Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

Dress Quest Part 1


Every year I search for the perfect summer dress. I’ve been doing this for almost 6 years now and seem nowhere close to finding it. I see lots of beautiful dresses that you’ve all made – selected the right pattern with the right fabric and – viola – a dress that can be worn daily, perfect seasonal wear that looks fab. So this year is no exception and the quest for the perfect dress has started…again….I titled this post Part 1 because I truly believe there will be many more documenting my pursuit of The Dress.

A couple of posts recently inspired the latest attempt at The Dress. Kathryn used a fabulous wax print for a circle skirt – the fabric is so happy and cheerful that you couldn’t help but smile when wearing this. So the fabric idea came from her. Thanks Kathryn. I searched the internet and came up with Middlesex Textiles – a wonderful shop that specialises in African prints.  A staggering array of colours and patterns and based in the UK so I’ve no pesky import tax to pay.


So I selected one that was on offer and what a bargain! The fabric is sold as a cut length of 6yds (5.5m) and is about 42″ wide. Within a couple of days the parcel arrived, beautifully wrapped and presented with labels declaring its pedigree of genuine wax printing.


The fabric itself is a myriad of strong bright colours – red, navy, turquoise and yellow on a white background. The dyes are so intense that it looks the same back and front.


Crunch time – the patten!

My good internet sewing friend Lucia sent me a Vogue pattern a little while ago as I had admired it – thanks Lucia – and as I had 6 yds of fabric and this pattern called for at least 4 – we were all set.


Vogue 1312 Mizono design – that I’ve seen made up and looking wonderful on various blogs and PR.

ImageA swirly full skirt with a little vest-like sleeveless top – yes sleeveless, it is summer after all! An invisible side zip and all the pattern pieces various degrees of squares – apart from the neckline and armscythes. Simple sewing – great for time constraint sewing time these days.

Two important things to note:

1. I used a very large directional print – all other versions I’ve seen are plain or in a small print.

2. The pattern says to use only 60″ wide fabric, mine was 42″ and I got the dress cut out just fine, but lengthening would have been impossible. There wasn’t too much left of my 6 yds afterwards either.

So the two were paired together to produce this….


We met some very good friends who we haven’t seen in nearly 10 years at the weekend and I put on my new dress to go out to dinner with them all. While I love my DH dearly his candour can be cutting sometimes… first the silence but hard stares and then the barrage…..

that’s awful”, “too old”, and even my dear friend Y got in on the attack – “too much fabric!”, ‘the top is too old for you”

So the dress was taken off and fancy pants were put on instead.

What’s your opinion? Remember, we like honesty in comments.

DSC00170 DSC00175                   Did I waste a zip?


39 thoughts on “Dress Quest Part 1

  1. Oh dear do I risk doing the first comment???? Your ability to get the dress cut out and made from the narrow fabric is amazing, and the workmanship is up to your normal impeccable standard too. I have mixed views – in one glance I like it and then in another there seems to bee too much going on. So I am sitting on the fence.

  2. Firstly, thanks for doing my homework for me as I’m planning to buy and sew African cotton soon… just trying to track down the perfect print I have a snippet of.

    As for the dress, the problem may be the setting and your usual high standards/typical style. I think your fancy pants combo is spot on but the dress works too: it’s striking and with those shoes and your height, you can carry it off. Maybe it’s the NI setting and the weather. Try it on again in August and see if it’s grown on them!

  3. I rarely comment on blogs, but I want to chime in here. I love this dress and think you did a wonderful job. When I first saw the fabric, I thought it would be too much but I think it’s turned out great. I particulary don’t understand the ‘too old’ comments. I think the dress looks fresh and fun, and you look fabulous in it.

  4. I love the fabric and the style of the dress too. Somehow, and I’m not experienced enough to know why, but I think the top is too much. Would you consider putting a different, plain top on the skirt? And perhaps narrow the shoulders?

  5. The dress is stunning, and the fabric is AMAZING. I think this dress is very wearable as-is, but if it were mine then I think the armholes would ‘come in’ a little bit, if that makes sense? The top almost looks to be broader than you are, which is possibly what the less complimentary comments meant… but as I said, I think this is very wearable without modification 🙂

  6. Don’t really like to put a damper on your hard work but… he may have a point in my honest opinion the skirt is great but there is something about the top that doesn’t seem right. A lower neck line or narrower straps it just seems a little heavy. Does that make sense? Or it could be the large print on the bodice not sure but to my eye the top doesn’t seem quite right. Xx

  7. Hi there Ruth,

    You asked for honesty, so here goes.
    As everyone has said, you make everything to such a wonderful standard………but I am with your DH on this one, the bold print seems to take you over, you see that and not you; also, it doesn’t show off your lovely figure. I dont feel this dress does you justice.

    Might the design look better in a silk jersey fabric??

  8. OOH! I love it! I have a ‘winter’ version and now I need a summer one- you wax cloth enabler, you!

  9. I too love the dress, but like a number of others who have commented, I think the armholes should come in so that it shows a lot more shoulder. I’m a little out on the possibility of a solid top. If anything, for your shape, if you have a few scraps left, could you make a fitted band. It would elongate the bodice and give you more fit. It would also add length to the skirt so you might want to shorten the skirt if you do add the band at the waistline. Just some thought 🙂

  10. That print needs to be on a woman with darker coloring, other than that it is lovely. I agree with those who suggested a solid top so it does not detract from your face and then some killer jewelry could be worn in a solid color. Even on the model they have pulled the shoulder areas into her neck…see the wrinkles in the fabric? I’d wear the dress with pride and those great shoes with a very short bolero type sweater, even an open weave one just to break up that huge pattern. English summers don’t last t that long and a short cardi would extend the wearing season into Fall. We learn something on every garment…managing to cut out pieces from a 45″ wide fabric designed for a 60″ is a feat in itself…Great job!

  11. Love it Ruth… Just wear and enjoy! The fabric is totally fantastic! (Of course as you are fully aware, I have no real sense of style – just wear what feels good …. 😉 )

    Going to take a wander in that shop now! (I still haven’t finished my Ugandan fabric top – material bought 1999 and top started about a month ago… time to get it out and finished I think!)

  12. Well I’ll be honest, that dress is wearing YOU!
    I’m sure it is beautifully made (you would do no less) and your ability to get it out of narrow fabric is commendable but I think it needs to be made into something else like a skirt. I think your holiday plans include Salisbury not somewhere tropical so I can’t recommend it as a beach dress (sipping a lunchtime drink under an umbrella) either. Would it wait for a beach holiday ………

  13. Have to agree. The neckline is too wide, and the top makes you look stocky, which IMO you definitely are not. Love the colors, but maybe not yours? All in all a totally wearable dress, but you always look very upscale in your clothing, and this doesn’t. That said, wear it around and see what you think. Perhaps a similar print in blues and greens with a narrower neckline and cut in shoulders?

  14. I really like this dress AND the fabric on you. The part that is distracting is the shoulder area. If you look at the dress on the model, she has the same issue. I think it’s a pattern problem. That whole shoulder area needs to be narrowed. I’ll bet if it fit you around the shoulders, you would like it much better. Actually, I will probably put this pattern on my list, understanding that I’ll need to tackle the shoulder issue. Thanks for posting.

  15. Lovely sewing, as always, Ruth. Before I saw your dress, I noticed that in the photo on the pattern envelope, the shoulders/upper chest is quite wide. See the folds at upper center front and the width at the arm holes? So I think that the pattern has been designed to be quite wide in that area. Maybe that’s what your DH is referring to? On to the fabric. Swoon, oh so lovely. The fabric colors and print are great on you. The pattern envelope photo (again) looks like it was made in a very drapey fabric. Is your fabric drapey? I think it makes you look a little wider (overall) than you really are. But then, it truly might just be the photos. Still, it’s nicer than anything I have, so I’d wear it proudly! (If you just can’t do that with the dress as is, could you rework the neckline and possibly add a pleat at center front to narrow the neckline — and/or — lower the neckline?

  16. If you look at where the armholes come on the professional picture, I think you might figure out what is wrong. On the professional model they do not cover the hump at the tip of the shoulder, but fall just short of it. This is a much more flattering place to end the armhole. And, if you look at the sketch of the pattern, the shoulder of the dress is really quite narrow, also more flattering. If you recut the armholes so that they like before the rise of the tip of the shoulder, this alone will result in a narrower shoulder. I suspect you will probably have to redraw the whole armhole. Difficult to tell from the photo, but I suspect that might be a good thing as well.

  17. I have a different point of view, yes the shoulders could be shortened but what gets me is that your eyes have no wear to rest because it’s a very busy print. Personally I would add red trim/wide bias binding at the neckline, armholes and waistline. It would box the print in and give your eyes a place to rest.

    It is a pretty dress.

  18. I’d like it better (I think) if it were a solid color and the bodice more of a tank top. As others have said, bodice seems to wide at shoulders. I think the print is beautiful, but a bit too much for a dress with that much fabric. I have this pattern but have been reluctant to sew it as I’m concerned about the volume.

  19. I like it…a LOT, in fact.

  20. I like the dress a lot and it was a little surprising that your close ones discouraged you from wearing it. At your insistance, i looked closer, and yes it does seem like the bodice is off. It’s too wide for you in the shoulders, i think. And the neckline seems to be neither a boatneck or a scoop – it’s just floundering between one or the other.
    The fabric is so lively and my initial impression was the colors look great with your hair and eye color and complexion.
    But I would do the same thing you did – listen to people who care about me.
    I hope you sew it again, I think it’s a great style.

  21. I feel bad to comment when i myself don’t have a blog ,but here goes the angle of the pictures makes it look better than it is ,anyone looking face on to you would not see the great shoes but a large volume of fabric almost all the style details are lost in this print and the eye is not sure were to look you could carry off this style in a plain fabric no problem ,but this fabric should not be close to your face love your blog and all the tips you give

  22. I absolutely adore, love, this dress on you, Ruth! It is so fresh and fun. Just looks like you are enjoying yourself wearing it. The fabric is fab, the colors pop. It’s so interesting! So – if you like it, own it. If not, it can go the way of the Yeti…BTW, I think the pattern is wonderful, surely nothing old about it, quite chic.

  23. Firstly, love the dress, but I do think there are two things that could be more flattering. Beth at Sunny Gal Studios points out that wide shoulder straps are universally unflattering and she always reduces their width if needed. Also, I think the waist seaming is hitting you in the wrong place. If it was lower, it would hit you at your thinnest point. But these two suggestions are really picky points. It’s a great dress.

  24. I didn’t read through all the comments so i may be repeating something. i think it needs a dark belt to narrow in your waist. i love it, wear bold with a bold attitude and it’ll totally work.

  25. beautiful, youthful, well made and looks wonderful on you.

  26. I love this, and think some simple tweaks will fix it. Scoop the neckline a little lower, and pull the outside edge of the armholes inward. It’s a fabulous dress on you, just needs minor adjusting.

  27. You’ve gotten so much feedback that I almost hesitate to comment. But one thing that struck me hasn’t been mentioned (at least, I didn’t see it mentioned) and that is: the waist is slightly too high on you. This might have contributed to your DH’s “old” comment…many men don’t like that “baby-doll” style of the sixties and with the waist too high, perhaps he is getting that image in his mind.

    In any event, the pattern has possibilities and is a good look for you; lower the waist, narrow the chest width, and perhaps adjust the neckline up or down (as Robin said). But next time use a solid knit fabric. There is just too much of a good thing with this print.

    It also crossed my mind that you might want to replace this bodice with a solid one to “rescue” this…

  28. Hi Ruth! What an interesting discussion! When I first saw the dress on the dressform, I *loved* it. Then I saw it on you and… it’s off. The proportions are off. The top looks a bit chunky. Others have given you lots of suggestions and I am curious to see what you do with it. I have avoided this dress because I know that a high waisted, sleeveless bodice will not work on me. That’s why my version of this is a skirt. 🙂 It was so cool to see this design in a bold beautiful African print!

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  31. I don’t think it’s the pattern of the fabric, Ruth. I think the bodice is just too big and cumbersome for the skirt section. I think the bodice looks too big on the model on the pattern envelope, too. I have this pattern and intend to make it with major alterations to the bodice – much thinner straps, a slightly higher empire waist and a lower neckline. I also want to make mine longer, but I know that wasn’t possible with the amount of fabric you had. I think if you wanted to try those changes on this dress, it would be stunning on you.

  32. OMG! I love this dress! I want it! : )

    I would change nothing except to add a wide belt at the high waistline/empire waist, as others have mentioned. I think that for your figure, cinching the dress in to show shape (at that seamline) would be perfect. You could then leave the shoulder width as is, having created a high hourglass effect. Now you’re making me want to go back to Angela’s site (where I got my Dutch Wax fabric) and order just one more piece!

  33. Oh, and thank you for the shout out for and link to my Dutch Wax fabric circular skirt!


  34. You made the pattern already, yay! The reason i sent it to you is because i thought that skirt would look geat with your long legs, i’m happy to see i was right. I agree with the comments about the chunky top, so i can’t wait to see in your later blog posts how you’ve fixed it. As it is this dreess is already so close to being a stunner. I’m also reallly enjoying how you are embracing color and print more, go Ruth!

  35. Well I love it… I’m just about to make it..

  36. WOW! This dress is stunning..!!! I wish I could duplicate it. I am making it today in a ponte mustard yellow. . Thank you for sharing

  37. I think it looks great. I appreciate the comments on the pattern.

  38. I just happened upon this dress on Pinterest and usually don’t comment on blogs. I don’t know your usual style but I love this on you. The shoes just complete the outfit. It’s fun and edgy. I might add some funky jewelry. Sometimes people are just use to our “usual” and we need to mix it up a bit. If you like it and it’s comfortable just go for it!

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