The Tux Dress: Muslin

All this week, I’m focusing on The Tux Dress, from concept through finishing.  I remember when a dress of any sort felt like a big undertaking- eventually I learned to break the big job into smaller pieces.

Before I cut into the crisp black and white cotton sateen, I made a muslin.  I used a simliar weight fabric, though it’s slightly more drapey.  It’s from a friend’s destash and is 100% napped suede cotton.  It also has some sun damage, and the color brown and I don’t speak to each other very often.  And as usual for my construction shots, they’re quick computer photos.  One day I’ll have it together enough to take progress shots with a decent camera and tripod, but that day is not today.

I don’t make many muslins these days.  Usually, I draft from blocks I know work for me.  I made a muslin (with basted, not sewn seams) because I haven’t worked with this pattern before.

This is the pattern right out of the envelope, no alterations.  Not bad, I’m surprised.  The funny business on the side seam comes from me pinning it closed.  Also, the dress is a lot narrower through the skirt than I expected, and longer than I wanted.

This is the back.  It’s not amazing, but I’m not too upset by it.  My upper back-high-hip “fluff” is what made those wrinkles.  I can either alter the back high hip area to create more room on the pattern or girdle up.  (Altering the pattern won out.)

Close-up of the front seaming.  I like it.  It’s a flat fell seam on the pattern, I just basted it together.  I’ll make a proper flat fell seam on the actual dress, and probably use a contrast thread to highlight the seaming.  I used a pin to mark the “point of no return” so I could carve out a steep v-neck:

The V is only between the front flat fell seams, and when I layer the dickey on top I can create a deep, sexy placket.  The dickey will detach if I want to wear a plainer dress, I could probably layer it underneath, too.  I also hiked up the hem a few inches.

Shorter dickey- mocked up in tracing medium and pinned over the top of the dress.

Longer dickey.

Longer dickey with “cummerbund.”  (Actually the tie from my dressing gown.)  I can not decide about the dickey.  That’s ok, I’m making it as a separate piece and will whipstitch it into place on the finished dress. 

I think the shorter dickey places more emphasis on the bust, while the longer dickey with cummerbund looks pretty “tux” to me.   What do you think?  I’m still deciding… Remember, this dress will have elbow sleeves.

Also, what if I “rounded out” the bottom of the dickey?

Side view is pretty ok.  I mean, I don’t have anywhere to hide but I’m ok with it.  I’m still stumped as to why this is a tapered dress in an A-line pattern envelope… It fits my measurements.

I thought I should mention I dyed my hair, in case you see it later in photos.  Naturally, my hair is a red-brown color.  I like to dye my hair because it makes my hair feel nice, and I like it darker than my natural color.  Most of my coloring is cool, and the red in my hair muddies the waters a little.  Besides, I get bored; it’s fun to dye my hair.  And I like the “Snow White” flavor.

This black is actually a kind of purple.  It’s not nearly as purple as the box (even the “dark hair” sample) but I’m ok with it.  It’s better for me than flat black, and might provide a segue into brighter purple if I decide to try it out.   I dream of long, beautifully maintained purple hair:

click for source

Maybe it will happen one day, maybe not.

Long or short dickey?

Do you muslin?

Tomorrow: Dickey-ing around with pattern pieces…

Be sure to enter the Frock Out Giveaway if you haven’t already!


  1. V off the bottom of the dickey maybe so it is like an en point diamond? Loving it so far! Love the purple hair too. I don’t fuss with mine any more. Mostly so I will grow old disgracefully. The grey is speeding up and my big fear is that by colouring it, I will one day get a massive shock at how grey it got in the mean time!

    • Oh! I’m kind of looking forward to going gray… I look around at the women in my family and they seem to age pretty well. Though I do want to do things like dye my hair purple while I can still get away with it… ;)

  2. I like the shorter dickey collar and I think rounding off the bottom would be nice – just a bit softer. I’ll leave you to the cummerbund – we had to sear them on our high school orchestra uniforms (between the skirt and blouse) in the school colour. Thankfully by the time I started they had stopped wearing them on top of choir dresses. Muslins I have decided are very useful things (thanks to lessons with you) and I have found I get a much better fit on my body this way. Especailly considering I usually need to do a FBA and adjust the sleeve width at the top. I’m looking forward to watching your dress progress.

    • Sear them? Did I read that right? I’m so curious.

      They do help dont they! If nothing else, it’s that feeling like “It’s ok if this doesn’t work, it’ll show me where I went wrong…” :) In my case, it was cutting a diamond in the back. Definitely incorrect. A step too far.

    • Thanks, Dawn. I love how I bring little issues to the blog and get all kinds of clarity. I’m going to go with the longer one I think.

  3. I think the shorter dickey definitely calls more attention to the bust. I prefer the longer version, but I’m not the one wearing it!

    I had bright red streaks in my hair right after college and I loved it. I’ve just recently started getting ‘lowlights’ to cover up some of the greys. It’s been 3 months since I’ve had it done and you can definitely see the greys creeping back. If only I had a nice white streak a la Bonnie Raitt, but alas, it’s just salt and pepper!

    • Oooh red sounds like fun. I used to dye my hair red (red red, not auburn) in college… :)

      I hope my hair streaks when it goes gray… Most of my aunts and my mom were that way, so fingers crossed. I love the look. So dramatic.

  4. Long dickey with cummerbund gets my vote, especially if you’re really going for the ‘tux’ look. Although, either way would make a lovely dress.

  5. My cousin just dyed her hair purple. She has long black hair to start with, and they had to bleach it first to get the effect she wanted. But it’s cool, because in low lights, it looks black with a hint of purple, and in daylight, it’s as purple as can be. I love the in-between, where there’s a bit of overhead light that brings out the purple from the black. :)

    I think the short dickie is more flattering, but you’re right, the longer dickie looks more tux. And it’s not unflattering at all, the shorter one just emphasizes your waist a bit. I think if you’re going to use a cummerbund, I’d go with the longer dickie.

    I’m working on a muslin right now for a dress that I only have a pattern for in too big of a size. I thought I’d down-graded enough, but the dress is huge. I also need to take out most of the pleating in the front. I”m REALLY glad that I did a muslin this time, but I don’t normally do them. Or when I do, they become the final garment because I’m too lazy to do all that work again if the fit is right. lol I’m really impressed with how this dress fits you out of the envelope. It looks like there’s a lot of width at the back centre seam of the skirt though. Maybe that’s where all the extra A-line-ness is hiding?

    • Your cousin’s hair sounds so pretty! They’d have to bleach mine too if I went for some serious purple, I just have to find a good hairdresser I trust… (Not to mention scrape up the money- hair is *expensive* here.)

      The only thing is… The more I look at it, the more the shorter dickey looks like “cocktail waitress” to me.. Know what I mean? Though I’m sure it would be less so with sleeves. Hmmm…

      I do like the longer dickey/cummerbund… It looks kind of “put together.” Hmm… I have some black silk velvet, not traditional cummerbund material but very pretty… Maybe I’ll use that…

      Better too much than too little fabric! Do you see where/how to take it in? Good problem to have. ;)

      • I think the texture of the velvet as a cummerbund would look really nice. I like that better than the standard shiny shiny most cummerbunds (that I’ve seen) are made of. :)

        Oh, I have no idea where exactly to take it in. It has a centre back zip, so I’m having a tough time seeing where it needs to go in without the zip attached. I was going to put in a zipper, but I’m not sure if there’s any point right now. I’ll probably just tack down the pleats for now (they make me look preggers), and then start taking bulk out of the side and centre back seams. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go back to the pattern and downgrade some more.

  6. Well, this comment will reflect a little of my personal style preferences, but I think the longer dickie and the slightly longer (more vintage) length hem all scream TUX in an I-want-that-dress way. And do wear the cummerbund. I must say the muslin looks really good. Isn’t it nice when that happens? And I have the same upper hip fluff stuff happening, and because I prefer not to wear corsets on a daily basis (although the idea sometimes appeals to me), I always end up altering the pattern. I tend to be lazy with muslining, and then usually wish I’d done it in the first place. Ha!

    • Yeah for sure… I would go for the longer length, but most of my skirts are already a bit longer. I’m trying to branch out slightly. ;) But thank you for the input, it’s much appreciated.

      Yeah, I’m shocked it fit so decently out of the envelope. It’s always good to check, I suppose. This pattern is from 1966, so it’s a good 8 years past my usual “era” preferences, I wasn’t sure how it’d fit…

      I really should jog more, do some yoga to get rid of that fluff… Meh… ;)

  7. I like the longer dickey because I think stopping anything right at your bustpoint is iffy.

    I don’t make anything above the waist without a muslin. Ever. However, I find that if you tell friends and family that you like old sheets, they’ll hook you up. :)

    • Yeah they do! And I find people like to de-stash all over me too when I mention I sew. Goodness.

      You make a good point, thanks! :)

  8. I do like both dickeys but if it is tux you are going for the longer one works better, probably because of the cumberbund. Also don’t round it. I think it’s straight edge is more striking and less traditional, even with a vintage pattern. Thanks for sharing your process.

    • Thanks! The process is fun to share, and it helps me sort through my ideas… The blog is my testing ground! :) I think I will be going for the longer dickey… Definitely.

  9. I’m leaning toward the longer dickey, because I think it emphasizes your waist. Steph, this dress is looking awesome on you already, ! can’t wait to see it finished!

    I usually do make a muslin since I virtually always need some sort of FBA. Kind of a pain in the rear on one hand, but on the plus side, after making a muslin the final garment seems to sew up in a snap. Perhaps because of the practice run?

    • Thanks, Ginny! I’m making it to wear to an event (Frock Out!!) on Saturday, and it ties in with Sew Weekly’s “Vegas” theme… So I’m not sure when the finished dress will be posted! But we’ll have fun sewing it this week anyway.

      Yes, I find I always sew the second one of something much much quicker than the first one… :) But there’s nothing tricky about this dress except all the embellishment I want to do. The basic dress should go together in an hour or two, then I faff around with the dickey and etc…

  10. I am a huge fan of the Snow White look! For a while, I wanted to dye my hair an outrageous color, but a hairdresser friend of mine talked me out of it when she explained about what it takes to bleach Asian hair enough to get a bright color to take.

    The long dickey+cummerbund look really emphasizes the tux quality of the dress, even in brown, so that’s my vote. I used to muslin all the time, but as I got better at dressmaking (and as I discovered that my muslins were pretty much always wearable and therefore never got around to making the “real” dress) I stopped. I’ve had only a couple of major flops since then, and luckily only in fabrics that weren’t my favorite to begin with. However, now that I’m branching out into not-dresses, I’m thinking I need to get back to muslin-making.

    • Love Snow White… I should do a style inspiration piece on her… Hmm.. Dig up some manga, some old fairy tales.. Leave the Disney in the vault… Hmmm!

      Asian hair is tough!! I like to go to a Japanese hair salon because they don’t roll their eyes when I ask for things like fingerwaves… Anyway, when I was there last time I saw this girl with her hair being hooked up to some crazy crazy electric perming machine… It looked like an instrument of torture, though she obviously didn’t feel it… But wow…

      Your vote means a lot to our organization. ;) I think there’s no doubt about the long dickey and cummerbund, I love how blogging helps clarify my ideas…

  11. I think I would go for a longer dicky with the cummerbund, much more ‘tux’ to me. My hair has been pretty much every colour of the rainbow over the years, it’s more auburn by nature and curly like you wouldn’t believe!! lol. (p.s. started sewing my 50’s dress today, no muslin, and ignoring the pattern which says to put a seam right down the front of the skirt, which just seems wrong to me!) X

    • That sounds lovely- every color of the rainbow…

      Oooh! Have you blogged it? I’ll have to go check it out! :) A LOT of 50’s dresses have a CF seam, it helps with the big wide skirts and seems to contribute to the “bell” shape so popular in the middle of the decade… :)

  12. I’m leaning towards the longer dickey, with the rounded edges. Love the new hair colour. You are braver than I! ;-)

  13. Long, with cummerbund. Its definitely more tux-y.
    How odd that the dress would be so much less a-line than the envelope indicates. Another case of misleading pictures?
    Also, I think I dyed my hair that colour (or something quite similar at least) when I was 16. Unfortunately, because my hair was a lot blonder back then, it took FOREVER to come out, even though it was only a 6 week rinse. I had weird slightly pinkish hair until it grew out. Which makes me wonder why I want to do it again :D

    • I’m now wondering if the lack of a-line is because of proportions rather than measurements… I mean, if you had a super flat butt but were wider from side to side, while still the same measurement, would it fall in a more a-line manner? Especially since it looks like theres a bit more fullness at the centre back seam than there is in the front… Or maybe my morning brain is just overthinking things.

      • I figure the shape of my backside has something to do with it, and honestly I’m not bothered. I like the shape of both the dress and my bottom, and I’m toying with the idea of a few godets… If the finished dress isn’t dramatic enough for me, that’s what I’ll do. The fabric is great, both soft and stiffly drapey, so I think the godets would be positively structural. I just need to decide if the dress wants it. (I think probably). Then it will bear very, very little resemblance to the pattern envelope. C’est la vie. :)

  14. Pingback: Tux Dress Details- Facings, Mitering Lace and Dickeying Around « 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World

  15. Have to join the longer dickey with cummerbund crowd on this one. Love all your photos and different versions you have played with! Muslins are vital in my business as they show all the problems both with the usually crappy pattern and the clients lumps and bumps which have to be smoothed over/camouflaged.

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