You Dirty Rat

Have you ever worked on a project that has crushed you? You’ve cursed it or has it cursed you? I’ve worked on projects that have pushed me to what I thought was my sewing breaking point. All those past moments pale in comparison to this month’s project.

A pattern that has been on my to-do list for over a year has been Vogue 9001. I’ve been in love with the maxi dress. Big, flowy, girlie and I really can’t resist that comfort that maxi dresses bring. One of the main reasons I’ve been putting this off has been the amount of fabric this guy takes. 6 1/2 yards! To put that in perspective to make a long sleeve button down takes 1 7/8 yds and 3 1/4 yds for a pair of trousers . This dress is massive! I can tell you after cutting it, it’s easy to see all that fabric is hid in the skirt. There’s a pleat in the front and back of the skirt where it dwells until you move and it’s unleashed in a swirl of fabric.


Everything sounds pretty pleasant besides the amount of fabric right? I cut out the pieces for the skirt first and put those together. It was quick and it gets the biggest part of the dress out of the way. I decided that since the bodice is so fitted and it has some unwanted seams (more on that in a moment) I would make a muslin. I very rarely make muslins. I don’t like the additional time and fabric it takes. I used cotton fabric I had no plans for. The bodice was a super large size because according to my measurements I needed to 14. I usually do an 8. The only finished garment measurements were the length of the dress. Pretty disappointed in that.


Here’s the first go. The seam I hate is the one right across the boobs. Why would I want a seam connecting my nipples? The straps have a double strap kind of look and the inner piece that curves into the low neck is quite fiddly but I figure it’ll be okay. I made another muslin of the two front pieces that make the boobie border into one. I drew with chalk on my fabric the big piece and then lined up the lower piece below that taking in consideration the 5/8″ seam allowance.


This is my new piece. Instead of having two pieces, there’s a bust dart to bring to fabric around and accommodate boobage. I was really happy and excited about this easy solution. I cut out the bodice pieces and my replacement pieces. The bodice has a lining and I had some leftover black lining that I cut out too. Things are going well so I sewed up both bodices. Now the moment of truth, sewing them together.

Everything went wrong. The fiddly bit of the strap that goes down into the neckline wouldn’t lay flat no matter what I did. I decided to connect the strap down before trying to sew it to the lining. I cut out the bodice pieces again and sewed the lining to the outter fabric. It was laying a bit more flat. I just needed to trim the excess around the turn from the strap to the neck. As if this bodice couldn’t be making me anymore mad from all the ripping, cutting and fussiness, I cut through the seam! My trimming now became a maiming. I cut an inch hole straight down from the neckline into the bodice. I have enough fabric for one more go. This has to be right or the dress was going to become a skirt rather quickly.


If one dart worked well, why not two? I drafted another new piece. This one incorporates 4 of the original pieces down to 1 and rids me of the fiddly bits. I went very slow and thought out every move as I sewed. I had to take the straps in a bit here and there, cut the arm holes lower and take 1 1/2 – 2″ out of the sides. For something that looks decently easy on paper, became the biggest dirty rat in life.

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The dress called for 2″ horsehair braid along the bottom. Unfortunately Jo-Ann’s only carries 1″. The pattern calls for 5 1/2 yds. I bought 5 3/4 yds. I ended up being 2-3″ short. No one will ever notice it the 6 yds of skirt swirling around.

The finished product turned out great. My immediate feeling was “meh”. After all that trouble and work I feel that it should have glowed and felt glorious. I think I was more relieved it was finished.  Such an underwhelming feeling.  I started this bodice on May 6 and didn’t finish the dress until May 30. Dirty rat.

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8 comments

      1. Yes! And it is such a wonderful feeling of accomplishment when it’s finally done. I’m no fan of unpicking, but I’m even less a fan of badly made stuff…

  1. After all the fuss and fitting, it really came out well! So at least the beast didn’t turn into a flop and all time was wasted, you know?

    I’ve had projects that were painful to get through but none that really stand out as the worst at the moment. I think most of my disappointments have resulted in poor choice of fabric instead o poor choice of pattern. I’m slowly learning, though!

    1. I am happy all that trouble did work out into a wearable dress. I’m really amazed at my own amount of patience and that I made it through it. Perseverance at its finest!

      I know there’s a book, I can’t think of who’s it is at the moment, but it has actual fabric samples in it. Then I wouldn’t have to keep getting samples or wondering what the heck a certain type of fabric is. It’s a bit expensive so I’ve been putting off buying it. I don’t know fabrics all that well and I really think it would help me avoid those wrong fabric choice moments you mentioned.

  2. I am working on this dress now and began googling pics of the bodice because it is so weird to me! I cut the dress out last year and have just worked up the nerve today. The bodice?! yeeeesh! I’m glad to find your workings on it. That will help since I LOST the instructions!

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