Butterick 5917 – The Un-Preppy Version

After all of my carrying on about colorful clothes, I’m back in black.

 I enjoyed sewing Butterick 5917 so much I had my second version planned before finishing the madras patchwork version (blogged here), and I’m tempted to make it again!


 I envisioned this pattern as a black dress from the beginning and used a black textured French polyester/cotton taffeta from Tessuti. The fabric certainly highlights the dressier details of the pattern and gives the dress a more structured appearance.  I believe this is the fabric featured in the most recent Tessuti contest for a knee-length formal dress, but I think the dobby-spotted texture brings about the versatility to dress it up or down.


However the fabric is viewed, I’ve got a new transitional dress on two levels….

 Summer into Fall   —  and —  Smart-casual to dressy depending the accessories.


 This time around I made some changes which affected the construction process.

  • added an invisible zipper
  • lined the entire dress
  • reduced the shoulder width by an inch.

IMG_1088 2   IMG_1090

I found the pattern ran slightly large, particularly in the upper bodice  – I crossed my fingers and cut a size smaller hoping to achieve a fitted garment.

It fits as long as I don’t eat too much while wearing ;)


Indeed, I’m very pleased with the result and am saving it for a special occasion in September. But now I’m thinking about version Number 3 and I’m going to go all out with this Marc Jacobs silk brocade.

Upon seeing the madras patchwork dress, one reader suggested I change the design to eliminate the neckline ruffle and add a ruffle across the front tab. I’m intrigued with this idea which would be feminine but would also diminish some of the fru-fru. What do you think?


Regardless of my decision for dress number 3, I’m truly thrilled to have found an uncomplicated pattern that speaks to my taste and style. It’s definitely calling my name ONE MORE TIME!


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106 Responses to Butterick 5917 – The Un-Preppy Version

  1. karen says:

    This such a pretty dress. No one would ever thought you made it. I can see why you would want a third.

  2. Anne Rhodes says:

    This pattern definetly has your name on it! Both #1 and #2 look fantastic! Bring on #3 :-)

  3. Joan says:

    Great dress! I just passed on this pattern at Joanne’s two days ago (even though I saw you in your madras version), and now feel that I made a mistake. It is so interesting how seeing a design on paper vs. on the figure alters one’s perception of the design. On paper, the “frou frou” aspect weighs more heavily on me, but it really is flattering (sexy yet not revealing, which I really like), and the ruffled neckline seems much more flattering than a flat neckline band would be (too hard and linear). I like the idea of the ruffle across the tab — please try it for us!

    • Thank you, Joan! I believe the reader with the suggestion saw an Anne Klein dress in this style without the ruffle. Trying one on would certainly help the decision making process! ;)

  4. wanda ll says:

    This is the cutest dress.. You did a wonderful job on the plaid and the black one. I can’t wait to see the next one. You look really, really nice in it too. The length is just right too.

  5. Mrs K says:

    Such a beautiful dress and you wear it so well! May I ask who plays the piano behind you?

  6. Mrs K says:

    Such a pretty dress and you wear it so well! May I ask who plays the piano behind you? This is my second try at a post – first one didn’t “take” ?

  7. Sarah, this is wonderful! Isn’t it fun how much the ‘look’ changes depending on what fabric you choose. The two dresses you’ve made from this pattern are miles apart – yet made from the same pattern! Love the way you can dress this one up or down. I almost picked this up, but my arms aren’t in as good a shape as yours – yet! Might be a good incentive ;)

    Can’t wait to see what you do with #3!

    • Thank you, Cheryl! You would look great in this dress so I hope you’ll consider the pattern ;) I am constantly amazed by how much a small change of any type affects the end result!

  8. Susan Green says:

    I am most definantly not a fru-fru person and wear so much black that I’ve been accused of still holding wakes for Johnny Cash, so when I tell you I love the black “version” of your dress and don’t think the ruffles are too “fru-fru” I mean it. Just stunning!!!

  9. lisa g says:

    gorgeous! this makes a great black dress!

  10. Cissie Wellons says:

    Love, love, love this dress! I am a true sucker for classic LBD’s and this is one! I think the ruffles keep it from looking like so many LBD’s and take it up a notch. The fabric is great, too. I also think that the fit on this is even better than on the preppy version. Of course, this is what I call a “stand up” dress — as in, don’t even think about sitting down and scarfing down a big plate of fried chicken! Can’t wait to see your brocade version.

    Another pattern in my ever-growing wish list!

  11. Reader says:

    It’s very handsome and versatile. I enjoy seeing the different variations. I think the neckline ruffle adds to the dress’s charm and is not overly twee.

    • Thank you, Reader! You just taught me a new word — twee ;) I like the neckline ruffle too for many reasons – it frames the face and chest nicely and is perfect for wearing jewelry ;)

  12. gingermakes says:

    This is so lovely! It’s such a fun spin on the LBD! I loooove that brocade– your next version is going to be fabulous! I love the idea of changing it up and doing a ruffle (or a flattened pleat detail even, ooh!) across the tab to have a different look!

  13. myrosesindecember says:

    Another success. I loved the Madras one and I love this one and I think this dress will also be exquisite in the silk brocade. This pattern has just gone onto my wish list as I think this is a dress which is very versatile, as you have shown us. I cannot wear black but I am already seeing this maybe in gray, or hunter green. I think the ruffle, as it is, is what sets this dress apart, and I, for one, would not change it at all. I can hardly wait to see version #3. Great job.

  14. Cheryl Scott says:

    I’m really glad I found this blog. You prove that we can express our creativity via dressmaking without sacrificing style or quality! Love this dress. I shared it on FB, the consensus seems to be ‘classy.’ Thanks for sharing!

  15. Gjeometry says:

    Oh, this is definitely not preppy, but very sexy! Looks great, I loved this pattern when you sewed and blogged it the first time, as well.

  16. Alethia says:

    This is such a great looking dress, and the fit is beautiful! I love the Marc Jacobs fabric that you are going to work with next…GORGEOUS! And, NO, leave the ruffles…very flattering. I love that pattern just the way it is! ;)

  17. Judie says:

    Love this version of the dress. It’s definitely a perfect pattern for you. For the brocade version, what about a pleated “ruffle” made from silk organza across the tab?

  18. Sarah Ioannides says:

    Love this!!!!!

    “Engage, protect and sustain our musical heritage; the return is invaluable” – Sarah Ioannides http://www.sarahioannides.net Connect with Sarah on Facebook and Twitter!

  19. Julie Starr says:

    Bravo, Sarah! I didn’t think this could look any better than your madras version but look how perfectly it lends itself to cocktail attire. What a versatile personality his pattern has. The brocade looks dreamy and will make a truly luxe dress.

  20. Lori says:

    This is such a pretty dress, Sarah and it looks so stunning on you.

  21. Dilliander says:

    This pattern really does look great on you, as do ruffles, and the Tessuti fabric is perfect for this style. I like the option of eliminating the neckline ruffle and adding a ruffle across the front tab for another version too. A lovely dress!

  22. Sarah Liz says:

    This looks really lovely on you – it is important to wear the style that is “you”. I love this on you as well – colour, shape, feminine ruffle – it suits you, as you have remarked. I fell in love with this pattern too.

  23. Mary Kay Reynolds says:

    I like the ruffle. What about making it a bit narrower? Someone also suggested a pleated one (for more of a tailored look). The dress fits you really well and I love your choice of black fabric.

    • Thank you, Mary Kay! I do like the idea of a narrower ruffle…… and I had not considered that idea at all – many thanks for the suggestion!

      • Joan says:

        Sarah, I’m sure you will work this through when you proceed with the lovely yellow/cream brocade, but the heaviness of that fabric likely will encourage you to change the ruffle detail in some way: a contrasting, lighter fabric, across the tab only, pleated rather than gathered, etc. It seems to me that the brocade simply will require a different treatment (and then will look unlike the other two ;-} )

      • Great advice! Thank you so much, Joan :)

  24. Cindy says:

    Oh, this is a STUNNING dress! Using a business suit looking fabric and then ruffling it is just outrageously sexy. Men love that. And the fabric’s texture provides great visual interest and makes this a real standout. This pattern or a similar one would also look stunning in a pure blood red linen — a true, blue-toned lipstick red.

    Once again, you’ve made a beautifully fitted, one-of-a-kind beauty. Congratulations!

  25. beautiful dress and I am so tempted to buy this pattern.

  26. You just made this dress move up my sewing list, now that spring is on the way. Great dress – I love the black version.

  27. AllisonC says:

    I’m sure you are helping to shift a lot of this pattern! Personally I really like the “fru fru”, i don’t think it’s too much at all, both versions are lovely and still quite different to each other. Plenty of room in your wardrobe for a 3rd version!

  28. Sharon says:

    Gorgeous dress love both versions and the 3rd will be just as stunning.

  29. Beth says:

    Love the LBD. You look great in it. Keep the full neck ruffle, it just makes the dress. I am afraid a ruffle just across the inset would look like a baby bib. IMO

  30. Donna says:

    Gorgeous……both you and your dress! :-) I may have to give that pattern a try.

  31. Jean says:

    This is a stunning LBD, so classy. Quite different from your first version, but I love it just as much. Looking forward to the third one. This style suits you so well.

  32. Lana says:

    Really cute dress. I love it. I need to purchase this pattern.

  33. Catty says:

    I know for sure this pattern will be flying off the shelves after your two beautiful dresses! I can’t tell you how much I enjoy and look forward to your posts! Thank you!

  34. missmarys says:

    The new fabric is STUNNING.

  35. missmarys says:

    The elegance of the new fabric doesn’t need ruffles. I just bet it would look lovely in a Kay Unger Vogue http://voguepatterns.mccall.com/v1182-products-11090.php?page_id=1261

  36. Jackie says:

    Another beautiful dress and looks outstanding on you! This is such a nice selection for early fall.

  37. Marjorie Devlin says:

    The dresses are beautiful! I just tried on the exact same style at Dillard’s the other day. I wish I could remember the brand. It was made out of a light blue and white pinstripe. I just love it when I see clothing that look like RTW! You did a wonderful job and they look fabulous on you!

  38. I agree, super cute and a pattern you could modify to get different looks.

  39. Janine Whisler says:

    I love this style of dress/top on you, the ruffle is so you. How about pleating the ruffle around the neck, instead of gathering it? Or, instead of a ruffle you could add a band in the same width, perhaps in a contrast fabric?

  40. Joanie says:


  41. It fits you perfectly. Beautiful work.

  42. Kay says:

    It is beautiful!!

  43. Corinne says:

    Great dress! I loved the madras patchwork version too but the black gives it a whole different look. And I say DO IT! for the silk brocade – it’s gorgeous! As for the ruffles, I personally like them. Looking forward to seeing version 3! :)

  44. CarolO says:

    I don’t know how I stumbled upon your blog yesterday but I wasn’t able to stop viewing until I got back to August 2011. I used to sew cloths for myself, but living with 3 men (2 sons and a DH), my attention turned to Halloween costumes, indoor tents, and occasional home decor, and most recently my love of quilting. The youngest started college last week and you have inspired me to turn the attention back to my wardrobe. Thanks gbv!

  45. Love this dress!!!! You have inspired me! I bought the pattern yesterday and plan to give it a go this weekend! Thanks for such a wonderful blog!!

  46. Wendy Karnish says:

    Hi Sarah,
    I’m new to your blog, and have been enjoying reading about and seeing you in all your lovely creations. I am a designer, and more recently a sewing and patternmaking teacher. While I think you look wonderful in this little black dress, I have some picky-picky comments that I would make if you were in my class, or my client. The smaller size bodice does fit better, but then the under-bust gathers add a fullness that you don’t need, creating a second bust area. From one side view, it looks like you have droopy boobs, which you certainly DO NOT!!! When you make this pattern again, I wonder if you might turn the gathers into a series of darts. Also, you are slimmer thru the hips and thighs than the dress shows, and might be taken in a bit.
    Keep up the good work! It’s a pleasure to see your smiling face with your beautiful clothes!!
    Thank you!

  47. Pam says:

    I am crazy about this pattern. I bought it after seeing your madras version and thought it woul also be perfect in a dressier material- and now here you are with just that! It’s beautiful.

  48. Cindy says:

    Here’s another ruffle variation to try on one of your delicious creations someday:


    Apparently there is no end to creative ways to ruffle up a garment!

  49. Sue Lansberry says:

    I couldn’t fingure out how to comment. I wanta try for an aprpm ….Sue Lansberry

  50. scotti69 says:

    I want to put my name in the hat for an apron

  51. olynda52 says:

    Love this pattern!! Cut it out last night. hope to make it soon.

  52. I’ve just discovered your blog, and I really like what I’ve seen so far! This dress is just gorgeous, and it fits you like a glove. Usually I’m not a big fan of ruffles, but the ones on your neckline (they’re knife pleats, right?) look sophisticated and not overwhelming for my liking. Really pretty.
    I’ve also noticed you use the colors that really suit your complexion (I’ve been obsessed with seasonal coloring lately), so well done for that as well.

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