Sewing a 50s Inspired Bat Dress Part 1

Hello everyone, welcome back for a post that was more than a year in the making! I originally planned to make this for Halloween 2020. Didn’t happen. It also didn’t happen for Halloween 2021. But then I thought, I don’t need a reason to wear a bat dress all year round. If you know me a bit, then you know that I freakin’ love bats. They are my favourite animals and I have quite the collection of plush bats and stuff. So, January 2022 it is, we’re going to wear bats!

The Evolution Towards the Bat Dress

The Beginnings of the Pattern in 2017

A small history lesson before I start showing you, how I sewed my bat dress: Originally, this pattern was taken from an Orsay dress that I had bought years ago and loved dearly until it nearly fell apart. So, I decided in 2017 to copy the pattern and make a maxidress out of it. Here’s the dress:

2017 original version of my dress, on which the bat dress is based

I liked this version very much, but the dress was a tad too big for me so I gave it away. Later, in 2018, I revisited the pattern and decided to experiment with the skirt and sleeves a bit.

The “Improved” 2018 Version

I wanted to add a paneled skirt and bishop sleeves. I took the skirt pattern from a skirt that I bought in Japan. The long bishop sleeves I stole from another Orsay dress in my wardrobe. This went kind of wrong in several ways. First, because I had gained weight, so the pattern was too tight. Second, because I did not add a waistband, which made issue Nr. 1 worse, and third because this pattern was not made for sleeves. I was also not very good in adding zippers yet, added a skirt panel too late and not in the middle and overall did a sloppy job at sewing… A friend of mine liked the dress and it also suited her quite well, so she took it. Here are some pictures:

front of the 2018 dress

Here you can see the sloppy zipper job I did as well as the new skirt panel I had to add. I also had to piece this panel together from several pieces of fabric. The panel was necessary because the original skirt’s measurement was my waist measurement, not my underbust measurement. The panel I added ended up still not being enough:

back of the 2018 dress
The bodice of my 2018 version of the bat dress
Cuff detail of my 2018 version
The 2018 dress has a lined bodice
finishing on the 2018 version of my bat dress

It is a nice dress, but high-waisted dresses don’t suit me. I don’t know, why I decided against adding a waistband back then…. I mean, the original dress had one. Well, moving on. I took notes of all the things I wanted to change because I new, I wanted to revisit this dress.

Revisiting the Pattern in 2020

I burried my plans for two years after that and decided to revisit the pattern in October 2020. I wanted to sew my ultimate bat dress with it from a cotton, I had bough on buttinette. Unfortunately, depression happened and the dress was not finished. Depression was still happening for Halloween 2021 so it was still unfinished then. Until now, I finished with new energy for 2022 and I love it!

fabric detail bat dress

Here you go: Bats! I love this fabric. It is a printed cotton and I bought. 6 metres of it. Since the print is directional, the pattern ended up eating around 4 metres of fabric. Tetris is no option for directional prints. I saved all the little bits to maybe make masks out of it. Or something else, I’ll see.

Hang in there, Bat – Cutting out a Ton of Pieces for my Bat Dress

I did not change the size of this dress, because I had lost the weight gained over those two years and was down to a size 36 again.

fabric for the bat dress

First, I had to cut everything out and figure out my own pattern. Since I did not remember how it went together I had to read my own blogpost 😛

cutting out my bat dress

I decided to cut out the waistband and cuff from black linen, to have a bit of a contrast to all the bats. The lining pieces were also cut out of the same linen:

Cutting out some accent pieces from linen

Let the Bat Sewing Begin!

I started my bat dress by assembling the lining pieces with normal seams, since they would be hidden afterwards:

Sewing the lining together

Next, I handgathered the sleeves and pinned on the cuffs. I sewed them on by machine, then ironed them and sewed them down with whipstitches by hand on the inside. I did not want the stitches to bi visible from the outside.

bat sleeves

Since I remembered the sleeve pattern to be a bit snug, I decided not to use a french seam and instead bind the raw edges with lace:

Finishing the raw edges with lace

After that, I assembled the skirt using french seams to have a clean finish on the inside of the dress.

Bat dress skirt

Pleating the Bodice

Then I started to pleat the fashion layer of the bodice on my dressform:

There is no pattern for this toplayer, it is just draped around the dressform. I used chalk to mark where to cut and sewed over the pleats first. Believe me, it does work. It’s just not elegant.

Then I assembled the upper layer of the bodice by machine. After that, I attached the skirt to the bodice top layer and whipstitched the lining down by hand on the inside (with the exception of the arm wholes, those were done after sewing in the sleeves. And with that, the dress was more or less done, only the zipper and hemming missing.

But then, I tried the dress on and I noticed, that I don’t really have a lot of movement in this dress eventhough, I didn’t french seam the sleeves… I couldn’t lift my arms enough. So I had to do something about it. But more about that in my next post on this project 🙂

Love Ella

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