Essential sewing keeping me clothed and sane

The Only Park Lane


DSCN7260A long, long time ago I bought a dress pattern from Merchant and Mills: the company started in 2010 and  I’ve a sneaking suspicion that I purchased the pattern not long afterwards. It is stored in a sturdy cardboard tube and the pattern pieces are equally sturdy manilla card that require weights and not pins to hold them to the fabric. It will last for years and years. I never made the dress. There were no pattern reviews, no Google images (apart from M&M’s, below); I was a little wary and then I lost the whole lot!

Quite recently I relocated The Park Lane and just happened to have a very fine windowpane wool that didn’t have a pattern partner, so the two were paired together.

The dress is simplicity itself: sheath style, shaped shoulders that elongate into short sleeves, funnel neck and comes with a tie belt, in-seam pockets. I don’t do belts on loose dresses as they create folds and gathers on my considerable sway back and looks terrible – belt was ditched. I ditched the pockets too because this fabric is practically transparent and the black lines of the window panes showed through to the right side.


However, without a belt the dress was even looser and, quite honestly, shapeless. There are two little dart/pleats at centre front which are relatively pointless – I added three more on each front, total of 8.


I get to keep the shift style but with the extra pleats I get a bit of shaping at the waist and creates some construction interest too.


I like this dress. It’s not weird, far-out dressing, just a classic shape with a wee bit of unusual that might make someone look twice – in a nice way!


I have a small dilemma that you, dear readers, can help and advise on. I made the dress straight from the pattern and this is the length (which I personally like).


Here it is pinned about 6″ shorter.

Which looks better?

It is difficult to raise one’s arms as the whole dress lifts up; I’m not planning on cleaning out the high kitchen cupboards so it’s not that much of a problem.


I went with matching the horizontal windowpanes. They match up (mostly) at centre back and side seams.


Merchant and Mills no longer sell this pattern and I’m truly wondering if this is the only one ever made – please let me know if you’ve made it too or know somebody who has.


Should I sew another one?



45 thoughts on “The Only Park Lane

  1. I’m going to say the shorter version – however since you are the one actually seeing it in real life , then you should go with your own instinct. It will be interesting to see if any other versions of the dress show up.

  2. Shorter. In fact, 2″ shorter still. I too bought a pattern from them some years back, and it still languishes in its tube…bloody expensive too! Mine’s the ‘Dea’ which I bought on impulse and then abandoned as I suspect it will be too sack-like on me…

  3. Beautiful dress on you. I like shorter. Both are lovely.

  4. I love the silhouette on you – but not the neckline/collar 🙂 The eye goes straight to it, and all those lovely pleat details take a back seat. Perhaps you can change the latter, a laid back collar or something. The length…well, I like them both! the shorter length is a little more ‘sprightly’, my favorite… The color is fantastic on you!

  5. The darting is, as you say, interesting and stylish and works well with the fabric design. Also like every one else I like you in a shorter skirt. You have nice legs and you are tall so why not – it is more youthful I think. I have never bought a pattern from this company but I wouldn’t be surprised if the designer has a straight figure as they seem to be made for this shape.

  6. Much better shorter!!!!

  7. I like the shorter length on you as well. It’s a dilemma though. I’ve just shortened just shortened a knit dress 2″ and I think it needs some more….

  8. Shorter, definitely. In fact, I agree with the first comment, about two inches shorter would be good 😊.

  9. I am going to stick my neck out and say leave it at the original length because the pattern is so big that if you shorten it it will not look as balanced. I definitely think you should make another one. Really sad to hear that the pattern is no longer available. I like it very much especially the neckline.

  10. Shorter. The dress would be lovely in Linen.

  11. I like it shorter – i think it balances out the high neckline. It looks lovely on you, very stylish in a classic way. And co-incidintelly I have this pattern too! I’m not stalking you honest. I bought it when we were on holiday near the bricks and mortar Merchant and Mills shop about 4 years ago and I was able to try on their shop sample. So yes, someone has made it up, erm. It’s still sitting waiting patiently in it’s tube, and I think I never made it up because it doesn’t fit in with my work life any more and I can’t think where I’d wear it. I have some linen I bought from there at the same time but I think it needs a crepe or something slightly heavy and drapey. Although I have a swayback too I thought it looked ok with the belt when I tried it on and I love the neckline.

  12. I like it shorter too. I haven’t seen this pattern anywhere.

  13. Oh, I seem out of kilter with most, as I prefer the longer length on you Ruth. You are tall enough, you can wear high or even higher heels. Most importantly I feel that shortening it to finish on the edge of the square isn’t quite right and so the longer kength gets my vote.

  14. Well, since you asked… I prefer the shorter version. I also love the ‘extra’ darts you added (great idea!). And since you opened the opinion door -might I suggest that adding a few small ones in the back might add a touch of shape without making it cling to your body.

  15. Thank You for the blog, very inspiring! I prefer the shorter version; as to the problem when lifting the arms, this occurs also with the camber dress, as I love the pattern (5 versions already finished) I am looking for alterations…

  16. Definately shorter. And I like the collar on you. Without the collar/neckline
    , it is just a dress.

  17. I like the shorter version on you as I think it shows off the pleating detail better–if that makes any sense whatsoever! This is lovely and I like the collar. I’ve purchased 2 M&M patterns and one I’ve made–a horrible sack like creation I abandoned and the other is still in the envelope yet to be sewn. I purchased mine from Fancy Tiger Crafts in Denver, Co. I really should pull out that pattern and use it!

  18. I much prefer the shorter length.

  19. NOT always, but THIS time, shorter!

  20. Yes definitely make again. I much prefer the shorter length. I’ve never heard of the pattern company.

  21. I made a muslin of this dress out of some appropriate, but ugly fabric. I can’t remember now if it was successful at all. I do remember it looked a bit dumpy on me, but I don’t remember if there were big fitting issues and that’s why I never pursued it further?
    I like what you’ve done with adding the shaping. That is really nice!
    I bought a bunch of their patterns when they first came out and I really like Top 64 and the Shirt Dress. I think I may still also have the Dea dress, too. I’ll have to look some time.

  22. Love the extra darts and definitely like the shorter length and personally, would go shorter still. Also like the suggestion of making darts in the back to give added shaping.

  23. That’s a lovely dress, the neckline and sleeves are fab. Don’t think I’ve seen anything like this before. Re the length, I like both!

  24. I like the darts! Keep those, for sure. I like both lengths – your proportions are good for either. The neckline is so unique…you may only want one dress with that style for each season.

  25. Love the shorter length but if you leave it long, I would open the side seams up to the hips and wear it over leggings as a tunic, that way the boxy look of the lines does not take over as strong squares. If the side seams are open, it also drapes better when you raise your arms.

  26. I like the longer length, but overall I think the shorter one looks better, more flattering.

  27. Short! Short! Shorter!!
    Love it 😍

  28. I’m with Maga – if you shorten it, it may look out of proportion due to the size of the check. Overall I love this dress on you- colour, pattern and really like the extra shaping you put into the pattern

  29. Definitely the shorter length. You could even go to just below the knee! How risqué! It would take 10 years of you, not that you’re not already youthful!

    I think your make looks better than the original. The extra darts are perfect.

  30. I like the shorter length on you.

  31. I like it longer Ruth- is more elegant and actually more modern.

  32. I think I would like it more in a solid color, maybe a nice linen (currently my answer to everything…..). Some how the big check makes me think of paper doll clothes?

    And you have such terrific legs, I would go with shorter……


  33. I love the extra shaping you added (auto-correct tried to turn “shaping” into “sagging”!), and vote that you make another. With a bit of shaping in the back it would look good with a belt as well.

  34. Love the darts, and I prefer the shorter length, and I think Coco and Mrs. Mole both have ideas that are worth considering.

  35. I prefer the longer length – more elegant, sophisticated — makes it a WOW garment instead of just a dress. I also like Mrs. Mole’s idea of opening up the side seams and wearing it as a tunic over leggings. The darts to shape it are perfect! Great save!!

  36. I liked both lengths. Why don’t you make the next one shorter? :0)

  37. Ooh nice. I like the longer length; it makes it a little different and it looks good on you. A lot of people couldn’t carry that off but you can!

    I’ve got a Merchant and Mills cardboard pattern lurking in its tube too! I really should make it up: I know I like the style because I tried on a sample dress when I bought it, at the Hay Festival of all places. It needs the right fabric though.

  38. Thought it looked good in the original length, but then seeing the shorter I think it’s nicer still.

  39. I like it longer – gives a retro vibe. But if you decide to go shorter, then just a bit shorter so you can see the top curve of your calf. Your adjustments work well.

  40. How many patterns never get made up? I wonder? Well done on making yours, and particularly with the ‘ no belt’ solution. I’m in the camp that prefers the shorter length. (But only if it will still be respectable when you raise your arms).

  41. I think length is always a personal choice but if I was making it I would do the shorter length. Long dresses make me look “stumpy”! I’m not tall. I think this dress is made by the choice of fabric. So if you ever find a suitable lovely fabric again, I’d go for it! Good idea with the waist pleats. They make the dress look better!

  42. Ruthie, I like the shorter length. Maybe not necessarily the 6 inches shorter, but how about 4? It looks a bit dowdy (you asked!) at the longer length, but it looks a bit more youthful/trendy/ jazzy? at a bit shorter length. As always, your sewing looks great!

  43. Pingback: Back to Black | corecouture

  44. Much shorter even, then it looks more 60s like and you have nice legs to carry it off . Do you know the blog Mad for Mod? She wears this type of style.

  45. I’ve wished many times that these early Mand M patterns were still available 😦 It’s gorgeous on you!

Let's talk.....

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s