Learning From Trial and Error: A Rayon Jersey Bettine!

I made this rayon Bettine at the end of July, and it’s sat unblogged since then. In my world, that’s not a good sign! I did wear it in Montreal, and I felt cute and comfortable all day… but I dug it out to photograph the other day, and the (literally) harsh light of day made me really question it. I think it all comes down to three factors: fabric, pattern, and photography, all of which I was experimenting with outside my comfort zone. That makes it not a winner, but not a fail either, because I can learn from my experiments!

front back Collage

  1. Fabric

My beloved rayon jersey – except this time in a solid. It was only $3/m, and I love the colour. I don’t buy solids often, because as I mentioned in my Pros and Cons of Rayon Knits post, solids tend to show every lump and bump. Maybe a higher quality fabric would have hid more sins?

Case in point:

back Collage

Le sigh. Yes, this is what Spanx were invented for, but who wants to wear a compression garment under a casual summer dress?

inspiration Collage

2. Pattern

I was inspired by a couple of dresses I’d pinned, particularly the black dress with the green clutch. So elegant and effortless and chic! I’d had this dress in mind before I even sewed my ponte Bettine, but I decided to sew the pattern as-is before changing it drastically.

After wearing both Bettine dresses, I have to say the pattern is not for me. The front and back bodice are identical except for neckline, and the front and back skirt are identical too. Just think about that – no room for bust or bootie. In ponte, the skirt pulls back and up, pulling the front waist low and the side seams all wonky. I wore it once, and I won’t wear it again! In this more drapey rayon, the fabric stretches more to compensate, but the result is a lot of wrinkles and pull lines as I move. I think that a pattern with space for my curves would have given a much more elegant effect.

(As an aside, I’m not sure the off-the-shoulder looks is for me, but I’m glad I experimented!) 

Finally, 3. Photography. 

On a whim, I took these pics mid-afternoon while running errands. The sun was bright with harsh shadows, so I tramped around the park looking for deep shade. Not shady enough though! If you go back and look at my inspiration collage, see how the dresses I’d pinned look like dark pools of fabric, whereas my pics have sharp shadows and highlights on every fold and crease? I think if I’d waited a few more hours, I might have pictures that convinces me to like the dress (like these ones did) instead of pics that make me feel self-conscious about wearing it!

To prove my point, here are some pics I took in a more shaded area:

low contrast Collage

Much better, right? I still see the drape but it’s less in-my-face, and I notice the colour and overall shape of the dress more.

So, what did I learn from this dress? 

  1. I like prints for a reason. I swear everything is more flattering in a print!
  2. Patterns with no shaping will struggle to fit my body, especially with a fitted skirt. Better to start with a design that knows my front is not the same as my back! (Oddly, I’m not so bothered by the Jalie leopard dress that I made to wear backwards – between fabric and alterations, it actually fits just fine in reverse.)
  3. Pictures really affect how I feel about a garment, so it’s worth putting thought into taking good pictures! For better and for worse, an unflattering picture or an amazing shot can change how I feel in a garment forever… and I think if you don’t feel confident, then you won’t look as great.
  4. All hail cheap fabric! I’m not in love with the dress, nor do I hate it, but I’m happy I made it. For $6, I learned a lot!

I almost didn’t blog about the dress… but I figured that it’s nice to be upfront that not everything is a winner. I”m moving on now to making work-appropriate fall clothes… time for longer hems, longer sleeves, and high necklines! And maybe, just maybe, I should stop sewing jersey dresses and make some more pants.  (The next post is also a jersey dress!)

Do pictures influence how you feel about a garment? Or, do you trust your mirror or your loved ones’ reaction more? I did ask Jamie what he thought of the dress after I’d worn it, and he said, “I remember your accessories more than the dress, and that didn’t seem like you.”  Clever man!


39 thoughts on “Learning From Trial and Error: A Rayon Jersey Bettine!

  1. Your question about pictures and a loved one’s reaction influencing how you feel about a garment is such an interesting one!

    I made a similarly pretty plain dress when I made a Moneta/circle skirt dress (http://www.pudgeandnico.com/?p=3226), and when I tried it on for the first time, I felt pretty meh. However, my husband really liked the dress and I did think it looked pretty good in pictures, so I was convinced I should give it more of a try. The first time I wore it to work, I received SO many compliments on it, probably more than any other garment I’ve made (which in hindsight is kind of interesting…I really think it’s only because the dress makes me look skinnier than usual, so the comments seem to be in line with that “clothes should make you look skinny” mentality instead of “that is well-made and a cool style and that’s why I’m complimenting you”). I still have the dress in my closet, but you know what? I barely wear it! I think it’s because ultimately, it just doesn’t feel like ME, even if everyone else really likes it on me. So now I’ve learned that as long as I like it, that’s really all that matters!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That Moneta does look great on you – but if you don’t actually wear it much, maybe it would be worth changing it! Swap out the skirt for a print, maybe? Or just pile on the accessories – I have one navy dot dress that is so boring on it’s own, but I actually wear it quite a lot with a bright cardigan, bright leggings, and a bright scarf! Which really doesn’t say much for the dress itself!😛

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  2. I think this kind of post is very helpful for all of us. When we only post the things we love, and then only right after we made it, it is much less real. I would love to see people post weeks later, when they know whether it is wearable or not. I made a dress out of mystery fabric once, that shrunk more with every wash. So while I was thrilled in a look what I made way when I first made it, I only wore it twice before it got too small to wear again. Even the successes would be great to read, “hey I have worn the heck out of this since I made it two weeks ago!”

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    1. I so agree! There was/is someone who did posts going back through old makes and giving them a review… why can’t I remember who? I always enjoy seeing which garments get picked for people’s Top 5 of whatever year – here’s my 5 best and worst from last year, if you care to see!🙂 https://craftingarainbow.wordpress.com/2014/12/22/my-top-5-hits-of-2014/
      https://craftingarainbow.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/my-top-5-hits-from-2014/
      What have your most-worn items been lately?

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  3. I know that how you feel about the dress is more important than what strangers on the internet think, but I LOVE it. I haven’t bought the pattern, because it seems similar to Simplicity 2305 which I have, but now I’m tempted to make this dress in a drapey knit.

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    1. Aww, thanks! If you have a similar patternt hat works for you, I’d just stick with that… but if you’ve got the right figure for Bettine, then it’s a perfectly good pattern too!🙂 I still really like the concept of a drapey knit pencil skirt with loose top, but this one is just not quite right.

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  4. This sound analysis brings out so many issues! First of all, it makes me realize that I am totally influenced by photos, as if they were more real than the reality I feel! I should know that, as you point out so brilliantly, the light makes a whole difference. The same dress looks much more appealing in a shady environment. I would add also 2 major elements: your posture and the angle of the camera. Then, I agree with the importance of picking quality fabrics – I’ve had my share of misses because of cheap stuff. Finally about the pattern: when I sew for my slim teenager, it seems that any pattern will do the job, whereas it has to be well-drafted to suit my more “mature” morphology. Great post, anyway. You look wonderful and radiant. And that’s inspiring!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the phrase “more real than reality”! That’s totally how pictures feel to me sometimes… like the image of a good or bad picture sticks with me and interferes with what I see in the mirror.
      You know, for some reason I didn’t think about how posture and angle are affecting the better/worse pictures – but you are totally right!

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  5. Thanks for the honest post. I do think this would look nice in the fall with some opaque tights and a scarf, though? I wouldn’t give up on it! I just posted my own dud today. The vertical-striped fabric looks completely insane in the photos, so it looks even frumpier on the blog than in person. Haha. I’m all for transparency in sewing blogs, so keep it comin’!🙂

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    1. Oh man, that stripe fabric is definitely making my eyes dance! I love the concept and fabric of your pants in theory – totally the sort of thing I would want to sew! I say just wear ’em.
      You might be right that fall will make me like this dress more… I promise I’ll at least try wearing it one more time!🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m experimenting with finding a lining I like to use with just that sort of drapey rayon knit. Hopefully I’ll find something I like the flow of – otherwise I’m going to have to move on to (way more expensive!) slinky knit from MacPhee Workshop, and give up on those cute Fabricland knits altogether.

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    1. What kind of lining would you use? I’m a bit lazy and usually just wear a slip with my knit dresses, but it would be nice to have a lining option for fitted dresses like this that don’t play nicely with my slips!

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  7. I totally agree with you: how you feel when looking at the photos of a project partially determines how you feel when wearing that project. For me it’s also about how I feel when making and fitting a project. If I’ve got a blegh week and feel bad about my body, then I will mostly feel the same when I wear it. And vice versa. So thanks for making me remember this: I’ll try to avoid negatives next time! And for what it’s worth: I get why you feel the dress isn’t for you but to me it looks like you’re rocking it🙂 Love from the Netherlands!

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    1. Thanks Daphne!! It’s hard not to get preconceived notions about clothes as we sew them – just last night I sewed the worlds most boring dress, that is ok-fitting at best… but I just really wanted to be sewing, so I thought, “F*** it, let’s do this!” I tried it on this morning and I’m not loving it (obviously) but I really hope that after a while I can see it with fresh eyes!
      ps. Totally off topic, but I have to share my clearest memory of visiting the Netherlands when I was 15: borrowing bikes from our host family and being WAY TOO SHORT to ride them!!! I remember falling off at intersections every time we had to cross the road… so now, in my mind, you must be tall too! (I’m 157cm – everyone is taller than me, except old people and children!)

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      1. I totally get the: I need to sew something NOW🙂 last time I nearly sewed the sleeves on wrong side to right side…twice! Had to laugh at your memories of the Netherlands….since I’m actually 1.85m so very tall🙂 Love reading your post, keep them coming!

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  8. Really interesting and thoughtful post. I was actually tempted to fully read your post because of those opening shots, although I can see what you mean about the shade. Not sure how cold it gets where you are, but opaque tights underneath might make you feel less self-conscious without the need for Spanx! Seeing the photos of my makes (and the RTW items I wear with them) often forces me to rethink what something looks like on me, totally with you on that.

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    1. Now I’m curious – when you use a blog reader, does only a thumbnail of my posts show up? I get annoyed at other people’s blogs who do that, but it never occurred to me that mine might show up like that too!😉
      You might be right that tights are the answer… I’ll try again in fall!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I struggle to find a really good use for thinner knits! I have the same complaint as you, they tend to highlight (or even invent?) lumps and bumps. The only time I’ve successfully used rayon jersey is for undies, and I’ve been tempted to try it for heavily gathered tops except that I find it maddening to cut and sew. When my sis ends up taking a frumpy pic of me, she’ll reassure me that I “don’t look like that in real life” or she’ll make an “ehhhh” noise if she thinks that the garment is at fault. Then I try and make a final decision about what I think! Hope you can find a new home for this dress or a new purpose for the fabric!

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    1. Thin knits are officially THE WORST. I’m sometimes surprised though how much even thicker knits can show through what’s underneath… for me, even ponte shows lots of VPL, which always makes me wonder how people seem so excited to make pants and pencil skirts from it!
      I”m getting the best image of photoshoots with your sister, with her making approving or disapproving noises behind the camera while she shoots!🙂 So nice to have that teamwork!

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  10. I think it looks pretty cute, but I definitely can understand your reluctance! I just made some jeans that I’m really happy with, and when I look in the mirror I think they look great… but when I looked at the photos they looked a bit too small, pinching and pulling a bunch. In this case at least, I’m happy with them and I’m going to trust my reflection! I love a lot of Tilly’s patterns, but from what I’ve seen I think Bettine is really best suited for very petite figures and I won’t be making it up.

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    1. Ugh, jeans. I swear they can be the hardest thing to photograph. Like, they have to be tight, and therefore there have to be wrinkles, but pictures just make it look crazy… and as seamstresses, every wrinkles reads like a fitting issue! “What’s it pointing to? What do I need to alter?” Worst of all it the butt shot from a low angle. That makes me cringe everytime – but I remind myself that no adult will see my butt in jeans from floor height!😛 I definitely say trust your reflection!!!!

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  11. Hi Gillian, the color is great on you but I think this pattern shows that even the simplest pattern needs fit adjustments. I agree that a pattern with no difference from front to back is not a good idea – that is why I stay away from a lot of patterns created by someone with no design education. But I think you are right, the combo of this pattern and the fabric were probably not the best. If you want this silhouette you might look at Lekala or Bootstrap – at least there you will have some custom adjustments for fit. Even with those patterns I do some further fit adjustments since the custom measurements can only get so far.
    by the way – probably not what you want in a knit dress but I often line a rayon knit dress, with a knit lining – it works really well and I think hides a bit of whats underneath (whether my lumps and bumps or underwear lines).

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    1. Thanks Beth! What kind of knit do you use for lining? I usually wear a slip with my knit dresses because as a teacher, I always wear short leggings or leggings underneath to make sure everything is super demure. It would be nice to have a lining in something like this dress though, because the skirt shape isn’t right for most slips. My only experiments with lining with a knit was actually a cotton skirt I lined with stretch mesh a decade ago before I really got into sewing garments!

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  12. I’m really glad you blogged about this dress. I love the colour on you. I also love the little black dress with the green clutch. With patterns like this, I tend to go up one size in the caboose area and blend to my regular size in the waist and at the hem. I find it makes a difference in the pulling in the back.

    I still think you look great but I totally understand the not feeling great in something. Toss it and move onto something that makes you feel fabulous! Oh, and screw the Spanx. We women should celebrate and not hide our curves!

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    1. Amen, sister! I wear spanx maybe once a year? I do wear ITY or cotton bike shorts often (and I am in these pictures, actually) but ugh, compression? That’s no good for moral or the digestive system!😛
      I really should have adjusted the pattern before making it again… but my first version was poly double knit, so it was way too hot to wear in the summer and I didn’t realise the fit issues it had! Oh well.

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  13. Thank you for posting this review. I have been feeling lately that I am the only one that makes things and then goes “Meh”. I made another Gertie knit pencil skirt and while this one was a muslin to get the size right, because it is just the two pattern pieces it just sort of hangs off my butt so the side view is very frumpy. I do love the colour on you and I wouldn’t throw your dress out. Maybe over leggings or even jeans for the winter? Or shorten to tunic length? Great photos again. Xx

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    1. Oh lordy, half of what I’ve made this summer has been “meh”! Ok, maybe 1/4. Didn’t (and still don’t) love the bright maxi that I had trouble photographing… I’m thinking of cutting it knee-length and wearing it as pjs instead. Yesterday I made a very dull knit dress with fitted bodice, short sleeves and a 1/2 circle skirt – all design features which I know make me feel frumpy, and I still sewed it! I”m at the point now where I have so many clothes that even things I love don’t get worn all that often. (Ok, the fact that I save up my laundry for weeks at a time doesn’t help either.) I feel like duds are so important to sewing – even for someone who loves TNTs like me, I always want to be experimenting to see if I fall in love.
      For the Gertie skirt, have you figure out how to alter it for more sex appeal in your next version? I’m not quite sure how I’d do it… maybe narrow it in in the back just below the hips?

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    1. Thank you! I’d always thought this colour was too dark on me, but I made a dress for my mom in a similar shade and it looked so good on her that I wanted to give it a go myself!🙂

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  14. My feelings have been influenced by taking blog pics!!! It’s kind of a bummer when you think something looks good on you, but about 90% of the pictures look like butt. I usually do think, “What, does this look good on me? Did I just have my mirror goggles on?” Conversely I was so grumpy about that plaid shirt dress because of all the construction issues. Then in all the pictures I looked radiant and thought, “OK, there is nothing wrong with this dress.”

    I think this dress looks cute on you but would feel similarly uncomfortable wearing a close fitting skirt in light rayon. You can’t stop thinking about your ass wrinkles!! Also agree with Jay that it doesn’t seem like you. Maybe I like seeing you in prints too.🙂

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    1. OMG, the pictures of my bumpy butt is giving me nightmares! Ugh. The things I do for the sake of blogging – otherwise those pics would be locked deep in a vault forever!
      I’m really glad to hear I’m not the only one influenced by pictures – I mean, it sounds so horribly vain! What will we all do when we eventually stop blogging and no longer have 200 pics of each outfit to evaluate??

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  15. I think you would have been much happier in a print as it’s more you or even in a thicker knit, but that being said I love this colour on you!
    I think sometimes my garments look better in photos than in real life (not always true, but sometimes). I am one who will always trust the people around me. My husband is honest (almost to a fault) and I know that he will always tell me if something is flattering or not. I think sometimes you have to try something to know whether or not it worked, and I applaud you for sharing the “Meh” garments. I have this pattern, but to be honest, the more reviews I read about it, the less likely I am to try it. Bummer!

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    1. You might like the pattern? You aren’t as pear-shaped as me, and i really think that’s what’s throwing off the fit. Too much bass!🙂

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  16. Great post again Gillian…you always start the best conversations….you must be great at parties!🙂 As much as I want to sew with knits, this is my number one complaint..they are not always flattering. Printed knits, on the other hand, like you say, are a different story. Duly noted….

    As far as pictures influencing my thoughts on a make…it’s a given….they always influence me. How can they not? The opposite can also happen…great pictures that don’t reflect reality….it may not look so great after all. I keep this in mind as well. That being said…I really try to just feel great in what I’ve made. Once I leave the house in an outfit…I COMMIT. Wear it with confidence and don’t look back.

    Thank you for your honest reviews and thought provoking posts! Regardless of the pics…I hope you wear this cute dress with confidence! We are our own worst critics and it’s never as bad as we perceive it to be in our own minds.

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    1. I love your idea of committing once you’ve left the house! Now that I think about it, one of the things I don’t like about this dress is that the half-heartedly off the shoulder neckline needs lots of fussing with through the day, so it’s hard to feel effortless and stylish!

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  17. Hey Gillian,
    I actually like your dress a lot!! I like that it is not very fitted and that it is so relaxed.
    I like your other version too. This one is a bit more drapy and I think I actually like it better.

    When you come to Montreal again, let me know! I would love to meet you!😉
    M

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  18. I always liked this pattern and when I saw that Tilly was having a 25% off sale, I got so excited. Then I remembered that you had mentioned some issues with this pattern, so I came searching for the post that mentioned those. I think the same pattern for front and back bodice and skirt is the deal breaker for me. Considering the $25 price equivalent in Barbados dollars, I can’t fork that over when I’ve got curves front and back to compensate. I love when you can learn from one of your sewcial friends.

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