The Red Dress: Wrap Up

The Red Dress: Wrap Up

You may notice a gap in posts. The reason? The red dress.

Early on in the summer I got a wild hair that I should make my dress for our industry’s formal event of the year – the Mark of Excellence Awards. My first effort resulted in a poor-fitting (despite a muslin made of muslin) muslin in blue satin, dubbed ‘The Dress Full of Fail,’ that made from this pattern:
Simplicity 1743

So, back to square one. Now, I have a LOT of patterns. No, really. Like 293. (Um, you didn’t see that.)

Anyway, my next candidate was Butterick 6582.

Butterick 6582

I read up on it beforehand. Most people shortened the dress to above knee and complained about how high the neckline was. Me? I lengthened it to floor-length. The neckline was fine, and actually, I had to take the dress in about 3″ (1/2″ each front and back) at the shoulders, up 1 1/2″ at the waist, and curve it around my hips – fairly standard alterations for me.

Next decision was fabric. Silk dupioni was mentioned on the pattern back, and upon seeing the iridescent red-black in person (created by weaving red horizontally with black vertically), I knew I wanted to use it.

I always am hesitant to order fabric online without swatches, and I happened to find it in a local fabric store. Of course, since I was lengthening the dress, they didn’t have the yardage that I needed – cue the special order!

I was lucky enough to find a zipper that matched (just in case – I was planning a lapped zipper anyway).

All along, I was following Susan Khalje’s The Couture Dress class from As you can imagine, that meant it was more than just cutting out the silk fabric and sewing it together. Silk organza was cut out first and markings transferred to it, then the organza was pinned to the fashion fabric which was then cut, both organza and silk were basted together, and then the pattern instructions kicked in.

I definitely learned a few things along the way:

  • I missed the instructions not to pre-wash the silk organza. As a result, some of the smaller and facing pieces warped after I cut them out. Most I was able to re-pin to the original pattern piece to get them back into shape. A couple I had to cut out again before I could use them with the fashion fabric – most of those had a lot of bias surface area, which makes a lot of sense and is a duh moment for me.
  • Waxed tracing paper is TOTALLY worth the money. I bought some part-way through and ended up having to re-trace previous lines because they just seemed to vanish. I definitely need to get a few other colors.
  • Look for the Japanese cotton basting thread online. It was a dream to work with and easy to fish out later when I was done with it.

Anyway, my math was tight – I had less than 7″ of fabric left over when I was done, and  ended up having a really small hem (about 1/2″) because of how things were cut out.

I finished the dress and realized that it would really benefit from a lining. Of course, no lining instructions were included with the dress. As a result, I figured out what “make sure that the lining is a mirror image of the dress” actually means. I did think through it, but forgot that the wrong side should be out, not in. So…I ended up with a wasted hour and a half while I pulled apart the lining and re-sewed the darts and such.

But, it was worth it.

(I posted this picture on Facebook, and people really like it – and this was just the inside!)

And the result:

And me and my hubby: 

I love this dress. It is comfortable, fit well, and it’s red! People kept asking me how I liked it at the awards ceremony – to be honest, I was really tired of it by that point. We were the title sponsors of the ceremony, so my mom, sister and I were on and off the stage all night…ending with winning an award for Rental Community of the Year, 1-50 units – the only nomination we made this year.

(Did I mention that that event was the start of a really busy two weeks? MOE, then herding cats wrangling volunteers at a local swing dance event, a few days of normal, then a trip to Austin for a wedding. Whew.)

Best of all – it’s done!


Sewist, knitter, reader, dancer. Wife. Lover of things vintage and retro.


  1. How stunning! Really enjoyed reading the story of how you created this ‘masterpiece’. I’ve watched the Couture Dress course by Susan Khalje but have yet to put into practice. Your comments re waxed tracing paper are noted….where did you find it?

    • You can buy it from a place in Los Angeles (it’s mentioned in the comments of the class), but they have a $35 minimum order. I found that Sunni over at A Fashionable Stitch sells it by the sheet, and that’s where I ordered it from (along with a few other goodies – who can resist!) 🙂

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