I received this wonderful book for Christmas last year from my boyfriend’s parents and have been wanting to make more dresses from it, it called Famous Frocks by Sara Alm and Hannah McDevitt. It has 10 dress patterns based off of famous icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Twiggy, etc. I’ve already made the Twiggy dress blogged about here. Great pattern, easy to follow. This past year I decided I wanted to finally channel Marilyn Monroe for Halloween so I decided, perfect! I already had a pattern…. Then I realized the halter top version in this book isn’t quite the replica of her dress I was looking for, so some adjustments had to be made. DISCLAIMER: if you make this pattern as is from the book, it will not look like mine, it will look like the photo below.
As seen in the above photo it is a cute dress and similar to the original, but as seen below, not quite the replica I am aiming for.
As you can see, the original was much longer and very pleated everywhere. I decided to use Famous Frocks’ waistband, top piece, straps, and belt but changed up the bottom considerably. To the top I also added a 1.5″ full bust adjustment as I am a G, not the B these patterns are generally drafted for. You can see where I cut apart and added to the top piece.
I also added 1″ of length to the waistband to get a more authentic line and also because I am 5′ 7″, not 5′ 6″ like most commercial patterns are drafted for. Those were the changes I make to most patterns. I made a test muslin for the top pieces and it was a perfect fit, yay! For the final I decided to line the fabric pieces with knit interfacing and then cut the lining pieces out of Bemberg since I didn’t have enough of my polyester Charmeuse. This is my adjusted waistband. I just cut a straight line across and added 1″. I did not make the test muslin using the adjusted waistband though so it looks a little funky in my final version but it’s ok.
Then the skirt. This took some work. First, I added 6″ of length to the skirt panel. It will still be a little shorter than Marilyn’s dress, but it will be below the knee, and put in a 1″ hem.
- Now the pleats. I took the original pattern piece, marked the seam lines and cut the top off right below the seam line.
- Then I had to decide how wide to make my pleats. I chose to do 3/4″ pleats per two articles I found, a free pattern for the Marilyn Monroe dress by Cut Out and Keep who recommended 1″ pleats and this Threads article Easy Pleated Skirts recommended widths of 3/4″, 1 1/4″, etc. with 1 1/4″ in-between each pleat, so I went with 3/4″ pleats with 1 1/4″ in-between each pleat. I went with 3/4″ widths since the top waistband 3.75″ and was easily divisible by 3/4″ increments.
- I measured out my 3/4″ pleat widths, numbered them 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, then I cut them apart. As seen in the below image, you can see which pieces measured 3/4″ and 1 1/4″.
- So after I marked my 3/4″ pleat width sections and had cut apart my waist band, I measured out 1 1/4″ between each piece, taped the pieces down on another piece of paper, and redrew the waist curve using my plastic hip curve. Then I added 5/8″ on each seam allowance end to allow room for the pleat I will form after attaching all the skirt pieces. You can see the finished waistband below.
The pattern was designed to cut out 8 pieces as opposed to the 2 half circle skirts of the Cut Out and Keep article. I decided to keep this feature as I had no desire to draft out a half circle skirt. I also added 6″ of length to the panel piece. Then after cutting the pieces out it was time to pleat them all. 8 sections takes a long time to pleat!
To make the pleating process a little easier I marked each of the 3/4″ sections on the actual fabric with my removable blue ink pen and then folded the 1 1/4″ sections under into knife pleats all going the same direction. You can see where I marked these dimensions on my pattern piece as well.
Then I ironed the pleats in, this took some time. I didn’t use anything special. I pinned each pleat in place at the top and then just eye-balled in as I ironed it down to the end attempting to maintain the 3/4″ width as I went. As I have 8 panels and the skirt will be fairly full, precision wasn’t important to me. If it is to you, you can also measure out the 3/4″ fold and pin it at the bottom then iron down the pleat. As mentioned earlier, the end pleats will be done after I have attached all the panels. Per the Threads article, it was recommended to pleat each section before connecting them which makes perfect sense. Way less fabric to work with at a time, :). This polyester charmeuse pleats wonderfully. Also due to being polyester, only using the cooler synthetic setting on my cheap iron as opposed to the high heat setting recommendation in the Threads article. Then when I connected the panels to each other, I pleated the seam lines.
You can’t even see where the panels are connected!!!! 🙂
After all the pattern pieces had been adjusted and cut out, pleats added to the skirt, etc., it was time to put it all together! Overall the pattern is pretty easy to follow. One thing I did a little different was when attaching the lining to the exterior fabric of the bodice pieces, I marked where the strap will fit. I didn’t do this the first time and had to take out the strap and take the seam out a little to get the strap to fit without any weird puckering. After the bodices and straps are sewn together and the bottom edges are gathered, you attach them to the waist band, then attach the skirt, and zipper. I used an invisible zipper which I inserted with my invisible zipper foot.
For the hem I evened out the skirt first after pinning it on my body double for a day to let things stretch out as they will. Then I rolled the fabric up 1/2″ and then another 1/2″ to hide the fraying ends. This took me about an hour as this is now a full circle skirt. But it was worth it because the hem looks beautiful!
I also hand tacked swim cups to the bodice later after realizing I needed to add a little more support and coverage. This dress means no bra unless you have a fancy once with a super low back and halter ties. The inside isn’t as pretty now, but the dress is more comfortable and fits better.
Such a pretty bow! Adjustable halter straps are great.
And the back. It’s a very low, backless halter dress. And I must say this is my most successful invisible zipper yet! I did forget to trim the top of the zipper down to a 1/2″ so there is a bit of a gap between the hook and eye and zipper but it’s ok.
I will post more photos of me wearing the dress after I receive my Marilyn Monroe wig but he’s a preview of how amazing it looks. So close! I should have pleated the bodice, made the skirt pleats smaller at 1/2″ widths, and a longer belt to get it closer to an exact replica but overall, it’s pretty good!