Monday, April 14, 2014

Ms. Bell of the Ball in Butterick 5556

Every year I know that I’m going to make Ms. Paulette’s dress for the Pastor’s Annual Banquet. This year was no difference except I got started about two weeks later than usual and I did not help her with shopping for the fabric and notions. Ms. Paulette was on her on with the exception of a few phone calls.

Because I got a late start, I didn’t make a muslin to check the fitting. This is definitely a no, no for me. I like to confirm the fitting adjustments and design preferences before cutting into the fashion fabric. But like I said I started late having only to weeks to complete the entire project.

One good thing is I’ve sewn for Paulette for many years and know where changes are needed. The second good thing is the changes are few and not drastic: A little added here and a little removed from there. She is really not hard to fit. More often than not, she will select a vintage pattern. She likes dresses from the 40’s and 60’s. Many have details that you do not see in dresses today, like shoulder and sleeve darts or belt made in the fashion fabric.

So without further ado, here is my review of Butterick 5556.  

Pattern Description:
MISSES' DRESS AND BELT: Lined dresses A, B, mid-calf, have semi-fitted bodice and gathered, flared skirt, winged or stand-up collar, below elbow kimono sleeves, side zipper and side front pockets. B: sleeve cuffs with slit. Self-fabric belt has purchased buckle. Purchased petticoat. I drafted and made the petticoat.

Pattern Sizing:
8-22; I used between 18 and 20.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing with it?
Yes it did. At one point I thought I had made a mistake with the waist darts. They were too long. But I look at the drawing on the envelope to see that they were as intended. So I did not lower them.

Were the instructions easy to follow?
I did not have any problems following the instructions. The skirt had eight panels. I marked each on the wrong side so I could keep track of which ones were to be gathered and to identify the front panels for the pockets.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
Paulette selected this pattern. She likes everything about this dress: the full skirt, the collar, the sleeves, and the fabric belt.

Fabric Used:
A polyester I believe. The weave is similar to shantung with lengthwise stretch. She made her purchase at a local store at Roosevelt and Desplaines. I can always count on Paulette to purchase nice fabric.

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
  •  Added 3 inches to the length of the skirt. 
  •  Cut between size 18 and 20 along the sleeves.
  •  Cut size 18 at the bust area
  •  Cut size 20 at the hips. 
No design changes.
  • I couldn’t find the belt backing at any of my local stores and didn’t have time to order any. So I used faux leather belting to substitute for it.
  • I drafted and made the petticoat. It was pretty easy. I used some cling free lining and crinolines to make it. Sorry I don’t have pictures of it.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
One of my sisters loves her dress and would like one too. I do recommend it to others. I was very pleased with the results and so was Ms. Paulette.

Conclusion: This is not a quick project. Plan to spend some time getting the gathers just right. And settle into the yards and yards of hand sewing on the skirt. Be careful not to mix up all those skirt panels. In the end, you will have a beautiful elegant dress.

 Happy Sewing!


  1. Beautiful job, Cennetta! The fabric choice looks lovely on your client! My! She's so pretty in her new outfit!

    I made this pattern for my older daughter's going away dress. We only made a bodice muslin. She chose a mustard cotton with a neat print of white berries that had charcoal gray stems. She wore a charcoal gray cami underneath for modesty. I omitted the side zip and made the neck opening longer. Ahem... She wore a size 2 wedding dress, so this going away dress wasn't hard to get on and off sans zipper. She belted it with a charcoal gray belt and wore cute ballerina flats on her pretty and tired feet. However, her dress can be easily dressed up... for sure!

    You're right-- that dress wasn't a Quick Sew, indeed. Phew! But the results are worth it!

    Hugs and happy day,

  2. What a beautiful job! I love the fabric and the style of the dress. It looks great on Ms. Paulette also.

  3. Wow! This is absolutely beautiful, and well-made!! Love it!

  4. Its lovely and so is she. I have been following you for sometime now and I love all your work.

  5. Spectacular dress! Beautiful sewing job and wonderful fit. Happy for both of you.

  6. This dress is gorgeous, and very well made!

  7. Love, love, love. Tres chic and elegant. You're work is always fabulous!

  8. Awesome job, and how daring to sew this without a muslin, but you've got it like that. I wouldn't dare. She looks great and I can tell she loves it.

  9. All I have to say is You did Miss Paulette proud with this one. This dress is stunning - an a perfect fit from all angles.

  10. Elegant dress, she looks beautiful, Cenetta!

  11. All of the fashions you have made Ms. Paulette have been wonderful but this is my absolute favorite. Beautiful work!

  12. Thanks for sharing your work. I've considered this pattern but feared the sleeves would be too narrow. Nice to see it's one I can probably make and have fit.

  13. Thank you for your lovely compliment.

  14. Two weeks really and no muslin??? Unbelievable results, you and your model are now ready for project runway! BEAUTIFUL!

  15. What a stunning outfit - timeless elegance beautifully sewn.

  16. SO GORGEOUS! Your client has great taste and looks fabulous- she knows what suits her to a T.



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