Sewing Butterick Retro shelf bust 50s style dress

My recent holiday in Antigua gave me the perfect opportunity for some slightly more glamorous outfit shots than usual – the Caribbean backdrop definitely makes the most of my latest sewing project, Butterick B5882, a 1950s inspired shelf bust dress pattern by amazing retro sewing blogger Gertie. This is my favourite sewing project so far because it’s so ‘me’. The moment I saw this pattern I knew I had to make it, and I decided to go all out in leopard print fabric with a black trim for the full-on retro reproduction vibe. The pattern is gorgeous – a lined and boned top with a ‘bra’ shelf section, and a huge full skirt which hangs beautifully. Here’s the full-length photo…
Shelf bust dress in leopard and black - Butterick 5882 pattern by Gertie

I made a few small pattern adjustments – I made a quick toile because the bodice pattern pieces seemed very big and found that while the front section of the size 14 fit me well, with the side seams sitting just about in the right place (in hindsight, I’d take them in a bit more) I had to cut down the back panels (thus the skirt) by a good few inches for a good fit there – I’m definitely front-heavy! The straps are made from one big bias strip that runs right under the pleated bra detail, and since I’m cheap and fabric is expensive, I ended up putting a centre seam in this piece rather than cutting it on one, to save on fabric. I also decided to remove the skirt lining, because my leopard fabric was quite heavy. I’d just put a slip under it (or a net underskirt) if I wore it at home.

Here’s a close-up of the bodice and the pleated bust panel. It’s not as neat and tidy as it looks in Butterick pictures and I think I pleated and folded it a bit messily, but I was happy to see that Gertie’s own version of the dress seems to be similar, in that the pleats puff up a little bit. That said, hers is a much better fit – mine sticks out in places, possibly because I needed to pull in the sides a bit more.

Shelf bust dress close up of bodice - Butterick B5882 pattern by Gertie

You can wear the dress two ways, so to speak. The band can be worn folded downwards, as in the above pictures, or flipped upwards which makes the whole bust panel smaller. Here’s how that looks on me – I prefer it down I think, having studied the photos. For some reason in this shot, the bra bits look a bit pointy at the top – possibly due to those Caribbean winds moving the light cotton about!

Shelf bust dress - Butterick B5882 pattern by Gertie

I think I’d like to try this dress again with a few adjustments to the bodice for a better fit on the bust – the black cotton I used was quite light, I’d use a heavier fabric for the bra panel so it doesn’t move about and puff up so easily. I’d also play with the side seams to make sure they’re absolutely straight. I am proud of the finishing on this dress though, much of which I did by hand. As well as stitching in the bodice lining, I hand-picked the zip which made it much neater than my machined zips which always go wrong, and I also sewed the rolled hem by hand. It took me about 4 hours to do the hem alone – there’s a lot of fabric in that skirt – but it was worth it to avoid any visible stitching on the outside of the skirt.

I really loved this pattern – it was a bit of a challenge, but worth it for the results. I’ve bought some of Gertie’s other patterns and I hope they turn out as well as this one.

Also, some of you probably picked up on the dramatic new haircut. It’s not looking its best in the holiday humidity, but I can’t tell you how much I loved saving all that drying time!

ps. The shoes were a gift, more on those in a post coming shortly.

  • Vintage Style Clothing

    Wow! Looking so beautiful in retro clothing. I like your style. Its so beautiful blog. Thanks for sharing.

    50 style Dresses

  • vintage style clothing
  • Super Amanda

    Hair cut looks fab. I’m impressed by how far you were able to get with the Gertie pattern. Everyone from PUG to Trashy Diva is doing a version this season. We did a fit challenge here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=185134374988050&set=a.126139910887497.27087.122924531209035&type=1&theater

  • Hannah

    I loooove the contrast you get with that trompe l’oeil effect. And I don’t usually go for animal prints, but it looks so classy here with the vintagey silhouette! Are you on Kollabora? I’m a big fan of all the casual summer clothes our members have been making, but I’d love to see some slightly fancier stuff on the site as well.