW the fabric is just wonderful! The whole ‘unfortunate pattern placement’ problem Is one that causes me a lot of hilarity when I see people in their RTW who have been, well, unfortunate!

    1. Yes, I have seen some hilarious ones ( and made a couple myself in my early sewing days)


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