Ladies Day at Royal Ascot continues to be one of the most anticipated events of the year for Mr H-L and myself, and The Dress is always much pondered over in the months running up to it.

Anyone who is a fan of My Fair Lady will remember Audrey Hepburn's character, Eliza Doolittle, looking very elegant in a black and white gown with matching hat.

This year, I decided to follow her lead and go full length, but in a softer colourway of navy and cream. 

After browsing through the numerous selection of Sewing Patterns at Minerva Crafts, I rather thought that this pattern by Burda Pattern fitted the bill quite well.

This was the dress I made last time we went to Ascot, and I would be wearing the same hat, shoes and handbag again.

So, the fabric and pattern along with all the lining, interfacing, thread and zip arrived in plenty of time as usual......and I left it until the DAY BEFORE to start sewing!!

In all fairness, we had just come back from a fortnight's holiday to the most manic ten days possible, so this was actually the only free day I had. 

Determined to get it finished in time, I started at 9.30am, straight after the school run.

I made the usual adjustments to the paper pattern before cutting out; shortening both the body and the skirt to accommodate my petite height, and adding an inch to the waistline.

After the darts, the first fun part was piecing together the blocks of colour that make up the front of the dress.

The pattern calls for stretch fabric, suggesting jersey as a possibility - not on my nelly! Luckily, Minerva stock the perfect Fabric in both navy and cream, which is a kind of suiting with a small amount of stretch which worked really well, giving the smarter appearance that I wanted.

With such obvious colour differences, matching up the seams was vital.

Then, when it came to inserting the zip, I had a moment of panic.

I had assumed the back of the dress mirrored the front and ordered a cream invisible zip. However, the back was full on navy and a cream zip would be bound to show, no matter how invisible it was supposed to be.

I rushed out to our local sewing shop and managed to get a navy replacement - phew! Ive included a navy blue one in my materials list for you!

The zip went in like a dream and was totally invisible (maybe the cream would have been ok after all?)

I've deliberately over-exposed these two photos so the detail shows up better. 

Here, you can see how important it is to match all the seams and dart lines to get a professional finish.

By mid afternoon I had completed the basic shell of the dress and it was beginning to look quite nice.

The lining was pretty much a carbon copy of the dress and the instructions literally said to "make as for dress".

The addition of a detachable peplum was one of the main reasons I chose this pattern and, for a less formal event, the dress could be worn on its own.

For Ascot, however, the peplum would be a lovely extra detail. Not only that, it would flare out at the hips giving the illusion of a smaller waist.

Although there is nothing in the instructions to press the pleats in down the full length of the peplum, I bit the bullet and spent the time to do so. I'm so glad I did, as the effect is unusual and quite eye catching.

The separate bow is stitched on to the centre front of the waistband, and the whole is fastened by a couple of poppas.

It was getting late now, about ten o'clock, and I was tempted for about a second or two to machine the hem so I could pack away and go to bed. You'll be relieved to hear that I pushed that thought to one side and herringbone-stitched the entire hem by hand for a couture finish.

The method of lining was such that the underarm seams were bound with lining cut on the bias. A technique that I hadn't used in quite the way before, but the instructions were easy to follow, other than one small point. It doesn't tell you to cut the respective pieces in cream for the front and navy for the back. Obvious once you try to put it together, but I will admit to cutting them out in navy at first.

One thing I didn't like (and actually was going to do it my way until I decided to foolishly follow the instructions) was to press the seams away from the sleeves. I was afraid that you would be able to see the construction through the pale fabric - and you can!

Fortunately, it doesn't notice too much in reality, but it's something I'd do differently if I made it again.

I ended up going to bed at midnight, after about twelve hours of sewing in total, and forgot to take a picture of the finished dress!

Here it is on my dressform after Ascot, hence the slightly crumpled, slightly champagne-stained appearance:)

Hubby took a couple of quick photos on the driveway as we were leaving.

I love the front of this dress and the way the wide hat brim balances out the peplum.

The design is really interesting from the back, too, which is unusual as it's normally all about the front.

Trying to get a nice photo with the husband - while our friend photobombs!

Finally, a half decent picture of us together!

Things I notice from this are that the belt on the peplum needs to be smaller to stop it dropping below the waist seam. Also, the dart points look like nipples poking out! 

Both things that could have been avoided if I wasn't in such a rush, so take heed, fellow sewers and give yourselves plenty of time.

All things considered, I was really pleased with this dress and I only wish I had an occassion to wear it again.

This is how the reality compared to the photo on the envelope. Always a useful comparison, I think, especially for those of us who fall outside of the model standard. I'm 5'2" and a UK size 14. The model is probably 5'8" and a UK size 8. 

Look out for another blog post over on my blog about our day at Ascot, where I'll show some of the fashions that we spotted on the day.