There's a tale behind me making this dress up; I was after something that I could wear for, ahem, "socialising" in on an afternoon in Leeds city centre. Everything in my wardrobe was too dressy and I really didn't fancy going out to buy anything, so I had a look through our patterns and thought this one would fit the bill.
As I wanted it to be smart/casual and it was for Autumn, I wanted a fabric that had some flow to it, but still had a little bit of structure with it being a tailored shirt dress, and wasn't too bright. Unfortunately on this occasion I wasn't feeling any of our fabrics (I know, WTF?!) and I have been following Atelier Brunette on Instagram for a while, which has severely tested my French GCSE as they are a Parisian fabric house, so I thought I might give one of theirs a try. If I'm using a French sewing pattern, I thought I may as well use a French fabric to make it with! They produce the most gorgeous viscose, crepe, rayon, French terry and...LAWN! Just what I was looking for! After a while I managed to narrow it down to around 5 fabrics (!) and after much deliberation, and Instagram and Pinterest searching of finished garments, I finally decided on my fabric; this stunning black lawn adorned with line drawn origami birds, aptly named Bye Bye Birdie. LOVE. IT.
So the pattern cutting began. Ah, the joys of having to cut out the bodice in one size, the waist two sizes bigger and then the hip one size smaller than the waist! This, ladies and gentlemen, is my life. It is what I have to do with just about every pattern I've come across and the pattern blocks look sooooo weird when they're cut out, but I've made peace with it. I decided to do the sleeveless version of the dress (the other version has capped sleeves) and I included the bow detail at the back, which I think gives the dress a little "je ne sais quoi".
Now, this isn't a pattern for total beginners. It can be a bit like reading the instructions to a Great British Bake Off Technical Challenge in that it assumes you will know how to do certain things (such as finishing your seams), so it leaves out some of the stages that you might find are explained in other patterns. Let's face it though, if you're making a shirt dress I would like to think this isn't your first garment so you'll be fine, and if it is, well you definitely deserve a Paul Hollywood handshake!!
The dress is constructed using princess seams so it all hangs nicely when it's finished. To be honest, they even give the effect of a pleat on the skirt which really works well.
There is A LOT of topstitching on this. The pattern calls for you to topstitch along every seam to finish them off, but even though this can be a bind if you're not into topstitching, it finishes the dress off beautifully as all the seam allowances are stitched down on the wrong side. The wrong side actually ends up looking almost as good as the right side, which makes the end garment look very professional.
I found this dress to be strangely long. I wanted the finished length to be a bit above my knee (I'm not adverse to showing a bit of leg now and again!) and being 5'8" I didn't think it would be far off at its standard length, but I ended up taking it up about 3 inches! But hey, better it be too long than too short! Another nice touch by Deer and Doe is that you actually stitch a facing along the bottom of the dress to finish it off rather than sewing a standard hem.
This isn't my first shirt dress; I've also made the Tilly and the Buttons Rosa and I think making that one first meant that I could make the collar on this one without much fuss and strop-throwing, but I do actually think the instructions for this collar were better explained than for the Rosa. Sorry Tilly, I still loves ya!
My nemesis is the humble buttonhole. I HATE the chuffing things. I have very little ability to see things straight so I find it hard to line them up with each other. Yes, I mark them on first. No, it doesn't make a blind bit of difference when I'm doing them. I'm probably being a bit hard on myself in this case - there are 15 buttonholes on this dress and there are probably 2 which are a bit iffy, so in the grand scheme of things I probably didn't do too badly. Luckily, the buttons cover them up when the dress is fastened!
I purposefully went out to make this dress the most accurate thing I've ever made. I'm a devil for saying "oh, it'll do" and not doing things again when I make a mistake, but I really wanted to test myself this time. I even used my overlocker, for crying out loud! :) I have to say, I'm so glad I did decide to do this; it's most definitely the nicest garment I've ever made. It fits like a glove and I love wearing it!
Now, pricewise, Atelier Brunette fabrics aren't the cheapest in the world, but nor are they the dearest. The lawns are £17.00 per metre, but they are 140cm wide so for this I needed about 2.5m. This meant that I spent £42.50 on a high quality dress that I will wear over and over again, which is not bad at all. Let's face it, £40.00 barely gets you a top in Oasis nowadays. Fabric is definitely a "you get what you pay for" thing, which is why I carefully choose all the fabrics we sell in the shop. I refuse to stock poor quality fabric to save a buck as I don't think you should spend your time making a garment only for it to not last or wash well. What's the point?!
I also used the making of this dress as a way to test the Atelier Brunette fabrics to see whether they would be good to sell in the shop and hopefully you'll be pleased to learn that we're now stocking a select few to begin with to see how they go. The ones I've chosen are all perfect if you want to make something a bit special, especially with Christmas coming up! There are Deer and Doe patterns to suit all levels, so if you think the shirt dress is a bit beyond you at the moment, you could try the Arum dress, which is perfect for beginners as it has sleeves that you don't even have to set in! To be honest, these fabrics are so lovely, that they would make even the most basic of garments look special.
This is the first Deer and Doe pattern I have used and I'm very impressed. I'm always a bit dubious when using "strange" patterns just in case they're not very well explained or they fit poorly, but I had heard excellent things about these before deciding to stock them so I took a bit of a punt and it paid off. The main thing I like about these patterns is that no matter how simple the pattern seems to be, Deer and Doe have included just a little detail to it that really makes it look professional, whether it be a pintuck, a small pocket or a bow detail, and you don't always get that. Very classy those French! :)