Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Burda Slip Dress

I mentioned here that the fabric on my first Darling Ranges dress was see through and I would need to make a slip. A slip falls firmly in the "cake" category. I'm not averse to cake. In fact I love making practical things that get lots of wear. Even as I was writing the post I wondered if I would ever bother. Anyway I've been longing to wear my first Darling Ranges so when I had a small window to sew I set to work on a slip.

I'm delighted with the result, and I can't wait to wear it with my first Darling Ranges! Here are the pictures.

There was a slip in the second Burda magazine that I ever bought and it's been at the back of my mind ever since. Enter 109B from April 2011. Here's the line drawing.

There was no modelled picture in the magazine. It was designed to wear under this wrap dress in the same issue:

I made a muslin first by tracing and cutting out a size 42. I added a seam allowances of 2.5 cm throughout to the muslin to leave room for any alterations. I sewed with a 2.5 cm throughout save for the waist seam, where I sewed with a 1.5 cm seam allowance.

Even after 2 years of sewing Burda instructions manage to baffle me. I hate to think how many beginners have given up sewing after trying to follow them. It's liberating to be able to ignore Burda instructions and rely on your own experience to work it out yourself.

From what I can tell, my construction differed to the instructions as follows:

  1. Inserting the straps. The bodice is self-faced. The instructions seem to have you topstitch the straps on at the end which I thought would look messy and a bit amateur. I sandwiched the strap between the bodice and bodice facing, right sides together, when sewing the upper edges of the bodice, and sewed them into the seam. To be more precise I started by stitching the straps to the back bodice facing to make sure they were in the correct place and secure and then attached that to the back bodice as explained above. When sewing the same seam on the front bodice, I left 1.5 inch gaps where the front straps would go so that I could insert the straps later after trying the dress on and marking how long they would need to be. The straps were then inserted into the holes left at the top edges of the front bodice and stitched in the same manner as the the back bodice straps.

  2. The instructions had you baste the lower edges of the bodice pieces after sewing the upper bodice edges. This would expose the waist seam allowance once the skirt is attached. I enclosed the waist seam allowance by joining the bodice to the skirt, pressing under the lower edge of the bodice facings and stitching in the ditch along the waist seam to attach the bodice facings. Alternatively you can slip stitch the bodice facings in place after pressing under the lower edges.

I was pleasantly surprised at the fit. The fit of the bust was almost perfect. A bit pointy because of the size of the dart, but not noticeable. I tested it out and thought a bit more ease at the hips was necessary. I fixed this by undoing the side seams and re-sewing with a 1.5 cm seam allowance. This gave enough ease at the hips and waist but the bust was now too loose. I restored the 2.5 cm seam allowance at the bodice sides and tapered down to the 1.5 cm seam allowance at the waist / hips. This was much better so I set to work on adjusting my pattern pieces.

The alterations translated to the following pattern adjustments:

  1. Adding 1 cm to the lower edges of the front and back bodice pieces (bearing in mind that Burda patterns are net of seam allowances).
  2. Adding 1 cm to the outside edges of the side front and side back pieces tapering up to nothing at the waist from just above the hips.

The adjustments meant I could add a 1.5 cm seam allowance throughout when cutting the pattern (apart from the hem to which I added 3.5 cm). To add more ease to the pencil skirt shape of the slip I added two small slits at the bottom of the side seams, by stopping the side seam a few inches from the hem and hemming the slits.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before but if you don't already have Scotch magic tape and a dispenser do go and buy one! It makes altering traced patterns so much easier. The tape also comes in handy for using up scraps of left over tracing paper. There are hardly enough small pattern pieces to use up the scraps so I tend to tape together two or three, or sometimes more decent sized scraps and then use to trace bigger pattern pieces.

The slip has a side zipper which is interesting but I suppose necessary because of the fitted shape of the slip. I also took the following extra steps to add stability:

  1. I added strips of interfacing to the seam allowances along the entire upper edges of the bodice. I then under stitched the seam allowance to the bodice facing. This gave a nice clean finish when pressed and stopping the neckline at the front gaping forward.

  2. I interfaced the zipper area before adding the zip.

I also did the pressed under vintage seam finish which I first heard of during the Lonsdale dress sew-along. I'm slightly addicted to this seam finish as I've used it on all my recent makes.

I left an inch and a half of the lower edge of the bodice facings loose when attaching them to the zipper tape. I then hemmed the bodice facings by turning under 1 cm, pressing and stitching in place. I then neatened the corner where the hem on the bodice facing meets the zipper by folding up the corners diagonally and stitching in placing (using a zig zag stitch with the feed dogs lowered).

I then attached the loose 1.5 inches of the bodice facing to the zipper tape and then stitched in the ditch along the waist seam to attach the bodice facings. A helpful tip is to match the bodice seams and then pin in place before you start stitching to make sure the two bodices are aligned correctly. If you have the patience, slipstitching the bodice facing down (instead of stitching in the ditch on the machine) may produce a more delicate result.

Next time I will just get the hemming of the bodice facing out of the way after cutting so that it can be attached to the zipper tape in one go.

After hemming the side slits I turned under the hem twice and then stitched with an invisible hem stitch on the machine.

A curious thing about this pattern is the centre back seam on the bodice and skirt pieces despite the zipper being at the side. In other words Burda makes you do loads of extra work. This didn't register with me until half way through the make. Why did Burda do this? I thought there must have been a similar shaped dress in the same issue with a back zipper so they re-used the pieces. But no, there were no similar shaped dresses. I have heard that Burda re-cycle some of their patterns so maybe a similar shaped dress appeared in an earlier issue. Unless any of you lovely readers can enlighten me, I don't see that the centre back seam serves much purpose here. If I make this again I think I would remove the centre back seam.


I thought I would mention how pleased I was with the top corners of my zipper. I think this is one of the best I have done.

I don't know what happened to the waist seam though!

I adapted Tilly's tip for sewing corners without trimming them first and I really like how it turned out. Before turning through I pressed the seam allowances down towards the back and then held the corners with the tips of my fingers and turned through.

I have written at length about stitching a facing (or lining) to a zipper by machine. There are a number of ways of doing this but I always return to Kathleen Fansella's method which I linked to here. When joining the neckline edges I leave a gap of about an inch and a half before the edge where the zipper tape will go. I go back and sew this right at the end, after the zipper is attached. I then attach the zip to the bodice pieces and facings (or lining) using Kathleen's method as normal.

The key point to note about Kathleen's method is that her facing piece is slightly smaller than the outer bodice piece. They magically align once both are stitched and turned through. Instead of altering your facing (or lining) pieces to make them smaller I just place my facing (or lining) piece slightly beyond the end of the zipper tape (and beyond the edge of the bodice piece) by about 5 mm and then stitch it to the zipper tape. I then fold back the zipper as per Kathleen's tutorial and then stitch the rest of the upper edge. I then press down the seam allowances towards the back and follow Tilly's method to turn through without trimming the edges. (Of course if the fabric was very bulky then trimming would be wise.)

Anyway I'm delighted with the result and most of all it's great to have a slip. I haven't owned a slip since I was about 26 when I had a nightdress which I used as a slip. I'm a bit of a lining freak (I line most things). Maybe I can now bypass this step every now and then!

This is my most recent make and I have two skirts yet to post. This is also my first post of 2013. I have had a difficult, and at times surreal, year so far. My dad died of cancer at the beginning of February. Luckily I, and my family, were able to spend quality time with him in his final weeks. He defied the doctor's best estimates and gave us weeks with him rather than days. When I started this blog in 2011 I had no idea he would be gone within 2 years. I guess it's better that we don't know these things. Here is a picture of me and dad from a few years ago! 

Sleep in peace dad.


  1. Oh, Katy, I'm so very sorry for your loss. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. :(

    Your slip is so pretty-- well done! It looks absolutely gorgeous and professional! I really need to make one, but have put it off in favor of more "fun" projects. I bought a sheer dress nearly two years ago and declined the matching slip at the shop because "I could make that". But, I haven't, so the dress has never been worn!

    1. Thank you - the kind words of others at this time really do help. :)

      I'm glad you like the slip. Ha ha - maybe 3 months wasn't so bad (the length of time I couldn't wear my Darling Ranges)! You should totally make one. I'm thinking of adapting this pattern to have without a zip, maybe with a more stretchy lining fabric. I figure more than one slip would be useful.

  2. I'm sorry to hear about the rough start to your year. I'm sending good thoughts your way.

    Your slip looks lovely. You have great zip skills and you sound like you have lining all figured out. Any tips on how I could get it all figured out too? :P

  3. Thanks Johanna for your kind words:)

    Glad you like the slip. My zips don't always come out right - the above zip itself is not particularly invisible but I was excited at getting the tops just right! I'm also moving away from invisible zippers to normal ones now so it will be interesting to adapt my lining method in due course for this. I recall Kathleen's method was for a normal zipper so hopefully this won't be too different. I don't think you need any tips - you've made some wonderful things!

    I'm a bit of a geek for learning about all this and figuring how it all works.

  4. Sorry to hear about your Dad, Katy! I'm very sorry for your loss.