Butterick 5209, pattern sizing and ill-conceived fabric choices

butterick 5209 in viscose javanaiseThe story of this dress starts with me (knowingly) making the basic mistake of getting carried away in a fabric shop, falling in love with a print and buying it without knowing how, or what to make out of it. In my defence I was planning to make a dress for a wedding and went in with a clear idea of fabric choice and style but as they had nothing suitable I ended up with a beautiful floral print on the drapiest viscose I’ve ever seen. I knew it would hang well as it had weight to it but it also shifted all over the place making the style I’d originally planned totally unsuitable. I then spent ages looking for a pattern that might work and eventually ended up with the 40’s style Butterick 5209.

Butterick 5209

The pattern envelope says easy and I’m fairly sure that it would have been had I used a fabric I was comfortable with like a nice cotton print, but instead the slippery viscose shifted around pulling the seams out of line and I was forced to curse and bodge my way through to a finished dress. I didn’t make a muslin – partly because I’m an impatient/lazy sewer but also because I didn’t have any material in my stash that would behave in a similar way. This did mean however that I also had to fix the fit as I went along, and there was a fair amount of fixing to do. I really have no idea how Butterick or pretty much any pattern company I’ve ever used works outs their sizing. (Tips appreciated!) Going by the measurements on the back of the envelope I am exactly (on every measurement) a size 14. Having experienced the generous ease these patterns tend to have before, I totally ignored my Butterick size 14 diagnosis and cut a size 12. And then I took it in. A lot.

butterick sizes

In the end I took in about 1cm on either side seam but I was still left with a large amount of excess material around the chest, which was not at all flattering. I fixed this by taking in the seams under the bust by up to 2.5cm plus adjusting the gathers more centrally. In the end it worked out pretty well but it left me feeling a bit perplexed about how the sizing of the pattern worked, though it might be that all these problems would have been lessened with a less drapey fabric.

In the end though I did manage to make a dress I like in a beautiful print but the battling it took to get there does mean that when I wear it I find it hard not to notice all the little faults.

butterick 5209 close up



7 thoughts on “Butterick 5209, pattern sizing and ill-conceived fabric choices

  1. Absolutely stunning, thank you for sharing! I have just finished my muslin of this pattern, however I had difficulty inserting the zipper. I made the muslin out of calico as that’s what was recommended to me, which was probably a mistake as it’s nothing like the material I would actually want to use/wear! I’m new to sewing so still figuring things out. Also, i thought it was odd that the bodice lining just kind of floats inside the dress… do you know if I am doing this right?! Also, what fabric did you use, it’s beautiful! BK x

    1. Well, I’m not sure I’m the best person for advice on this one as I really struggled with nearly all of this dress – including inserting the zipper! I have to admit that I am very lazy about making muslins unless I’m making something very special as I get frustrated trying to find a material that works the same as the one I’m intending to use, but it will still give you a good idea about sizing and fit. The fabric I used was called ‘viscose javanese’ which I guess is similar to rayon. It is very drapey which works well with the style of the dress but made the zip on the side particularly difficult. I ended up sewing my zip in by hand to give me more control and prevent the fabric from warping. I actually can’t remember what the instructions were re. the lining but I definitely tucked it under and slip stitched it into place rather than leaving it loose. Good luck! I hope your’s works out well in the end – mine was a battle but I love it now!

  2. I am about to make this…I have recently discovered that if you use your high bust measurement rather than your full bust, and cut to that size, it works out a lot better. So in this case, my FB is between a 12-14 but my nigh bust is between an 8-10.

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