seeing spots: vogue 8788

I recently overheard a conversation among a group of women during a shopping trip. They had just discovered a rack of clothing that included a few striped blouses, linen drawstring pants, and a polka dot skirt (you know, just a few of my all time favorite things). They all agreed–and with great enthusiasm, I must add–that polka dots were ridiculous. “Who actually wears such a stupid looking print?”

My feelings were hurt for the polka dots. Look, to each her own and all that, but polka dots?! What’s not to like? There are a few prints I will always have a soft spot for (gingham, stripes, big florals), but polka dots must be the happiest print on earth.

I found this polka dot print earlier this spring from Fashion Fabrics Club, and I love it. It’s a navy blue medium weight stretch twill with a pretty stiff hand. It would make for a lovely spring jacket, and a shift dress or full skirt would be a nice option too. When it was delivered, I knew it would be the perfect fabric choice for a vintage Vogue pattern I’d been eyeballing for weeks. There’s enough volume in the fabric to support the fullness of the skirt. No petticoat needed!

This pattern appealed to me because there’s good coverage in the bodice and the skirt is nicely flared but not too huge. I was also intrigued by the wraparound detail, which is quite flattering.

Like I do before every project with a commercial pattern, I did a little research to see what other folks were saying about it. The pictures I came across told me everything I needed to know. I thought there might be an issue with the sides of the bodice being too big, and they are (understatement of the year). So what began as an easy project quickly escalated into an enormous fitting challenge.

I want to preface my summary of the fitting issues by saying that this wasn’t a sizing issue. I am the same size across the board with Vogue patterns, and I appreciate that consistency. The issues with the fit of the bodice have to do with gaping in one specific area: the sides of the bodice where it wraps around the body. I had to contour the pattern to fit my body, which is a common thing patterns need when there’s a low neckline, a wrap detail like this, or anything with style lines that follow close to the body, like a strapless design.

The first thing I did was sew a muslin of the bodice to have a look at the fit. It was a mess, but the waist fit and the princess seams were in the correct spot.

I made three sets of adjustments to this pattern. Along the way, I had a good laugh about it because this has to be the most simple pattern I’ve ever had to adjust to such an extent. When I got into the thick of the adjustments, determination kicked in and just sort of said, “I will win this, you silly pattern!” I knew that if I could correct the fit I would have a really, really great dress pattern on my hands that I could make in a lot of colors and patterns, because it really is an easy sewing project. Once you get beyond the task of fitting it, that is.

Three muslins later.

In addition to the contouring (which is essentially just “pinching” out excess fabric), I shaped the front princess seam under the bust and removed some excess fabric from the back bodice (a swayback adjustment).

With the fit finally conquered, I could move on to construction. This dress is unlined so the seams are finished with bias tape. I’m particular when it comes to that finish. Sometimes, on white, for example, I don’t mind sewing the bias tape on my machine. The visible sewing line doesn’t bother me. On prints, however, it bugs me a little. So, all of the bias tape on the bodice is slipstitched down by hand so that there are no visible sewing lines on the right side of the fabric. Notice on this scrap how distracting the sewing lines are, even the navy one.

All that slipstitching took some time, but I’m glad I did it. The edges on the bodice are nice and clean. I used bigger hooks and eyes at the back of the neck and on the back wraparound pieces because they are easier to hook than the little ones. Plus, they’re sturdier, and I just like them.

I opted for the hook and eye and snap closures instead of the ties in view A because I want the option of wearing a belt, which wouldn’t have been possible if there was a tie already around the waist.

I mentioned this whole contouring thing in my Stories on Instagram, and there were lots and lots of questions about it so I will be dedicating a post to that concept sometime in June. I promise, it’s not that complicated and it makes a world of difference to how a garment fits. If you have any questions, let me know. Have a wonderful long weekend, and happy sewing!


  1. Heather Myers | 30th May 17

    Thanks for another great post. The way you took in the sides is very interesting if I’m seeing it correctly. I look forward to the details!

  2. Sue Keator | 27th May 17

    I, too, am in the love me some polka dots group. Glad to see you will be doing a post on contouring. I am very interested to see how you dealt with all the extra under the arms.

    • Emily | 28th May 17

      Hi, Sue! I was quite surprised at the amount that the sides gaped open. It was a task to fix! I’ll cover everything about contouring sometime in June. I might even include a video component, because I think that would really help explain it all. Thank you for your comment!

  3. Pam | 27th May 17

    I so admire both your tenacity and your sense of personal style! You rocked this fabric and nailed this pattern. Again!

    • Emily | 28th May 17

      Hi, Pam! Thank you for the comment. My determination kicked in! Believe me, this pattern needed so much work that I (briefly!) considered just walking away. Ha! Glad I didn’t though. Can’t wait to make this dress again!

  4. Vava | 27th May 17

    I made this dress out of a rayon print, sort of a wearable muslin, if you will. I had to do a half-arsed modification on that underarm area, too, because I didn’t take the time to do a real muslin! LOL. Luckily, the dart doesn’t really show since the print disguised it. But, I will make this again and I’m going to bookmark your blog review……in fact I think I’ll print it out and put in in the pattern envelope.

    I love polka dots! It’s a timeless print just like plaid, stripes, and gingham.
    Your dress is lovely, and a belt will be nice with it as well. I used the ties in the back and I think it’s cute, too. This pattern is very versatile – I’ve worn my dress in all sorts of venues; out to dinner, daytime, and even as a beach coverup!

    • Emily | 28th May 17

      Hello, Vava! Your dress sounds lovely! I think rayon would be a lovely fabric choice for this pattern. I’m glad I’m not the only one who ran into issues with gaping at the sides, but it sounds like your solution works well. The post on contouring will come sometime in June. Thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m happy to know another fellow polka dot lover! 🙂

  5. Janie | 26th May 17

    Hi Emily your clothes are so well made. I am glade I found your blog. Hoping you will help me make my clothes look store bought like yours. Beautiful dress. I have question regarding Vogue 9002. I bought because of your version. Did you have to reduce the neck line? If so, how did you do it? My mine came so large. Janie

    • Emily | 26th May 17

      Hi Janie! Thank you for the kind words and taking the time to comment. Great question about Vogue 9002. I found that blouse to be a little big all around. I cut my usual size–a 16–and I think I could have gone down to the 14. I didn’t notice anything about the neckline, and it didn’t feel unusually large to me. If it seems a little on the big side, you can always add to it. So you’re essentially making the neckline a smaller opening, which may require a keyhole and hook and eye closure in the back so that you can get it over your head. Hope that helps. Have a wonderful weekend!

  6. Alison | 26th May 17

    A favourite quote: “I have never met a polka dot I haven’t liked.”
    I’m not sure who it’s from. You’re dress is fabulous and looks gorgeous!
    Alison x

    • Emily | 28th May 17

      Alison, what a thoughtful comment! Thank you! It’s nice to know those women who didn’t like polka dots are in the minority. We’ll happily wear all the polka dots! 🙂

  7. Diane G | 26th May 17

    It’s beautiful! Fits like a glove. And I’m a big fan of polka dots too.

    • Emily | 28th May 17

      Thank you, Diane! It took some time to get the fit right, but I’m glad I saw the project through. Can’t wait to make it again!

  8. Mariela Elmore | 26th May 17

    Beautiful dress and the fit is impeccably.

  9. Sew2all | 26th May 17

    I just did a google search and guess what…Jackie Kennedy, Princess Diana, Kate Middleton all wore polka dot dresses. Polka dot dresses are a classic, just like a Chanel suit. I love how you take commercial patterns and show us the challenges it may present. I don’t think I have the patience to tackle this dress but I learn alot about fitting issues. I also love how you use some heavier fabrics for dresses, I am going to start doing that. You have such a lovely figure, do you think sometime you could do a post about those of us who have big bellies? I know my figure has changed (post-menopause) and I am finding it a challenge to fit my belly. Another reason why the clothing manufactures “don’t get it”. Grrrrrrrr

    • Emily | 28th May 17

      Ha! I love this comment! I agree, polka dots are so classic. This dress did require an enormous amount of patience, but my determination to get it right overtook the desire to walk away because the challenge was such a pain. Ha! I’d like to give some thought to your proposed blog post. I’ve learned that dressing different figures and accentuating or concealing certain areas is all about proportions. And, sometimes, just figuring out the best silhouette and style line for your body type is the biggest challenge. For instance, maybe a shift dress would work, and then you could do some interesting things with seam lines that create illusions and mask the bits you don’t like. And we all have those bits, believe me! Have a wonderful week!

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