Magical Waist Whittling Gertie Dress

Ever try on a dress in a store and think, “If only they made the (fill in the blank) different?” That was the inspiration which lead to the magical waist whittling Gertie dress.

Being drawn to ruffles, I tried on a blue chambray dress while out shopping. I loved the bodice, with its neckline ruffle, but the skirt was less than flattering. It was gathered at the waist,  cut very straight and somewhat narrow. Definitely made for a body type different from mine, but I really liked that neckline ruffle.

Enter the Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, by Gretchen Hirsch, a favorite sewing blogger. I’ve had this beautifully illustrated book for almost a year and it was time I stopped looking and starting making. Her smartly drafted shirtwaist dress had the perfect silhouette, minus the collar and sleeves.Gertie shirtwaist

While looking for fabric, blue turned to black when I figured out blue chambray may look too much like denim to get away with at work. I ordered a Robert Kaufman black chambray from, which arrive quickly enough to keep me motivated.

The Gertie pattern was so easy to follow. I made a muslin for the bodice, using the size 8 and made my regular petite adjustments. Instead of sleeves, I cut facings and redrafted the neckline a bit to accommodate the ruffle.  The back has shirring at the waistline and is done with elastic thread in the bobbin. Since this was my first attempt at that technique, I practiced on the muslin. Being much shorter than the length of the finished dress, the waist-whittling was not obvious on the muslin.  gertie back


Once the dress was far enough along to try on, it was an oh-my-goodness moment.  I knew a shiny red belt would be the perfect accessory. The shopping karma was with me on the belt, which then inspired the red bias tape for a Hong Kong finish, another first time technique for me.hong kong finishThis dress is so comfortable, with great pockets. With a sweater, it should work well into fall. Full disclosure, I’m not a skinny as the dress form, but the dress still makes my waist look good.101_0351Now I need to find the perfect fabric to make it again, in the original version.

9 thoughts on “Magical Waist Whittling Gertie Dress

    • Thanks, I have to admit I went through 3 different books before I attempted the Hong Kong finish. I like see different examples before trying something new. I looked at Vogue Sewing, which uses illustrations, Palmer & Pletsch Couture, also illustrations and a lot of big shoulder 90’s fashion. The Threads Sewing Guide has nicer color illustrations and many of the other subjects they cover have color photos. If I had to pick one, it would be the Thread’s book, which is also the most recently published of the three. All the books say to make your own bias, which I did not. I found it in a box of old sewing notions someone gave me. Funny, all that time on trying to figure out the proper way to do a Hong Kong finish and the neck ruffle was just improvised.

  1. This is lovely! How did you finish the bottom part of the dress? I don’t see any buttons below the belt – is the skirt just one piece in front?

    • Thanks and yes, the front of the skirt is one piece. There is so much ease in the back, with the shirred waist, a front opening is not needed in the skirt.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s