A Red Dress

I’ve always loved pretty dresses, but I don’t get dressed up very often. Jeans and t-shirts are pretty much the order of the day. Several weeks ago, I received a phone call that my quilt “Blue Plate Special” has won one of the eight top prizes at the Houston International Quilt Festival. For those of you not involved in the quilt world, this is a BIG deal! Not only are the cash prizes very nice, but part of the award is a paid trip to Festival. I won’t know exactly what award I’ve won until the awards ceremony, which is also a big deal. The awards ceremonies at Houston and at the Paducah quilt show are the closest most of us will ever get to the Academy Awards! It’s so much fun! A big auditorium with a stage, suspense, the big reveal of the winning quilts, squeals of delight, and lots of applause.

It’s the perfect excuse for a new dress! I know, I’ll probably only wear a new dress a few times, but still, a new dress is called for. So, I started going through my patterns and my fabrics, thinking of what might work, and what would look good.

At first, I thought I’d go with McCall’s 6432, view B, with a blue-purple matte jersey with black contrast.


In fact, I partially made this up, and decided it did nothing for my body, so I’ll probably cut it off to wear as a long top with black slacks. It’ll look good that way.

Then I got out my StyleArc Madeleine Ponte Top pattern, which I got about six months ago. I guessed that it could easily be lengthened to dress length.


I also pulled out some gorgeous red rayon/lycra ponte knit from Gorgeous Fabrics that I got on sale from them sometime in the past year. That same fabric is no longer available, but these are similar fabrics in different colors.

DKN10022-547x547[1] RDK10985-547x547[1]

Good quality ponte knits are easy to work with and comfortable to wear. I don’t usually wear bright colors, but this red was calling my name!


My measurements were between a 12 and a 14, so I went with the larger size. I really don’t like tight-fitting clothes! Besides, I normally do a full bust adjustment, and that was going to be quite a job with this bodice, so I figured the larger size would pretty much take care of that, and it turned out that I was right about that. I also thought about using another pattern and trying to adapt the top for sleeves, but that was also going to be quite a drafting job, and I didn’t want to spend that much time on this.

I made a muslin of the top with a similar weight knit that has been languishing on my shelves for several years. The fit was pretty good to start out. Here’s what I did in terms of fitting:

  • I took in the upper back at the angled upper back seams by about 1/4″, in effect making a dart to account for rounded upper back and to snug in the back neckline.
  • I curved the center back seam in 1″ at the waist, tapering from just below my shoulder blades to just above my hips, to give some curve to the back.
  • I scooped the front neckline about 3/4″, tapering to 1/2″ at the shoulders, and curving to nothing at the back. I just don’t like tight jewel necks on myself, and this also allowed me to eliminate the back zipper.
  • I lengthened the front and back lower pattern pieces 18″, maintaining the curve of the lower edge, and creating a slight A-line skirt.
  • I used 1/8″ silk ribbon in the seamline to stay the neckline seam. Even with interfaced facings, the neck will still stretch with a knit like this. My right shoulder is a bit lower than my left, so I eased the right neckline in about 1/4″ to prevent it from gaping. You wouldn’t think that this small amount would make that much difference, but it really does.
  • I lowered the left front inset (the angled inset below the belt). The directions (skimpy with StyleArc, but I’ve never had a problem constructing their patterns) call for the upper edge of the inset to be stitched in the diagonal bodice seam. But it seemed to me that too little of it was visible. So I removed it from the seam, and just zigzagged the upper edge to the front of the dress, lowering the inset about 3/4″. I’m much happier with the look, and the belt covers the edge of the inset.
  • I shortened the belt 1.5″ so that it would pull in the front just a bit.
  • I eliminated bulk in seam allowances wherever possible. The ponte knit is a bit bulky, and  there are many layers of fabric at the center front bodice seam.

Here are photos…


A close up of the interesting bodice


and the equally interesting lines in back…


I have to say that I was rather hesitant about a sleeveless dress. I’m 60 years old, and my upper arms (even with working out with weights) are not what they used to be. I am a firm proponent of the notion that women – and men – should dress well, but not dress like those decades younger. I’ve always thought that people who try to wear clothes way younger than they are just look silly! My concerns were pretty much allayed when my husband saw me in the dress and said something along the lines of “Hubba, hubba!” 🙂 I think I like the dress a lot!


Now, this dress cost me almost nothing. The fabric and pattern were both in my stash, and originally cost maybe $30 total. But I just ordered shoes that cost more than I have ever paid for shoes in my life! Strappy red suede shoes with a zipper in back! And 2.5″ heels, which I’ll have to practice walking in! I’m over 5’9″, and have rarely worn heels.

I’m ready for Houston! Maybe I’ll even wear makeup…


49 thoughts on “A Red Dress

  1. Sue, you made a great choice! You look marvelous in the dress, wonderful flattering lines, and a perfect fit Congratulations on the award! I look forward to seeing you – and your quilt – at the show!


  2. And congratulations for winning an award and I hope you have a wonderful time. Eve

    On Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 7:16 PM, Eve Tomassini wrote:

    > An eye catching color and flattering style. You look beautiful > Eve > > On Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 5:20 PM, SusanStewartDesigns <


  3. Congratulations on your award winning quilt.
    Such an interesting design for the dress. Beautiful job on it and
    Making the perfect choices so that you and the dress bring out each others best features. Hope we get to see pictures of your award winning night with you dressed to the tips of your toes. The shoes sound perfect for the outfit and the event.
    Have a wonderful time in Houston.


  4. Susan, I love the dress and it looks wonderful on you! Also, congratulations on your winning quilt. Can hardly wait for you to post what Award you received. Shelia Burton


  5. The dress looks great! You look marvelous, and your quilt is absolutely stunning. Mind blowing. I’m also delighted that you sew both clothes and quilts!


    • Thanks, Jeannie! I sew pretty much everything except drapes and upholstery. 🙂 I started sewing when I was five years old, made garments for myself and family, then started sewing for Martha Pullen Co. in the early 1990s. I started quilting about 11 years ago. I still make most of my own, and much of my daughter’s clothing.


  6. Congratulations on your win! . Your dress looks great! I agree with your hubby. Pam and I are coming to Houston. Hope to see you there.


  7. Susan, Beautiful!!!! Every type of sewing you do is stunning!! So wonderful you take the time to share everything with us. On my bucket list is to make it to the KY show one year. So exciting!! Wish the event was televised. Can’t wait to hear what award you have won!!! Enjoy every minute 🙂


  8. Congrats on the award! Hope to see you update with exactly what award you won. Love the dress-envy you the skill required to fit it your figure. Good luck!


  9. Thank you – thank you for this! I made the top and love it! My first thought was – I could add a circle skirt instead of the lower top skirt. But this – this is stunning! And thanks for the info on lowering the neckline – it’s a bit ‘chokey’ the way it’s drafted – no?

    Finally – congrats on your quilt winning! That’s fantastic! g


    • Thank you! I find almost all jewel necklines to be kind of “chokey!” I think a circle skirt might work with a more flow-y knit, but I really like the slight A-line of this from just extending the lines of the lower top pieces.


  10. Pingback: A Red Dress: Part 2 – Houston Quilt Festival | SusanStewartDesigns

  11. Pingback: Blue Plate Special | SusanStewartDesigns

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