The Dress From Hell

DFHThis post could have many titles. I considered “Oh, Gawd”‘ “Love/Hate”,”Give Me Back My Premenopausal Body” … you get my mindset?

Let me just begin by saying that I have the utmost respect for the person who designed Vogue 8920. The pattern illustrations indicate a truly lovely dress. My praise stops there.

Pattern Description: MISSES’/MISSES’ PETITE DRESS: Pullover, lined dress (close-fitting through bust) has neck band, side front and side back seams, side godets, and narrow hem. A and B: raw edge finish on sleeve hems. B: hem band. (Are you *#%^ing kidding me? After everything else you go through on this dress, you leave the sleeve hems raw? Hmmm.)

Pattern Sizing: Combinations: Y(XSmall-Small-Medium), ZZ(Large-XLarge-XXLarge) I cut a Large.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it? After a fashion/Loosely.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Somewhat.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

Like: The semicircle skirt is fun.


  1. The dress is lined, I guess because of the recommendation of a sheer knit for the body. However, the dress is constructed with the right side of the lining to the wrong side of the dress. Again, I’m assuming this is because of the sheer knit. I would much rather see a clean inner garment. I went over and over this in my mind, but the under-bust seam and the construction methods made it impossible to change this. (In retrospect, I wish I had skipped the lining.)
  2. If I have a skirt where the bottom circumference is more than 4 yards, I believe it makes much more sense to hem the band first and then sew it on. I seamed the bottom band, biascut ½”-wide strips of a light interfacing, fused the strips to the bottom of the band, folded up that ½” hem and pressed, then double-needle stitched the hem in place. That process took 1½ to 2 hours. Really.
  3. Then there’s the issue of the ruffle at the bottom of the lining. I have one word for that: Why?! This dress is lined with tricot lining fabric. It has no body, by design. If I had used a sheer knit for the body of the dress, as suggested, this ruffle would still have added nothing to the dress. Tricot does not a crinoline make!
  4. When I got to the end of the instructions – the final step was to seam the ruffle together (four ~60″ 11.5″-wide panels of tricot), then gather and seam it onto the bottom of the lining) – the instructions ended. There was not one single word about the hem of the lining. Am I supposed to leave it raw? Okay, then tell me I’m supposed to leave it raw. This pattern is marked Easy!!! You’ve got to talk to me like I’m a sewist who will tackle an “Easy” pattern. Tell me, overtly, explicitly, that I can leave the lining unhemmed as the tricot will not fray.

Fabric Used: Lovely weight of knit in a Klimt-esque print from Vogue Fabrics. It’s either rayon/lycra or poly/lycra. I can’t remember, nor can I find it on Vogue Fabrics’ site. (It’s so pretty it’s sold out.) But it’s beautiful and feels nice. I wish I had used it for something else, like another great Marcy or Katherine Tilton top.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: Added cap sleeves.

Shortened the hem band/ruffle because I ran out of the main fabrics. There was only enough fabric for 7.5″ bands rather than 11.5″ bands. I made a muslin and the neckline seemed a little low, so I raised it by about ½”.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? NoNoNoNoNoNoNo.

Conclusion: Wasted about $60 of fabric on this one. But I’m gonna pull up my big girl Spanx and wear it to a family wedding tomorrow anyway. (This was written before a night-long rain.)

I saw this pattern when Vogue introduced the Fall 2013 patterns. I thought it looked lovely—flowy and feminine. While googling to see if anyone had constructed and reviewed the pattern, I noticed that T. Sedai, in her “Sew Skate Read” blog said, “V8920 – I feel like this is a few rhinestones short of being ready for dancing with the stars….” Undaunted, I set out to prove her wrong, to prove that this was a lovely and wearable dress.

In concept, the dress is flattering. But when I put it on and look in the mirror, all I see is a 15-pounds-overweight post-menopausal woman. [Sad Face Emoticon] And I spent my week on this dress, rather than spending every morning at the gym.

Gathering that damned ruffle onto the lining reminded me of this awful gathering process for
Ridley’s fairy princess costume several years ago.

I finished the dress at 11:00 p.m. on Friday night. Slipped it on in front of the sewing room mirror, and noticed I could see lining hanging down in places. Grabbed scissors and started whacking away at the lining. Came upstairs, slipped on the chosen shoes-to-accompany-dress, woke the Jazzman up where he sat—remote firmly gripped in right hand—in front of talking heads. Stood in front of the family room mirror and shook my head as I noticed that the hem droops on the left side. Then I heard him say he could see the lining in the back. Today’s activity will involve putting the dress onto my dress form and whacking off more of the ruffle. Or the entire damned ruffle.

WTF. Honestly, just WTF!!

Listen, Vogue designers and editors, if a pattern will ONLY work with a specific weight of fabric, tell us!! We pride ourselves on taking your patterns and making them our own. I’ll bet lots of sewists will look at this pattern and see a knit they think will look pretty on them. Tell them not to do it!

And while we’re on the topic, charmeuse?! Really? You’re going to take a lightweight, sheer KNIT and attach a WOVEN band of charmeuse to the bottom. On a pattern marked “Easy”? This is a recipe for disaster!

Okay, I’m almost out of steam here. I just want to say about my asymmetric hems on a garment designed with symmetric hems: I don’t know where these came from. I refuse to believe this is user error. I put those godets in perfectly. The saggy hem must be a function of too-heavy fabric. I guess. I don’t know where else to assign blame.

And to add insult to injury, it has rained all night. The rain should stop by noon. The wedding is outside at 4:00 p.m., a mile from Lake Erie. The shoes I need to wear with this dress are patent slingback platform pumps. Soggy ground and those shoes do not compute. I will not wear this dress.

I think today I’ll wear the same thing I wore for my mother’s 100th birthday party in May. With old black flats that I don’t care if I ruin in the wet grass.

Was there joy in making this dress? There was the joy of anticipation, of the vision in my head of what the dress would look like finished and on me, of the compliments I’d get when wearing it. There was the joy of half an hour of handwork while stitching the lining to the neckband.

Will I ever wear the dress if I don’t wear it today? I’m not sure. After I finish the next five garments listed on my sewing room To Do whiteboard, I may lay a couple of tunic patterns out over it and see if there’s enough fabric to turn it into something else. I do love the fabric!

I’m not sure what lesson I learned from this project. I guess maybe the “knit muslin” lesson will be enough.

Oh, yeah, and that not every garment is going to be a success.

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About Jan

Musician and geek and Juris Doctor; lover of fine art and fine craft; mother and grandmother and significant other and friend. Passionate about sewing.

11 Responses to The Dress From Hell

  1. gayle ortiz says:

    Oh, oh…I feel your pain. We’ve all been there but your words brought back that pain! I’m sorry you had to be the one it happened to this week. And so much work into it.
    Thank you for falling on the sword for the rest of us though. Nobody in their right mind will ever make THAT pattern!
    At least have fun at the wedding!

  2. Jan says:

    Thanks, Gayle. I almost wore it, then gave up at the last minute for lack of a suitable wrap.

  3. Janet says:

    I so wanted this story to have a happy ending. I know that feeling of trying on an almost finished garment and saying “oh no”, or worse… It is disheartening to say the least. I looked at the vogue link again, and if you look at the back view of the navy dress, you’ll see that hem isn’t close to even. I hope you can salvage the fabric.

  4. Jess says:

    Thanks for the warning! I was eyeing this pattern, but now I’m a little scared…and rightfully so!

  5. Jan says:

    Jess, we must stick together. 🙂

  6. Betsy says:

    Thanks for the heads-up! Was thinking of making this for my daughter’s wedding in October (long-sleeved). Now I’m thinking twice. Glad I only spent 4 bucks on it (sale on BMV).

  7. Jan says:

    Betsy, it might look wonderful on you. Just choose a very lightweight knit.

  8. Carol says:

    Well it did make an entertaining review! I do realise that is small comfort after so much effort. I note your review is the ONLY review for this pattern, so I suspect you have spared many others by falling on the sword.

  9. BriarRose says:

    Another seamstress you have saved since that is a style that would normally look nice on me. I do not want to repeat your experience of sewing in hell.

    The fabric… envy smites my heart which aches for the use of it on an unsuccessful dress.

  10. Janet McCoy says:

    This has been very enlightening. Thank you so much for the review. I have a client who has asked me to make this dress. I warned her that a pattern without a photo is a risk. I went home and found the blue dress on the vogue website and immediately thought it did not look like I expected. Like you, I thought the flared skirt would help hide the little extra weight below her waist. When I saw your dress my suspicions were confirmed. I read through the instructions at the fabric store and was already making all kinds of adjustments and revisions when I decided to read this whole blog. I rarely read fabric suggestions or notions. I have so much stash I rarely need to buy them. I didn’t realize it was a knit pattern. Both the shell and the lining we chose are a very light weight woven. I will put in a back zipper. I may still use this pattern if I can’t find something similar but it will not look like the envelope. I will write a review for sure once I’m done. Again, thank you!!!!

  11. Jan says:

    Janet, Carol, and BriarRose – all, thank you for your comments. The dress still hangs in the closet. Now you’ve motivated me to pick it up again when I return home in August. I’d love to wear it in a Butterick Katherine Tilton top. I’ll let you know.

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