What I wear

The ‘It’s all about the fabric’ dress

Sometimes a dress starts with the idea of a dress, but sometimes it starts with the fabric.  Back in July Fabric Warehouse had their semi-annual fabric  sale, and I couldn’t help snapping up a length of this:

Isn’t it FABULOUS?

At the time I thought I’d make a full skirt (the friend I was with was slightly horrified that I’d make anything with the fabric and said “at least the print will be less obvious in the folds of a skirt), but when I tried skirt layouts, it just wasn’t working.  So I looked for further inspiration, and hit on the dress I wore as a bridesmaid in Shell’s wedding.  I love that dress – it’s fun to wear, strikes a nice balance between summer fun and professional, and works for almost any occasion.  But…it’s cut for someone who is my size around and 4″ shorter than me.  So I want to re-make it, but so it actually fits.

Which I sort of did.

The ‘sort of’ is because I was really sick and tired (and about to get a lot sicker) when I made the dress, and completely forgot about resizing it when I took the pattern off the old dress, so when I actually got to fitting, it was still cut for a petite woman.  I made as many alterations as I could to get the fit right, but I had NO extra fabric, and there is only so much you can do.

But it’s still pretty cute, and I’m pretty happy with it.  And the details are adorable.

I particularly like the bird over my heart (though I wish I’d had enough fabric to cut it so that it was the only bird on my bodice):

And the not-actually-exposed zipper.  I’m not a fan of the current fashion for exposed zips (it just looks sloppy to me), but I love this finish, it’s very polished while still being industrial:

And most of all, my rainbow belt.  I inherited a couple of lengths of pre-made belting from Nana, in completely random colour-ways, and this rainbow stuff was just the ‘pop’ that the dress needed.  I still haven’t punched the holes & done grommets yet because my hole punch is out.

The bodice of the dress is fully lined in white cotton (anything fun and colourful showed through), all beautifully joined to the front zip and the back invisible zip:

I hemmed it with white bias hemming.  I pulled every length I had in my stash out, laid them together, and was an inch and a half short.  Dang!  A rummage through my ‘short lengths of bias tape’ tin (honestly, that’s exactly what the label on it says) unearthed one more length, I joined it, and my hem was saved.  Thank goodness for being so organized and keeping everything!

All the pictures were taken at my in-laws house in the beautiful South Island – they’ve been hosting Thanksgiving since Mr D and I got married to make me feel more at home, so I had a lovely time making pies with my MIL and slathering a turkey with half a kilo of butter and having dinner with the whole family, and then posing in their stunning garden with roses and goldfish ponds the next day.

And then I flew back to Wellington and got a horrible cold and spent 5 days feeling sorry for myself, so that wasn’t so fun.  But yay, I’m getting a lot better!

Just the facts, Ma’am:

Fabric:  1.8m of Alexander Henry ‘Gemini’ cotton ($18 pm), .5m cotton voile for lining

Pattern:  Self drafted, based off  this dress  (the one I’m wearing, not the wedding dress, though I made that too)

Year:  early ’60s silhouette meets late ’60s inspired fabric meets 2011

Notions:  Thread, one metal zip ($7.50), bias hemming, rainbow belting, metal buckle, bias binding.

Hours:  11

First worn?:  Friday 23 November (Thursday in the US) for Thanksgiving dinner

Wear again?:  Yeah.  I don’t love it as much as I wanted to, but it’s a good summer dress-up dress.

Make again?:  Nah, I’ve got patterns I like better

And the insides?: Fully lined bodice, french seamed skirt = perfection.

Total cost:  $34.50


  1. I love this fabric! I’d want to color in some of the white images, (like a coloring book). Maybe make the black, white, red even more bold, but that’s just me. 🙂 Thanks for sharing. It really turned out fabulous!

  2. Claire Payne says

    Looks great. I know what you mean about the exposed zip trend but having done it that way does make it look very ‘now’. The fit looks good too. I was interested to see that you lined it in cotton. I have used cotton for lining before but it was a disaster (then again, the outer of the skirt was the dreaded polyester so it was never going to work out well). The bird finishes it off beautifully. Very clever cutting there.

    • Thank you!

      The trick with lining with cotton is to make sure that both fabric are pre-washed – and to check them before and after for how much they shrink. If either the lining or the outer shrinks a lot, cotton probably isn’t a good lining choice. I tend to line my summer dresses in cotton, and have never had a problem. The commercial version of this dress was also lined in cotton.

  3. Susan says

    This is simply beyond fabulous – it’s perfect, the pattern, the fabric, the way it suits you – perfect!

  4. Lynne says

    Glad you’re feeling better! The dress and the fabric work beautifully, especially with the coloured bird on the bodice, and the great belting. Looks really good.

  5. Ah-hah! So it IS a new dress! I saw you in this today and between the cut and my own exhaustion I wasn’t sure. I was so tired that I kept getting absorbed in the trippy fabric pattern, then tearing my eyes away. I did not see any fit problems and I found it vivid yet subtle – another utter winner for you.

    • Thank you! Yep, it’s a new one! I will say that the fit problems are very minor at this point (the armhole is too big, for example), and of course I was wearing a cardigan over it today!

  6. That’s a fabulous dress! I love the dress pattern, and the fabric totally works!
    And I’m ridiculously jealous of your sewing skills. My response to already cutting it out would have been, “Oh darn. Well, I don’t know what to do now. Some smaller projects are going to have very nice bird-lady-cloth accents on them now. Darn.” Yep, you’ve got awesome skills!

    • Awww, Thank you!

      An awful lot of fitting a pattern that doesn’t fit can be accomplished by just putting it on you and pinning the seams until the fit is right (and if it doesn’t work, hey, it’s no worse than what it was before!)

  7. MJ Ruisi says

    the Fabric is so great!…..what a goodlooking style for you!admittedly ,I think exposed zipps are a little untidy,best left for the punk rocker style…but very au currant…no?

  8. That pattern is so cool I want pillows made out of it!

    Love the dress on you, and that belt is just the perfect touch. Wear it in Feb. for our trip! 🙂

  9. Daniel says

    I’m a sucker for a killer novelty print, and That. Is. One. Love it!

  10. I adore this fabric. Just adore. I’m so glad you persevered and turned it into something beautiful…those pops of color from the birds, especially over your heart are glorious!

  11. I never really look at prints like that, but I really like what you’ve done with it! With only the few hints of color on the black and white background its subtle, yet at the same time bold–wonderful job!

  12. If you ever decide that you’re sick of it and it really would be better for someone a few inches shorter… Well, you know where I live. 🙂

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