Hi all, I’m Marnae (aka goldenbear80) from the flickr group…and I feel totally humbled to be here today! I am a Veterinarian (grad of The Ohio State University…go Bucks!) but am currently a stay-at-home-mom to 4 children 7 and under and a 5th due at the beginning of January. I stay busy, but love to squeeze projects (sewing, cooking, crafting) in when I can. I didn’t start sewing until I was pregnant with my first, and have basically learned by trial and error. My blog (The Powell Family) is a way for me to document my families’ adventures…and share a bit of my creativity along the way. Please overlook my dark pictures (most were taken at night!) and my poor tutorial writing skills!!! I usually just make things up as I go along, and I have never written a tutorial before…so, apologizing aside, here we go….
I have loved the vibe of this Retro Bow J.Crew dress ever since I saw it a few weeks ago:
I love the portrait collar, clean A-line silhouette, pleats….and of course the subtle bow. I flip-flopped back and forth between this dress and a few other projects, not because I didn’t want to make this dress, but because I thought I may be biting of more than I could chew. And perhaps I have. But, I thought I’d give it a try anyway...and it turned out great! Let’s just hope I can explain how I made it well enough that you can give it a go too!
I chose to make this dress from a stretch poplin, and in a color that works for both winter (with an off-white sweater/shirt and silver/black shoes), or summer (no sweater and strappy sandals). But I think any fabric with some substance (i.e. corduroy, lightweight denim, sturdy cotton, or even some special occasion fabric- taffeta) would work great. You don’t want rayon type fabrics or anything too light, or the collar and bow won’t work as well...but don’t go overboard and use home-décor weight either. Just a nice, sturdy fabric that will give the dress some shape and definition.
I used approximately 1 ½ yards (54”) fabric to make a size 5-6. You will also need coordinating thread, 1 coordinating button and some elastic for the button closure. To finish the partial lining I also used some hem tape to cover the serged edge—other options include bias tape or simply turning the edge under and sewing to make a clean hem. Piping for the bottom section is optional.
Any basic A-line pattern will work for this dress. I opted to make my own pattern using a tank top that fits my daughter well.
In a nutshell, turn the shirt inside-out, fold in half, trace around the armhole and neckline (adding a ½” seam allowance), and then slightly extend the shirt out to create an A-line shape to the desired length, plus a seam allowance for the hem. I wanted a chunky hem, so I added on 2 inches. Refold the shirt (so now you are tracing the back neckline, armholes), and repeat, making sure that the back neckline is slightly higher than the front. Now that you have a basic pattern, we are going to modify it a bit. Add 2 inches to the FRONT CENTER FOLD ONLY, and extend the line all the way to the bottom of the dress. This will give you an extra 4 inches (when you unfold the fabric) to make your front pleats with. I also drew a line 6 inches up from the bottom on the front and back and drew a straight line across. This will be a separate pattern piece that you will reconnect to the dress. Make sure and add a ½” seam allowance to the bottom of the main dress piece and to the top of the bottom dress piece on both the front and the back (I usually just eyeball this as I am cutting out the dress). This dress is also partially lined, so we need to create bodice lining pieces. Simply trace over your front (***trace front without adding extra 2 inches to center fold***) and back dress pieces to about 2 inches below the armpit, and straight across the bodice of the dress. Whew, hard part is done.
1-front main dress piece (on the fold)
1- back main dress piece (on the fold)
1- front facing (on the fold)
1-back facing (on the fold)
1-bottom back piece (on the fold)
1-bottom front piece (on the fold)
***Use ½” seam unless instructed otherwise
Now for the fun part…
Let’s start with the 2 lining pieces. Serge/zig-zag across the bottom edge of the front and back lining pieces; this will stop the material from fraying. You can either leave as is, or cover the serged edge. I choose to cover the edge with some vintage hem tape that just happened to match perfectly to the dress. Simply lay the tape over the edge of the lining (on the right side) and sew along the top and bottom edges of the hem tape to secure. You could also sandwich the edge between some coordinating bias tape, or simply turn the edge under and sew to create a nice clean seam.
Take the front and back main pieces and pin the shoulders together WRONG SIDES facing. Now, pleat the front so that the front and back pieces match up and lay flat. You could do one box pleat in the center, or several pleats (I did three) along the front. I didn’t worry too much about measuring just made sure they were centered nicely and fairly evenly spaced. Pin your pleats where you want them, then unpin from the back piece at the shoulders and baste along the pleats to keep them in place during assembly.
Take the main front piece and sew to the bottom front piece right sides together (RST). Finish the seam (serge or zig-zag) and press seam towards the top of the dress. Topstitch ¼” (on the side closest to the top) from the seam. Repeat for back piece. This gives the illusion of piping…but real piping could also be inserted here if desired (I just didn’t have the right color and was too lazy to make any!!).
Sew front and back main pieces RST at the shoulder seam only, press open seams. Sew front and back lining pieces RST at shoulder seam, press open seams. Mark the center back of both the main back and lining back and draw a straight line approximately 4 ½” down. This will be the line for your back cutout for the button closure. (Ignore the keyhole marking and imagine a straight line down..I changed my mind and opted for a slit rather than a keyhole opening in the back)
Now…we need to make the bow piece and the 2 collar pieces. Cut out one 8”x 6” piece for the bow...or cut a rectangle to desired bow size.
(Note***If you are not using a stretch material, I would recommend cutting the collar pieces out on the bias. The bow does not need to be cut on the bias) For the collar pieces, measure from the center back to about 3 inches past the shoulder on one side (measurement 1), and then the center back over the other shoulder and around the neck to the 1st measured point on the front (measurement 2). Add about 2 inches to measurement 1 and 4 inches to measurement 2. Use your measurement 1 and 2 for the length of your strips, and 4” for the width. Please excuse my crude diagram...but I hope it helps!
My measurements ended up being:
Measurement Collar 1: 8”x4”
Measurement Collar 2: 14”x4”
To make the collar pieces, fold the strip over RST so that you have a 2” wide strip, iron in place. Sew the tube with a ¼” seam allowance, leaving one end open for turning. Clip corners and turn, making sure corners are pushed out well, press. To make the bow, fold the 8”x6” rectangle in half to make a 4”x 6” rectangle; press. Sew sides such that you have a hole in the middle of the long side for turning. Clip corners, turn, press. Sew opening closed (this will be hidden by the collar piece as long as you leave the hole in the middle).
Now get ready for lots of pinning! Make sure your main dress piece is right side out. Take one of your collar pieces and starting at the center back pin around the neckline in the back, over the shoulder and around the front neckline. Collar 1 should end maybe a 1/3 of the way around the front, collar 2 should butt right up against Collar 1. Have them meet at the neckline, then pin the tails away from the neckline (see photo as this is hard to explain!)
Now take the lining, turn it inside out and place it over the dress so that right sides are together. Match up the lining and the dress at the shoulders and center front and center back and pin, pin, pin!! Sew completely around the neck.
Fold a small piece of elastic/hairband (or whatever you want to make a loop out of!) and insert it in between the lining and the back main piece at the top (just below the neckline seam) and pin. (I forgot to do this, and ended up hand sewing mine on…so don’t make my mistake!) Making sure the front part of the dress is out of the way, sew around the line for the slit in the back (using a small stitch length), about 1/8” from the line, reinforcing the bottom of the slit. Make sure to sew through the lining back and the main back, sewing them together. Carefully cut down the line, taking care not to cut through your tight stitching line. Trim the neckline with pinking shears to reduce bulk. Turn the lining to the inside of the dress and press the neckline.
Top stitch around the neck (under the collar), and around the cut out in the back to help keep the lining in place.
Lay the dress out with the right side of the dress facing down and the right side of the lining facing out. Now we are ready to sew around the armholes to make a nice, partially lined, finished bodice. (Sorry I don’t have pictures of this part!!!) Take the edge of the one of the lining armholes and fold it over the entire dress (so now you see the wrong side of the lining). Continue folding it over the opposite armhole and around and underneath the dress to the main armhole of the dress(on the side you started from). Match up the lining of the armhole and the armhole of the main dress RST. Start by pinning the shoulder seams together, then work your way down either side of the armhole, essentially encasing the entire top of the dress within a tube. Sew along the outside edge of the armhole. Reach inside the tube and pull out the dress. And...you should have a nice finished armhole! Repeat for the other armhole. I learned this technique by watching Made by Rae’s awesome Washi Dress partial lining videos found here. Sewing the armholes is covered in Washi Dress Bodice lining part IV and V only.
Did you make it? Yea!! So now that you have a wonderful, professional looking bodice, we need to sew up the side seams. With the main dress RST, line up the side seams and sew from the bottom of the armpit to the bottom of the dress on both sides. Finish your seams and press. Not much left, just got to finish the collar, attach the bow and hem!
I like to leave the hemming until last, so let’s tackle the collar and the bow.
First, fold the collar over and press. Next take the bow rectangle and twist it so that it forms a bow shape; press it when you like how the folds lay. Set the bow aside.
As you look at the neckline, you should have 2 tails hanging down. Take the longer collar piece (collar 2) and extend it under collar one, along the neckline. Lay your bow over collar 2 and position as desired. Now take the loose end from collar 1 and wrap it around the middle of the bow, tucking it under the bow and pinning in place.
Mark the ends of both collar pieces (where you will tack them to the dress) and cut off the excess. Serge/zig zag the raw ends of the collar. Reposition the ends of the collar and the bow and hand sew in place.
Now sew a stunning button on the back to close the slit, and hem up your dress! I chose to hand stitch the hem in place (2 inch hem) so it didn’t distract from the detail (piping or topstitching on the bottom portion of the dress.)
I also added a belt to this dress, but honestly it was such a work in progress, I gave up trying to take pictures to explain. I basically made a tube with elastic threaded through one end, used a D-ring and Velcro to make it removable. Sounds so much simpler than when I actually made it!! But, you could just make a narrow belt that could be tied in the back, or even use a store bought skinny belt.
To make sure the belt stayed put, I sewed on some belt loops using 6-strand embroidery floss. Try the dress on your munchkin and mark where you would like the belt to rest at each side seam using a marking pen (or I just stuck a pin through).
Make a knot at the end of the floss and take a stitch into the finished seam on the inside of the dress.
Then, using your pin as a guide, poke the needle through the other side, make a loop, and come back through to the inside of the dress about an inch or so from the first hole. Tie off your thread in the seam. Repeat on the other side. DONE!!
Now, if you’ll bear with me, a few pictures of the munchkin
And just a few more….
Wow, sorry that was long. And wordy. Hopefully it can be of some use to someone out there!! Thanks for having me LiZ and Elizabeth. I have learned so much as I have attempted to sew along with the experts the past two seasons!