Saturday, 12 May 2012

The French Riviera Dress

I now have a Lonsdale dress! Here are some pictures of the finished dress.

I've called it the French Riviera dress as it reminds me of something Brigitte Bardot might have worn in the sixties. I googled “Brigitte Bardot gingham” and up came an image of the pink gingham dress she wore on her wedding day!

I had a choice of black, yellow or pink gingham. Pink is not usually my first choice of colour, particularly on a dress. I chose this fabric because it was far softer than the others. This is one of the few fabrics I have that I think may be a cotton or at least a cotton blend. It pressed beautifully and was lovely to sew although it frays a lot.

I mentioned in my muslin post that the only adjustments needed were to the hips and lower part of the skirt. I transferred these adjustments and tried on the muslin again. I was worried about the waistband. There was practically zero ease even before the waistband facing. The waistband didn't perfectly match the lower bodice and the bodice had to be eased into the waistband. I don't know if it is supposed to be like that or there's an error in the pattern piece. 

Rather than adjusting the pattern pieces and making another muslin I decided to cut the waistband a couple of inches bigger at each side so that I could match it exactly to the lower bodice rather than easing it in, starting from the centre and working outwards. After I had done this I cut off the excess waistband to match the centre back of the bodice.

I then decided to sew the dress with a 1 cm seam allowance instead of 1.5 cm. Below the hip I graded the seam allowance up to 1.5 cm as I sewed. I think I also kept 1.5 cm on the horizontal seams at the waistband. All this has resulted in a good fit with some ease around my waist area but a bit too big at the top of the bodice. I was going to correct this by doing something with elastic at the top sides of the bodice but I didn't think it was needed. I quite like the top part, and the less than perfect fit there adds to the casual look of the dress.

Here's a round up of everything else.

Lining, waistband and Zipper

The pink gingham was totally see through and so lining the skirt was necessary. I used a nice pink lining fabric that I bought in Autumn 2010. 

I didn't make the final decision on the lining until I had practically finished the dress. You just need to leave an inch or so of the bodice and waistband facing unit free from the zipper so that you can attach a lining to the lower waistband if you decide to. You can then attach that piece to the zipper after the lining is attached, at the same time you are attaching the lining to the zipper.

I didn't make up a new lining pattern piece for the skirt front. I just used the front skirt piece, which has the pocket area cut out, and chalked in the missing part straight onto the fabric.  I used the fashion fabric to line the bodice and the waistband.

I sewed the waistband and zipper differently to the pattern instructions. I used an invisible zipper and the pattern uses a normal zipper. The pattern calls for the bodice and facing to be joined at the centre back before sewing on the zipper. This would leave the back of the zipper exposed inside of the dress. I wanted the zipper enclosed like in an ordinary lined dress. I sewed the waistband to the bodice on the lining pieces separately. I used the same principles as for lining a shift dress which I have written about here. For the zipper area I used Kathleen Fansella's technique for attaching zippers to facings which I adapt to use for linings. I have linked her tutorial in my post here. There's a whole folding back thing that I don't fully understand but it works. Here is a close up of my invisible zipper.

I'm particularly pleased with how the top of the zip has come out. I wrote about some zipper tips in this post. I find it useful to machine baste in at the top of the zipper area the seam allowance and then around 3 mm or more below on each centre back. That way you can place your zip stop at the 3mm point on each side.

I always struggled to get the tops of my zips neat. Interfacing the zipper area and taking these steps before I start has improved the look of my zippers. I'm always apprehensive about zippers.  As I'm doing them I always thing they're going to look rubbish in that top corner. Once everything is turned through and pressed I'm always surprised by the results.

Stay Tape

Tasia recommends stay tape at the top of the bodice pieces on the Lonsdale which is a great idea. After they are sewn she sews the tape onto the seam allowance. I don't have stay tape and I didn't have enough twill tape so I decided to use interfacing. I placed the interfacing so that I would sew through it at the seam line rather than having it sewn above the seamline. This has turned out really well and results in a nice clean edge once pressed. I then under stitched the bodice facing.


As much as I love the straps tied into a bow on the dress I knew this would limit the wearability of the dress. I always need the option to throw on a cardigan or jacket and that wasn't going to happen with the bow. I waited until the last possible moment before marking how much of the strap I would actually need. When cutting out the bodice pieces I didn't need the whole strap but I cut off more than I knew I would need so that I could make the final decision later. I then sewed up the dress, skirt, including the zipper and bodice facing before joining of the straps. I did this after the skirt was joined so that I could see the whole look of the dress and how it would hang before finishing the straps.

The pattern pieces have markings for the placement of the fabric loops (which I omitted and placed the straps there instead). I used those markings and left a gap about 1 inch larger each side  at the top of the bodice. When I was sewing the bodice and facing at the top I had to stop at these points instead of joining it all in one like in the pattern instructions.

Once I was happy with the strap placement, after testing it with pins, I marked the point where the strap would be sewn to the bodice and then sewed it in place, joining up the 1 inch gaps either side at the same time. One thing I did which has worked well, is to fold the strap in half before sewing it in place. Here's a picture.


I interfaced my hem and was relieved to find that I was able to use the blind hem stitch on the machine. For the first time, I used a basting stitch 3.5 cm from the edge to reflect where the hem fold would be. The pattern says 2.5 cm but I wanted it slightly shorter. I didn't change the length of the skirt at all. As I'm tall, I think this skirt is supposed to be a lot longer. I'm happy with the length though. The basting stitches made it really easy to press up the hem. I usually chalk in the hemline. It's worth taking the extra effort to do the basting stitches. The only downside is that you have to remove the basting stitches. Something I haven't done yet!

The interfacing on the hem has changed the look of the skirt slightly. Maybe it doesn't hang as straight and gapes out slightly. I don't mind this and I'm sure after a few washes it will hang straighter.

All in all I love the Lonsdale dress. I will definitely be making another one. I only wish we had better weather so that I could wear this sort of dress more often!

I received my Cambie pattern yesterday. I've enjoyed seeing the different versions on the internet. I'm mulling over the idea of making some design alterations to the Cambie. It will definitely be an A-line version though and I love the skirt and bodice part of the pattern.

Happy sewing!


  1. This is so pretty! I love it! I like the change you made with the strap-- I like the bow, too, but it's kind of annoying when I need to put something over it.

    Looking forward to seeing your Cambie! It's such a sweet pattern!

  2. Ah thanks gingermakes! I had a look at your Lonsdale today - it's gorgeous - you should so include it in your Me Made month!

  3. This is so lovely, I think the pink gingham is a really sweet match for the dress. Thanks for going over your process :)

    1. Thanks Johanna! Gingham needs really good weather to wear outside though - I hope I manage to get some wear out of it this year.

  4. It's so pretty - I love the Lonsdale & am getting more tempted the more versions I see. I think the pink gingham is really summery & fresh, a great choice...

    1. Thanks Winnie. I've bought all Sewaholic patterns at the pre-sale so far - I think they're great, simple designs that seem to flatter everyone. You should definitely try it! Pink gingham is way outside my norm but I love it!