Linen panel dress

[Intro: I’m switching direction again – from personal development to motorbiking to sewing. I design stuff, patternmake and sew; and I thought I might share some of my projects…]

The concept

I’m studying a Diploma in Fashion design and for an assignment had to design a mini spring/summer range. Amongst other things, I sketched this dress:

First sketch

First sketch

Which turned into this flat:

1.dress

The fabric

I actually thought I wouldn’t be able to make this – it depended on being able to find colours that went together in the same fabric. I don’t have very good access to fabric stores so went shopping to look for things for another project. You can imagine how surprised I was to find these, all in lovely-quality linen:

5 examples of linen fabric

The pattern draft

The pattern is pretty simple. It’s from a standard dress block. I removed ease under the arms, moved the shoulder dart to the side seam, let out the waist darts a bit, widened the skirt and then drew in the neckline and panels. You can see most of it in this photo. The reason there is so much drawing on it is that there are a couple of stages of modification, each in a different colour (green is the final pattern). It’s messy, but easier (and more accurate) than tracing it for each variation.

Making the pattern

Making the pattern

I did make a toile, but the photo is fairly awful. I just traced the pattern straight onto the calico – again, that was much easier than cutting out the pattern and then cutting the fabric. I made it all in one piece to check the overall shape – I didn’t’ bother with the panels just yet.

The prototype

I made a prototype out of sheeting so I could double-check the pattern and see what the panels looked like, and it turned out great. All I needed to change was to narrow the skirt a bit.

Prototype dress, made from old sheeting

Prototype dress, made from old sheeting

I love the prototype – it’s almost wearable except for the fabric.

The final pattern

The final pattern pieces look like this:

Front pieces

Front pattern pieces

Pattern pieces for the back

Back pattern pieces

Lining pattern pieces

Lining and facing pattern pieces

There are a few little pattern features that may not be obvious:

  • The strap is the same colour as the top panel, but cut as a separate piece so it can be cut on the straight grain, not part bias (so it sits nice and flat)
  • The strap is perfectly positioned over the bra strap
  • The bust dart is hidden on the left, incorporated into the panel seam (but I couldn’t manage that on both sides)
  • I made a skirt facing instead of just turning up a hem. I wanted a bit of weight so the linen would hang straight and heavy-ish. I have never sewn a large turned up hem and have it look great. The facing is excellent for a really neat hem.

The dress

And here it is – the finished dress!

The final dress, and matching jacket

The final dress, and matching jacket

Just the dress

Just the dress

Sucking in my belly

Sucking in my belly

The wrap-up

I really love it. I’ve worn it twice already. It fits perfectly of course and is really comfortable. The linen crushes, but that’s just what happens with linen. I could even imagine making it again, which is unusual for me – I usually don’t use a pattern twice. If I did, I’d change the top angle of the centre panel to be less straight across the body – it’s a bit straight and visually wide, but that’s the only thing I’d do differently.

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