Françoise: A Story of Failure

Woe is me, gentle reader, and woe is she who heeds not my words of warning! Do not make ye a dress from fabric which wants not to be that dress! Warning: the following tale contains fabric abuse and a gratuitous amount of self-pity. Proceed with caution!

It all started out so innocently! Ages ago, when the pattern was first released, Tilly sent me a review copy of her cute Françoise dress. Now, I love the look of French darts and the yoke detail is extra cute, so I was looking forward to sewing this, especially since I tried and failed after a couple of muslins to fit both a vintage pattern with French darts as well as Burda 7031 (I’ve seen some cute versions of the latter, but when I tried it a few years ago, my fitting skills just weren’t up to the task of making lots of changes without screwing up the shape of the darts). So I figured, a chance to redeem myself! What could possibly go wrong?

When I first saw the pattern, my immediate thought was, “ORANGE!”, followed by, “ORANGE ORANGE ORANGE ORANGE ORANGE!” I desperately needed an orange shift dress! Since it was winter when I received the pattern, I searched high and low for a winter-weight wool crepe with a hint of stretch (suggested by Tilly for comfortable close-fitting sleeves). No dice, friends! This perfect fabric existed only in my imagination! But it had to be orange, so I waited for summertime and resumed the hunt. I found this fabric at Mood and POUNCED on it! A crisp, bright, beautiful, deep orange! EXACTLY what I wanted! Only… it has the feel of, I dunno, like, a windbreaker? An umbrella? THIS WILL BE PERFECT FOR A DRESS, YES?

A student of classical mythology may interject at this point in the saga, wondering if there was, perhaps, a wise soothsayer who, rising from the mist, predicted my downfall. My Tiresias was Oona, who tried in vain to save me from myself. “Are you sure that you really want to wear that?”, she queried. “I love it and it will be great!” “Don’t you think it’s a little… stiff?” “It will soften in the wash”. Oh, readers, the folly! The hubris! As you can see, this fabric just doesn’t want to be this dress. It doesn’t want to mold into soft, shaped darts, instead forming a big hot mess in the chest region. And I didn’t slow down to check the fit before sewing away, hence this fantastic look:

Let’s sidebar from the tragedy a bit to talk about the pattern. The instructions are clear and detailed, with photos accompanying each step, so even the most timid of beginners should feel confident going into this project. I didn’t bother making a muslin, instead opting to make a straight size 3, even though my waist and hips fit in a size 2. Why, readers, why? This was a huge mistake. I should have made the smaller size and done an FBA, but because I didn’t, the dress was huge through the back shoulders. I pinched out 1″ darts on each side of the back neckline as a quick fix, but it looks pretty messy. I thought the flare of the skirt looked pretty costume-y, so I slimmed it down a bit from the waist to the hem, which probably brought it down to the size 2 lines, which I should have cut from the get-go. I’m still on the fence about this shape, but honestly, I never wear anything a-line, so I think I’m just not used to it. But just because I jacked up the fit doesn’t mean it’s not a good pattern. Smarter, better, non-risk-taking seamstresses made adorable versions of this. See: Lorelai, Marie, Roisin.

Lest ye think the tragedy ends here, take a look at this awfulness. In haste and foul temper, I accidentally ripped it under the arm when I had only the hem left to do. This happened over a month ago, and the dress has been in a timeout ever since. I could fix it, for sure, but dealing with a patch, interfacing on the wrong side, and redoing both the dart and the armhole binding has just been a bigger task than I can think about. Moreover, I don’t really like the looks of the centered zipper that I put in… I just didn’t have a matching invisible zipper in my stash so I went with the regular, and I’m not very happy with it. Considering my general bad feelings about this dress, even if I fix it, I doubt that I’ll ever wear it. So it will probably be chopped up into a happier project. UGH, am I right? But, you can’t win ’em all… especially when your project is just a string of bad ideas! Sorry for butchering your pattern, Tilly! 😦

But… can we at least all agree that this shade of orange is PERFECT?

122 responses

  1. dude i wanted SO BADLY to take that fabric out of your grasp!! but you were so calm and wise when you said it would soften in the wash i figured you knew something i didn’t!!!!

    such a pretty color though… i rise once again from the mist to whisper into your ear: shoulder bag…. shoulder bag….


      • I’ve almost finished the version with collar and sleeves. Only hem to do but machine has just broken. Looks lovely on the hanger but truly awful on across the shoulders. I admit, I too used the wrong fabric, but it’s my first sewing project in years, so I persevered and saw it as a practice. The neck and shoulders though can’t be blamed on the material. I just don’t think this style suits anything but super skinny figures. The collar and neck are really wide too. Maybe it’s my rusty sewing. Has anyone else made it successfully?


  2. Aie aie aie, it’s just too sad!! It’s sometimes hard to find the right fabric ! It is a shame tho because I really like this colour on you!! I tried this pattern in march but I’m not sure that my fabric was right for it either, and I found that the neckline was very very high… it’s on pause for now!


  3. I am sorry for your bad experience, but exceedingly glad you chose to share it with your faithful followers. I tend to learn almost as much from other sewers’ failures, as I do from their successes. It appears that fabric, being an inanimate object, cannot be coaxed into doing something against its nature. I suspect that someday you will stumble upon the right orange fabric, and make yourself a fabulous Francoise shift dress.


    • It’s so very true what you say about learning from the failures of others– many times their mistakes are things that I wouldn’t have otherwise known to look out for, so it’s saved me lots of heartache! I hope this will keep someone from making the same mistake that I did!


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