Sewing Butterick 4790 Walk-Away Dress – Don’t Waste Your Time!

B4790

Butterick 4790 has been voted one of the top patterns to sew this year. PatternReview.com sewers highly recommend this pattern and they aren’t alone. This pattern has become very popular and is know as a quick, easy, and beautiful sew. It’s been called the most popular pattern ever produced:

In 1952, Butterick Pattern Co experienced a phenomenon it had not known since the ‘Garibaldi Suit’ of the late 1860′s. They released pattern #6015, and dubbed it the ‘walk-away’ dress, because it was so easy you could “Start it after breakfast… walk-away in it for luncheon!”. It’s simple yet flattering wrap design and easy construction were what made it so popular.

It may have worked for some people but I thought this pattern was a disaster.

Technically, the idea is very simple and rather clever. It’s one long piece of fabric that you pull over your head and the front two pieces hook together around your waist in the back and the back skirt wraps around and hooks in the front. Just like that. Done. It’s a very quick sew, so it’s also a great pattern for instant gratification… if it happens to fit you.

ButterickFlat

I made this dress for my good friend and daughter’s pre-school teacher, Maggie Putnam. Maggie is a beautiful woman and her figure is very slight. She is petite, small busted, and has a slight concave in her upper chest. I cut the size appropriate for her measurements and made adjustments accordingly. Everything was going very smoothly and Maggie was very excited.

Here she is for one of her fittings. I was not pleased with how the bodice was laying on her. I ended up making a solid princess seam from shoulder through center bust point connecting to the existing fitting darts; this gave the bodice a nicer fit. Luckily the pattern is a bit busy, so the seams blended in well. I lowered the neckline a bit as well to open up her chest a bit. It really seemed to come together quite smoothly.

MaggieA

Here is the finished dress:

MaggieDressCrop

Maggie felt so very beautiful in her new dress. She wore it for the pre-kindergarten Valentine’s day. I peeked in on her bustling around the children and getting things together during the party and our eyes met. I was completely mortified when I saw the dress and rushed out the door with tears in my eyes. “Why?” you may ask. “It looks simply beautiful! And she looks absolutely adorable in it!”

“Yes,” I would concede, “but that’s when she is standing completely still.”

Sigh. I went home and my mind could not get rid of the picture of Maggie trying to get the food, crafts, and games together with one hand glued to the front panel of her skirt to keep it from riding up dangerously high.
MaggieFrontSkirt
“Well, she should’ve worn a slip,” you might say.
She did wear a slip.
“Well, maybe she wore the wrong slip.”
No, she wore the right slip.

So, the question at hand is, “WHAT WENT WRONG? HOW DO I FIX IT?”

So, why was the skirt riding up? Her carefully fitted bodice looked like a baggy mess on her.

MaggieBustA

MaggieBackA

The back was equally ill-fitting. The print on this fabric makes it a bit more difficult to see, but believe me, it’s all there. Where on earth are the shoulder seams?

MaggieShoulderSeamClose

This dress calls for 4 3/4 yards of fabric — most of it being used for the back circle skirt. That is a lot of fabric and a lot of weight back there. Maggie does not have the curvy shape up top to keep the bodice and shoulders in place. All weekend I fretted over ways to fix this problem. I’m a professional! And this is a really easy dress! What is wrong with me??? The worst was when Maggie told me that her fellow co-workers were consoling her during lunch and coming up with solutions for her to fix the dress. How awful! She was embarrassed, very uncomfortable, and felt really sorry for me.

I thought about putting weights in the front of the skirt hem. No good. You shouldn’t wash them and how annoying and very impractical to have to take them out every time you wash.

I thought about putting a 1″ grow-grain ribbon doubled to make an “inside belt” along the waist for extra stability. What can I do to keep the waist and therefore the shoulder seams in place?

In the end, I did none of those things. I needed to think about Maggie first and I knew how very uncomfortable she was in the dress. She did not feel secure in the garment at all. If I made the belt, it might have been a quick fix that maybe would’ve worked, but my goal was to make her a dress she felt beautiful and confident in. I ended up taking my big scissors and chopping off the bodice from the circle skirt. It was sad, but the right thing to do. I put a waistband on to finish it. It would still wrap around the waist and fasten in the front.

CircleSkirt

I found another re-printed vintage pattern, Simplicity 3673.

3673

I chose to make her the straight shift to be the base dress under the circle skirt. With this option, she would feel very secure in the garment and still get the look and feel of the old dress. Not only that, but if she wanted to wear the dress alone and be more stream-lined, she could do that as well. Maggie chose a solid red for the straight dress. To keep the design flowing with the previous fabric, I piped the neckline and armscyes in the black and white print and also made a belt out of the print for when she wore it without the overskirt.

The changes I needed to make to this pattern were minimal. I did make a muslin mock-up and I needed to take out some extra-fullness in her upper-chest. Besides that, it was a perfect fit for her. When I saw her face light up, I knew it was the right thing to do. She wore the red dress without the circle-skirt to the end of the year Spring Program. Her husband requested she wear it that way probably because she looked like a little hottie. She looked and felt absolutely beautiful. These are some poor shots from the Spring Program.

(You will notice that the belt has slipped down in the front as well as the back. It is supposed to rest on the seam right under the bust. I noticed this during the program and sewing some quick belt-loops on the side seams should take care of that.)

DressADressB

You maybe would also laugh when I tell you that I was sewing the belt that very morning during the “practice program.” Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of the dress with the original over-skirt. I will get some shots this week and amend this post.

IN CONCLUSION: How do you fix the Butterick 4790 “Walk-Away” Dress? I don’t have any clear definite answers to give you regarding the pulling and sagging dilemma. After I sewed the dress and encountered the problem I talked to my sister Megan who had also sewn the dress some years ago and had the same exact problem. Hers was a bit worse because she made the dress reversible–twice as much weight in the back! She is small busted as well and never really wore the dress.

It’s a problem that hasn’t been discussed on the internet so I decided it was time that someone did. I question whether this pattern can really result in a good fit. Many people say they’ve had success with this pattern…I’m definitely not one of them.

Love, Rachel

AMENDED #1  Kathleen from Nova Scotia emailed me about having this same problem. She has indicated that she would like to try and fix the dress. This amendment could give you some ideas to kick around. 

“WELL, I’M GOING TO FIX IT ANYWAY!” Good for you! If this is the direction you would like to take with this garment, you could try a couple things that might help a bit.

First of all, you really need to make sure that the dress fits perfectly on your body. That means the shoulder seams are exactly in place, bust seams line up perfectly and the most important is that the back waist seam is EXACTLY on your waist as well as the front. Sew a 1″ grow-grain ribbon along the front (exactly where it should hit your waist) and fasten it tightly and securely in the back with a solid skirt-hook. They use grow-grain under ballet costumes to keep them secure and in place. I know that you’ll see the stitching on the front of the garment–it shouldn’t matter since you’ll be pulling the back skirt over to the front anyway.

  • NOTE: In sewing the front “inside belt” there will most likely be a part of the belt around the back of the waist that WILL NOT BE ATTACHED TO THE FABRIC. Pay close attention to the curve that wraps around to the back. If you just simply sew the belt onto the fabric, the front skirt will not lay smoothly.

Attach the grow-grain to the back waist as well stitching right in the middle of your seam. The idea behind this is to completely stabilize the waist and try to keep things from moving. Hopefully this will reduce the movement to a minimal.

In addition to this, another thought could be lining just the front part of the dress, while keeping the back unlined to give the front a bit more weight.

I’d love to hear from you on this topic! Did you have any problems? If so, what did you do to fix them?

Love Again, Rachel

AMENDED #2A POSSIBLE SOLUTION!

You’ve made the dress, love the dress, and want to make it work so you’ll actually wear it. This could be the solution:

Cut the bottom of the front dress panel at the waist plus 1/2″ (for seam allowance). Construct and sew a full pencil skirt and attach the waist to the front original remaining dress panel. You can also put a waistband on. This could be a great solution. The front skirt will not move and be completely stabilized. The weight of the back skirt could actually be a positive by pulling the upper bodice smoothly into place. You can still pull the dress over your head and wrap the back circle skirt around your waist.

Anyone want to make it??? 

pencilskirt

Idea of a pencil skirt you could use.

DressFlatCombinedSmall

Rough sketch of the new flat of the dress with a full pencil skirt with kick pleat.

Love Again Again, Rachel

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  • Elizabeth Brown

    Hi Rachel,
    I came across your post about the walkaway dress while browsing vintage 50s options to make, to wear something different at a friend’s wedding in Sept. Hope you don’t mind me writing long after the post.

    I’ve been reading as much as I can about the dress and about sewing vintage patterns this week, and I think your pencil skirt option is an excellent one.

    Looking at the problems w/ hang on your friend, though, I suspect part of the problem was – women don’t wear bullet bras anymore! and these patterns are cut assuming a level of womens foundation garments that we just don’t use now. The original pattern sizing really reflects that.

    I think the ideal waistline is also quite high, compared to where women wear their skirts and pants now.

    If you did it again on someone similarly built, I think you’d have to make a toile of your friend based on the pattern, to see where things like shoulder seams and bust points end up *on her*.

    I’m going to try the dress myself in the coming weeks, but I’ll be working from a toile (I’m a medieval reenactor, and I prefer them to paper patterns).

    I’m also going to separate the front bodice and skirt, mainly because I have big curves, and I think two separate pieces, top and bottom, with a stable waistband, will best get the dart placement correct for top half and bottom half on me.

    Your experience has given me the insight to fitting this dress on me, and I want to thank you for sharing it.

    Regards,

    E. Brown

  • Linda

    I’m a newbie. Bought this pattern even though I thought it looked potentially problematic figure-wise. When I saw your “walkaway dress” reference, I thought it meant it looked like it was on backwards, which it almost does. I love the back view of the dress on the package. The front views are okay, IF YOUR WAISTLINE IS 16″ or so! The live model wearing the dress on Butterick site showed me that if your waist is larger, and the wrap doesn’t actually meet in the center, the bodice can be awkward-looking. I’ve got big shoulders and not much bust. Hmmmm. Maybe I’d really prefer the simple silhouette of this dress instead of the wrap. Anybody make it from stretch fabric?

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  • Christy

    Hi, I just came across your post and wanted to pass on the URL for a blog where a lady has tweaked this pattern so it has the correct fit. http://www.edelweisspatterns.com/blog/?p=552

    She is also hosting a sew along this month.

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