Retro Butterick '52 B4790 - The Walkaway Dress

by - 4/16/2016

My finished dress using the Retro Butterick '52 B4790 pattern

Blimey does this dress have a reputation! I discovered the pattern's drama when I did a little research on the dress recently before I started sewing. I bought this pattern like A LOT of vintage sewing lovers did during 2015's Great British Sewing Bee, but it has sat unused in my stash since. However, I had no idea it would turn out to be so controversial...

I chose a simple blue cotton with a white bias binding

Once I decided last week that the Butterick 4790 Walkaway Dress was going to be next on my sewing list to coincide with my #VintagePledge, I had a browse for reviews to see how other makers found this seemly easy dress.

Here's a peek at the pattern:

Looks simple simple, right?

I won't bore you with the details of this dress's controversy, as I'm sure you know for yourself, but the fit of this dress annoyed a lot of people. But I was determined to make it work. However, in true-to-me style, I made a pretty hefty mistake very early on...

As I whipped out the pattern pieces, I grabbed my scissors, cut out following the lines marked '12', knowing I was leaving plenty of room to fit the bodice if I needed. Ha ha no. That was my first mistake. It wasn't until I had sewn the darts and all the seams and tried on the dress that I noticed what I thought was a size 12 dress was more like a 6/8. And boy was that 26" waist not going to wrap around me!

I kept my calm sewing head on, despite my ridiculous mistake, and decided that sewing a couple of straight panels down the centre front and back panels would fix the fit.

Weirdly enough the accidental fitted bust I had created fitted me really well! I was totally surprised. I have a naturally curvy, hourglass figure and this seemed to fix the problem of the rumoured 'sack of potatoes' look I had heard this dress created. So I ended up with no baggy areas in the bodice and the shoulder seams/sleeves were shorter, suiting me more.

You can see from my photos the two panels at the front of the skirt (I also added the same panels at the back of the dress, which are concealed by the circle skirt), but the seams match my bodice seams, and in my opinion I think it looks pretty good! A happy sewing accident - I sure don't get many of them!

Zooey's beautiful range of nautical inspired dresses for Tommy Hilfiger

I made my Walkaway dress with an affordable 'oxford blue' cotton fabric with white cotton bias binding I bought off eBay. Initially I had got small daisy buttons to finish off the dress, but once I had stitched one on they made very little impact. Then I noticed the potential similarities to my version of the Walkaway dress with Zooey Deschanel's recent collection for Tommy Hilfiger, and thought red would really liven things up!

Whilst fitting the dress, I did make a couple of further alterations:

  • I made the darts deeper. I slipped on the garment with the original darts sewn in. Then I pinned the bodice to fit my bust better. Which created less sagging on the underarms.
  • I shortened the hem by 2". I'm only 5"4 and a lot of 50s style dresses can end up swamping me a bit. But it's now my perfect length, sitting just below my knee.

As you can see, I went full 1952 on this look!

Overall, I'm pretty happy with the outcome of my dress. My initial sizing mistake worked in my favour and I don't think the extra panels I added effected the garment's aesthetic. I find the shape of the bodice very comfortable and easy to wear, but I can appreciate depending on your figure it may not be flattering on some. My bodice is just fitted enough that my larger bust doesn't end up looking like a sack, and the waist definition brings everything in nicely.

Not including my mistake, I only made a couple of small and very easy alterations. The dress was so easy to sew and could certainly be done in a couple of hours. I made mine over two afternoons due to changing my buttons, and including ironing time. Otherwise, I would of liked to have made it in one sitting.

Get this pattern:

I look forward to making this dress again, perhaps in a printed fabric or even contrast fabrics for the bodice and skirt. But next time I'll be sure to check my size...

Have you made the infamous Retro Butterick Walkaway dress? Do you love it or hate it?

Thanks for reading, pinups.

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  1. You have done an amazing job! Your dress has come out beautifully! The colour combination is perfect.

  2. It looks great on you!

    I admit that the Walkaway Dress has really scared me off for a long time- the fitting issues are insane and I'm not sure I want to do that to myself right now!

    Anyway, the Zooey Deschanel x Tommy Hilfiger line was great inspiration. I own the middle dress in the images of her you posted- very cute.

    Good job sewing this!

  3. Hi Abi, I had similar sizing issues when teaching a workshop recently to 8 ladies making this same pattern.
    Fortunately I took along the dress I had made on #GBSB and they could try on the supposedly size 12 dress.
    I had previously made this same dress for a demo @AbakhanFabrics and the size 14 I had cut out barely fitted a size 12 manequin.

    With all this in mind I advised the ladies to go up a size, and success. They all ended up with a fitting garment.

    Share knowledge is a bonus at times.

    Loving reading your blogs.

    Paul xx

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks so much for your great comment! It seems everyone has a different experience with this pattern! But I'm happy with my finished dress.

      Thank you!