April 2, 2016

Finished project: Butterick 5880, aka "Slippery Boatneck Flower Explosion"

Hello! Here, have yourself a martini. We're going into retro cocktail dress mode!

Butterick 5880, originally released in 1951, reflects a style that's much earlier than Mad Men, but I would still classify it as a "Joan" dress. Just look at the wiggle silhouette, the luscious diagonal side darts, the cut-in sleeves!
Have you finished your martini? Come on, down the hatch.  Because here's a bombshell: my version does not include the draped flounce at the hips. I know. It's a main feature of the dress. But what respectable pear silhouette needs all that fabric pooling there? By eliminating the flounce, I allowed this dress to become a (sort-of) office-wear garment. Which I need. Because I work in an office five days a week. Rarely do I attend fancy flounce-appropriate cocktail parties.

Wanna see more pics? Read on. I'll make you another martini while the images load.

Butterick 5880 is popular with bloggin' sewists. At the time of writing, there were 11 write-ups on PatternReview.com. Professor Pincushion even created an hour-long video tutorial, nicknaming this the "Classy Dame Dress." I agree! This is a very ladylike object. You might be able to tone it down a notch or two, using a roughspun linen in an earth tone or something, but it would still be a wide-necked, hourglass-enhancing, close-fitting wiggle dress.
Butterick 5880, front view: Please pardon the dry dirt in the lower background. Pretend it's not there. Picture green grass, bunnies, or a well-organized stash of lovely folded fabrics stored tidily in attractive bins. Ahhhh, happy place.

Putting it together

As I mentioned, the original pattern includes a draped flounce at the hips. The garment requires about 4 yards of fabric. Most of that is gobbled up by that flounce.
Butterick 5880, original incarnation. Photo source: Butterick's website
If you make this using one of your tried-and-true slim skirt patterns (sans founce), the yardage for the whole thing is more like 1 1/2 to 2 yards.

Butterick 5880, FBA (full bust adjustment) on front piece.
As always, I performed FBA surgery on this puppy. Because there are two side darts, I slashed and spread across both.
Butterick 5880: angled, double side darts.
If your bod requires an FBA, the final darts, as viewed from the outside, need to be parallel. You can do this by spreading the FBA evenly across both darts.

About That Neckline

Sometimes human beings need to bend forward. I know - crazy! With this design's wide neck, there was some concern about over-exposure. Add to that the anxiety about the wedge cuts -- what if the center piece flaps down over time? -- and you have a typical sewist panic situation.
Butterick 5880: a very '50s neckline and arm treatment
I solved this with a little covered boning on the inside. The center strip, in particular, keeps everything in place. This is not strictly necessary. As you can see in other sewists' interpretations of this pattern, a well-fitted garment will not betray its wearer in such a manner. But I like having an insurance policy.
Butterick 5880, interior: I added covered boning to prevent the neckline from potentially collapsing over time and repeated wearings.

Wow, it's fully lined!

Speaking of the interior: gracious. Whaddaya think of that lining fabric? It's a slick poly print from the JoAnn Red Tag (cheapo fabric) shelf.
Butterick 5880, lining.
The Butterick pattern calls for a full lining, so, for once, this was not a deviation from the original. Gotta love those vintage pattern details.
Butterick 5880: hand-picked zipper.
The zipper is sandwiched between the fashion fabric and the lining. On my version, it is hand-picked. Never done something like this? Wanna? Craftsy has a nice tutorial for hand-picking a lapped zipper.
Butterick 5880: hand-picked zipper exterior.
As you can see on the outside, the pick-stitches do not line up across the zipper. This was one of my first hand-picked zippers, so I was completely oblivious to the need to line 'em up. On subsequent zippers, they line up. Promise!
See? See? It looks so much better when you line up the pick-stitches. This is a separate garment: a pencil skirt using the skirt drafting tutorial at So Sew Easy.
I'll show you the hem, but it's nothing special. Makes for a dramatic pattern-clashing shot, though!
Butterick 5880: the hem from the inside.
The hem is blind-stitched by machine. Alternatively, you could sew the fashion fabric to just the lining, using a catch stitch, to achieve an invisible hem effect.

How will I wear this?

In this shiny fabric, with a silhouette that could easily veer toward "unintentional sexpot," my instinct is to keep accessories and styling to a minimum.
Photo source: Butterick's website
The classy dames on the pattern envelope accessorize with middle-length gloves and a loose choker-style necklace. Since I own neither of these, I went in a few different directions.
Just the basics, ma'am. No frills here.
Dress: Butterick 5880, today's post.
Shoes: Tan platform pumps from Madden Girl
Chilly? Throw something on top.
Dress: Butterick 5880, today's post
Blazer: self-made white gabardine blazer, lined in ivory china silk, from Butterick 4610 pattern
Shoes: Calvin Klein slides from DSW
Black bauble necklace: I don't own one, but it sure would tie the look together, dontcha think? I also don't own a handbag that goes with this fabric, but a bright yellow or gleaming white clutch might do the trick. Honestly, I'll probably tuck some lipstick and credit cards into my bra if I ever wear this to a fashionable soiree, and hope for the best.
Going casual? Throw on a fleece sweatshirt, a nice pair of cat-hair-covered black workout socks, and some bright orange Crocs for a pulled-together champagne brunch look.
Just kidding!
I took this pic on April Fool's Day. You can smell the socks from here, can't ya?

In conclusion

Don't be afraid of the hefty yardage requirements! If you're willing to forego the flounce, Butterick 5880 is a potential stash-buster. 

The garment was easy to construct, although many of the details are time-consuming, so be prepared for the long haul.

Get an idea of the possibilites by viewing other sewists' creations from this pattern.

Are you in the Butterick 5880 club? Got any questions about how to put it together? Let me know!


  1. Nice. I haven't made this one yet, but I was wondering: the skirt looks shorter than the pattern envelope shows. Did you shorten it, or is the envelope wrong? Looks like yours would hit right around the knee, and the pattern looks like it would hit around the calf. ???

    1. Hi Madeleine E. Aha! Right you are. The envelope is correct. My version is shortened a lot. I'm 5'5", so a few inches came off the bottom to make it hit just below my knee.

      You could probably save a little yardage by cutting the skirt shorter from the start. I'm always worried I'll end up needing the extra inches, so I cut out the full length, and hack off what's not needed when it's time to hem.

  2. I think I saw that fabric last week at JoAnn. in the red tag section. Almost bought some, because the colors are cool, but not sure what I would make with it. So, yeah, it's still available if anyone interested.

  3. OMG I have been looking for a way to do the FBA on this for ages! My first attempt was to draw a line randomly where a single dart would have been, then to 'guesstimate' how much the FBA has added to the darts and split that in half. Not very successful. Just bought the downloadable/printable version so I will try your 'double slashing' method to see if that is better! Why didn't I think of that? :)