I planned this dress as an extra fun, novelty, birthday frock and it did not disappoint. In fact, it far surpassed my hopes of a special dress for the day! I’m not sure what makes a handmade garment perfect but all I know is, I’m never taking this dress off.

The pattern I used was Simplicity 8481, which is one I’ve had my eye on for a year or so. The dress design had lots of elements that I loved – button down shirt bodice, full pleated skirt and the clincher was the sailor collar. The pattern is designed primarily for a superhero dress up costume but there’s no reason why it couldn’t be made as a regular dress too.

For the fabric, I spent some time deciding whether to go classic nautical because of the sailor collar or whether that was too predictable. I knew I wanted some sort of fun pattern and I love novelty food prints so I searched the Minerva website and found this big, bold, sweetie jar print. I loved the jars, the stripes and the vibrant colours. The background stripes come in a couple of different colour-ways – pink, purple, lime green and black. This fabric had exactly the frivolous vibe I wanted for this dress.

This pattern is quite fabric hungry, mainly because of the skirt with its pleats which eat up more than 2 widths of fabric. This fabric has a directional print so I could only fit the pattern piece one way round, which didn’t accommodate the width of the skirt pieces. I could have split the skirt pieces and sewn the fabric pieces together to create the suggested width however I felt one width of fabric 45 ins) for the front and one for the back would be sufficient as it was only a few inches shorter than the pattern piece. This method meant I didn’t need to neaten any of the skirt edges because they were all selvedges!

This way of cutting the skirt of course meant I had to work out my own pleats as the ones marked on the pattern were not conducive to my narrower skirt. I started off working out my pleats very mathematically however this quickly went out the window and I just pleated by eye, pinning in place and then checking the fit. I ended up with 10 pleats on the front and 10 on the back with the folded edge of each pleat meeting the sewn line of the next. I pressed all the pleats to the left hand side as per the pattern but watch that your last pleat on the left hand edge doesn’t go over the edge of the fabric as it will get caught in your side zip.

Another slight change I made, which also had a knock-on effect to another part of the construction, was the zip. The dress calls for an invisible zip, however I’m working my way through my huge haberdashery stash of mostly vintage pieces so I used a metal dress zip instead. I installed it as a centred zip, which wasn’t really ideal because the front of the dress has a pocket attached so I had to break the topstitching at the top and bottom of the pocket so that the stitching wouldn’t get pulled and threads broken when the pocket was in use. The invisible zip would have avoided this although if you’re also using a normal dress zip you could try the lapped method with the flap coming forwards. That way the stitching on the pocket side would be very close to the edge so it wouldn’t hinder you using the pocket. The zip is under the arm so luckily not very noticeable even if it goes a bit off piste.

Apart from the fiddling around with the changes I made, I was pretty chuffed with how quickly the rest of the dress came together. I thought the collar/shirt bodice might be quite tricky but it was actually very straightforward and the pattern seemed to break it down really efficiently so I had it made up very quickly which always gives your sewjo a boost! Plus, would you look at how amazing these cake buttons are! They were a joy to sew onto this dress and look perfect – in colour and theme!

The unfinished length was to my mid calves but I felt that a shorter length suited this dress so I turned up a 5 inch hem and slip stitched it in place. The length now is just under the knee, which is perfectly balanced with the top and, I think, has a fun, vintage feel.

I’m so happy with how this dress looks and feels. It is exactly my style and I know I always seem to say this about new patterns I try, but I will definitely be making this one again!

Thanks for reading and happy sewing!