The Troublesome Dress, or Cynthia Rowley 1873

Honestly, the number of things that went wrong whilst making this dress, urgh! Originally I was going to write about them all in detail, but who wants to read about problems? Instead, have some piccies of a happy girl in an (eventually) successful creation (thanks to my handsome husband for the photos):

IMG_2287 IMG_2273 IMG_2274 IMG_2295 2

cr1873The pattern is the rather cute, summery, Simplicity’s Cynthia Rowley 1873, in View C. I bought the pattern on sale for $1.50 (score!) where it promptly sat in my stash for about a year. Then a few weeks ago, Natalie from Threads and Bobbins suggested here that a few of us “get together” and sew our versions of the dress and blog about it, so here I am! Thanks Natalie – nothing like a bit of encouragement to get stuck into a new project. After the wedding dress I was at a bit of a loose end as to what to sew next, what with no more wedding coming up, so this was really a great way to get back into it.

As summery as the pattern is (especially View C, which I just adore), I eventually decided I really wanted to create a winter dress. Shout out to my fellow Aussie sewers while everyone else is sewing hot-weather clothes (London’s hottest day of the year or something the other day?)! I scoured the net for other people’s versions of this dress, and they were pretty much all summery until I came across this one on Doing It Abroad and realised yes, this dress CAN look wintery! I just couldn’t picture it before. Thanks for the inspiration, if you’re reading this!

I chose to use this dark blue and white fabric I picked up at an op shop for $5 last year – a steal, amirite? It’s a thin poly-cotton – not exactly the warmest of fabrics – but the colour is nice and wintery and it’s just a matter of layering up for the season. I always pictured pairing this with tights, boots, a cardy and a scarf.


Things I like:

  • The buttons! They are such a fun little feature of this dress.
  • The pattern was really easy to follow and clearly explains the purpose of each stitch or step. I guess that’s standard for Simplicity patterns?
  • The pleats, although kind of annoying to press properly, are a lovely feature so different from a normal gathered skirt.
  • The versatility – I can easily picture wearing this in summer, too.

Things I did differently:

  • Added an inch to the bodice length as per usual (yay for being long-torsoed…).
  • The waist was too small after I’d already cut the bodice, so I very much minimised all the darts. Once I’d cut the bodice front, I also molded it to my dress form to make it a better fit overall. “Nipped and tucked”, as they say.
  • I “stitched-in-the-ditch” to attach the lining to the waistline, purely to save time. I did handstitch the zip to the lining though, because I prefer the look.
  • I added a hem facing rather than just folding up and hemming, as I wanted to a) keep the length and b) provide some more weight and structure to the lightweight fabric.


Things I learnt:

  • How to do hem facings, for the first time! Actually surprisingly easy!
  • That I should avoid using shiny bemsilk lining underneath a thin poly-cotton – it will show through and look silly! I decided to recut the lining out of a thick black cotton drill. It shows the colour of the dress better and it’s a bit warmer, too.
  • How to properly use the invisible zipper foot to stitch the seam below the zipper. That was a real “aha” moment!

For next time:

  • Make a freakin’ mock-up! To be fair, I originally bought a floral fabric for this dress, so the blue dress here can act as the mock-up for the floral one (when I get around to it in spring or summer!)
  • Don’t forget to finish the back seam allowances before attaching the zip! I feel like I do this all the time!
  • Work on pattern-matching. I’ve never really attempted it before, but I feel like it probably could have been achieved with this fabric.
  • Sew the buttons down before attaching the lining at the waist, so that the stitches don’t show through the lining.
  • Add an inch around the waist so I can eat comfortably.
  • Somehow nip in the top back so it’s less gapey around the neck.
  • Add an inch or so to the length – I think it might be a teensy bit more flattering.

Despite my silly errors and the frustration when I failed at the zip three times in a row, it turned out okay! And for a total cost of $10 (fabric, pattern, zip and buttons), I’d say it’s a win. I’ll finish with a few more construction shots for those interested!

Catchstitching whilst watching Harry Potter, of course.
Catchstitching whilst watching Harry Potter, of course.
The finished hem facing, understitched to the seam allowance and catchstitched to the skirt.
The inside result of “stitching in the ditch”.
Button and tab detail, and stitching-almost-in-the-ditch πŸ˜‰
The inside of the dress, showing finished seams.

18 thoughts on “The Troublesome Dress, or Cynthia Rowley 1873

  1. I love this dress so much!!!! Doesn’t it fit you perfectly! I thought it was polka dots at first til the close ups show little squares! It’s so pretty! I’m glad you got there in the end. Oh – hottest day in a decade it was!!

    1. Beth, thank you so much! There are a few fitting issues but I decided not to dwell on them too much, and there’s always room for improvement πŸ™‚ Thank you xx

    1. Thanks Trish! Yes I’ve seen a few delightful patterns in her range but this is my only one so far πŸ™‚ Thank you, the buttons are super cute aren’t they!

  2. Definitely an all year round dress! Love it πŸ™‚ The white buttons are super cute too! I have a slight problem with the waist on mine too but I think that’s because I’m short torsoed…though I’ve only just realised this! I’m intrigued about your invisible zipper foot technique too; I’m still using a normal zipper foot for invisible zips :-/ Thanks for joining in too! πŸ™‚

    1. Hey Natalie, thanks for suggesting it! Honestly, if I didn’t have a little nudge that like to get cracking then I wouldn’t have produced anything this month, ha! I highly recommend getting an invisible zipper foot, you can get universal ones that should fit your machine, and it makes for a very very neat zip insertion – you can actually use the foot to roll the teeth of the zip back and get the stitch right underneath so nothing stays visible. Then, my aha moment – you can use the outside edge of the foot to get your stitch right up next to the bottom of the zip to sew the seam through both sides and down to your hem, and it means your seam stitch perfectly matches up with the bottom of the invisible zip from the outside. It’s brilliant! Now to actually replicate the technique on another garment though :p …

    1. Thanks Becky! I agree, the buttons just make it pop! Love your frilly skirt by the way, just adorable. And congrats on the VIBA! ☺️

    1. Thanks Jess! Yeah I just can’t even imagine London being hot, it seems much more adapted to cold weather! And 36Β° is not pleasant at all, no matter where you are! Xx

  3. Shame the dress caused you so many problems, but it’s really cute and the colour is beautiful on you! I’m also someone who forgets to finish seams before inserting the zip – you have my sympathies there.

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