Retro Lemons (Butterick B6318)

This post has been a long time coming.


Yep, I finished this one way back in September, at about 2 am the night before going on my one and only vacation last year: three days at the beach.  Once the fall semester started, I realized that I reeeeeaaaally needed a vacay, as did my parents (probably definitely more than me), so I booked a room and packed everyone up in the car for a long weekend.  I’d never been to Virginia Beach after Labor Day, but it was great!  Perfect weather and, best of all, NO CROWDS.  Seriously, we pretty much had the beach to ourselves.  I’ll probably never be able to handle the burning sand and fights over towel territory again.

I think this was just before dropping my phone into the ocean.
It felt like EVERYONE was riding horses on the beach except for me. Kinda wanted to look into it, but was also kinda too lazy.
Managed to just barely capture a sunrise off the balcony before plopping back in bed.
Can’t go to VA Beach without hanging with King Neptune.  Bonus full moon.

Alright, back to the dress.  You will probably recognize the fabric as a cotton lawn from the Gertie line at JoAnn.  I bought it on a whim when it was on sale a while back and didn’t match it to a pattern until later when I rediscovered Butterick B6318 in my stash.  It’s a vintage reproduction pattern from 1961 with a gathered skirt, slash neckline, kimono sleeves, and wrap around ties at the waist.  (There was also a similar repro pattern for girls released at the same time.  You better believe I bought it, too.)  I’m not usually into the retro look, but those lemons were practically begging to be made into this dress.

Oh but the fitting!  Where to begin?  I made a muslin of the size 14 bodice, without any adjustments.  It was weird because the pattern tissue says the measurement at the bustline was 40″ – I’m a 38″ full bust and this was SNUG.  The darts were also a bit high/long.  I usually have to shorten waist darts on patterns, but I didn’t really know where to position this one.  The model photos show the dart extending pretty high above the bust point (or is that just an optical illusion with the stripes?), but the pattern tissue clearly marks the bust point above (and more towards the CF) the tip of the dart.  I finally just went with my gut and lowered it to about 1/2″ below the apex.  Once that was in the right place, I did a 1/2″ FBA following the instructions in Fit for Real People.  The By Hand London Anna dress sew along also has a tutorial for doing an FBA with kimono sleeves.  The book’s method actually has you cut off the sleeve before doing the FBA, but has you slash near the neckline (like the Anna tutorial) for larger adjustments.

The waist was also a bit tight, so I narrowed all four (two front, two back) darts by 1/2″, giving me 2″ all around. Also, the neckline felt like it was suffocating me in the stiff muslin I was using. (I think this is a recurring issue and probably means I need to wash my muslin before using it. Thoughts?)  I lowered it by 1.5″ in the front and 3/4″ in the back.  It’s now more of a boatneck than a slash neckline, but I like it!  I think it’s more flattering for my shape.

I also needed to fix some back neckline gaping.  I was able to pinch out 1/4″ darts in my muslin.  At first I tried to see if it was because I have a dowager’s hump (a.k.a. high rounded back) – so I did the adjustment in Fit for Real People, which has you slash across the upper back, spreading about 1/4″ at CB, tapering to nothing at the armscye.  Yeah, that did nothing for the gaping.  I think the idea is that if your upper back is rounded, you need some extra fabric to get over the “hump.”  Either I don’t have a hump like I thought I did or I just stand up really straight when fitting.  Ugh, the hardships of fitting by yourself!

My second muslin was much better, and all I really needed to do was fix the back neck gaping. I ended up using a way old tutorial from Ginger Makes (again for the Anna dress), and just pinched out 1/2″at the neckline, tapering to nothing at the underarm.  Then I just crossed my fingers and hoped it worked because no way in hell am I making another muslin amirite?

Here you can see the changes I made to the bodice pattern pieces.  Left: front bodice with 5/8″ FBA, lowered and narrowed waist dart, and lowered neckline.  Right: back bodice with lowered and narrowed waist dart, useless high rounded back adjustment, lowered neckline, and neckline gaping removed.

OH YEAH! I also wanted to fully line the whole thing because lawn can be a bit on the sheer side.  I wanted something lightweight (may have erred on the side of too light), so I picked up this lovely white cotton voile while I was at a stitch night at Stitch Sew Shop.  (PS Kalle can we do more of those, please?)  After much debate, I decided to incorporate the facings into the lining, and even added some sleeve facings.  I don’t know why, I just hate it when lining peeks through to the outside.


I sewed up the lining and the dress separately, and only joined the two after inserting the zipper.  I could have joined the skirt and skirt lining at the waist, but I was worried the gathering would be too bulky because boy is there a lot to gather.  So much, in fact, that my long gathering stitches kept breaking.  I finally caved and used the dental floss method of gathering, and ohmygosh it is amazing.  Seriously, give it a try if you haven’t already – it makes what is usually a chore for me super quick and easy.

Spoiler: all you do is zigzag across some dental floss, and then pull the ends of the floss to gather.

I think that’s most of the deets.  I actually wrote up most of these notes while this dress was still a WIP, which was really lucky because my usual post-it note method of documenting pattern changes is not so easy to decipher months later.  Here are some more dress pics at the beach!



And later I realized that I never got any pictures of the back of the dress.  Here it is on my dress form.  Doesn’t the bow look kind of dinky?  I’d definitely lengthen the ties in future versions.


And lastly some detail shots:



That camel photo is a picture I took on my trip to Wadi Rum while I was studying abroad in Jordan one summer (nearly 10 years ago!).  I rode that camel for three days and he kind of hated me, but he was really photogenic so I dealt with it.

Now that I think about it, I spent a lot of time fitting this dress.  It seems like I might need to make a second version just to make it worth it.  What do you think?


6 thoughts on “Retro Lemons (Butterick B6318)

  1. I remember this dress from instagram! Nice to see it in action, I love the colour. The poor woman on the envelope is probably choking, good for you to lower that neckline!

    Liked by 1 person

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