So. Many. Gussets.
As it’s officially winter, I thought it’s a great time to whip up a few warmer dresses and focus on patterns with long sleeves. I’m honestly not the greatest with sleeves and have no idea how people make them fit perfectly onto the bodice whereas I always end up having to put a pleat or some gather at the top of the shoulder to make it fit. So that’s a goal for the next little while which is to keep trying to figure out sleeves and how to get them perfect. Upon browsing my patterns, I found Butterick 5605 which really called out to me; it had a few interesting variations with stylised backs and many sleeve options. It was exactly what I wanted but like all love stories, it wasn’t without issues. This is the ultimate pattern for learning and mastering gussets.
Butterick 5606 originally came out in 1956 and has been revised for modern sewing enthusiasts. The pattern is a mid-calf/midi skirt dress with three bodice variations. The bodices are close fitting, self-lined with side front and back seams and a back zipper. The pattern’s back bodice can be made with either a strap connecting the shoulders (option C bodice back extends into band with button and buttonhole) or a tie up option (options A and B bodice back extends into tie ends) and the choice between two sleeve lengths; 3/4 and short sleeves. For this review, I will be making option A which features the 3/4 length sleeves and the tie up back strap. Originally I planned to make the dress as exact to the pattern as possible but when it came to my fabric choice, I was forced to make a few minor changes including adjusting the skirt and removing the pocket (I know I know, where will I hide my snacks now?).
As is pretty standard by now, when it comes to sizing, I will be sewing the size 12 size option as I find it’s a perfect fit for me. According to the size chart on the sewing pattern, I should be a size 14 but have always found this way too big and by sizing down to a size 12, the fit is perfect. I am self taught and far from a professional sewer so i’m sure there would be a few adjustments made (I sometimes find my back is a little too big for me so I will adjust that) but this is something I am learning over time and sewing one size down in Butterick has always worked for me.
When it came to choosing fabric, I had a few options and started laying out my pattern pieces, it was then that I realised that the dress was self-lined meaning I needed to find fabric that I had a fair amount of in storage. The other issue I had was that the pattern pieces were quite awkward shaped and wide so I needed to find a fabric that was on the wider side to accommodate everything. I ended up switching to a fabric which I had purchased several years ago from modes4u; it was by the designer Rifle Paper Co from the brand, Cotton and Steel who have a beautiful and simple aesthetic with themed collection. This fabric was from their Wonderland collection and it features a navy background with a scattering of coloured tea pots, tea cups, fans and flowers. This fabric was 100% cotton which I love working with and I had originally purchased about 3 meters but just so happened to be gifted another 3 meters by a friend who saw the fabric and thought I’d love it (she was right). It is only because I had so much of this fabric that I could make this pattern work. Unfortunately because my fabric was cut into two pieces, I had to adjust the skirt a bit and ended up with a self drafted skirt of about 2 meters long. If you are after this fabric for yourself, you can still find it online but it may take a bit of hunting.
Sew, let’s get started. How did I not realise that this pattern had so many gussets. For those who are unsure of what a gusset is, it’s a piece of material sewn into a garment to strengthen or enlarge a part of it. They are often used to strengthen points in a garment where pieces come together or to make armpits bigger for added movement. We came across them in this pattern as well where they were used in the armpits. For Butterick 6505, gussets, all 8 of them, were used to strength the meeting points between the bodice seams and because the dress was self lined, both the top and lining fabric needed the gussets.
It’s worth noting that the gussets are not included in your pattern pieces and you are asked to cut 2″X2″ squares to become your gussets within the first few instructions. This was a great way to use up scraps. Gussets can be really fiddly and annoying but honestly, this pattern gave me several chances to improve and I ended up using the best ones for the front of the garment and hid the not so great ones in the lining. The best advice I can give for gussets (I’m tempted to write up a whole post about them) is when sewing them in, keep your fabric flat, sew half way in from one angle and then sew in from the opposite angle to complete the gusset. I find it easier and smoother than sewing the gusset in one go and although it takes a little longer, its really worth it.
Apart from the many many gussets we had to sew, the bodice was relatively straightforward to sew. I wouldn’t recommend this pattern for a beginner as there are a lot of odd angles, sharp points, gussets and curved seams which are not the easiest for beginners. I would recommend this pattern for intermediate sewers or those who want a challenge. The bodice and sleeves were all one piece so I didn’t need to worry about adjusting shoulder points to make sleeves fit but I liked how the sleeves had two pleats at the cuff. The end of the sleeves were finished with bias tape and as I didn’t have enough to make my own, I used some matching pink bias.
The good thing about this dress being self lined is that it becomes quite thick and warm which is great for our current weather situation in the southern hemisphere. The self lining also meant that the tie up straps look good no matter how you tie them up. I really don’t like when patterns give you a tie up piece but don’t back it so when you wear the garment you see the inside of the fabric in your bow. It just bothers me and we came across this issue here.
I really took my time with this pattern and did it in sections as I was still trying to recover from being ill (little did I know it would get worse). The skirt was the quickest part and although it wasn’t as full as I’d like my skirt to be, and I also didn’t add the pocket, I was still happy with the overall dress by the time I finished. The dress took me about 3 afternoons to complete; first afternoon was just cutting, planning and gussets, second afternoon was completing the bodice, third afternoon was finishing the skirt and final touches to the dress. As I mentioned earlier, this is a great patern for intermediate sewers and although it’s not a new pattern, it’s not a very popular one which is a shame because it’s really beautiful.
Fit; when it all came together, this dress looks absolutely gorgeous on. I love how flattering the bodice is and it’s a pattern I’m tempted to try again but make the other sleeve and back strap variation. I really like the ties on the back of this garment but the only issue I realised too late is, I like to wear my dresses with cardigans, especially in winter, but when I wore this dress with a cardigan, there’s a big bulge on my back from the ties. This dress will end up being an autumnal/spring dress where I can wear it without a cardigan. In saying that, I see the appeal of sewing another one but with the button strap option. With the back zipper, I can also tie up the straps before I put it on so I don’t have to become a human pretzel trying to tie up the straps once the dress is on me.
I am happy with my fabric choice for this kind of dress; the business of the pattern means that those who aren’t overly confident with gussets can hide some issues in the print but it means I also want to try this pattern again. In my next attempt, I will aim to create the original skirt but it just didn’t work out this time. I know I could have purchased some new fabric but I’m really trying not to this year.
I feel quite proud of myself for tackling a pattern like this. Although I’ve been sewing for a while, I have leaned towards quite quick and easy patterns which weren’t much of a challenge. I didn’t have a lot of time for sewing so when I found it, I wanted something made up quick. I am happy that this year has taught me to slow down and take my time trying new things. I’ve certainly made some garments which I love and others that I am wanting to try again. If you are looking for a unique but slightly challenging pattern, give Butterick 5605 a go.
Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.
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