It’s time for another pattern review and this time we are looking at our first vintage reproduction pattern. Butterick B5708 is a notoriously interesting pattern despite it seeming relatively simple. Originally released in 1953, it has been reprinted for Butterick as part of their vintage pattern revival. This dress has a close-fitting, bias, self-lined bodice/midriff, a cut-in-one skirt front and back, an invisible side zipper and a baby narrow hem. The bodice extends into tie ends which can be tied up in multiple ways for different styles and looks. The pattern is one style but contrasting fabric can be applied for a unique look. For this review, I will be sewing style A.
The fabric I chose for this dress is one I’ve had in my fabric stash for over 8 years and its definitely time to use it instead of harbouring it forever. My fabric is a cotton-silk blend that I purchased in Malaysia what feels like a lifetime ago and is a soft teal blue background covered in light blue and navy hydrangea. This fabric is delightfully soft and I am a sucker for floral prints, in fact, I also bought this fabric in another colourway which I plan on using soon. Although I couldn’t find the exact fabric online, I mean, I found it in a small Malaysian market somewhere in the fabric district over 8 years ago, I did manage to find a close dupe if you were looking for something similar. I chose this fabric for this project as I think the pattern will look great on the bodice and the different ways of tying up the bodice will mean I can style it more casual or dressy depending on where I am going.
For this pattern I cut out the size 12 as with Butterick patterns, that’s what best fits my body. I have a 28-inch waist which should bet the size 14 but I find with Butterick, going down a size is always the best fit. I should note that after a bit of research, this pattern lies with its final measurements, especially in the bust which is a fair bit smaller than what the pattern says it is. Please keep that in mind as we progress with this review but we will touch on this subject a little later.
Sew, let’s get started. The bodice pattern pieces are quite large and very awkwardly shaped so please make sure your material is wide enough to fit. Each piece needs to be cut out more than once, some pieces need to be cut out 4 times, so playing some fabric Tetris is a skill required for this dress. Oh and you also need to cut on the bias so you know, extra fabric is a necessity. I actually had to change my original fabric idea as I was half a metre short on cutting out my skirt pieces which were very upsetting but it worked out in the end. The bodice is self-lined which means you use your dress fabric to also line your dress and I’m glad I had my cotton silk blend which made this a very comfortable choice of fabric.
I get nervous sewing three pattern pieces together into a smooth point as there’s always a pucker or something somewhere. This dress is such a pattern as the bodice front top half is attached to the bodice front midriff side pieces creating a three-point connection. As the bodice is self-lined, I just chose the best three-point connection with the smoothest sewing and did the same for the back. The parts with lumps became my lining. I found it easiest when sewing these three pieces into a point, to sew from the outside into the centre point, and then start a new stitch from the other side back into the centre making sure the centre meets perfectly. It was a tad fiddley but it gave me the best result.
I did deviate from the original pattern instructions as they wanted me to attach the outer fabric to the skirt and then attach my bodice lining but instead, I attached my bodice front to the lining and then the whole lot to my skirt as the process just seemed smoother and easier. Apart from that, the skirt itself was super simple to gather and attach and the side invisible zip wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Even though I’ve been sewing for a while, I still can’t sew a clean zip so I’m hoping to get better at that this year. I also didn’t realise my zip was about an inch too short than what was required so please make sure yours is the 14 inches required.
Fit: Well the rumours are true, this is a poorly fitted pattern. I think when Butterick was reworking this pattern from the original vintage to the now modern pattern, something went wrong, especially in the bust measurement and grading as the bust is way too small. I felt very squashed in the bust and found that I felt like my boobs were pancaked to make them fit. I found that this made me feel frumpy and the dress just looked overstretched and bulky. I really like a smooth clean bodice and with the lumps and tension along the bust, I just didn’t get the look I wanted which was a disappointment. If you do want to give this pattern a go, add extra seams and space along the bust line. If you are of a larger bust, please please please do a mock-up of this pattern to make sure you don’t waste your good fabric. Another idea would be to use a stretchy fabric although I’m not sure if it will give you the finished look you desire.
I found that tying up the shoulder ties was a bit hit or miss and if tied wrong, the neckline of the dress got a bit gaped. I found the best solution was to twist the ties before tying them together as it gathered the neckline fabric a bit more and looked smoother. This also worked by wearing the dress as pictures in style A1 where the ties are on the front of the shoulder and the back neckline was pulled tight. This dress may not be suited to those who prefer to wear cardigans or boleros with their dresses as the ties on the shoulder are a bit bulky. I think if you absolutely hate the straps tied up if you pin them into the perfect position, you can sew them closed so there’s less bulk but still a bit of a tie look. Alternatively, you can just alter the dress to have straps on the shoulders instead of ties.
I don’t think this pattern is very beginner-friendly as it’s very fiddley, I personally don’t like that the instructions don’t tell you to complete the lining at the same time as the bodice is completed and I’m not a fan of adding lining after the front fabric is already attached to the skirt. If you were to give this pattern a go, definitely attach the lining to the bodice front fabric and then sew on your skirt. The process is just smoother and easier for beginners plus, I just don’t have time to slip stitch on the lining. I should mention that the instructions were easy and clear to follow but just executing them was a bit awkward and fiddley. The dress is relatively simple but not easy for beginners.
In saying that, I do like the overall finish of the dress and love the style and concept. She was a bit of a pain to sew and although she looked simple, she certainly was a bit of a doozy. I think with my fabric having a large pattern I was able to disguise any major issues so if you are wanting to try this pattern, certainly keep my above tips in mind and choose a loud fabric, to begin with. I should also say that choosing a thin material will work best as I can see the ties becoming bulky with something thicker than quilting cotton. Personally, I found tying the ties in styles A2 and A3 felt very bulky for the ties that ended up under the armpit. Just a personal preference but should be noted.
I think one day I will give this pattern another try and I will certainly alter the bust section to give me more room. I do think my fabric choice was great but a little part of me is disappointed in the fit and the fact I used good material on a dress that isn’t the most flattering to wear, especially if you don’t like pancake boobs. I wish you the best of luck with this pattern, my friends.
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