Apparel · Sewing

Retro Butterick 5605 (And Why I Will Probably Never Sew This Dress Again)

Whew. What a week…

Per last post, I said I was going to be super busy for the rest of the month (with life outside of sewing) but would try to get at least one thing sewn up before the weekend hit. Well, as it turns out I did manage to squeeze in one sewing project in the form of the b5605:

Out of the patterns I’ve picked out to go with my new fabric stash, I chose this one with the mindset that I would plan out the week with a couple days for sewing, and the rest of the week running errands and getting everything ready and packed for an upcoming family trip with the Hubs and my boys. Oh, and also do my usual Mom/Wife routine in between all the sewing and trip planning. I already anticipated the stress that would come due to all the multitasking and fitting in everything on my extensive To-Do list. What I did NOT anticipate was the stress that sewing the b5605 would bring to my life!

While I really like this dress, I really did not like making it. I found I kept running into issue after issue and making lots of rookie mistakes that I should have been past making by now. It’s almost as if I was sewing for the first time!

Here is the breakdown for the Butterick 5605: It is a retro 1956 mid-calf fit and flare dress. The skirt has side pockets, back pleats, and a zipper. The bodice is self-lined with side, front, and back seams. The detail is in the top back bodice with either a sash tie or a back band with a button. It also comes with instructions to make a fabric belt. I chose to make version C, with a buttoned back band.

I chose this 70s inspired floral organic cotton. It feels so soft and light! Perfect for Spring and Summer! || Fabric Details: Flower Market Daisy by A Beautiful Mess

I’ll just go ahead and get into the nitty-gritty. I said earlier that I anticipated at least 1-2 days for sewing. This dress literally took me the whole week to make. In all fairness, it took so long partly because I had to do my usual running of the household—cleaning, cooking, laundry, kids, hubs, etc. But mostly, it took forever because I needed to take several breaks from the debacle of gusset sewing (more on that in a bit.)

I made few but significant changes:

  • Shortened the sleeves by an 1” or so and cuffed them. They were short already, but looked better even shorter. I also just liked the look of a little cuff on the sleeve. I thought it added an extra touch.
  • I exchanged the pleated skirt for a gathered one. I wasn’t really fond of the flat front look, so I took a gathered skirt pattern piece from another dress and fitted it into the 5605 bodice. It ended up working well and I think the skirt has a little more fullness added to it.
  • Shortened the bottom hem as usual.
  • After finally finishing the dress, I was simply too tired to sew anymore and decided to purchase a belt in lieu of making a matching fabric one. Plus, I wanted to have more of a contrasting color to help break up all the yellow in the fabric and give me some definition in the waist area.

Cutting the pattern was more or less unproblematic. I do wish, however, that I had thought ahead and cut the front panel at the fold and not in separate pieces, or at least pattern matched the front and back panels. Duh. *kicking myself*. Argh!

The bane of this dress lies in sewing up the bodice. There are underarm gussets at each side. Sewing the gussets were an absolute NIGHTMARE!! It’s a wonder I was even able to do it because I could barely understand the directions on the pattern. The hard part was having to “pivot” around to make the sharp “triangle” at the underarm. If done right, you will have produced a gusset with a nice, acute angle and no puckering.

Well my first few attempts were hideous! It got to the point where I was basically done and ready to give up and scratch the whole dress altogether. I was so disheartened because I wasn’t thinking wisely and jumped right into it without even practicing on a muslin first. And I had already cut my beautiful fabric. But as you can see from this post, obviously, I did not give up.

Rather, I got reeeally lucky. After basking in my sorrow and feeling dejected, I was able to pull it together and stumble upon this 10-year old blog post that showed a step by step tutorial on how to make these darn gussets! Hallelujah! I swear, I don’t think I would have been able to do it if it weren’t for your visuals, so Karen, wherever you are at the moment, thank you soooo much for posting this! ❤️

She basically tells you that, instead of trying to sew the gusset in one run, break it down and sew it in sections, one at a time. Doing it this way helps greatly, especially with that “pivot” section where you have to make that sharp angle in the armpit. Also, if done correctly you will eliminate any puckering.

Start by taking a side bodice piece and stitching it to the corresponding front bodice piece from the top and stop at the fullest part of the bust.
Next, turn the piece so that the short sides are together and stitch.
After sewing up the short pieces, when you turn the bodice over to the right side, it should look like this, with a nice,sharp angle and no puckering at the point.
Lastly, stitch together the bottom of the side bodice, under the bust line.
This is how the gusset looks after all the sides are sewn. I pinked the raw edges and pressed the seams afterwards. I don’t even know if I truly did this correctly, but whatever there it is!

Now for the real treat: Once you have sewn this first gusset, you have to repeat the process over SEVEN MORE TIMES.

Yup. There are a total of eight gussets on this dress: one on each side of the front and back bodice sections, which are separate pieces of course. Also, since the bodice is self lined, that means constructing another separate bodice for the lining—complete with gussets, naturally.

Good grief.

The silver lining does come eventually though. Once you get past completing the two bodices, then the rest of the construction is pretty straightforward and easy enough. I was able to “make” my first buttonhole (emphasis on “make” because the buttonhole presser foot on my machine essentially does all the work for me. Who knew how enjoyable it is to watch it being done!)

attaching the lining to the bodice was a bit challenging because I’ve never done it before, but it turned out nicely in the end.

I’m still mad that the front panels of the dress weren’t pattern matched/cut out as one piece, but I guess the floral print kind of distracts from it. What do you think? I read about another person adding a faux button placket to the front to disguise the front seam line. Could be a possible fix…

The perfectionist in me is looking at that center seam and agonizing over it!! Hubs assured me it doesn’t look at all bad. Maybe I should just trust him…

I don’t know if it was because I was so ready to be One and Done with this dress or because I kept getting distracted somehow, but I repeatedly had to fold-unfold/pin-re-pin my bottom hem! It kept turning out uneven and refused to fold up nicely. I was starting to think this dress was somehow cursed! But after a few tries and cutting the hem evenly in a straight line, I was able to tailor it to my height.

Aaaaaah! I thought the day would never come! This dress is FINISHED! I did not make the matching belt. Instead I had purchased an orange belt to match the flowers, but it hasn’t arrived yet, so I used one that I already have. I think it looks good too. I am wearing my Cider Brogues from B.A.I.T. footwear. Oh, and I went with a petticoat underneath to get the full 50’s effect, although it’s totally works without one. It’s funny because I just realized I have the whole shebang of eras representing this dress: 50’s silhouette, 60’s shoes, and 70’s floral print. What a mash-up, eh? I rather like the concept, actually!

One word: POCKETS.

You can probably get away with a normal bra, but I had to use a strapless so the band wouldn’t show. I thought it would be difficult constructing the back, but it was actually quite easy to do. It definitely gives the dress a unique look.

My petticoat underneath makes this dress very twirly! You can catch the tiniest glimpse of it in this photo. I don’t wear petticoats regularly, so I only own this one and it is teal colored. It doesn’t match this dress obviously, but you can’t see it anyway.

Behind this smile and tired eyes is a girl feeling accomplished!

My overall thoughts on making the B5605 are that it is a beautiful dress—I like the back detail, and I’m glad I had such gorgeous fabric to work with. But making it was hard and very time consuming. I like to be relaxed when it comes to sewing, and with this one, I found myself more stressed rather than calm.. However, despite the issues, I’m actually pretty proud of my construction on it. It fits like a glove (which also means that I plan on not eating much while wearing this dress, hah!)

I know I mentioned in the title of this post that I may not want to do this one again. This was my most stressful sewing project to date, and those gussets were a real pain in the neck to tackle, but, knowing that I can actually do them now may change my mind about sewing this dress up again. Who knows??

My spool ratings for the Butterick 5605 are split:

  • Style and fit: 🧵🧵🧵🧵🧵
  • Construction: 🧵🧵 1/2

Honestly, I’m just glad the sewing is over, the dress is finished, and I can just enjoy wearing it now. It really is pretty though isn’t it?


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