06 January 2011

The Benefits of Snoop Shopping

In May of last year, my dear friend Melody and I went snoop shopping for dresses. I was having a hard time fitting a pattern for a cocktail dress and I was getting extremely frustrated. She suggested that we go to the mall and see if there are styles that flatter my body type. What an eye-opening experience! I cannot stress enough the huge benefits of snoop shopping!

It all started with my decision to make a dress for the PR Weekend-Montreal cocktail party. Making the dress was completely optional, but how can I go to a sewing-themed cocktail party and not wear something I made?! I made five muslins of Butterick 5353 which only stood to increase my frustration after I couldn't get the neck yoke to fit properly. Grr...

So, off to the mall we went. We went in search of dresses and styles that may be better suited for my body. We visited Ann Taylor, Lord & Taylor, Macy's, Nordstrom, and possibly one other store. She wouldn't let me go to Sears or JCPenney and with good reason. She said that designers don't make quality clothes for discount retailers and that to get a good idea of fit and construction, it is better to shop at the higher-end stores. Makes sense.

First up is the Ann Taylor store.

I think the dress looks good from the front. The back, however, showed me why I might struggle so much with bodice fit. I have a massive upper back! If I wasn't a girl, I'd probably try out for the Lions. The dress was a size 12 and was snug in some areas - as you can see.

This dress had a midriff band and thin bodice straps. Ugh, the back! The angle of the armhole area makes my back appear even wider by showing too much skin.

We tried this dress because of the v-neckline. The same problems persist, though the back doesn't appear as wide because the cut of the armhole isn't as angled. All of the dresses were way too long.

Next we went to Lord & Taylor. With this group of dresses, we realized that a size 12 in Ann Taylor was NOT the same as a size 12 with designers for L&T. The Ann Taylor draft appears to be more forgiving of curves and affinities for chocolate.

We both liked this dress. It was definitely too snug, but it had lots of potential design-wise. The bodice had armhole princess seams and a waist seam - designs that are a busty chick's best friend. The bodice style seemed to help minimize my broad back. The front overlay was just too cute!

Um....no. Hell no. Let's do the math: full busts + ruffles = hot ass mess. Keep it moving.

I think the expression on my face says it all about this one. Melody literally started jumping up and down in the dressing room when she saw me with this one. She really liked it. I, on the other hand, was not that impressed! I have to admit though, after staring at this for a few months now, the style is growing on me. I think the folds are still too full and the dress too long. Maybe with some alterations, I can make it work.

We both liked this one. This dress has neckline pleats and a ruched midriff band. Even the print is hot. Winner! We were thinking view A of this New Look pattern can be adapted to knock this off.

This is the actual Suzi Chin dress on which Butterick 5490 is based. It's not too bad.

The dress on the left is another take of the Muse dress (Butterick 5353) I was trying to fit in the beginning. The designer isn't Muse, but the style lines are exactly the same. The dress was made with a stretch cotton sateen. The pink dress is the Muse dress. The fabric was a non-stretch cotton pique. There are elements of both versions that appeal to me. I like the close fit of the brown dress on the skirt only. I like the loose fit of the pink dress doesn't call as much attention to my bust as in the brown dress.

We saw this one at Nordstrom's. We both could not decide what it was that made this so unattractive. We think was the mock pleated bodice, insanely high empire seam, and hideous print that made this a RTW-wadder.

Thanks to Melody's amazing help and guidance, I now recognize the benefits of snoop shopping. This experience has showed me how certain styles, fabrics, and design elements will wear on my body. Knowing this arms me with more information on how to select patterns and fabric. Thanks Mel!

Anyone else ever go snoop shopping? If so, what were your experiences?



  1. Hi Lynnelle

    I think is my first time commenting on your blog although I have it in my reader. I snoop shop but mostly online.
    I think that last dress is just unattractive period it has too many design elements and the print is ugly

  2. That brown Muse-like dress looks hot on you, Lynnelle -- did you wind up sewing the Butterick 5353? Your comment about trying out for the Lions made me giggle, and judging from their stats, they could use you! You have inspired me to snoop shop.
    Heather (sharkycharming on PR, and also a mid-30s city girl)

  3. Lynn,

    I agree about the brown dress, very flattering to the waist line. I need to go snoop shopping and take you and melody with me! Hope to see you on Saturday!

  4. I just forwarded this to a sewing/drafting coworker who is back from several months in the US and she confessed to doing this. I laughed and told her she was faaaar from the only one.

    Love some of your choices and agree that you need to see what's out there and maybe discover what looks good on you...even if you didn't think so!!!

    Love the two flower prints with bodice interest, as they say. I have the Vogue pattern and was going to make it in pink myself, LOL!

  5. Great post! You know I totally avoid all those dresses with the bodice pleats but it looks really good on you (hence I can probably wear it too ;)). I didn't think it would work on our full bust. Next pattern sale I'm picking one up. I like a bit of the fuller skirt on you too. It balances things well. That Suzi Chin dress is made up on a manequin at my local Joanns. It's really cute. They stitched down the pleats about 4 inches so it lays flat. It gives it quite a different look.

  6. Lynn I have the same wide upper back as you but once I realized that was the problem, it is seldom a problem anymore.

  7. I snoop shop all the time to see what styles are flattering on me. I would hate to go through all the trouble of making something and it not be flattering because the style is wrong for my body type.

  8. You know, I like both the brown AND pink versions of that Muse dress. I think it's that I like the pink color and embellishments on you, even if the fit isn't as spot-on. The Suzi Chin is cute, too, although the print is a little busy for the style lines.

  9. I love your final selection! You look great!

  10. A wrap dress would look great on you!

    Hey, the Bears could probably use your help...!
    a Packers fan

  11. Looking thourgh your blog I came across this post and I've been meaning to do the same thing. I think snoop shopping is really valuable. I'm busty and often have problems trying to figure out what really looks good on me when looking at patterns. This is a great way to eliminate making pattern buying mistakes & wasting fabric. So, thanks for sharing your experience, I need to do this soon!


Thanks for commenting! I appreciate and read them all - even if I can not personally respond.


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