The Coffee Date Dress (for work, not dating)

On the last day of Self-Stitched September, I wore my fourth self-stitched piece of clothing! Four days of clothes I made isn’t 30, but it’s not bad either. I may be up for the Me-Made-May challenge after all. Hey, that’s eight months away. I should be able to fill in 27 more days by then. 🙂

For Sept. 30, I wore my much-anticipated (by me) Coffee Date Dress, generously offered for free on Burdastyle by theSelfish Seamstress. For reference, it’s meant to look like this:

Coffee Date Dress

Photo by Elaine May and stolen from Burdastyle. SO CUTE!

Pattern Pieces

You really wouldn't think this would take me four hours. But it did.

Cut out fabric

The paper pattern pieces look neater. 🙂

The thing about Burdastyle patterns is that you need to print them out and then TAPE TOGETHER all of the pages before you can even start cutting out the pattern pieces. I don’t know if I’m alone here, but that was ridiculously time-consuming for me. I was following Grosgrain’s Frock by Friday instructions for this dress, and she used Monday for taping the pages together, cutting out the pattern pieces, and then cutting the fabric. Those steps took me two evenings!

Probably the most annoying thing about this pattern (besides taping the pages together, but that’s just PDFs in general) is that there’s no seam allowance. I can certainly understand why Elaine May didn’t add it, and since she is giving away the pattern for free, I’m not annoyed at her! It’s just that it’s very difficult to cut exactly 5/8″ away from the pattern uniformly everywhere (except the folds). And it’s pretty clear to me that in measuring 5/8″ using the side of my tape measure, I probably cut too big (more on that later).

Once all of the heavy lifting of taping and cutting was done, the rest of the dress was fairly simple. Grosgrain devoted three more evenings to the dress, but I did it in one (long) evening. I did simplify a bit, though. The biggest thing was that I opted to not do the ruffle. I like the look of the ruffle, but my print was so busy that I thought it would be distracting. Cutting out the ruffle definitely makes the whole thing go faster. If I make the dress again, I will do a plain color and will add the ruffle because I do like the look. I also didn’t bother with a sash. It seemed easy enough, but I didn’t have a good contrasting fabric to use.

So, without the ruffle or sash, I had only one new technique to learn, the all-in-one facing (well, facing in general, actually).  This had me worried, but it actually wasn’t very difficult at all. Again, I followed Grosgrain’s directions, which were very helpful. She also has great pictures, although this one wasn’t 100% clear to me:

Facing Directions

She says in the directions not to twist the fabric, but once you're doing it, it's not totally clear which way is NOT twisting.

The facing was easy to do, but if I make the dress again, I will cut the facing a little longer and will add interfacing. As is, it has a tendency to poof over the bodice. I added a few stitches at the bottom of each armhole to try to keep it in place, but without a ruffle, I had no way to do that in the front. The only solution is to iron it all down before wearing the dress, which worked fine. I found the facing in front to be fairly uncomfortable/itchy. That may be the fabric I used, but it may also be the place that it hits in front.

Everything else (darts, side seams, invisible zipper) were pretty easy to me this time. I learned my lesson and put the invisible zip right up to the top of the dress to avoid the hook and eye. Grosgrain suggested wrapping it around the back, which I did. And the zipper never fell down, so I think the technique works!

Back view.

No hook and eye! No hand sewing!

Close-up of waist

My first waistline.

Back of dress.

It almost matches up!

I hadn’t done a waist before this, but it certainly wasn’t difficult. You can see, though, that it doesn’t quite match up in the back. I think it’s close enough that no one would see unless they looked for it. By the way, am I doing something wrong that my invisible zippers aren’t really invisible? Is this because of the fabrics I’m using? Do I need to iron differently? I have no problem installing them, but they look weird to me.

In the end it’s a very simple dress with a bold fabric. I was very pleased when I finished, thinking I had done a great job constructing it. I ironed it, tried it on, and set it out to wear the next day.

And then the next morning came, I put it on, and I discovered that it seemed way too loose in the bodice. I had tried on the bodice along the way, but without a zipper it was difficult to tell how big it was. I just figured most of that would be eaten up with the zipper. I was wrong. I think the dress probably looks okay, but I know the bodice is supposed to be fitted, and it bothers me.


Fuzzy picture of the tent-like bodice.

To alleviate the problem, I wore it with a structured jacket (thanks, Stacy and Clinton!), which happened to beautifully match my favorite boots (which match everything. Really).

Full outfit

I love fall when I can wear brown again. 🙂

The outfit looked fine, but I didn’t feel like anything special in it. I spent the day feeling frumpy, even after coworkers said they liked the dress. And the combination of the too-loose bodice and the tight jacket made me have to perform the Picard maneuver all day long.


Very fuzzy screen grab of Captain Picard.

I would consider making this dress again. It’s fairly easy, especially now that I have the pattern put together. I need to learn to add seam allowance on my own, and the ruffle might add that special-ness I was hoping for. It’s not first on my list to re-do though.


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