OMG I think I’ve found my most perfect favourite pattern EVER… well until something else catches my eye bien sûr…
Welcome to The Portlandia dress. Why Portlandia? Because it’s got a bird on it!
This pattern was uber easy to put together, but I must quote Roisin here – ‘once you get over the needlessly baffling instructions’ (have you seen Roisin’s version? Gorgeous!). Basically Pattern Runway split out every bit of the dress and then give you yardage for each section so for maths durrs like me it was impossible to try and work out how much actual bladdy fabric I needed. Cue lots of cantering from sewing room to sewing table, arms filled with fabric, excitement turning to disappointment and a certain amount of mewling (yes I mewl, don’t you?) when I would realise that successive fabrics which would have been just perfect, weren’t sufficient enough to the task.
I’ve worn this dress all day without the petticoat – not too creased eh?
But not my ‘Put a bird on it!’ fabric, hooray. Three metres was just enough to squeeze a dress out of.
A lot of fabric goes into this skirt, and unfortunately the folded fabric was too narrow for the skirt pattern pieces, so I had to cut two identical lengths of fabric, place them right sides together and cut out the skirt pieces separately.
I used two pieces roughly 125 cms in length for the skirt, facings and sleeves and I was left with about 50 cms left for the bodice so I did that double fold thing, you know, where you have the fabric folding in on either side to the centre. Psst, I actually have a bit of selvedge in my seam allowance on the centre back bodice – it was that tight.
The obligatory cat photo
Pattern fit and adjustments
Anyway – on to the actual pattern! I cut out a size 12 exactly as was on the pattern after flat-measuring the pattern pieces, adding ease and subtracting seam allowance. It’s almost spot on but there will be some adjustments to make. I’m going to remove an inch or so from the neckline front and probably two inches from the back. This will neaten the shoulders and stop that dreaded bra strap from showing as well as removing any gaping at the back neck. I’m really happy with the waist – it has just enough ease to be comfortable but not so much it looks cinched in when I wear a belt.
New skillz learned
The double darts in the bodice are a first – I love how they pull the bodice in so elegantly. But this is such a simple dress there really are no special skills required to complete it. It would be a great project for a beginner.
I really made an effort to finish the seams nicely on this dress so everything is French seamed with the exception of the armscye seams and the bit of seam allowance under the zipper – I’ll try and work out a good way to do that for the next version but I find sleeves and zippers stressful enough without trying to French seam them! It was a little daunting at first but the effect was so lovely and neat.
The inside with french seams
For those who don’t know what a French seam is – it’s basically enclosing the raw edges within your seams. Here’s how to do it.
1. With wrong side to wrong side (I know, weird innit) sew a 1/4″ seam allowance. Trim the allowance to about 1/8″. Press the seam both sides.
2. Now turn the edges right side to right side (like how you’d normally sew a seam) and sew a 3/8″ seam allowance, thus enclosing that previous seam within your new seam and hiding any nasty raw edges. Press as usual and marvel at your gorgeous 5/8″ neat seams, sans overlocker! Please note if your seams are supposed to be 1/2″ or otherwise you may have to revisit the maths.
This particular pattern is perfect to try the technique with, as rather bizarrely it encourages you to attach front bodice to front skirt and back bodice to back skirt before you sew the side seams.
Will you make this dress again?
There will be many versions of this dress I suspect. I really liked the stand up collar that’s included in the pattern but my next version will probably have a self drafted contrast Peter Pan collar and probably be lined. I’m thinking something in navy blue with a cute design (maybe even polka dots!), a white peter pan collar, piped sleeve cuffs and perhaps a slightly shorter skirt. Another silky evening version might have 3/4 length sleeves and a matching belt. Oooh the possibilities. You could even draft your own skirt – the bodice would look very slinky atop a wiggle skirt. It would also be really interesting as a fine wool knit for winter.
How much did it cost?
Fabric – 3 metres at £3 a metre
Zipper – from stash but let’s say £1.50
Pattern – £6 including delivery.
Thread – from stash but let’s say £2
Interfacing – from stash but let’s say about £1
Total cost: £19.50
How long did it take?
I cut everything out in a couple of hours on Friday night, spent about three hours in total on it on Saturday and another three hours on Sunday so approximately 8 hours.
Anything to add?
Did I mention I love this pattern?