For a long time I’ve fantasized about being as effortlessly chic as the French, who seem to have the knack for making a sack look classy. As far as I can tell from careful study and Instagram stalking, the common denominator between the French women who look so cool on their way to buy the morning patisseries is linen. That gorgeous woman with the big sunglasses and great hair? Wearing linen trousers. The cute elfin teenager flouncing past you with a big handbag? Wearing an equally enormous linen ruffled dress.
With this in mind I am embarking during lockdown on a quest to Make More Stuff Out Of Linen with the hope French chic-ness will follow.
I bought this gorgeous mustard fabric in March 2019 in Dubai on a layover back from Melbourne. Whereas other people might beeline for the Burj on a 12 hour stopoff, I stayed in the Creek area with the express mission to take the public boat over the said creek to Dubai’s fabric souk, where I was in heaven. The fabrics there are gorgeous and if you can find a store not selling wholesale, you can banter down a real bargain. I got this particular linen blend for £3 a metre originally with a ruffle jumpsuit in mind like one I’d spotted in Sydney. Of course, it then languished in my stash while I deliberated over it.
However when issue 65 of Simply Sewing came out my French linen dreams were rejuvenated and I decided to give it a go. This is a simple pattern that only takes up about 1.5m for the short, short sleeved version (one of my big pet hates about magazine patterns is how outlandish their fabric recommendations are; this dress said 3m!)
I’d had my eye on a ‘going to market to buy cheese and look great doing it’ dress for a while and a loose linen dress had long been a staple on my ‘one day’ Pinterest boards, so I felt like this was the time to crack out the Dubai material!
This was a pretty simple pattern but I really took my time with it, enjoying the process of trying to keep it as neat as possible. I cut a size 12 as luckily the magazine’s patterns usually fit me well with no adjustments.
This was my first time trying princess seams and I was worried they’d look a bit weird on a plain fabric when I’m going for Effortlessly Cool. However by ironing them really carefully they lay really flat and still achieve the loose look I was going for.
It was also the first time I have overlocked my gathered edges and MY WHAT A DIFFERENCE IT MAKES. It completely smoothed out the gathers and I hand stitched them to the princess and side seams to hold them up, avoiding the maternity dress look that so often seems to happen to me with gathered skirts and prompt strangers to ask when I’m due (4 occasions and counting, rude).
My only adjustment was to add two large pockets because, let’s face it, pockets improve everything. I cut two rectangles and folded down one short edge and sewed down from the fold to the edge. I then turned out the corners and pressed, then folded up and pressed the button. I then edge stitched the pockets onto the dress so that they’re tidy on the inside but not too bulky.
At first I wasn’t super chuffed with the outcome of this dress. I’m quite self conscious of my tum so would normally avoid anything flaring out from the waist area as much as this. However, after flouncing around Liverpool’s Georgian Quarter on our daily walk in it and wearing it around the house, this dress is Comfy AF and I love it. I’m already planning a couple of others in perhaps a ditsy floral print and the 3/4 sleeve view as well. For someone like me at the intermediate stage of sewing and still building confidence, magazine patterns are still a good way to receive new ideas every month and challenge your skills alongside the more refined indie patterns.