Next Up: Strictly Ballroom Dress

Remember this dress pattern? It’s a Vintage Vogue reissue from 1943, and my next sewing project!

Among the Lonsdale Dresses I’m going to make this summer, I wanted a chance of pace and a challenge – and this dress was exactly what I was looking for! Since it’s looking like fall weather most days, I thought this dress would be perfect. It will be lovely with tights and boots in cooler weather, pretty with platform sandals in the summer.

I’ve called it the Strictly Ballroom dress because it reminds me of the dress Fran wears when they dance behind the stage curtain, when she’s starting to look pretty and gain confidence in her dancing. And because if I have the dress, then Mr Sewaholic has to take me dancing!

Here’s the muslin – pretty!

You know it’s going to be a success when even the muslin looks good! If it looks good in muslin, it will look even better in the real fabric.

At first glance, it looks pretty good on the body. If at first, your muslin seems to fit pretty well, take a closer look for anything that could possibly be improved. You’ll be so glad you make the corrections now, rather than rushing into the real project! We’re used to mediocre fit from ready-to-wear clothing, so take the time now to make any possible changes that will help make the project perfect.

Both on me and on the dress form, there’s a tiny bit of fabric pooling at the lower back. It would be okay if I left it, but so much better if I fix it up!

I’ll also shorten the skirt by four inches. I’ll check the actual hem amount, and figure out how much to shorten the pattern pieces. (Read an earlier post on how to shorten your hem at the muslin stage!) I could just cut it out according to the pattern, and hem it later, but I’d rather save fabric if I can by cutting it shorter!

This pattern has plenty of interesting details and techniques, so I hope to put together some tutorials as I go. (Lapped seams, shoulder pads, and more!) I’m still debating whether to do the snap closure (seems risky!) or a lapped zipper. I suppose I could always add a zip later if the snaps don’t hold up!

I haven’t fully decided on a fabric either. Originally I was going to use a print from my stash, but now I’m thinking a solid fabric would show off the details better. (Of course, I could always make it twice!)

What fabric would you use for this dress? Have you sewn this pattern?

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46 Responses to Next Up: Strictly Ballroom Dress

  1. Gemma July 15, 2011 at 6:15 am #

    Looks great so far! Can’t wait to see how yours turns out – I’ve had my eye on that pattern for a while. I think a solid colour is the way to go as even a small print would hide those lovley details.

    By the way, what happened to your “O Dress”? Did you ever finish it?

  2. irene whelan July 15, 2011 at 6:25 am #

    go for the plain fabric also use the zipper not lapped ..its a crafty design and will look very good brought up to date .with a few tweeks here n there .happy sewing

  3. Michelle @ If Toys Could Talk July 15, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    I loooooved Strictly Ballroom! This dress is going to be so pretty. One question (and I hope it’s not a silly one): what do you do with your muslins once you’ve made your final dress?

  4. Corinne July 15, 2011 at 7:10 am #

    What a beauty. It would look good in any fabric I think. The design lines are so strong even a print will show it well. I also thinking a heavy wool jersey would sew up well. The muslin looks good, can’t wait to see the finished product.

  5. Bri July 15, 2011 at 7:11 am #

    Yay! Its always fun when someone else knows the movie Strictly Ballroom! I would make this dress twice, once with a solid fabric, and then with a print as you considered. Then you have the best of both worlds!

  6. Tanit-Isis July 15, 2011 at 7:20 am #

    Oh, this is LOVELY! I can’t wait to see it. What will your fix for the little bit of pooling at the back be?

    I have had good luck with the super-heavy-duty snaps holding up, and less good luck with the pretty, smaller, pearl ones. Your mileage may vary, of course (I’m not the best at setting them, either) ;).

  7. lisa g July 15, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    love the dress with all the interesting details! a solid color would be my choice (coming from a gal who almost never sews in solids…). i don’t know how this pattern is constructed, but if it were me, i’d be tempted to lengthen the sash so it could go all the way around the waist before tying. hmmm… might have to try this one myself! :)

  8. Debbie July 15, 2011 at 7:37 am #

    Love this pattern and it should look great in any soft, flowy fabric.

    I was in Toronto and at the big museum there, they had a clothing exhibit that was wonderful. They had an example of a Chinese Horse Tail skirt. I was thinking that a version of this skirt might be a good pattern that would look good on cute young women like you. Just a suggestion for a new pattern!

  9. Maria July 15, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    I have this pattern! But haven’t had the nerve to approach it yet. I thought the same about the fabric. I think a solid with long sleeves would look awesome and nice and cozy for the winter. And then perhaps a print with the short sleeves for a more spring/summer look?? I’m really interested to see how it comes out so please keep up the posts on your progress.

  10. monkeysocks July 15, 2011 at 8:05 am #

    It is looking lovely! All my muslins tend to look like sacks…

    I have just written a post about learning to sew clothes through blogs, and I reference some of your tutorials and posts, as I have always found them really useful. I hope this is OK, let me know if you have a problem with any of it.



  11. Val July 15, 2011 at 8:06 am #

    That looks great! I’m going to be making a wedding dress in the next month or so so I’m a bit nervous about the fitting too. Looking forward to seeing your dress in real fabric!

  12. Denise July 15, 2011 at 8:08 am #

    You might also want to fix the bunching up at the lower part of the diamond (unless of course it only does that on the dress form and not on you).

    Anyway, beautiful dress and muslin :-)

  13. Lizz July 15, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    This is gorgeous! Isn’t it exciting when your muslin looks amazing? I’m looking forward to seeing this progress.

  14. Emilie July 15, 2011 at 8:43 am #

    I love this design! I’m going to have to go look for it now! It’s a hard call between the print and the solid color. I think I’d be tempted by the solid color, but that may be because your muslin looks good in that plain white.
    I’d be interested to know exactly how you will get rid of the fabric pooling at the back. Might seem like a silly question, but I’m not sure I would know how to deal with it. Can’t wait to see the finished dress!

  15. Stacy aka Stacybeads July 15, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    I think this dress would be especially nice in a solid color, so all the details would really show up. I’ll also echo a couple of questions other people have already mentioned: what do you do with your finished muslins? And how will you get rid of that extra fabric in back? I sometimes have fabric pooling in that area as well.

  16. Barbara Hewitt July 15, 2011 at 10:11 am #

    I love your blog–I found you by reading You are very helpful. I have this same pattern waiting Thank you

  17. learningnewtricks July 15, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    I also have this pattern and glad to see how it looks made — even as a muslin. Have you considered doing another sew-a-long using this dress — I would so make it. I agree with the others who suggested that this dress would also look good in both a solid and a print (I think one that isn’t too busy). I love lapped zippers and the vintage look they give a dress (I use a really good tutorial video from YouTube — Ottis Sophomore School of sewing). I look forward to seeing your dress transform from the muslin to a finished garment.

  18. Amy July 15, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    I’ve been wanting to buy that pattern! Seeing it sewn makes me want it more…

  19. Caroline July 15, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    Yea! I Second the question of what happened to your O Dress, I love seeing how your projects progress.

  20. Tasia July 15, 2011 at 11:11 am #

    Hello, everyone! The O Dress is on hold, I put it away when I moved into my office. I was hoping summer would arrive and I’d have no need for a warm fall dress! Go figure, I’m wearing black tights again today. So much for summer! I will pull it out again soon, after the Sew-Along, and finish it up. You’ll get to see the end of the story! :)

    What do I do with my muslins? Usually, cut it up and use the big pieces for re-cutting smaller pieces. What do you do with yours?

    I will show you how I fix that lower back extra-fabric problem – good to know I’m not the only one!

  21. Sherry July 15, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    Very nice! I think this will look lovely on you. My first thought was it looked similar to Kate Middleton’s engagement dress – don’t’ choose navy silk jersey! I’d probably choose a plain myself, but you’re much more of a print person than me!

  22. G July 15, 2011 at 11:36 am #

    I think solid and possibly bold (royal blue? red?) is the way to go here. You’ll look stunning.

  23. Ryan July 15, 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    the nice thing about using a snap closure instead of a zipper is that you retain the softness of the fabric at the side seam. Especially if there is any blousiness* above the waist. The ties on this dress with pull the dress in at the waist so there shouldn’t be any strain on the side seams like there might on a more fitted style.

    *I could have sworn blousiness was a real word, but I can’t seem to find a better spelling or any references to help me out.

  24. Tasia July 15, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    @Ryan: That’s what I thought, too, the tie goes over the zipper-or-snap closure for extra security, so snaps would be fine! Plus, I could start with snaps, and then easily take them out and put a zipper in instead, if they weren’t holding shut, without any real damage to the opening. And I wanted to try something different and more vintage-y. (And I think blousiness counts as a word even if spell-check doesn;t think so! I knew exactly what you meant!)

  25. Tasia July 15, 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    @Denise: Thanks for pointing it out! I think I’ve tied the dress too tightly on the dress form, it’s better on the body. (Checked out my in-the-mirror photos though, just to make sure!)

  26. Sewingdina July 15, 2011 at 2:52 pm #

    Fantastic! This looks a challenging dress. I was going to say silk jersey like Sherry. I would also say a solid colour or something with a small print. On a separate note my Lonsdale pattern arrived today! Looking forward to the sew along.

  27. Lara July 15, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    I have this pattern too! I may just be inspired to move it further up my queue now. My figure is an apple shape and I’m quite short and a little on the plump side at the moment, so it would probably look quite different on me, but hopefully still flattering. I’m really looking forward to seeing how yours comes together. Maybe I should make a muslin after all….

  28. Amy (quixoticpixels) July 15, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    OMG. That is an amazing design and the fit already looks pretty darn good. It’s going to be a stunner. I think I’d opt for a solid fabric, but I tend to do that most of the time anyway. If a print, pick something that’s not too dark or busy/contrasty. Lighter, subtle prints often allow design features to show through.

  29. Holly July 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    Ooh, looks great! I just bought my first vintage patterns ever and am very excited to see how your dress turns out while I wait for my patterns to arrive. Where do you buy the muslim in Vancouver? I haven’t done a muslim yet but I think I should with the vintage dresses.

  30. Annabelle July 15, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    Tasia, I totally agree – this dress looks amazing in muslin and is sure to look divine as the finished product. I sympathize with you when it comes to choosing the right fabric for this dress, that is always my biggest struggle when sewing (and it should be the fun part). I think this dress deserves two goes – solid and print. So no matter which you choose, it will be great.

  31. Mary July 16, 2011 at 4:59 am #

    Tasia, just my 2 cents worth, I think the reason that prints look so good in the flowy type dresses that you favor, is that the multi colors break up the sillouette of a large full dress. If you were wearing a skirt, top and cardigan… the eye would see the separate colors and shapes. Although a plain dress can be beautiful and quite classic, you may want to avoid just being a large one color sillouette. BTW I know my spelling is bad but its early and I am not spell checking…..

  32. Doortje July 16, 2011 at 10:52 am #

    I wonder how the sizing is of these reprint vintage patterns?
    Do you need to size up or down if you buy one?

  33. Gail July 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    I agree that the dress is looking good – even in dowdy muslin. It will look lovely in a print.

  34. Anita July 18, 2011 at 12:17 am #

    I love this dress pattern! I’m sure it’s going to look fantastic!

  35. Steph July 18, 2011 at 3:26 am #

    Yours already looks a lot better than my attempt! I made this dress for a Blitz themed party and it looked awful! I’m not sure whether it was the fitting, or the gathers in general, but it looked appalling on. Good luck with yours though! Can’t wait to see what it looks like when made up properly!

  36. Casey July 18, 2011 at 4:36 am #

    Beautiful! I really love the draping of the ties over the hips; it’s really a unique detail. I’ve made several garments using a snap closure, and it holds up a lot better than I’d have suspected! The only real problem is it’s a pain to put something on that snaps up the side; it takes longer. I’d recommend also putting a hook and eye at the waistline. I saw that in one of my vintage sewing books ages ago for a snap placket closure, and it does help keep everything smooth and from pulling oddly.

    Can’t wait to see your dress!

  37. Bellieshaker July 18, 2011 at 7:28 am #

    How about a solid but with a different fabric for the diamond?

  38. Bellieshaker July 18, 2011 at 7:32 am #

    I also think a winey / burgundy colour would be amazing!

  39. Funnygrrl July 18, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    Beautiful muslin! Can’t wait to see the finished dress.
    I agree a solid fabric would be nice to show all the beautiful details that you work so hard on.
    I especially love the triangle and gather detail on the bodice. Seems it would be a helpful addition to a sewist who is less endowed in the bust area. Not speaking for you, just for me! :)

  40. Tasia July 18, 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    @Funnygrrl: Hey, that’s OK! I need the helpful additions to that area, for sure :)

    @Doortje: All sizes are included in the reprint patterns! No need to re-size, unless you’re much smaller or larger than the size range of the pattern. This one comes in sizes 6-8-10 and I believe the next size range is 12-14-16, so there’s more than just one size in the reprint patterns. One of the best parts about buying vintage reissue patterns!

  41. Volute July 19, 2011 at 12:29 am #

    Hi Tasia!

    I’d go more for a solid even if a fabric with small scattered prints would in my opinion also perfectly suit this pattern. It seems to be the better way to showcase the special features of this dress. The suggestions on the cover of the pattern’s envelope are THIS time very pertinent (since it isn’t always the case, is it?). Anyway, I’m sure it’s going to turn out into a very elegant dress! You have magic fingers!

  42. Shawn July 19, 2011 at 7:16 am #

    I have actually been working on this dress for quite a while. I love the details but I’m working with faille, which has a tendency to slip around so I can get frustrated easily. I had to modify to center triangle as I’m a bit well-endowed but after doing that the dress is very flattering. Putting in the zipper is scaring me, so that’s why it’s still not done yet. Really need to pull this out and work on it some more; can’t wait to see your finished version.

  43. Pi July 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Why don’t you use both a print and a solid, like coordinated color-blocking? I’ve been playing with that lately. Sometimes it looks fantastic. Other times it makes me look like a quilt – not ideal. But fun to mess around with. And a good use for leftover fabric!

  44. Jane July 22, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    Wow this is going to be a fabulous project, can’t wait to see the end result.

  45. angela regan July 29, 2011 at 2:25 am #

    Do you think it would be possible to do an FBA, or even necessary.



  46. Tasia August 2, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    @angela regan: Hi Angela, I’m sure it would be possible to do a FBA on this pattern! I don’t need any extra room in the bust, it fits a B-cup quite well without being baggy. Hope this helps!