Emergency Dress

So, it’s 11 am on Tuesday.  And I sort of lazily think about the rest of my week.  I’m mulling over the classes I have to teach on Tuesday and Thursday, and then I wonder: What am I doing Wednesday night again?


I am attending a very, very large social event with my husband and massive numbers of older men in his profession.  No pressure or anything.  Also: NO DRESS.

I had planned to make something to wear, and had it on the calendar.  And then I stacked some things on top of the calendar, and moved the stack to a stool in the corner and avoided going through the stack for a while, and now there I was: 36 hours to go time and nothing to wear.

So I did what we do when we sew: I got sewing.  Boo-yah.

This is the same silk I used to make my Burda dress, but in a different colorway (I think that one’s “spice” and this one’s “poppy,” or something like that).  The bodice is a McCall’s and the skirt is a vintage-look Vogue.  Lining on the bodice is that wonderful Ambience rayon that I heard about from Amanda, and lining on the skirt is a lustrous poly china silk that I got on mega-sale.

The bodice took the most time, but was totally worth it.  It’s actually a bodice with an overbodice–the pleated portion is separate, and has a full bodice underneath, for modesty.  I love the whole overbodice thing, but wish I’d avoided the princess seaming in the underbodice.  I also could have made it a size smaller.  When you wait until the last minute, you don’t have time for last minute adjustments.  Because you’re still putting in a hem 30 minutes before the car pulls out of the driveway.  Just sayin’.

I love the fullness of the skirt, and didn’t even miss the crinoline I didn’t have time to go buy.  What I did miss is the pockets I didn’t put in because I was worried I needed the extra 30 minutes to finish sewing.  Which I did, but still.  Pockets in a formal rock.

Hem: hot mess.  There, I said it.  I decided to reduce an inch from the hem, so rather than re-cutting all the pieces, I used the serger to take off the bottom inch while finishing the edge.  Then, rather than easing out the fullness, I put in a super narrow hem by turning the serged edge under and stitching close to the stitches.  Lazy, but it got the job done.  The lining is even worse: I serged an extra two inches there, and left it undone.  Which kinda stinks, because I meant I didn’t want to show off the yummy lime green-ness of it, which contrasted so strongly with the plaid in such a fabulous way.

I say all these things for a reason: generally, I recommend very strongly that we never apologize for our work.  In fact, Stitch by Stitch Power Phrase #3 is “Thanks, it turned out really well.”  We tend to point out flaws where other people don’t see flaws, and undercut the well-earned praise we ought to allow ourselves to accept.  Shame on us.  I’m making a point of sharing the flaws in this dress, though, because I think when a lot of projects–mine included–are blogged, only their best parts are pointed out, and it creates this illusion that there are some who sew perfectly every time and that YOU will never be as cool/perfect/talented/awesome.  Totally not true.  This dress looked great, and other than my forgetting to calculate my ridiculously short waist into the pattern, no one who was at this event of 400+ professionals ever knew that the hem was bootleg or that the lining was wonky.  In fact, I got boatloads of compliments on my imperfect dress–which I accepted and was grateful for.  I knew it wasn’t perfect.  I also knew that if I’d worked to make it perfect, I would have missed out on a fancy party with my handsome husband in a tux where we got to have grown-up conversations and remember why we fell in love.  And there is no way I would ever trade that for a flawless hem, y’all.  No way.

Go.  Sew.  Be bold, and own your mistakes.  They’re hidden from view, and are part of becoming better at what you’re doing.  And most of the time, no one will ever notice.  Not even your husband, when he holds your coat and tells you you’re beautiful.

You Might Also Like

  • starjumper
    December 9, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    you got a tear out of me on that last line. if that’s not enough to motivate someone to try hard and fail harder, i’m not sure what is. and btw, it looks beautiful!

  • Marsel
    December 9, 2010 at 4:00 pm

    Thanks, this is very timely inspiration as I go and try to start (and complete!) a fancy dress for my daughter to wear to her Christmas program this weekend!

    Yours turned out great!

  • Rachel at Stitched in Color
    December 9, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Great story! Ok, but I wish we could see *you* in the dress. I’d love to see how that bodice actually fits. It looks like it could be very flattering.

    • Deborah
      December 9, 2010 at 4:51 pm


      If only my arms were long enough! There was a photog there last night–if I can get a copy of the one picture for which we posed, I will post!

  • Judith Blinkenberg
    December 9, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    Beautiful little dress. Bet it looks great on. Wish I could get these valences I’ve been working on done that fast! Is that why you are called “Whipstich?”

  • Sew shine
    December 9, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Wow! I love this post! Your dress is beautiful! I can totally relate to the story as I’ve sewn several dresses for special occasions too…always get compliments….always know the imperfections….always the evening with my DH overshadows it all! VERY well done!

  • Tweets that mention Emergency Dress — Whipstitch -- Topsy.com
    December 9, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Deborah Moebes, Amanda Davis. Amanda Davis said: YOU GO GIRL! RT @whipstitch The dress I forgot I needed to make…which I made with a scant 30 min to spare: http://tinyurl.com/2baswny […]

  • Kate
    December 9, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Love the dress, it is beautiful! And I appreciate the sentiment of the post too… I am just getting into sewing garments so it is nice to be reminded not to be too intimidated.

  • Jen
    December 9, 2010 at 5:45 pm

    It looks absolutely lovely and thanks for the reminder about not letting perfectionism get in the way of a job well done. (I needed that message today.)

  • alexia
    December 9, 2010 at 6:14 pm


  • KC
    December 9, 2010 at 7:39 pm

    “had it on the calendar. And then I stacked some things on top of the calendar, and moved the stack to a stool in the corner”

    I love this! story of my life!
    It’s a gorgeous dress.

  • Sherrie
    December 10, 2010 at 12:50 am

    Great dress. GREAT advice! Thanks!

  • Maddie K
    December 10, 2010 at 8:37 am

    Great dress.. and even better words to live by!

    Sew on sister!

    Maddie, in Chattanooga

  • Janimal
    December 10, 2010 at 10:15 am

    What a pretty dress! Honestly, so lovely. I bet you looked smashing. And thanks for your words about how to be proud of our sewing. You are an inspiration!

  • Julia
    December 10, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    “my ridiculously short waist” = “I’m blessedly long-legged”

    The dress is smashing!

  • Melany
    December 14, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    So cool! I love that you whipped it up! I just wish you posted pictures of you wearing it. 🙂

  • stacy
    December 16, 2010 at 10:51 am

    i just found your blog through the sms giveaway day and let me say that this post is exactly what i need to hear. i just took an entire day to sew some christmas stockings – very carefully – for me and my husband. he LOVES them. so what do i do? point out the mistakes. i guess i feel like i’m deceiving people if i just accept their praise. i need to get over that. thanks for your honest post. very encouraging! and the dress really is beautiful.

  • Emergency Bow Tie — Whipstitch
    December 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    […] like I’m having a lot of last-minute formalwear to sew lately.  Not sure what that’s all […]

  • Anny
    January 11, 2011 at 10:23 am

    That last little bit, “Go. Sew. Be bold…” I’m going to frame that and hang it somewhere and look at it every day.

  • Mari
    March 14, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Really beautiful little dress! I think the green lining is inspired; how flirty and fun. I haven’t sewn for years….probably because of a few frustrating hemlines of my own…..but this little dress and your honest and thoughtful post makes me feel brave again. Thanks for the story and I too, would love to see photos of you in it! Super cute. Mari

  • Alicia
    September 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I love it!! I love your dress and I admire your way of thinking! I am just at the beginning of my craftsy path and what you wrote- keeps me going. Very inspirational! Thanks for that. I also hope you post the photo of yourself in it. The top of the dress is lovely! Alicja

  • Tips for Working with Velvet | Whipstitch
    January 10, 2014 at 11:20 am

    […] seam finishes and a flattering fit, I’ll pick fit every time.  (Plus, I think we all know my track record when in a fancy dress time […]