Mad Men Madison

Oh, I have such mixed feelings about the Madison.


This dress just makes me want to lounge around outside.

I first heard about this dress when Kathleen had it as one of the options for the October Frock by Friday. I really wanted it to win, but alas, more people wanted to sew the Gail, which ended up being a fairly disappointing dress for me. So, I decided to do the Madison on my own. It was another cheap Burda pattern, so again, I had to print, tape together, and cut out the pattern. And again, the instructions were less than helpful.

I’m verging on happy with the final product. I do think it’s a striking dress. The collar is arresting, and the shape of the dress is very flattering on me (much more flattering than most of the store-bought clothes I wear). And I’ve gotten a lots of compliments on it today at work, even from lots of people who didn’t know I’d made it. And yet, the construction problems really bother me (and I’m not entirely certain that this collar is practical at the office).

Side zip

The really invisible zipper.

The problem really started as far back as the fabric purchase, a stretch cotton poplin from JoAnn, with 3% spandex. I guess I’ve learned my lesson not to buy anything but quilting fabric (and maybe lining) from JoAnn. This fabric just feels cheap. It didn’t help that I couldn’t find coordinating thread, so I bought a brighter teal (I should have gone with a darker color instead because this is way too contrasty for my liking). The thread color didn’t show up in pictures, though, so I can’t point it out.I did, however, find a perfect invisible zip (love the invisible zip!).

Snag number two was not lining the dress. I should have at least underlined it to keep from feeling quite so cheap (and to keep it from riding up when I wear it with tights). I just couldn’t really get my head around how to line with a side zip (and I wanted to try the side zip for the first time), so I didn’t line it.

Cats on fabric

The kitties show me how to create folds on both sides.

One thing I did right (and I was so proud of myself) was to figure out how to cut as much on a fold as I needed to. I had almost resigned myself to having a seam up the back when I realized you can fold both side of the fabric in.Duh! And with skinny pattern pieces like this, it all fit just fine. The other cutting confusion was in figuring out how the heck to cut on a fold and on a bias at the same time. I eventually realized I had to fold the fabric on the bias. (Duh, again!)

I made my share of mistakes on this dress, partly because I didn’t totally understand the directions, and partly because I sewed a really big seam on the left so that the bodice wouldn’t be too big, and I didn’t have a lot of fabric to work with on the zipper side. In fact, when I finished sewing the zipper I found I had a hole, where the zipper was sewn to air. I was able to fix it by pulling over some of the fabric, but it doesn’t look perfect. This fabric really showed holes, so I didn’t want to rip out the whole side of the zipper to sew again.

side view

An imperfectly fixed mistake.

I was also less than pleased with the slit. It was my first, and I think I may have done better to just wing it than to follow the directions. It looks okay from far away, but I’m not thrilled with the way the top-stitching looks up close.

A few things to know about this dress:

  1. You can’t wear a cardigan with it. You just can’t. I wrinkled the collar with my coat on the way to work.
  2. With the right styling, it would look totally Mad Men. And that’s in right now, right? I, obviously, went a different direction on styling, most due to the cold weather.
  3. My collar (both the front collar and the back collar) has fusible interfacing attached to it (of a medium stiffness). The pattern doesn’t call for it, but I think the collar would be *really* droopy without the interfacing. Also, attaching the collar is probably the easiest part of the dress.
  4. The “sleeves” are completely unnecessary. I didn’t understand the directions for them. At one point, the diagram seems to indicate that you should finish the “bottom” but then that’s the side you’re attaching to the dress. And I didn’t bother finishing the actual outside edges because they’re under the collar.
  5. Screen Shot

    I don't understand these diagrams. Maybe it's me.

Lots more pics on Flickr.

  • The pockets, though somewhat complicated to make, are awesome. They’re actually functional, and they look terrific!
  • Bottom line: for $5, it’s a terrific dress. Although I can’t see owning more than one of these, I would recommend it, assuming you pick a better fabric and/or line it, and assuming you don’t make the mistakes I did. πŸ™‚


    Straight on

    The collar was a bit distracting at work.




    One response to “Mad Men Madison

    1. Ok. I can hear your frustration on this and just have to leave you a few words. Good job! When I get into things where I didn’t think through the fabric choice and it end up kind of snow-balling, I generally stop. But you finished! And that’s good! You actually learn tremendous lessons this way! You learn exactly what not to do in the future, right? πŸ™‚ With that said, Rule of thumb on choosing thread for fabric choices (especially with Joanns… their corporate model actually dictates this silly thread/fabric color business) but ALWAYS go a shade or more darker. The treads appear darker en-masse on the spool. Second -when thinking about a fabric choice, the hand of the fabric matters, because DRAPE is king. When working with bias draped collars like this one, it will not work as well with a fabric with a stiff hand, unless you are a really advanced sewer. I bet you would like this better in a fabric that is, how Joanns labels -Silky. If you did chose a silkier fabric and wanted it to stand up more Mad-Men-esque, you would get creative with some interfacing on one of the layers in the cowl…. but that’s a little more advanced lesson πŸ˜‰ Anyways, I think you did a great job!

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