Friday, 20 January 2017

Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book Corduroy Dress

For my first sewing project of the new year, I decided to finally make something from Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book. The book's been sitting waiting on my shelves pretty much since it was released (I was never going to resist a book full of pretty dresses for long!), so I'm not quite sure how it took me so long to get around to making one of the projects, but thankfully I got there in the end.

For those of you that aren't familiar with the book, it features 23 different dress projects with the added bonus that all the bodices, skirts etc. are interchangeable so you can mix and match to suit your taste. My dress is heavily based on the Cherry Corduroy Dress from the book, which uses the princess seam bodice, basic 3/4 sleeve and all-around pleated skirt, but for my version I switched that skirt for the side-pleated skirt. The dress in the book also has a grosgrain ribbon and bow sewn around the waistline, which I omitted. It's the kind of detail that I love on paper and on other people, but always feel slightly self-conscious about wearing myself for some reason.

The process of sewing this dress had a bit of a frustrating start. I made a toile of the bodice based on my measurements and the size chart, but it turned out so small that I couldn't even do it up - in no small part because the sleeves were so constricting that I couldn't reach the zip properly. I went up a size and made another toile, which technically just about fit but only if I didn't really want to move. Not very practical! So I went up another size and finally had a nicely fitting bodice. I've since looked online and I'm definitely not the only one who's had this problem, but I've also seen people saying they got a really good fit with no adjustments - maybe it depends on what size you are or something? Anyway, I'd definitely make a toile if you're sewing a dress from this book.

Once I had my overall size sorted, I made a couple of length adjustments. I added a 1.5 inches to the bodice, which is fairly standard for me, and I also added an inch to the sleeve. Unsurprisingly, I didn't bother hemming the sleeve on my toile and without a hem it was just the length I wanted the sleeve to be, so I added extra for a hem.

I had the opposite problem with the skirt - it came out really long! I chopped 2 inches off the bottom and then also did a 2 inch hem, and it now sits at knee length. Considering that I'm somewhere around 5 ft 8", that's not normal for me - I think the only time when I've had to shorten a skirt before was when I was using a vintage pattern.

Having sorted out the sizing, actually sewing the dress was nice and simple. The instructions accompanying each individual project are fairly brief, with references back to the basic sewing instructions sections at the start of the book for further details. I'm fairly familiar with sewing dresses by now, so the only detailed instructions I looked at were the ones for the lapped zip just as a refresher (it's been ages since I sewed one!).

The instructions both for the individual dress and the general sewing guidelines were clear and easy to understand as far as I could see, although I did notice a couple of typos. Generally nothing too serious, but worth keeping an eye out for (e.g. at one point 1/2" was converted into metric as 6mm, which could cause problems if you were using just the metric measurements).

The fabric I used is a lovely needlecord from My Fabrics. I love the turquoise colour - perfect for brightening up grey January days. And who doesn't love a spotty dress (there are spots there I promise, they're just so small they're difficult to see in these photos).

I'm glad I persevered with getting the bodice to fit because I'm really pleased with how my dress turned out. And the bonus of the book format is that now I've got the bodice right, I can combine it with all the different sleeves and skirts to make a whole range of dresses. Do you have Gertie's Ultimate Dress Book too? Have you made anything from it yet?


  1. Great work. Well worth all that hassle as it fits so nicely. I really like the pleats to, different from some of your others. And if you had to shorten the skirt I would drown in it at 5 ft!

    1. Thanks Louise! I have to say I was quite surprised about how long the skirt was!

  2. I love how the dress turned out! I just pulled my book out to finally trace off a pattern or two and I'll definitely be doing some measuring of the pattern pieces ;o)

    1. Thank you! I should really get into the habit of measuring pattern pieces more - it might have saved me a bit of hassle here!


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