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From zero to sixty: A total beginner makes a fancy dress.

Added Mar 19, 2012

by Dawn Preissler

Lynchburg, Virgi...






This is the first dress I’ve ever made. In fact, before this I could barely sew a pillow case because my sewing skills were still at a complete beginner level. I guess those things were just too simple?

I found the Make This Look for the adorable Salty & Pepper Dress from Modcloth on Sew Weekly, so I decided to go for this, but went with another pattern than the one that was suggested, and disregarded the instructions on there. I loved the slightly nerdy, classic, vintage pin-up style of the dress and felt like I needed more of that in my life.

I was planning on using Simplicity 2176 for the entire dress, but I wanted to to be exactly like the dress I was inspired by and the pattern was close, but not close enough for my liking. I used the basic bodice pattern from 2176, as well as the top collar and the straps. I made the midriff pattern from scratch, added a full circle skirt instead of the one with the pattern, and converted it to a sweetheart neckline. I also chose to completely disregard the strange instructions that 2176 had when it came to sewing on the top band because I wanted it to be an actual collar type band instead of one that was completely attached.

Seeing as this was my first real sewing project and I hadn’t had that much experience or instruction I learned a lot of things from it:

-Gingham is a total pain when it comes to bodices. Keeping your lines straight and lined up correctly on a curve is no fun. I swear half of the time spent working on this was me trying to be a perfectionist when it came to that. (Notice how straight the lines on the bust are.)

-Plastic invisible zipper feet are the bane of my existence, as the “universal” ones disagree with my machine. Invisible zippers are also quite horrid at times. One thread out of place and the zipper refuses to function normally.

-A homemade dress form will save you from mercilessly stabbing yourself with pins. Making sure the pins don’t fall on the floor is also a good way to avoid that.

-Sewing patterns are just suggestions, not the rule. Still, they have some pretty good advice.

-Seam guides can make life so much easier when you’re the type who can’t sew a straight line to save your life.

I still can’t believe that my first official sewing project that was more than a couple of straight lines came out so well. It fits like a dream. I also wish I had a few better pictures, but these will work for now.




Spring, Summer
Garment Type
Casual, Classic, Goth/Gothic Lolita, Mod, Vintage


Pattern Used

18 Comments Sign in to add a post

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    May 9, 2012, 07.26 PMby Vanessa Leigh

    Wonderful job!

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    Mar 25, 2012, 03.29 AMby Shona Roon

    I’m amazed. Keep on sewing!

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    Mar 21, 2012, 09.47 AMby bjr99

    Fantastic job!

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    Mar 21, 2012, 04.02 AMby Swirlz1

    U did such a great job, well worth the effort!

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    Mar 20, 2012, 06.06 PMby chika85


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    Mar 20, 2012, 11.59 AMby efh1687

    looks excellent on you!

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    Mar 20, 2012, 05.14 AMby zsyzu

    Nicely done! I wish my first project turned out as well as yours!

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    Mar 20, 2012, 02.54 AMby blueartisan

    Fantastic work! I tend to follow instructions only when I come across a piece and think “What the hell are you and where the hell do you go?” Then I read that section and go “ohhhhhhh that’s what you are! Meh, I wouldn’t do it that way” and then I do it a different way. I find some companies instructions are great, Simplicity is excellent for beginners. Vogue, well there is usually several points where the instructions are thrown across the room in disgust….. You are obviously an instinctive sewer and have pure talent. Tap into it and you’ll be amazed where it takes you!

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      Mar 20, 2012, 09.27 PMby Dawn Preissler

      Thank you! I spent quite a while trying to decide how I wanted to go about things. The pattern instructions seemed to make it more complicated than it had to be and as a beginner I was trying to make things as simple as possible. I think I inherited my sewing skills from my grandmother. Thank you for the wonderful compliments!

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    Mar 20, 2012, 12.42 AMby Cristina Haines

    Nice job!

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    Mar 19, 2012, 11.19 PMby Jodi Wade

    First dress!! Amazing! I cannot wait to see what else you will make.

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    Mar 19, 2012, 10.53 PMby neveenkarnes

    very nice. looks great on you.

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    Mar 19, 2012, 10.22 PMby tessi

    This is an AMAZING result for a first dress! You’ve done a wonderful job and you look fabulous in it!

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      Mar 20, 2012, 09.28 PMby Dawn Preissler

      Thank you! It was three days of constant work because I spent so much time trying to figure everything out and altering things to make sure they had the perfect fit.

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    Mar 19, 2012, 10.21 PMby marlalalalere

    The line are in deed SOOOOO straight!!! You can definitely be proud of yourself Bravo!

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    Mar 19, 2012, 10.21 PMby lisa g

    this is super cute… nice work!

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    Mar 19, 2012, 10.15 PMby camelia-crinoline

    It looks amazing. I can’t believe that it’s the first dress you’ve ever made. I love the gingham and the black accents. I agree that sewing patterns are just suggestions. I very rarely follow them completely.

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    Mar 19, 2012, 09.24 PMby mokosha

    i’m in love with this dress!

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    Mar 19, 2012, 09.00 PMby TailorFairy

    What a lovely dress! Love it! Congrats!

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    Mar 19, 2012, 08.55 PMby sarahmckee85

    Love this dress, so cute and it looks very professionally made!

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