Butterick B5605 – four top tips and two secrets

When I wasn’t spending June being photographed with strangers, or making wedding bunting, I was hard at work on this dress. I won’t mention how many times I got up at 5.30am to squeeze this in, as it will only make you feel tired. Bad planning on my part -trips to Cornwall and Paris don’t help when it comes to deadlines. But here we are – a dress!

You’ve already seen the two toiles here and here. Once I began work on the dress itself, my sewing tutor advised another couple of tweaks to the shoulders, then there was nothing else for it but to sew, sew, sew. I was helped along the way by a couple of brilliant online tutorials.

Gertie helped me insert the horsehair braiding to make the hem stand in a beautiful, smooth, full, arc. Her tutorial is here. Here’s a detail of inserting the braiding:

I’ll let you into a secret. Horsehair braiding is easy to insert and really fun to work with. Don’t be scared of it, peeps! But make sure you order a sizeable amount. I ordered three metres and it was just enough. I love the finish it gives to the hem of a circle skirt and will use it again and again.

Casey’s tutorial here helped me make my own self fabric belt:

Here’s another little secret I’ll share with you: these are easy to make, too. My top tip? Ensure that the width of the belt clasp is large enough to accommodate the width of your belt backing. REPEAT – ensure the belt will actually go through the clasp before starting on the make. REPEAT AGAIN – BEFORE starting on the make. I didn’t. Ahem. I got away with it by the skin of my teeth. (And at least I could be confident the belt wasn’t going to work its way loose during wearing!)

I have another top tip that I’m going to share for free, no charge, just because. Please don’t get sunburnt in Cornwall a few weeks before wearing a dress with an interesting back detail:

Check out that tan line round my neck!

Some people are born with class, some become class, and some have class bestowed upon them. None of these apply to me. This would never happen to Gertie or Casey! If you make this dress and choose this back detail, I would advise adding some interfacing to the button hole area. I didn’t (the pattern didn’t tell me to) and it’s certainly not the best button hole I’ve ever made.

Hem length. Hem length, hem length, hem length… I went for the tea length as debated with lots of interesting comments and at great length on Gertie’s blog post here. I think this length lends an authentic feel. It looks longer in the photos than in real life. But I just can’t decide – would it have been better if I’d taken a couple of inches off? I have another wedding to go to in August, so feel free to share your opinion. If I find the energy and motivation I may adjust. IF. MAY.

Finally, we come to the best top tip I can share. Make sure your dress doesn’t match the table runners. I have seen variations on this rose print cotton in Shepherd’s Bush, Yorkshire, Paris and on Ebay. It’s everywhere! Originally I’d wanted to buy a version of the print that had more white space. Indeed, Eugenia and I pored over the fabric for several minutes on the Goldhawk Road Fabric Fandango. Remember, Eugenia? But the shop didn’t have enough of the fabric I wanted, so I was forced to go for a more dense print. Forced to. Heavens above, the god of sewing must have been looking down on me that day! If I’d gone with my first choice, I’d have matched this wedding detail:

A Narrow Escape!

I’d have squirmed with embarrassment if my dress had matched the table setting. I’m sure some of you remember my original concerns about looking too chintz!

What else do I need to tell you? I ordered a cotton petticoat from The House of Olivier. (It would be a travesty to wear this dress without a petticoat.) My cotton one is absolutely gorgeous and will see lots of wear beneath other skirts. Because it’s cotton it feels like perfectly reasonable day wear and will be used by myself much more than an organza or net petticoat. (Which makes me feel less guilty about how much money I spent on a petticoat.) However, there is a significant disparity between the hem of the petticoat and the hem of my dress. A person doesn’t notice this stood in front of a mirror at home, but you will notice it walking around a wedding. I’d advise trying to ensure that the two hems roughly match in length.

I think I’ve covered everything. Let me know if you have any questions. This is a fabulously flattering dress. I find it difficult to believe that my little chubby body is made to look so presentable just because of a very good fit. But remember, it did take two toiles to achieve this fabulous fit so don’t rush into cutting your fashion fabric on the Butterick B5605.

Oh wow, no! I totally haven’t covered everything. Kimono sleeves? You want my honest opinion? They’re a ruddy nightmare! I’ve taken construction photos and have a separate blog post planned on how to insert, but I’m telling you now – it ain’t easy. Totally worth it on this occasion, though. I hope you agree!

Queensbury Rules, old sport?

I’ve saved the best for last. At the wedding, there was a village fete theme with games on the grass – and this superb mock picture frame made by my friend, Neil, pictured with me above. Neil is waaaayyyy ahead of the pack. He discovered ‘making things’ years before it became fashionable. Every time I see him he seems to have fashioned something brilliant out of a piece of MDF and a couple of bent nails. You should have witnessed the Ghostbusters costume he made for a fancy dress party years ago! The man has more creativity in his little finger than most of us.

He made this picture frame following this tutorial. More online free tutorial goodness! Neil was even more clever and made his so that it could be folded up and packed away.

Our day in the Oxfordshire countryside was lovely and I found a dress pattern that taught me new things. Double score! Now, I just need a lie down…

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48 Responses to Butterick B5605 – four top tips and two secrets

  1. Ashley says:

    It’s beautiful, you look amazing! I really like the length, and that back detail?! Too cute.
    I’d love to know where you ordered your horsehair braid from. I have a circle skirt planned and have looked online but have only found it in 100m packs! Expensive and I don’t need that much. Please share πŸ™‚
    Enjoy your weekend!
    Ashley x

  2. mujerboricua says:

    It looks wonderful. It fits so darn well. I am actually working on this pattern at the moment and my sewing tutor thinks I might not like the look of the full skirt on my…uh…full body. I kind of want to just go for it and see what happens. Thanks for all the tips. Now I think I will see about doing a toile for this pattern.

    • I think you should totally go for it. That circle skirt is extremely forgiving on my paunch, whilst bringing a nice silhouette to my waist. I can’t see how this can possibly do anything other than flatter. Having met you, I know you’d look gorgeous! A toile really does help to get the bodice to fit as best it can and for the second toile I adjusted the bodice only and just re attached it to the skirt toile I’d already made.

  3. Kirsty says:

    Oh Karen, it’s beautiful! You look fantastic in it.

    I’m making a mental note of the frame idea for my imaginary future wedding, what a great touch!

  4. Dibs says:

    This is so pretty Karen. Definitely worth all the hardwork, and what a funny post. Question: where did you buy your belting from? eversince I saw Casey’s tutorial, i’ve been trying to find it .

  5. Carly says:

    It looks gorgeous – I love the rose print, it’s so pretty. The back detail really makes it as well. As for the length, I think it looks great as is, I guess just give it a few wears and see if you think you’d prefer it a bit shorter. I hate hemming (so impatient, I just want it to be FINISHED by that point!) so I’d be reluctant to adjust!

    ps I also like your pins!

  6. Pin Queen says:

    A real winner Karen, your dress is beautiful! I think the length is just fine as it is. I want to add how much I have enjoyed reading your mmj, some of the pictures had me laughing out loud and my other half wanted to know why I was looking at pictures of a pretty girl with a monkey…. men just don’t get it do they?

  7. Roobeedoo says:

    Oh wow – you look fab! πŸ˜€
    What a gorgeous dress – worth all the work that went into all those details!
    The length? Personally I would lop off about 5 inches… but I am older than you so it’s easier for me to look frumpy in those in-between lengths – you don’t look AT ALL frumpy, especially not in those red shoes!
    Is that Burford?

  8. Carolyn says:

    You look beautiful in the dress! Glad you had a great time at the wedding!

  9. Roisin says:

    Aw I loves it! And I like the length, as well. Tea length can be tricky, but I think you look good in it!

  10. Portia says:

    Karen, simply gorgeous. A total stunner.

  11. Jane says:

    A beautiful dress Karen and you look gorgeous in it. I love all the attention to detail as well, great job. I think tea length does suit you and its perfect for a wedding. However, unless you’ve got more weddings to attend in the near future, I think it would be much more versatile if it were knee length (which also suits you). I hope you got lots of compliments about it! x

  12. Sara OC says:

    You looked stunning and Neil is blushing at your compliments!

  13. Your dress is absolutely beautiful!!

  14. Sarah says:

    The dress is gorgeous!! Well done, you should be very proud of yourself!!

    S x

  15. Fay V says:

    My Goodness – the dress is so so beautiful! You look lovely and I’m so glad you enjoyed yourself in it. I love, love, love your sense of humour – you always crack me up. Yours is my favourite blog ever – thank you! I’m just about to embark on my 2nd toile for a 1940s dress – your beautiful result is inspiring me to get cracking, F x

  16. rachel says:

    You look gorgeous! I love the back detail, and it fits you perfectly.

  17. Eugenia says:

    Seriously stunning! I am so excited to see the finished dress – as I was actually standing beside you when you bought the fabric I feel quite proprietorial about it – in fact I really think that dress is mine – I’ll be round to collect it tomorrow :). The fabric certainly is lovely and you have done it justice with a superb construction job. I love the back detail and the belt and your red shoes are perfect with it. I bet you had a wonderful time at the wedding – especially looking as fabulous as that!

  18. Felicity from Down Under says:

    I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m risking the me too syndrome here, because I quite agree that the dress looks fantastic and that the length is very becoming and has just the right degree of elegance for wedding attire (in any capacity).

    I also understand that to get more use out of it – and having put in that amount of work for such a splendid end result, you’ll want to get lots of wear from it – a shorter length might be better. Still, anything goes when it comes to length. And having just proved so magnificently during MMJ that what you make is not something to hide away in a supboard but to wear and be proud of, I hope you really do wear that a lot. It’s lovely.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    You are a hoot. And your dress is gorgeous!

  20. Karin says:

    You’re so funny. And that dress is magnificent. I like this length, I think it is very elegant and it really suits you. Beautiful!

  21. Alessa says:

    It’s a gorgeous dress, I’m in love with the back detail! Funny how you just escaped looking like the table runner… *g* I think I’d go for shortening the hem a couple of inches, but then again, I’ve never been a big fan of tea length… πŸ™‚

  22. sarah says:

    o my gosh, I can’t believe you got up at 5.30 that really is dedication. lovely dress and you used horse hair braiding I’ve still not got round to using that yet. I would probable take the length up a touch but that’s just me it looks lovey as it is though πŸ™‚

  23. kongroove says:

    I was wondering about this rose dress for a while. I am pleased to see how it ended. You look astonishing Karen – so elegant and pretty! I also admire your patience πŸ™‚ what an achievement after 2 toiles and countless hours of work. Beautiful!

  24. Bold Sewist says:

    Well done – it turned out great! What a perfect dress for a summer wedding – all the toiling totally paid off – and love the back detail!

  25. Lisa says:

    What a perfect dress for a Summers wedding . You look fantastic in this Karen and you can definitely full off tea length. This dress is just so lovely , the toiles and all that hard work were well worth it .

  26. Tilly says:

    Oh wow, it’s gorgeous! The fabric is incredible, and I love the back detail. Good to see what horsehair wotnot is (don’t tell anyone, but I sort of might have thought it was made of real horse hair… it’s not, is it?).

  27. Adrienne says:

    The dress looks AMAZING. You outdid yourself on this one Karen. I am also a big fan of taking your time before cutting. As you mentioned in another post, the toughest part is adjusting your pattern. The actual sewing part should pretty much always be a breeze.

  28. Lula says:

    The dress is beautiful and, like everyone, I love the back detail. I also agree with a couple of the others that it might be more versatile if it was a couple of inches shorter, but I hate hemming so I’m not sure I’d take it up!

    I’ve loved reading your mmj posts, each made me smile and admire your fab wardrobe! Hopefully I’ll get there one day…

  29. CuriousGem says:

    Looks lovely Karen. Personally I’d lop a fair few inches off the bottom, so it’s just under the knee. But that’s my taste.
    Which petticoat did you go for? Could we have a review post? I’ve looked at the Vivien of Holloway ones but they look a bit too sticky-outy (technical term) for day to day wear. However I’m wondering if the Olivier ones are sticky-outy enough

  30. Kerry says:

    It looks lovely, utterly professional. I’m about to try using horsehair braid for the first time too, so it’s nice to read some more about it. Having read this, I’m also considering buying a petticoat too (effectively doubling my wedding outfit spend so far – ah well!) – like Curious Gem I’d like a review as I’m really not sure where to start with it.

  31. ericapenton says:

    I love the back detail and the fabric! I go back and fourth on the tea length. I like it in theory, but I just find it to be too much when not in a petticoat at a wedding (mine is also too long). In the end, I shortened several dresses, but made a huge hem so that I could go back if needed. The large hem fits the era as well.

  32. *sigh* I’m in love with your dress. It’s gorgeous and you look lovely wearing it. Totally worth all the cursing over gussets and late nights!

  33. Lotte says:

    Karen, I just wanted to thank you for your posts on this pattern – I bought it the other day and having not used a pattern in a long time (I usually just trace things and wing it) I nervously googled the pattern to see if anyone had reviewed it. I’ve stopped by your blog occasionally in the past via Tilly and Zoe’s blogs, so I am stoked to bump into you again! I was tempted by the bow at first but am now opting for the button as I’m using a pretty bold print. So thank you for your tips, I will no doubt be looking up your posts again and again and if the finished product is good enough to blog about I will probably be linking to you… xLotte

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  35. margie says:


    Anyone know where you can get that crin from in Oz (Australia)? or it’s name? i’ve never seen it before just the millinery type.

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  38. cecile says:

    Hi! I have just discovered your blog and it is amazing! I attempting the dress myself as I speak and since it is the very first time i try my hand at anything retro I am struggling fitting the side panels on to the sleeve as they don’t seem to be the same lengh!! I am getting very frustrated!! Can you help?
    Many thanks, Cecile

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  41. Thanks for the tips! I am going to make this dress for my wedding πŸ™‚

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