“Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.” -Edward Gorey

K is for Kate who was struck down by an ax
We couldn’t decided if she wanted to be “struck by an ax,” “done in by a thug,” or “choke on a peach.” Edward Gorey gave us too many choices…

Today I’m here to talk (ramble on?) about one of my most favorite things in life. PBS Mystery! For real. PBS was *the* channel at home growing up (if you don’t count my ever so slight obsession with Fraggle Rock but that’s enough for another post all on it’s own…) and I came RUNNING to the TV when I heard the theme song play. I adored the black and white line drawings by Edward Gorey (my favorite illustrator even now) and the mini story before the real story.


The dress is a modified free Tropisch Dress  that I shortened to a “drop waist” length and then added a gathered scalloped skirt to it and embellished to create some additional interest and detail.





To start:

Print out your pattern pieces. The pattern is a size 4 only right now but more sizes will happen. Instead of cutting the facing pieces, I cut a full lining by just cutting an extra set of bodice pieces.

I shortened the dress by about 3″ in order to hit right at her hips and followed the pattern up to hemming it. The only other alteration I made was lowering and squaring up the neckline.

Since Mr. Gorey primarily drew styles seen in the late Edwardian era (pushing into the 20’s styles here and there), I made the skirt about 7″ to hit right around her knees. I started this guy at 11pm so I was making an educated guess here and throwing caution to the wind.


Notice how the gathered skirt isn’t straight at the top but a hybrid of gathered and a sort of circle skirt. The petal curves were made by tracing a plate.
After “researching” (aka going down the rabbit hole that is called Pinterest and rereading my entire Edward Gorey collection and then watching a few episodes of Mystery) I decided the center petal would not be gathered and make a semi V shape up and into the body of the dress. This was a spur of the moment decision and I think I like it.

The gathered skirt from the back. The front middle petal is not gathered and has an upside down V shape at the top.
The gathered skirt from the back. The front middle petal is not gathered and has an upside down V shape at the top.

I pinned and attached the skirt to both the main fabric and the lining and sewed the skirt to the bodice. You can serge the seam for a more finished look on the inside of the dress.

Since I had to address the edges of the gauze to keep it from fraying after a few uses, I zigzagged the edges of each petal.






Now for the fun part! I found these 2 ribbons at the store and they went perfectly with the cream gauze in my stash. I love how monochromatic the dress was; it reminded me of the color use in Mr. Gorey’s illustrations. The non-ruffle ribbon is reversible with either cream or gold as the dominant color.

Remember how I squared up the neckline back at the beginning of the tutorial? Now is where we really get to show it off. I’m sure you could do a lot of math and calculate the exact angle needed to miter the ribbon but I eyeballed it. Fold the ribbon in half and sew your eyeballed (0r precisely calculated) angle and trim away the extra. Press open. If you have a print on your ribbon, start your angle at a point where it will be symmetrical when you open it up and you will be much happier with the result.

Pin the ribbon to the neckline and sew along each edge. When you get to the zipper, trim all but about 1/4″ and tuck that raw edge under so it is hidden.

I used that darling ruffle trim in the same cream/gold combo that needed to go somewhere on the dress so I decided to trim the seam where the bodice meets the skirt, leaving the un-gathered section plain. At this step, I also made sure to catch the seam allowance in the stitches to keep it in place and to make the dress more comfortable to wear.

I made a super fast headband out of some additional ribbon (gold side out this time) and elastic. Wear it low on the hairline and over a short bob for that vintage feel!

GoreyTime-0120 copy

Et Voila! (As Girly loves to say for every applicable situation right now), a finished dress worthy of your next PBS Mystery! party! (If this isn’t a thing, it needs to be). As for everyday use? Girly has decided that it’s a very pretty regular old party dress that she’ll wear on playdates (but I can tooooootaly see this as a flower girl dress or even just a fun summer dress since creams and golds never go out of style and the lines are timeless…and it’s just so light and roomy that it’s gotta be super comfortable for her to wear).

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3 thoughts on “A MYSTERY! Dress”

  1. OMG….Fraggle Rock was so cool! I absolutely adore this dress (as well as your Tropisch Dress)…..but for me @ 5’4″ and 135 Lbs ha ha ha! I am a newer sewist and seem to lack the design/mod elements section of the brain. Do you happen to have any advice on size modifications, methods, etc? I just get too twisted around to work it out/look it up and get it done….I have a nasty sleep disorder (Narcolepsy) that allows me to get zero deep sleep EVER and so I’m always tired or asleep (or borderline) mostly without a brain that thinks. Yuck but that’s also why I picked up the hobby! Keep pushing on and trying to stay sane…. I would so greatly appreciate any help you may have.

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