Thursday, November 12, 2009

The walk-away dress

Recently, Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing did a great post on the Butterick Walk-away dress.

The pattern was first released by Butterick in 1952, and recently re-released as part of their vintage line. You can get it online here, if you'd like a copy, or of course you can pick it up from your local sewing shop without any troubles - it's number B4790, and I managed to get my copy in a Lincraft, and I can confidently say that if even my local rubbish Lincraft stocks it then I'm sure your local store has it too.

Just like Lincraft, this pattern seems to divide people - you either love it, or you hate it. And the proportions are about 50-50 in each camp, so at least it's consistent. (And if you're interested and couldn't already tell, when it comes to Lincraft I fall mostly into the "hate" camp, though I'm certainly not above shopping there in a pinch.)

Me, I love the pattern. While some people think it looks like a hospital gown - and I never saw the similarity myself until someone pointed it out on Gertie's blog (maybe it's that dinky little cap she's wearing that does it??) - I think it looks like a great way to accentuate a small waist and hide a troublesome hip. Of course, if you wear the kind of foundation garments women wore at the time, that will accentuate your waist even more. Granted, you may not be able to take a full breath, but you will have a tiny waist.

I actually made the walkaway dress last year in a trial run, using a stretchy black and white cotton remnant. Here's a picture. You will see I am not wearing foundation garments and therefore I have a normal sized waist.

I can understand why some people don't like the finished item.There's some odd bunchiness up around the bustline. The arms are cut too wide. And there's something a bit strange that goes on with the way the underskirt fastens at the small of your back. I find that when I walk, the friction between the two skirts makes them both ride up in different ways (uck) and I spend most of my time trying to tug everything down while remaining decent. That is NOT a good look when what you actually want is casual vintage elegance.

So I've decided I'm going to remake it, and this time I plan to alter the pattern so that the underskirt doesn't go all the way round the back. I'm going to cut the skirt narrower, and fasten it to the outer skirt with press studs or contrast buttons or something. I'm hoping it will have the effect of creating one skirt that moves as a single item, rather than two skirts that move independently.

I'm planning on using some navy and white polka-dotted polished cotton I bought ages ago for about five dollars a metre. That way, if I stuff it up, at least I won't have spent a fortune on it. And I'm going to edge it with bright red bias binding for a nice contrast trim.

Now, the big question. Do I stick to the same material overall for a uniform look, using the tiny polka dot material alone, as per the photo here?

Or do I use the big polka dot material on the "black contrast" section of the dress and the tiny polka dot material on the "white inner" section? Which version will make me look thinner?

Decisions, decisions ......


Anonymous said...

That is a really flattering pattern, I think...maybe the smaller dots for the white inner and larger for the black contrast!?! Chele

Kylie said...

I really like the vintage dresses... can't wait to see your re-vamped one. Also, can't go wrong with polka dots. Either/or will be nice! There is a lovely store in Sydney that sells lots of vintage 'glamour' clothing and accessories. I have a few cute bags and a brolly, but never got around to the clothing as I like to try things on first... not so easy with me being in Melbourne. Anyway, you might like it -

Jennie said...

Not so recently released - I made this pattern up in 2000! I agree it's a bit awkward to wear. I have narrow shoulders and in the size I made it up (back when I didn't know how to alter patterns) the dress's shoulders started where my shoulders ended. Your alterations sound very wise and I'm keen to hear how they work out.

I'd go big polkadots for the 'black' and small for the 'white'. But I'm all about contrast! The red bias binding sounds yummy, you'll needd red buttons too. Or will they show up as the button loops are made from the bias binding?

I Purr-Furr to Craft said...

very cute, the 50s are back in a big way so very well done. So feminine

jac said...

I just have to say, I have that EXACT pattern and a half-cut-out skirt in EXACTLY those two fabrics. Exactly. Except I think I bought mine at Spotlight, years ago now. It's not going to be finished by me, after all this time, so I nominate you! :)