Butterick 5881 Katherine Tilton dress – Into the unknown


This is going to be my favorite of all patterns in the spring 2013 collections! But getting here was not an easy journey. This is Butterick 5881, a layered, multi-piece dress by Katherine Tilton. I looked everywhere for examples of the dress, because the envelope pics leave much to the imagination. What is up with the hem(s)? What is meant by a split seam? Is that center back really off center or am I looking too hard?

I Googled all over the web, and all I found were pics from the pattern envelope. Not even Tilton has Β sewn and shared a version with us. So here we go – Butterick 5881!


Butterick has labelled this as an Easy pattern. Ummmm. It has 19 pieces and includes a lapped front placket, underdress with reversed seaming, applied elastic gathers, bound neckline, and pieced overdress. It is not hard…but I really don’t think it’s easy as in a beginner sewist will have an easy time with it!


I really like all the pieces but wanted to understand the pattern. So I decided to reconstruct the dress. I spent an entire day putting the pattern pieces together and tracing a simplified version of the dress.
Underdress with attached skirt


Black poly/cotton broadcloth from Holly Lobby – very lightweight and smooth
Overdress with placket and back gathers (more on both below)

Fuji Afternoon Umbrellas – JoAnn Fabrics Keepsake Calico
Robert Kaufman Spot On Brown Mini Dots – Pink Chalk Fabrics

I used a faux front placket in the contrast fabric, in place of the lapped placket. I’ll continue to do this – I would rather sew a bound buttonhole than do a lapped placket!


I also used the contrast fabric to form a casing for the back elastic, which I elongated by 1/2″ and centered. And I only used 3 pieces of elastic, instead of 4.

I was not at all sure about the length of this dress – underdress or overdress! The pattern was not much help. It does not have lengthen/shorten lines.
OK, so I’m a bit over 5′ 7″. On the assumption that the pattern is made for someone 5’5″ – 5’6″ tall, I added 2″ to the overdress, just below the line of the placket, front and back. And 2″ to the skirt of the underdress, just below its upper edge. I purposely did not add length at the hemlines, because I did not want to add width there and throw off the lines of the dress.
Turned out well! The overdress is perfect, with a 1″ hem. I ended up taking 2″ off the underdress – go figure! – and again put in a 1″ hem. It’s not long by any means, maybe a little shorter than some of my dresses. But the dip in the right side makes it seem a little longer. I really like it – so much I twirled!

Whew! Dizzy…

All the leaves are from the mahogany trees, which switch out their foliage in April for a new outfit πŸ™‚

I really really like this dress – so much that I have 6, yes, 6 pieces of linen blend coming into the loft in interesting (no, not pastel!) colors, so that I can sew a couple multi-piece versions. And I want to do at least 2 more in print/contrast versions. Love doing that.
Ciao! Coco

28 thoughts on “Butterick 5881 Katherine Tilton dress – Into the unknown

  1. Lynne, thanks so much! I'm really looking forward to seeing what other sewists do with this as well, it's fun to have a new pattern out there.


  2. That is one of the most adorable patterns I've ever seen! And I never noticed it until seeing your version, Coco. What a great palette for trying out different fabric and color combos. Totally in love with this dress.


  3. Linda, thanks and you're welcome. So looking forward to seeing yours. BTW, I use old sheets for muslins as well – and as underlinings on totes and bags πŸ™‚


  4. Thanks, Katherine. It's been fun, and my linen fabrics came in on Saturday. All laundered and looking at me. The blocked version will be next.


  5. Jilly, thank you so much! It was kind of fun to be the first one to try it πŸ™‚ even though it looks nothing like the envelope!


  6. You know…I am going to change my plans for this dress and use colors! I love the fun colors of your “wearable muslin”. Really nice Coco.


  7. You will make this dress your own with your perfect fabric selections and cutting. I've never noticed this pattern before, thanks for the heads up. You look great (as always)


  8. I've pulled out fabric for this pattern a couple of times. I even cut the under dress from and old bedsheet to test the sizing. Still haven't settled on fabric. In thinking this thru, I had decided to sew on a faux front placket as you have done. I knew I wouldn't need it to be functional to be able to get the dress on, so why go to the trouble (and headache). Love how yours came out. I will eventually decide and on some fabric and proceed. Thanks for giving us this review!


  9. I bow to you. Seriously. Way to forge the trail for the rest of us, over and above the call of duty! If I were more of a dress person I'd be all over this; as it is, I think I'll (probably) just admire yours from afar – you wear it fabulously!


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