The Number 6 Dress

A girl ain’t afraid to show her white gams.

Sorry, didn’t mean to blind y’all but I’ll blame it partly on the camera. I’ve been naively shooting white-ish things against black backgrounds, resulting in 1. blow-out which results in 2. lack of detail. I’m going to have to stop sewing and wearing white. Soon.

I’d intended to wear my cute leopard pumps with this dress. I already had the boots on and thought, yeah, now this is getting more sci-fi. (My friend says these are my steampunk boots. I geekily confess I didn’t know what he meant, but read on.)

I’d been wanting an excuse to experiment with ponte knit/doubleknit, and then I discovered all these patterns with loads of seams as detail. I bought Butterick 5559 as soon as it came out… but wait! there was this fantastic Vogue 1135.

Finally, I settled on the cover dress from September’s Burda (right). It seemed the riskiest style-wise but I kept coming back to it. Something about those sleeve wings and the way-below-knee length took the Burda dress to something a bit more unconventional. I took to calling it the No. 6 dress.

This week’s theme at Sew Weekly was television character inspirations. So I thought it a good excuse to jump in and offer mine, except…

Number 6 drove me mad. We never thought a show would replace our beloved Alias, but then a friend got us hooked on Battlestar. We started rooting for Adama and Laura. (Do they ever end up together? We’ll never know; we stuck it out for four seasons, and hit the permanent pause button when everyone became a Cylon.) We loved Starbuck, the most vulnerable and volatile character until the goofily mystical, am-I-a-god-angel-cylon-woman-resurrected plot turn. The Number 6 and Dr. Baltar plot, on the other hand, had nothing to lose.

It could’ve been about Baltar’s transformation, his growing out of manipulative and abusive relationships, but that story continued go from worse to worse. Number 6 remained, throughout the series, something of a Freudian ploy.

Still, I found myself thinking that this dress was made for her (‘cept she preferred a lot more cleavage). Must be the sleeve wings and architectural body-consciousness; I feel like a sci-fi supervillain. And D loves it on me so we’ll have to scour another planet for our next date.

The Burda pattern is a petite, and everything fit perfectly except for the length from shoulder to bust, which I should’ve checked first–there’s a seam landing right on my, um… I’m also really into doubleknits right now. They’re incredibly easy to sew, but quality varies hugely. This is a nice quality poly/rayon/lycra ponte from Marcy Tilton, but it emitted a really funny smell whenever I pressed it. It was difficult to get a good press and I blame that on the poly element. (There are all rayon doubleknits, but they’re harder to find.)

For the record, I’m not a huge sci-fi person. I don’t like how character and plot often gets sacrificed at the expense of philosophies, particularly when they try to tie themselves up into a neat conclusion that reads like cartoon Buddhism. And this is what failed Battlestar in the end–no triumph only that “the conflict is within you so make friends with the evil side of self” sort of thing. I had my Dune and Bladerunner phase somewhere in my 20s but now I find most of the ideas in them so labored. But if they’re stylish and like Battlestar, full of hot-topic political metaphors really relevant to the times, then count me in.

I do like high-concept films with a bit of a science fiction tinge–something like City of Lost Children, 12 Monkeys, or the more lately Hollywood Sherlock Holmes–mechanical gadgetry meets Victoriana meets futurism. Yes, you might say, steampunk.


  1. Steph says:

    Pale skin is healthy and beautiful. 🙂

    Love this dress! Don’t you love it when you take a risk stylistically and it pays off? Very, very cool..

    Wool doubleknit, particularly merino, is lovely to work with…. But try finding it. Gorgeous usually has amazing doubleknits, generally with some sort of polyester. But nice polyester, you know?

    • Amy says:

      Thanks Steph – oh yes! pale is healthy and I love my ivory tone esp. with my dark features, although as one can see I sometimes get a bit of a farmer tan from gardening in tees! In the 80s I wore a white prom dress and actually used a tanning booth. Ick – but I try to tell my husband who has been one of the few to see the pictures – THAT WAS THE 80s.

      Anyway, merino doubleknit! Ooh. I ordered swatches of this organic cotton/merino/lycra ponte and it is loverly. The colors are heathered and the weight a bit lighter than the ponte I was working with… maybe next winter I’ll find an excuse to buy some.

  2. Tanit-Isis says:

    They look like pretty awesome steampunk boots to me, too. 😉 Also, I am so glad I am not the only one who checked out from Battlestar at that point… I loved the styling (especially since I didn’t catch the first episode, where they over-explained all the retro stuff), but I was completely done as soon as that was revealed. My hubby, on the other hand, was hooked and soldiered on… and the ending (IMO) sucked. But then “humans discover and colonize earth” is probably my least favourite science-fiction gimmick EVER. (oops, was that a spoiler?)


    Ok, so—I love your version of that dress. A lot of people opted for a no-sleeves version, but I love that you take it all the way. You should definitely be looking for worlds to dominate.

    I have used mostly rayon doubleknits, and while they’re lovely to stitch and wear, they do tend to pill fairly quickly. Which is sad, because otherwise they’re divine. That wool Steph mentioned sounds exquisite…

    • Amy says:

      Ha, love the rant and spoilers allowed! We asked friends how it ended and we got all kinds of hilarious answers. At least we were never Lost fans; I’ve never watched it but I heard the ending really threw everyone for a “it was all a dream, really” loop.

      Good to know about the rayon pilling. That drives me nuts. Wonder why… does hand-washing help?

  3. Rachel says:

    I see nothing wrong with pale skin. If I did I would never look at myself LOL
    I love the dress. I love sci-fi too- the closest thing we enjoy right now is Eureka 🙂
    And steampunk is cool…

  4. oonaballoona says:

    YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH i love this dress!!!!! i’ve been eyeing its cylon clones for months now and i have to say yours is my favorite. i LOVE that you went white. so 6 of you.

    now, my friend: you Must. Finish. Battlestar. i won’t lie to you, it made me very angry, but there are payoffs that make it worth it. i won’t tell you what happens with adama and laura, but watching those amazing actors play their story out is your reward for sticking out the occasional sacrificial plot turns. oh, and chief. chief rocks!

    • Amy says:

      Hey Oona, oh yeah, Chief rocks. I didn’t like his family plot twist but he was a great character. Adama was just my hands-down favorite, done by a remarkable actor.

  5. Laurel says:

    Love the dress! Not a Battlestar watcher, though I was back in the 80’s, for the original series…went to school with the son of the guy that wrote it, if I remember right….anyway…

    A little tip on pressing polyester: heat isn’t entirely what does it. You do need some heat, at first, but it won’t press like rayon, cotton, wool, etc. What you do is use the iron to give it some heat, maybe a little steam, too, then use a pressing block (usually smooth wood, about the size of a sleeve roll), pressed firmly against the fabric, held in place until it cools. This is the ONLY way I know of to get polyester to hold a crease, or press flat. You can use your hand in a pinch, if you can stand the heat. A short, smooth 2×4 will do as well. Pressing blocks generally have a little indent along the sides so you can grip them, which is more comfortable if you’re going to be doing a lot of poly-pressing.

    • Amy says:

      Hi Laurel, thanks for the tip! I have a pressing block, although ha, I’ve used my hands before even when it hurts. I was afraid of making shiny spots on this so I was really cautious. And the smell was weird!

      I never saw the 80s version – it’d be fun to do a comparison. Wasn’t the Battlestar writer also the writer of Knight Rider? My brother was addicted to that show in the 80s so I was forced to watch, heh.

  6. Lizzy B. says:

    This dress is absolutely fantastic. I love that you did it in white. You definitely look like you could kick some alien and/or international conspirator butt in this number!

    • Amy says:

      haha, thanks Lizzy. I had fun making it and my husband was like, ‘oh wow, yeah!’ when I tried it on. Good sign for the bad guys. (Sorry it took awhile to approve your comment, I was away from the blog a bit!)

    • Amy says:

      Hi Linda ~ I’d check ebay first. I’ve been able to find a couple of back issues when I really wanted a certain pattern. You may also want to check the classifieds at Sometimes people list Burdas for sale. Hope you find it!

  7. Sertyan says:

    I just found your blog today and I must say I love all your creations. This dress is my favourite! I also admire your styling and your photography. Looking forward to your blog posts in my reader. Cheers!

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