Saturday, March 30, 2013

Portrait Dress

You know when you read somebody using the phrase 'whipped up' a garment? Is it just me that frequently thinks "whipped up? come on, clothes aren't generally whipped up! There's more work involved than that!"? Well, as much as I fear using the phrase myself, I really did 'whip up' this dress this week. I mean, two pieces and some bias binding, there's really not that much to it.

When making up my second portrait blouse a few weeks ago, I couldn't help but think about how the blouse would work lengthened into a dress. So this week, when I had some spare time, I had a go at extending the portrait blouse pattern into a dress.

Most of my summer dresses are of the fitted bodice, full skirt variety, which don't get me wrong, I love. However, when it's really hot and you just want something to lounge around in, you don't really want to be wearing a fitted bodice! So, the intent is that this will fill that gap in my summer wardrobe. (I know, I know, summer is over, whatever! It was still hot when I started this... but colder when I finished. It's Melbourne, you never know, the heat could come back!)

To convert the pattern into a dress, I taped some extra fabric to the bottom and extended the side seams out at an angle similar to the edge below the waist already. Also, knowing that I have quite a, shall we say, developed derrière, I pivoted the centre back seam so that it was the same size at the neckline, but about 2" extra at the centre back at the hipline (well 4" as it is on the fold). I measured the blouse and my measurements to make sure that there was plenty of ease through the hips and cut it out!

When sewn up the only real change I made was altering the back tucks - I made them bigger than they were originally  (about 3 times the size) to bring the fabric in across my lower back. This was necessary because of the extra fabric I had added by pivoting the centre back seam out. Now it's finished though, I think the back tucks are stitched a little long, and I'm planning on unpicking the bottom inch of them to let them finish slightly higher up. I hemmed it a couple of inches above the knee, to make it long enough not to flash people when bending over and such, but short enough not to be frumpy.

The fabric that I used is a lightweight sateen from spotlight, one of a whole host of matching spots I bought about 2 years ago. (This actual fabric is actually also in my 'seeing spots' quilt, which is about half quilted and patiently waiting to be finished, but I bought extra, always with the intent to make a dress with it).

While my other two portrait blouses were finished with self bias binding on the inside, I knew as soon as I tried on this dress mid-construction that I needed to find some green fabric that matched the green spots in the print.

I found this green at GJs, it's actually a quilting cotton, which I'm normally very cautious of using in garments, but as it was the PERFECT colour I decided to risk it. I am very surprised at how well it worked out actually! I loosely followed this tutorial, and am really happy with how it's sitting. Also, I used a topstitching foot when doing the topstitching on the binding, and am absolutely thrilled at how well it turned out!

Overall I'm incredibly happy with this dress. If I were to make another one I think I might curve the skirt side seams a bit to make it a tiny bit strighter and less a-line, but other than that so far I'm loving it!


  1. This works brilliantly as a dress. Simple is very often the best. I have Gertie's book as it's good to know that the blouse can be turned into a dress.

  2. This is so cute! I looks great as a dress. And I love the contrast binding on the neck and arms. A nice touch!

  3. This looks great! I love how simple it is too :)

  4. Fabulous pattern hack! I love the colours.

  5. SPOTS!!!! Rach, I love this! This is so a perfect spotty summer dress :D Nice work, lovely lady!

  6. It looks so breezy and comfy for summer, what a great idea to extend that pattern and the fit is great, especially in the back. Oh and SPOTS, so cute, and your binding stitching is divine, so close to the edge! Amazing job:)

  7. Very summer! I'd love to see this pattern with a tulip hemline.

  8. Super cute! I love how great it looks yet how simple it is to make.

  9. Beautiful print and love the dress idea. I am by no means a fancy seamstress, but I think the way you should fix the darts in the back is the way the Laurel from Colette has them (double darts narrowing to top and bottom) so you wont have that plied at the bottom of the dart. Anyways you always do such nice job!! congratulations.

  10. Great drafting- now you'll have to go on a holiday and chase the sun. How perfect is that green!


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