Thursday, April 23, 2015

Butterick 5850 (with Nursing Mods!)

Perfect for chilling poolside.
The time has come to think about sundresses (Easter is my Memorial Day, as far as wearing white is concerned), but the parade of lovely frocks can just look depressing if they're impractical because you've got a little one who's nursing. With that in mind, I'm sharing some pattern modifications I came up with last summer to make Butterick 5850 nurseable (this method should work, mutatis mutandis, for most faux-wrap style dresses.) This tutorial is a combination of things I actually did, with a few things I wish I'd done. So you might notice it looks a little different from my pictures.

Butterick 5850 is pretty obviously emulating ModCloth's Awards Show Stunner Dress (it's also very similar to the lovely Front Perch Swing). The combination of retro style and an easy nursing conversion was too much to resist, so when Buttericks were on sale, I snagged it along with some linen my favorite shade of teal (I only see the orange colorway on their site right now, but they still had the teal in my store as of a couple weeks ago.) The bodice lining is just a muslin from the quilting section, though if lawn or all-cotton batiste were more readily available, that would be better.

The first thing to note about this conversion is that you'll probably have to keep the sash. The front corner of the overlap is just kind of there, and needs something to cover it up attractively. The sash also helps keep the front pieces nicely in place if one of the snaps should come undone. The other thing to note is that this conversion adds some bulk at the side seams, but I have some suggestions for dealing with that in the notes.

Here's Piece 1. To draft the underlay, you want to trace from the center front along the bottom edge, up the side seam, around the underarm, and along the shoulder, continuing straight along the shoulder line until you are even with or a little past the circle for your size. Then lay a ruler along the center front line and draw that line straight up until an inch or two below the fold line. Draw another straight line from that point to where you ended the shoulder line.

You can get creative with the underlay at this point, if you have specific ideas of how you want your openings
, but here's what I did: First of all, hold up the pattern piece and mark where you want the opening to sit. The bust apex is marked on the pattern piece by a circle with a cross through it, but your bustline may sit higher or lower. Draw a line horizontally across the pattern piece, through the point where you want the opening. Lay the center front on the fold of the fabric when cutting out this piece. For the top pieces, determine how much you want the top to overlap the bottom, and mark that line as the bottom of the piece. You will cut two of these pieces (one on each side), adding a seam allowance to the center front. Mark and sew the darts on these pieces, as needed, hem the top neckline edges (the line from shoulder to center front), and hem or otherwise finish the straight horizontal edges. Press those darts up, instead of down, to make the side seam less bulky.

When you assemble the lining, place the top underlay right sides together with each lining front, lining up the armholes, so that the shoulder seam is caught in between the lining pieces. When attaching the lining to the bodice (step 8), You will have the lining and the top underlay pieces right side together. Lay the fashion fabric with its right side against the wrong side of the underlay. Stitch the armholes.

The long seam along the front edge will not involve any of the underlay pieces, but you will need to modify it to turn your faux wrap into a real (partial) one. Sew the gathering stitches along the bottom edge in the fabric and lining separately. Gather each section until it is 2½" long. Stitch the lining and front together along the bottom edge, starting at the center front, to the front edge. Pivot, sew the front edge as shown in the pattern instructions, pivot again, and sew to the other center front.
(If you would like the front to open further, you may start closer to the side seam than the center front, but take it from me that if you go too far with this, your skirt front will start to sag.) Clip the seam allowances up to each edge of this seam before turning and continue as instructed.

When you stitch the side seams (step 21), you will be catching the edges of the underlay (top and bottom). Pin or baste the tops and bottom together at the side seams, overlapping the top over the bottom. The underlay will be between the two lining pieces as you stitch the side seams.

When you attach the skirt to the bodice, hold the bottom underlay as one along with the parts of the bottom front seam allowances that are still free (up to where you clipped). Sew to the skirt as directed.

To finish the underlay, sew the center front seam, joining the two top pieces. Pin the top pieces over the bottom with the proper overlap, and topstitch across the center of the bottom edge with a seam long enough to hold the pieces firmly together, without encroaching too much on the nursing opening. You may do the same at the sides, if you like. Overlap the front bodice pieces as they would be when wearing the dress, and mark the placement for a snap or other fastener at each corner to keep each piece in place. The left piece, which lies beneath, will fasten to the underlay, and the right piece will fasten to the left. and ... Ta-da! You're ready to go!

A couple of notes: With all these layers (and the JoAnn's linen being more medium- than light-weight), the dress can get rather heavy, with some bulky seams. One way to combat this is to make the sash an entirely separate piece, rather than sewing it into the side seams (gathered, no less!). This should make the zipper lie much more nicely, if nothing else. Sewing it into the side seams also restricts where you can put the bow; if you tie it off-center, as shown in the drawings, you end up with one tail quite a bit longer than the other. If you are sewing it in a medium-weight fabric, you might also consider cutting the skirt a bit narrower than called for. It's very full, and can get rather heavy. The pieces are just rectangles, so it's an easy modification. I also recommend adding in-seam pockets, because what mom couldn't use pockets?

Other than the sash, I really only have a couple of minor quibbles with the pattern. One is that the armholes are cut a bit low for a sleeveless dress, so I'll raise those and redraw the curve next time I make it. (And be sure to do the same to the underlay!) The other is that having the zipper closed at the top makes it a little difficult to get into the dress, and also has created a stress point that has already started to tear. I think when I repair it, I'll move the zipper to the top of the seam and add a hook and eye instead.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks! There's a lot of detail here, but it was really pretty easy to put together. I definitely highly recommend the pattern for an easy and flattering dress.

  2. Taking notes for the future, if I'm ever bold enough to attempt a dress! Do you use a dress form at all? For some reason I have it in my head that I would have to have one, but it must not be true!