I’ve been wanting to make a ‘swing tent’-style dress ever since my flatmate rocked up in our kitchen wearing a lovely one. A t-shirt dress with evenly dispersed flare for maximum swishing is a style that ticks that much sought after ‘feels like wearing pyjamas but looks quite stylish’ box. After a bit of googling I found this wonderful tutorial from Ebony H’ at ‘SewStylist’. I was half way through making the pattern for this dress when Heather from Closet Case Patterns released her Ebony dress pattern which Heather says was inspired by this very tutorial! I half considered downing tools and just buying the pattern but I’m glad I drafted it myself using my own block as it fits perfectly around my neck and shoulders. The tutorial shows you how to make the dress by adapting the Grainline Scout tee but as I don’t have that pattern I just used my own block to make a simple t-shirt first and then adapted that pattern.

I initially planned to make up a test version in this shiny velour jersey fabric before making the ‘real’ version in some nice grey jersey but I actually couldn’t be happier with how this ‘test’ dress turned out and it has earned a place in my wardrobe in its own right! I’ve had the fabric for a few years now (bought from a stall at the Marché des Abattoirs in Anderlecht) and it was one of those ‘magpie moments’ when you buy something a bit mad and shiny which then sits on your shelf for ages because you don’t know what to do with it. So I’m happy to have finally found a use for it! I like how the dress looks with and without a belt.

The photos were taken in Nivelles (where my boyfriend comes from) when we were having a walk around the town. When I saw this very stylish spectator stand at the running track I thought it would be the perfect spot for an impromptu photo shoot 🙂

Specks of microfibres at rest on the blade of my rotary cutter.
Pins poised and ready to be deployed.
A notebook, full with the hope of well-organised notes and useful advice for my future self.
A zipper foot misplaced under a jumble of discarded fabric.
A cup of tea stationed a safe distance away.

In my last post I talked about my first two attempts at developing a pattern based on an initial rub-off of a dress I love. And today here is my third version!

This time I got rid of the gathers and modified the bodice pieces accordingly. I also got rid of the buttons at the front and put in a side zip. I also added a skirt lining and reshaped the front yoke slightly – mostly so I can get it over my head.

The fabric comes from Holm Sown in Castle Douglas and was a Christmas present from my Mum last Christmas (and by last I mean 2015) so I’m happy to finally make something with it. That said I’ve got fabric I bought in 2008 still lurking around waiting for me to love it so just over a year between acquiring fabric and using it is actually quite good going by my track record!

I really like this dress and will get plenty wear out of it. Sometimes you go round the houses to come to a conclusion you knew already – wearing a dress I’ve made and love makes me really happy. Can’t wait to wear it out on my bike in spring with a denim jacket and bare legs.

Now back to the drawing board to see how I can improve the pattern for version four.

Here are some more shots which hopefully give a better idea of the details. (I’m finding it really tricky to get good photos of things I make these days and I’m not sure these do it justice, oh well they’ll do!)

Close up of the front bodice (and my camera remote).

Close-ish up of the back.

The lining

I’m a big fan of Pauline Alice’s Rosari skirt sewing pattern, and this is my second version. My first shot at the pattern was last year. The name of the pattern makes me think of the slogan “Get your rosaries off my ovaries”.

The slight downside of this make is that the denim I used was not that good quality. It crumples easily and I think it looks a bit cheap. So I’m going to be on the look out for some good quality old jeans in second hand shops which I can cut up to try and make another version. But perhaps I’m being over critical as I do really like this skirt.
I’d also like one in mustard yellow!

The buttons were actually salvaged from one of my early makes – my Beignet skirt from Colette patterns. I hadn’t worn it in ages and wasn’t really that enamoured with it any more so I decided to use the buttons for something else and salvage the fabric to make a top.

I’ve decided to be more ruthless with things I make to ensure that if they are not getting worn they don’t languish in my wardrobe. While it makes sense to be reluctant to rip apart things we’ve spent time making, I think it is also good to treat them the same way we treat shop-bought clothes (or any other object for that matter): if it is not likely to be worn again, holds no particular sentimental value, or isn’t holding up that well, then it is maybe time to recycle it into something else or give it away if you think someone else might get some use out of it.

That said, I’ll find it hard to part with some of my earliest self-made clothes as they make me smile when I look at them – even if they don’t get to see the light of day that much any more.

One of my favourite dresses is one of my Mum’s old ones. It’s from the British high street shop ‘Wallis’ and was probably bought in the early to mid 1980s. The fabric is that kind of beautifully soft woven fabric which is always so hard to find. The dress is beautifully made and the quality of the fabric is streets ahead of what you tend to find on the high street today.

As I love the dress so much so I decided to have a go at rubbing off the pattern. I don’t have any fabric with the exact same feel or drape so it will be a while until I can make an exact carbon copy but making something inspired by the original dress is good enough for me for now!

The original dress

The busy pattern makes it hard to photograph but hopefully here you can see the style lines.

And the length made it hard to get it all in one picture so here is a photo which shows how long the skirt is.

The pattern
This is the resulting pattern from my attempt to copy the dress. The front and back bodice pieces are gathered to fit into curved yoke pieces. The sleeves are modified raglan sleeves, which are also gathered into the yokes. There is a button placket down the whole length of the centre front.

This picture shows the sleeve pattern piece and the bodice front and back pieces. I’ve not included the placket piece as it is just a long rectangle. For the skirt, on my first attempt I made a simple gathered skirt and on the second attempt I made a half circle skirt.

The original dress has a peter pan collar and the skirt is floor length. On the original dress the sleeves are gathered into an elastic casing at the cuff. On my first version I left the sleeve un-gathered at the cuff so it is flared and on my second version I hand stitched a sort of inverted pleat at the cuff to bring them in a bit.

First go
This was the first attempt and I’m quite happy with it. The two major flaws are that I put a hem facing on it in a heavier fabric which kind of drags down the dress. Also, the fabric itself (which comes from a shop across the road from the Marché Saint Pierre in Paris) while really lovely is not the best quality so it was quite hard to accurately cut out. I love the pattern and the orange colour though so I’m not complaining!

The chortle shot…

…and round two!
For the second one I used a red cotton which hangs really nicely (from Atelier Brunette). I’d been hoarding this fabric for a while so was glad to finally use it.

I ‘interfaced’ the button plackets by underlining them with calico toile fabric but I’m not sure I’ll do that again as now it has been washed a few times the button placket looks a bit crumpled. I suppose I now realise why iron-on interfacing was invented as you can stick it exactly to the fabric and there won’t be any moving around! That said I also underlined/faced the yokes in the same way and they seem ok.

I really love this dress and can’t wait to try and improve it further and make it in another fabric. Next time I’ll bring the neckline down slightly at the front, and maybe add a collar. I’ll also think about putting a false placket in and using a zip in the side seam instead so as not to have so many buttonholes to sew!

And not forgetting some ‘in construction’ snaps!

And to finish, a close up of what I’m calling the ‘sleeve pleat tuck thing’.