Wadder result! My striped dress rethink

Striped dress blog front page

A comment was left on my recent Wool skirt post which referred to my first (not so great) skirt in that blog as a ‘wadder’.

A new word to me, it nevertheless made me snort with laughter the moment I read it. Once I’d wiped the coffee off my keyboard I looked it up, only to find that yes indeed, in sewing circles it’s a term given to a garment that’s good only for rolling into a wad and stuffing something with. Surely, I thought, we’re none of us strangers to that experience – and yet it seems a shame to consign every sewing snafu to the recycling bin.

The wool skirt in question is in a pile of goodies heading off to a local charity shop, since it’s a perfectly lovely skirt – just wrong for me. However the experience has prompted another ‘occasional series’ on the ClothSpot blog. The ‘Wadder result!’ posts will lay bare my dressmaking disasters and (hopefully) lift your spirits if you’ve had that sinking feeling as you face the mirror for the first time in a misguided make. I’m be aiming to snatch victory from the jaws of dressmaking defeat.

My misguided striped dress

This then, is the story of how I recently fell back into that ‘wrong for me’ swamp with my decision to use the MariaDenmark Karen Drape Dress pattern

Maria Denmark Karen Dress pattern used for striped dress
‘Karen Drape Dress’ from Maria Denmark

…to make up our ‘Rhoda’ coral & burgundy striped jersey fabric, which I’ve been itching to have a go with.

Striped viscose jersey fabric for striped dress
‘Rhoda’ coral & burgundy striped viscose jersey fabric

Before I go any further, I should say that any failure to succeed with this pattern is entirely mine. The pattern was easy to download and came with excellent illustrated instructions; this post is categorically not a negative pattern review. I love the MariaDenmark patterns and she’s even produced an eBook on fitting. The problem here was a personal one.

The clue for me should have been in the title: Karen Drape Dress. I posted last year about three jersey tops I made; two of which were based on a draping cowl-neck pattern. As I discovered, since I don’t have anything much to drape from up front; these were consequently the saddest-looking jersey tops in history. The same applies to anything expecting to drape from my bottom. However elegant this dress looked on the pattern picture, I should have known better.

Having said all that, I do think the sizing is perhaps a little big. Even though I based my pattern selection on accurate measurements and graded down from the waist to my narrow lower hips, the result was clearly too big for me, both in terms of back length (which I hadn’t altered) as well as width. My next rash action then, was to take it back to the overlocker, shearing off about 2 inches from either side and 6 inches off the bottom. This is the result.

Striped dress straight
One of my braver image selections…

Can we see what’s happening here, readers? Oh, those stripes. I had honestly thought the diagonal stripe direction at the top would be great.

<Pause for laughter and general eye-rolling>

Of course what’s actually happening here is that as the fabric is gathered into those side pleats, the stripes appear to draw closer together. Or conversely they move further apart as they move up to my shoulders. Shoulders which can make a fair old attempt at butterfly down at the local pool, but which hardly need signposting with orange stripes.


Let me take you back to 1984. Meryl Streep appears in Falling In Love with Robert de Niro (a sort of NY version of Brief Encounter but without Celia Johnson’s accent). In one scene she’s getting ready for an extra-marital rendez-vous with Bob and can’t decide what to wear. (We so know the feeling, Meryl). Not wanting to keep Robert de Niro waiting… (sorry) she’s getting more and more frantic, trying on outfit after outfit. At one point she pulls out a raspberry pink jersey dress and pulls it on the wrong way round…

Meryl - getting dressed
Meryl fights her pink pull-on dress

…before finally getting into it the right way round and rearranging her shoulder pads…

Meryl - strong woman
Meryl comes out fighting
Alice's striped dress
Bring it on!

In my striped dress I really was beginning to understand how she felt (although I suspect Robert de Niro wasn’t particularly bothered either way. *sigh*)

I realise at this point I’m probably doing the pattern and myself a disservice but this extra fabric was really beginning to bother me…

Striped dress so much fabric
What’s all this for?

But I’m a practical girl and like to consider all possibilities.

Striped dress marsupial
Aha! Handy marsupial pouch!

Hmm. Lesson learned for the next time. I am decidedly not a drapey person and I promise not to do this again. Meanwhile I’m left with a dress-worth of perfectly lovely fabric. I can’t bear to throw it away. What’s to be done?

Striped dress rescue!

I figured that there was surely a top and skirt to be had out of this dress. I knew what my grandmother would have done. These days it’s called ‘upcycling’ – a word I hate, mostly because the spirit behind it has been around for decades and it’s nothing new.

On this occasion, out with a favourite t-shirt that I know fits me…

Striped dress t shirt template
Not that old thing again…


Now for a jersey skirt that I usually wear over leggings…

Striped dress skirt offcut
Striped pelmet anyone?

Time to cut out all that drapery…

Striped dress front outcut
Ready for a re-design

A bit of elastic later, and this is what we’re left with – a back, two sleeves and a rather immodest skirt.

Striped dress remake start
Clearly we’re missing something here

Let’s have some of that draping fabric.

Striped dress Skirt pieces
Skirt pieces ready to sew

I was still hooked on the idea of using a diagonal stripe somewhere. Plus my spare fabric was cut on the cross and using the stripes diagonally meant that there was no need to worry about matching at the join.

I will confess to having had to snaffle another 0.75m of our fabric supply for my front in order to match the stripes. I used the lower half of my old t-shirt as a template for the torso, but used the armscye of the original pattern to make sure that my sleeves would reattach accurately.

Striped dress transformed!

And here we go! Followers of my Style Crisis posts will immediately observe that I’ve fallen back into my black jersey comfort zone.

Striped dress skirt final
We’re in familiar territory here…

However these are clothes that I am comfortable working in. They’re practical for the jumping around that I do – and there’s potential to dress these pieces up with other colours, too.

Striped dress skirt arms aloft

And that top?

Striped dress final shirt straight
No draping here!

Perfect with my leather jacket – just as I’d hoped.

Striped dress top with leather jacket
Safely back in my comfort zone

Of course one option would be to recreate my original intention of having a striped dress by wearing the top and skirt together. I can assure you that I tried this. However I looked as if I was about to audition for a dance sequence in a seventies production of A Chorus Line – so gave that a miss.

No pictures; I have some pride, you know.

Take heart!

I hope that my rescue job will reassure anyone who’s every had a disaster; there’s nearly always something to be done.

Would you have done something different in this situation? If so, then what? Have you rescued something that you’ve been pleased with in the end? Perhaps it’s even turned out better than the original plan – do let me know.

Meanwhile I’m about to embark on a spot of tailoring; much more grown up I promise – details in my next post!

13 thoughts on “Wadder result! My striped dress rethink

  1. Roswyn Glenny says:

    Love that top, the stripes are lovely. I have rescued many a wadder, some worked some didn’t but it won’t ever stop me trying. I have also recycled bought dresses into tops and felt so happy when I could wear them again, so satisfying. Love your blogs, thanks.

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thanks Roswyn! I know what you mean – sometimes a project is beyond rescue, but you’ve got to give it a shot. Getting a top out of a dress is a great idea – sometimes I forget the potential to re-version an off-the-shelf item. I picked up a couple of bargain jeans recently – they were a wide bootleg cut but fitted me really well up top – so I just ran the machine up the sides to narrow the legs – that brought back a few memories!

  2. Rachael says:

    Haha what a fun read! Presently my wadder bag holds more than my wearable rail but I’m now tempted to have a look in it and see what I can salvage!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Glad you enjoyed it Rachael – and thank you! I feel for you with your ‘wadder bag’. I think I am going to make myself a rule that I either rescue an item right away or I give it away…it’s a tough one. Perhaps sometimes you have to thank a ‘disaster’ for the learning experience, decide what went wrong, acknowledge that it’s beyond rescue but resolve to avoid it in the future… (is my reasoning at least!)

  3. Louise says:

    I love that striped jersey – the colours seem to almost glow! I seem to have been all about stripes recently … Your latest version of the skirt is just perfect – very much your style. I saved a few less successul projects from a big wardrobe cull last year but haven’t got round to actually deciding what I might do with them yet – I should pull them out and give it a go…



    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you very much, Louise – yes I do love the colour in that jersey – it was the element of the make that was designed to take me out of my comfort zone. Now to combine it with something other than black…. (erkkk!) I read that you’d had a wardrobe cull last year (badge for Louise!) I think it’s really difficult psychologically to go back to something after time unless you really love the fabric or unless there’s something very specific to be done with a garment. I find things either get hidden away and forgotten about or they sit somewhere visible and nag me silently – I’m not sure what the answer is….let me know when you figure it out!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Thank you! Yes indeed – two out of one has to be a winner! So pleased they met with your approval (although let’s not look *too* closely at that stripe-matching shall we…?)

  4. Marion George says:

    Firstly I have to say the pattern doesn’t appeal to me. If I made it i know it would be a disaster on legs. So, you might be surprised when you hear that I think it made up better then I would have thought but it isn’t ou and it wasn’t right. I love what you did to save it. Cool, funky and looks like I imagine you to be.

    I had to giggle when I read that the next project was some tailoring. I’ve just made my first ever tailored jacket. A word from the now wise if your are making something in wool that shrinks. It shrinks when you press it!

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Cutting right to the chase as ever, Marion! Great hilarity at that in the ClothSpot workroom you’ll be pleased to hear. Gratified that you think I got it right in the end (and very happy to be deemed ‘cool and funky’ although there are many days when I suspect I don’t reach those heights….)
      But yes indeed – wool does shrink when steamed and pressed – I like to think of it as fabric sculpture when I’m setting in a sleeve in or pressing a curve. Not to issue egg-sucking instructions or anything (nooo!) but it’s why we suggest steaming and drying a length of wool before cutting it, as it deals with any initial shrinkage. It’s the equivalent to washing a plant fibre fabric before cutting. How did your jacket go? We do love a picture!

  5. Di says:

    I’ve only just stopped laughing at you in the original dress. Your remake is great — suits you much better AND goes with lots of other items in your extensive? wardrobe. I agree with you about the term ‘upcycling’. I prefer the old ‘make do and mend’.
    Yes, I too have produced wadders. Many seem to have been wrap dresses, which do not suit me. I knew this but kept making slightly different versions in the folorn hope that one would look stunning. I finally got a grip of myself and took all the relevant patterns to a charity shop. All was not lost with the ‘mainly jersey’ fabric which was recut to use in the sort of T shirts that Marcy Tilton designs, or as bindings. I foolishly bought some jersey with a ‘camo’ design which I made into a dress. I will not relate what my husband’s comments were when I paraded my effort—- too rude to share with the general public, but had something to do with lying under hedges!! That went in the charity bag,

    • aliceclothspot says:

      Well Di – so pleased to have provided you with some inadvertent hilarity… No really – I put it on and was totally bamboozled as to how I could have got it soooo wrong. Thank you for the vote of confidence in the remake – I was determined not to waste the fabric. Ah yes – wrap dresses. Don’t get me going. I have a friend who has been extolling the virtues of the DvF classics for the last 20 years – and I was bought a beautiful wrap dress a few years ago too – but it had to go back. Honestly, I look like a sausage in them. Absolutely the wrong shape, end of story. It’s sad – and I know how it is to ‘keep trying’ in the hope that one just hasn’t found ‘the one’ but there is no such thing. Glad to hear I’m not alone in the occasional futile mission. However if you catch us selling ‘camo’ jersey then you have my permission to send us something smelly in the post… 😉

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