The Nearly Dress

Bad Dress or Detailed Muslin?

Okay, I seem to be psychologically incapable of making a muslin. I have thought and talked about this to no end. I still can’t decide what it is stopping me. Impatience? Perfectionism? A stubborn streak? Who knows. I have a vague, woolly notion:

1. I can’t bear the idea of sewing ‘academically’. Spending hours making something that serves no purpose other than to make me THINK about a dress. I want to wear one! I know, I know the point of a muslin is to make you think about your dressmaking, but I seem to rail against this with almost every fibre of my being.

2. I don’t want to make something that’s basted, cut up, pencilled on. A mess. I want nice, neat stitches.

My boyfriend had to virtually yell at me every step of the way on this make. ‘Stop thinking you’re going to wear it. You’re not!’ That seemed to work. To know from the beginning that I couldn’t squeeze a wearable outfit out of this. And I most definitely can’t, but I have learned a lot. What have I learned?


Cutting the fabric on my living room floor isn’t going to cut it. (Forgive the pun.) Each piece of this simple dress needs to go together with extreme accuracy. I know this because my back panels are currently out by a centimetre. Disaster in a dress like this. Does this mean investing in a self healing mat and rotary cutter? Is that the best option for accuracy? Opinions, please!


I did it! I inserted a full lining! I am EVER so proud of myself:

Very poor photo!

Hem length

The version you see here hasn’t been hemmed, but I don’t want it going any shorter than mid-knee. So I need to add an inch or so to the length.

Don’t have fun with your zips!

On this make I thought I’d insert one of those groovy metal zips. Hmmmm. I won’t be doing that again. Metal zips are heavy and drag your dress down.

It’s not fitting properly

Ah, the biggie. I’d love opinions on this. The dress is bunching around my middle:

Front bunching

As you can see, my decision to make this dress in navy blue really helps us all spot what the issues are. Not! I apologise. (If you click on the individual photos, they will go bigger.)

Part of the problem may be that this dress is drafted so that the bottom is a 16 and the top is a 14. That middle section is cut into a 14. It may also be that the skirt section is a tad too small at present. If I suck my tummy in this happens:

Falling back in place

Actually, even as I type this understanding is taking shape . In order to make the skirt (cut 16) ease into the waistband (cut 14) I did a fairly unsophisticated slicing in at both sides of the skirt. Perhaps I should be doing something a bit better than that. Adjustment of the darts and gentler decrease at the sides? That way it may sit over my tummy better.


What do you think to the armhole above. Too gappy? I do have issues with a narrow upper chest…

More bunching

Here’s a rear shot of the waistband bunching and the metal zipper. Can I just say, though. Va, va, voom! This dress gives a great, curvy silhouette, doesn’t it?

Moving forwards

It has to be a second muslin. No shadow of a doubt. Another dress that I will make with no intention of ever wearing. Are we crazy, or what?

Before I depart these shores, may I share with you a recent investment that has proved its usefulness time and time again:

Table top ironing board

I have a really nice, large ironing board that I normally use. But every time I heave it out for another sewing session it feels as though my kitchen is immediately turned into an obstacle course, I’ll heave it back at the end of a session, heave it back out… There’s a lot of heaving going on! But this little thing? There it sits, not bothering anyone, minding its own business on the kitchen counter. I can wander over to press a small piece of a dress, wander back to my sewing machine. Compact, discreet, useful. (Though should a sometimes frustrated Sewist be that near a handy collection of knives?!)

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the V1183. I need all the help I can get! Thank you and happy Sundays, everyone. I’m off to IKEA now. Shudder

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11 Responses to The Nearly Dress

  1. Tilly says:

    (I was just halfway through writing a comment when I clicked on the image above to get a better view of your TAILOR’S HAM! and the comment disappeared – so apologies if it materialises and you have two very similar comments. But what I was saying was:)

    Golly gosh, you INSERTED A LINING AND A ZIP into your muslin?! That’s what I call patience, Karen. You deserve to buy yourself lots of lovely fabric in Ikea.

    Have you tried shortening the waist section of the dress? From here it looks like it’s bunching because it’s a little too long around the middle… but I could well be wrong, so see what the others suggest. Apart from that it looks great – can’t wait to see it in the red! xx

  2. Jen says:

    First of all it looks really great – a really classic piece. In the first full length picture it seems to fit perfectly but as you say there is the bunching in the close up pictures. I would agree with Tilly it looks as if you need to take a horizontal tuck somewhere in the mid region. You will have to unpick the zip to do it of course – but don’t worry if that messes the fabric up a little you are not going to wear it after all. I would unpick from the shoulder blade down and then you can try various places to take the tuck and experiment with how much.
    Personally I never put linings in a muslin (too mean with time and money!) I do put the zip in but I only tack it in with fairly small running stitches so that I can take it out easily for fitting issues.
    I also use a pasting table (for wallpapering) to cut out on. It is SO much easier than the floor. They are cheap to buy (about£10) and of course fold up out of the way when you don’t need it.
    Good luck with the dress the final version will be a stunner.

  3. Alethia says:

    It looks like you need to remove about 1″ from the bodice front because it’s too long. It looks like the armhole is gaping. That means you need to remove some of the fullness. If you direction on how to achieve this send me an e-mail.

  4. Karin says:

    Hi Karen! First, it looks really very good. Then, I agree with the other posters, the bodice is a bit too long. I think that is why it is bunching up.

  5. Roobeedoo says:

    Ooh – it is going to be fab once you fix the niggly bits! I was going to say you should shorten the waistband section… until I saw the “sucked in ” photo. Now I think you need to widen the central section (in girth, round the waist and upper hip) so that the skirt can drop to its natural place – that way you won’t need to lengthen it – bonus! Or buy some ghastly gok-ish undies to squash your tum? Nah – don’t do that, make the most of your curves!

  6. Funnygrrl says:

    Really nice, classic dress. I have no fit advice as I’m new to this but I look forward to seeing the finished product.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I agree with everyone else. Too long in the middle. Is there a lengthen shorten line you can use for the bodice? I like this style on you. very flattering.

  8. Judibooty says:

    I like the dress, you did a great job, I believe you learn from the experience and so next time you make this dress you will begin to understand your fit. I am just a so so seamstress, but i’m down for going in for the project, I am not making a muslin, I hope my dress looks good.

  9. Jacky says:

    Hey, the reason why you do a toile (muslin) is so you don’t have those problems, they really don’t take that long.

    On your toile you would pin out the bodice length, pin a dart into the arm hole, mark where you want more,(fabric) pin where you want less. then you go back to your pattern, and make the adjustments, like on the bodice, where is says ” lengthen or shorten here,” thats your cue, in the arm hole you fold the dart ,in, then slash up throught the other dart, and take the extra off the side seam.

    Eventually after alot of sew you don;t need to do this, like i know i always need 11cm extra over the bust, so i just do it.
    Making toiles will give you better results, you will learn heaps about patterns, and construction. You don’t have to do the whole garment, just go from shoulder to hip, do one sleeve. you could even get away with half the garment. I make my toiles out of old sheets etc.

    Hope this helps

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