Chest Dress (or somewhere to put your Booty)

Posted by Bree Frost

The original idea: 

You will Need:

  • McCalls Pattern M7500 (current pattern)

  • Main Fabric (Check Pattern envelope in your size for lengths and Widths.  I used a brown stripe stretch suiting that I had to back with armoweft for the bodice but I had planned to use craft cotton printed in floor boards… clearly it didn’t arrive in time.
  • 1m lining fabric.  I found a twill satin remnant that was perfect.  Something with body is useful like a party satin instead of bemsilk.
  • 1.5m Contrast Fabric.  I used a craft cotton for this.
  • 3m of Underskirt Fabric.  I used a doubloon craft cotton fabric I already had but would look out for a metallic gold fabric or red velvet; something that might look like the inside of a treasure chest.
  • 90 Metal poppers (Snaps, press studs whatever you want to call them) to match the contrast.  I only used 86 but I also warped a few too.
  • .4m Woven interfacing.
  • 1m waistband elastic.
  • Various jewels, string pearls and coins as decorations.
  • I also embroidered some great big Gothic Hinges on felt, pattern number ut9782 from Urban Threads in the medium size.
  • I also used a clear applique foot, a 6mm beading foot and the standard overcasting foot.

Some notes on alternatives and options.

I used a contrast fabric for the strips and bias binding but you could use ribbon and pre-packaged bias binding instead.  Instead of poppers you could use some nifty metal buttons, metal studs, beads or flat hotfix brass stud things, as long as you have enough of them.  If you did use an alternative, you can easily use the button sewing program to tack everything down before applying your chosen trim.  My dress contrast was chosen to look like wrought iron but you could choose gold or brass instead.  Also, you can make multiple underskirts to make it look different.

TL: DR (too long: didn’t read)

Take a normal dress pattern, make extra skirts, bang metal bits into it and make it look unrecognizable.


How to moosh this together:

Cut out (or trace out) Pieces #6 Bodice Front, 7 Bodice Side Front, 9 Bodice Front Lining, 10 Sleeve & 13 Skirt.

Modification:  The Bodice front lining will also be the Bodice front proper.

Modification: Don’t cut the bodice front on the fold, we’ll be putting in a front opening so just cut the piece all the way round without adding or subtracting anything.

Modification:  We’ll cut the back-bodice piece out on the fold.  The piece does mark the centre back line so use that line on the fold as your guide.

Other differences:  For the underskirt I cut 4 skirt pieces on the fold and for the dress I cut 2 pieces on the fold. (Instead of the 3 the pattern asks for.)

Also cut a 10cm wide strip waistband for the underskirt that is as long as four waist edges on the pattern.  When I cut out the underskirt, I could get a long waistband down the side.

Sew the bodice seams to each other and the lining pieces to themselves.  Go ahead and sew the shoulder seams in each shell also but remember to leave the centre front open.

Out of your contrast fabric cut 9 widthwise strips at 7.5cm (3”) I used a quilting ruler, cutting mat and rotary cutter for this bit.  I was quicker and more accurate.

While you’re there, cut out 3 widthwise strips at 12.5cm (5”) and set them aside for later.

Also cut 11 strips at 3.3cm (1¼”) of your woven interfacing.

To make the iron bindings of the dress take the skinny strips and sew them into long tubes at ¼” seam allowance (use a ¼” seaming foot to make this easier), place the interfacing along the outside and turn through together so the interfacing ends up on the inside.  Press the seam to the middle (of what will be the back)

Pin the end of a strip to the top of the bust seam so that it won’t get caught in the corner (but will still cover the seam) and another at the top of the back neck, approx. 12cm from centre back.  Then pin and sew the neck edge right sides together with the lining from centre front all the way around to centre front.

Clip curves and corners (really clip the corners at the bust seam) turn ‘round the right way and press.  It should now have floppy tentacles!

I tacked the outer fabric to the lining down the centre front and around the waist just to hold everything together nicely.

Pin two more strips the top of the side seams at the sleeve hole and tack the all the way around the sleeve hole to hold the lining and the strip in place.

Now for the skirt! Sew the two skirt pieces together (remember for the main dress I only cut 2) and overcast (or overlock) the raw inside edge.  I also overlocked around the outer edge because I’m overly neat.  Press the seam.

I made some bias binding out of the contrast fabric and sewed it with a custom stitch around the skirt hem too BUT you can just neatly hem it however you would like and skip the self-made bias bit altogether.

Because the skirt pieces still don’t fit well with bodice pieces, despite taking a whole panel out, you will have to ease the skirt pieces in.  I did it the dangerous way of holding my top fabric and letting the feed dogs slightly bunch my skirt fabric up a bit but that way leads to broken needles and madness.  What you should do is disengage your IDT (this IS the Pfaff blog after all, most of you should have it!) and sew within the seam allowance along the top of the skirt pieces but pushing a finger behind your presser foot to make the fabric bunch up.  If you haven’t tried it before, it’s magic.  It will draw the fabric in at the edge without making it pleat.  This is also great for sleeve heads and exaggerated bust seams.

Find the centre back at the waist of your bodice, pin the CB skirt to it right sides together and then pin the centre front skirt to bodice.  Distribute the rest of the fabric evenly, pin and sew. I also then overlocked this seam and pressed it toward the skirt.

So far you should have a lined bodice with a skirt attached and some strips hanging off the top bits.  Good?  ONWARD!

Before we put the button wrap on the front we must pleat up the front skirt to match all the hitching up we’ll do later but you have to mark out where the poppers will go first.

 Marking out popper placement thusly:  Mark on your button wrap the most likely place it will gape i.e. the biggest part of the bust.  Mark where the first popper will go and measure between the two.  That is basically the spacing measure for them all the way down.  Mine ended up as 7cm (2 ¾”).  Mark this out all the way down the front of the dress with some horizontal pinning.

From the waist seam down grab the second pin and line it up to the first one to form a pleat.  Pin it in place.  Repeat until you get to the hem.  I ended up with four pleats.  Highly scientific I tell you.

Grab the fatter contrast strips that you set aside before.  Go to the iron, press them both in half length-ways and then press the outer edges to the middle in a classic origami cupboard fold.  Two of these will be the front button wraps.  Fold the top back right sides together temporarily, line up a strip of interfacing so that it will align with what will be the outer face and sew across the top and turn it back out the right way to form a nice finish.  Measure the centre front opening of the dress (at least 3 times) and do the same for the bottom edge.  Trim.

Make sure to do that for both sides.  Slide one side onto the centre front raw edge and align it with the middle of the button wrap.  This means you won’t change the size of the dress as the centre of your button wrap matches the centre front fold of the original pattern.  If the dress is too big, you can move the wrap further on to your raw edge and if it’s a bit small, a bit further out.  Fit cheats!!

Once it looks flat and even, sew down the edge to secure it to the dress.  I used my custom stitch again because a wider stitch means you won’t miss any of the back edge, whereas you have to be so much more accurate with a straight stitch.  Make sure not to let the pleats after the waist seam warp the straight line.  They’ll want to kick out until be loosely pleat the rest of the skirt.

Re-mark the popper placings down the button wrap and bang them in with abandon.  The only advice I have for banging in poppers is get yourself a decent (sharp) hole punch, don’t bang them in too hard or they warp and I really want a popper Press.  Doing them with a hammer is tiring!  Also do each hole and popper as a group rather than an assembly line, especially later when we go through multiple layers.  When you take the marker pins out, you need to do the thing as a whole rather than coming back to it later and not understanding which bit is what.

You should now be able to put it on and do it up! Too late now if it doesn’t fit.

Now for the tentacles!  Pin all the loose strips (bust seam, side seam and two on the back that look like side back seams) down to the waist seams and then eyeballing your centre front poppers, mark out corresponding alignments on the other strips so they all line up horizontally.

At this point I embroidered out my hinges and pinned them along the back strips leaving room near the waist for a belt.  I also made sure none of my popper markings would interfere either.  To make it easier, you can use the open toe applique foot.

For these poppers I used both sides and popped the strip onto the bodice because it was quite thick in places.  If you want to go ahead and do the top part through all the layers, you can.  Make sure the popper on the side seam closest to the seam will not interfere with said seam.

Now we move onto the skirt.  Much like the pleats down centre front, I just used my 7cm measurement to hitch up and pin where my poppers would go.  You kind of have to do all of the markings at once so that nothing drags at other points and you can see the full effect and adjust as necessary.  Eyeballing is not a sin, you’re allowed to wing it. 

For the skirt I just used the top popper part to go through all layers as the skirt is thinner without lining.  For the bottom end of the strips I curled the raw edge back up the inside and put the back part of the popper to face the corresponding last front popper and just did it up.  No sewing!

Using the last strip, I made a belt by measuring my waist (in the dress) and overlapping by 12cm but cutting it about 5cm longer than that.  Turn in your ends long enough to get caught (like we did with the strips at the hem) and then bash in three poppers on one end, check your measurement again then bash in the three corresponding pieces in the other end (facing the right way too)

I also sewed a straight stitch with tie offs across each of my iron bands at the waistline to hold my belt in place.

Sleeves!  The last bit on the main dress.

The last two strips are for the sleeves.  One strip goes down the middle.  When I pinned this, I sort-of buckled the strips between each popper placement to give it a bit of texture.  I think I was channeling a Tudor sleeve design.  Cut the excess of the bottom edge so you can use it for the either side.  Spacing between strips was about 5cm.  Bash your poppers in; once again I went through all the layers with just the top part.  Sew up the short seam and finish off. I used a flat felled seam.

Using the last wide contrast strip that you pressed with the other two, measure your bicep and give your self 2.5cm ease and at least 1cm seam allowance.  These will be the bottom sleeve binding.  I always get this wrong and make them too tight because I forget about the bulk of all the layers.  Cut and sew into a circle and re-press all the layers at the seam back into the cupboard fold configuration to make it nice and smooth.

This is a bit of fanangling here so keep up.  Fold your band in two at the seam to measure out the centre front of it. Insert the back seam at the bottom edge of the sleeve into the band at the band seam and pin.  Insert the middle strip on the sleeve into where the marking pin is.  Pin the other two strips about a strip width away from the middle one and messy pleat all the extra fabric into the space.  From the centre back flatten out the rest of the lower sleeve edge into the binding and pleat any leftover fabric against the outer strips.  Normally you would just run a gathering stitch along the edge but the strips are too thick to gather properly so this seamed like the best way.

This is also the basic treatment of the sleeve to the bodice.  Line up the shoulder seam marks and the side seam with the sleeve seam, pin the strips into place and moosh the extra fabric into place.  I had the lower half of the sleeve seam without pleats.  Once you’re happy with the fabric distribution, sew it and overcast it.

Over dress is finished!!! You did good.

Now for the underskirt.  Overlock all the seams together.  I also overlocked the bottom edge because I can’t help myself and It was right there.

For the waistband I just rough measure my waist with 2.5cm overlap and triple zigzagged it into a circle.  Press the waistband fabric in half, check that the length is correct and also sew the ends to make a circle. 

Now for the tricky bit.  We’re going to overlock the waist band to the waist edge of the skirt (right sides together) with the elastic inside.  It’s not too hard, just bunch up the bits you aren’t directly sewing to make your immediate space flat.  The only thing to be careful about is the not tangle anything at the beginning to that it’s looped through anything else at the end.  (see: a mobius shape)

I bound the bottom edge of the underskirt with the dress contrast binding as well because I enjoy it but you may double fold over or blind hem as like it.  Just remember to press whatever you do.

Decorating the underskirt was easy.  Zigzag some string pearls using a beading foot and then glue some flat back gems in pleasing places.  I won’t go in to how mathematically I placed my string pearls as it’s boring and using your own creativity is more fun. If you bought sew on gems, you may try using your button sewing program to sew them, providing you hand-wind test every hole before attempting it. I don’t want you to break your machine.


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