A Wiggle Dress, or Joan Holloway for the Day


When it comes to music, my heart belongs to the ’60s. Long before Mad Men came on the scene, I had spent my teen years singing along to the Beatles and other British Invasion bands, Motown groups, and whatever else the oldies radio station would throw at me. I also thought Paul McCartney was just the cutest thing ever (was I even aware, watching A Hard Day’s Night, that he hadn’t been that age in 30+ years?). So in honor of my beloved decade in music, I thought it was high time I made myself a ’60s-inspired wiggle dress.

The pattern I chose is from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, and boy did those gussets give me a hard time! They pretty much landed this dress in UFO territory (that’s “unfinished object” to my non-sewing friends). I even posted it as my UFO photo for Bimble and Pimble‘s #bpsewvember challenge on Instagram. It was folded up and stored away. I felt free.

But, you know what? Between wanting my very own Joan Holloway dress and receiving encouraging comments to finish it from my Instagram buddies, I decided to give it another go. This dress had its challenges, but it’s done, I learned some new techniques, and I can add it to my FESA tally. Win-win-win!


First, I have to get something out of the way. The crooked wall/picture frame to the right of most of these photos is driving me nuts, yet the floor is level. Wha?? If I had Photoshop I’d correct it, but, well, hopefully it’s not too distracting. 😉

Anyway, I used a medium-weight cotton from my stash that I bought on sale at Sew L.A. back in 2010. It has posies on it! Four years ago I used this same fabric in a different colorway on a skirt pattern that called for more drape. Needless to say, it came out rather stiff. I didn’t understand the concept of drape and how to pick the right fabrics at the time, so I’m proud to say I’ve come a long way. The stiffness of the fabric works perfectly for this more structured and fitted dress.

The high neckline felt uncomfortable at first, but I seemed to have gotten used to it. No gaping too – yay! Also, can I just say how much I love princess seams? They really do hug your figure nicely and flatter many body shapes based on outfits I’ve seen around the blogosphere. The pattern also comes with several fish-eye darts, which you can’t see with this busy print. First time working with those.


The only alteration I made to the dress was to go up a size at the waist (a typical modification for me). I wish the book provided finished measurements like you see on most patterns. Instead, I measured the pattern pieces at the waist and subtracted seam allowances to find the finished width. No big deal, and probably a good habit to get into anyway.

Speaking of which, I should have done this at the bust. There was a moment there where I didn’t think I could zip up the dress, and even now it’s a struggle (though I always have that problem with center back zips! It’s an amusing process to say the least.) I was a bit surprised by the tightness at the bust/under bust, but the dress is quite fitted. I went with a 32 bust – I’m 32.5, though with undergarments I measure 33. Unless I messed up somewhere, this pattern has very little ease. I can breathe, but I should look into releasing the side seams a bit to allow for the occasional deep exhale. Because, you know, that’s important. 😉


There they are, the major league road block that nearly derailed this whole project! I’m showing you this with the concession that these gussets are no where near satisfactory, but at least they’re on there. Man, oh Manischewitz, what a headache.

Tip: if you’re going to try a new technique on something you want to wear – as opposed to practicing on scrap fabric – then use a busy print that will help hide flaws!

These gussets should be more pointed (the corners that point left and right in the photo above), but I just could not get the fabric to sit properly as I machine-stitched. I basted them in first too, but the fabric just wanted to shift. Gertie wrote a tutorial on how to do these, but it really didn’t make sense to me until I had already put two in. I then had my “aha!” moment. I was partially confused because the fabric she used looks the same on the right and wrong sides, but the silk organza eventually made it clear to me which side was which.


A little v-neck dip in the back! There’s also a lapped zipper and a vent at the skirt hiding amidst the busy fabric. I look like a penguin here.


Over 5 years of sewing and this is my first ever lapped zipper. Boy, I guess I rely on that invisible zipper a little too much, ay? I have to say, I really love this technique and feel the need to explore other zipper installation methods!

The bottom of the photo shows the fabric overlap covering the zipper, which is what completely conceals the zipper along the rest of the seam. I’ve pulled it away up top so you can see how the whole thing works. I followed the instructions provided in Gertie’s book (page 57) for the machine-stitched lapped zipper, but she also covers the hand-picked version. These varied from the instructions provided in Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing (my sewing bible), but I decided to run with it. Quite easy to install, as it turns out.

This pattern comes unlined, and while I serged the edges of all my seams I’m not overly crazy with how the gusset seams look. I’m thinking I might turn them in rather than just leaving them pinked. Facings also aren’t my favorite, but they’re behaving on this dress rather than flipping out (ha) so that’s okay. Sometimes I find that even understitching doesn’t help in keeping them tame.


Whenever I remember, I like to add in a photo of me sitting in my sewn creation so you can get an idea of how the pattern wears. How many of us stand all day in our me-made outfits anyway? 😉

Also, that’s totally water in that wine glass. Guess I need to stock up on some vino. Stay hydrated, my friends!


18 thoughts on “A Wiggle Dress, or Joan Holloway for the Day

    • Haha, this comment cracked me up when I first read it! I have to say that I think the princess seams really do a great job in helping with fit. Now I want to tackle more patterns that have them. 😀

  1. Yay! Sewin’ in the snow! Gorgeous dress, by the way. I’m glad you were able to get through the gussets. Sounds like a great learning experience.

    • Sewin’ in the snow – I like it! As soon as I found out I could have snowfall on my blog I had to go for it. Thanks, WordPress! And thanks about the dress. 🙂

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