Pattern by: Tilly and the Buttons
With an awards event coming up in September, when I’ll have a six-month-size bump, I was looking around online for a ready-to-wear maternity evening dress. And while I found a few beautiful dresses, they were all way over budget for a dress I can all but guarantee I will only wear once. So I turned my mind to making something of my own.
I had sewn this pattern exactly a year ago, before I was pregnant. When I was desperate for a baby and it wasn’t my time yet, it was helpful to feel like I was proactively doing something. I couldn’t control the timing of if or when I would get pregnant, but I could get on with making maternity wear and buying small bits and pieces for a hypothetical future baby. Having no idea when I would actually end up pregnant, I made it in a bright summer-weight cotton; not exactly appropriate with my eventual winter/springtime bump! Despite the seasonal slip-up, I loved the pattern, which is why I thought of it when it came to making my awards outfit.
I usually wear a size 8 (a 2 in this pattern), but being an F-cup pre-pregnancy it was already a little on the tight side in the bodice. Worryingly, the bump space didn’t seem to have much room for a growing belly either! So in this new version I sized up a couple of numbers to a 12 (or 4 in this pattern), figuring I could always bring it in if it ended up too baggy.
The inspiration board
The look I was going for was a colour block, though it took me a while to figure out which colour combination I wanted – and I ended up spending a small fortune on four different satins while I kept changing my mind. Originally I had planned on a dusty pink with a navy blue, which I still think would look great. Who knows, I might make a post-pregnancy version!
In the end, though, I opted for a bolder red and pink clash, inspired by a few red carpet looks from the 2019 Golden Globes (I’m only two years late to the colour block party…)
Earlier this week I practiced sewing with some of that satin. The less said about that dress the better, though I did pick up some tips while making the epic monstrosity.
Preparing the pattern and fabric
First up, satin frays like crazy, so I took the time to overlock every edge of every pattern piece before going any further.
Around four hours in, when Liam did a Joe Lycett Sewing Bee-esque “Needles up, sewers, that’s your time!” I hadn’t got as far as step one in the instructions. Instead I’d been cutting out my copy shop-printed A0 pattern, cutting out the fabric, creating my own pattern pieces for sleeve and hem facings (more on that in a bit) and overlocking every piece. If I ever appeared on the Great British Sewing Bee, I’d be the one that never presents a finished garment…
A mini-disaster ensued when I spotted what looked like a pen mark on the sleeve – I have no idea where that came from! I had a go with water, then a dab of Vanish, knowing that the one thing everyone warns about sewing with satin is not to leave water marks on it. Eek. Ah well, at least it was the underside of the sleeve seam, so hopefully would be hidden under the arm.
Sewing it up
And finally I could get onto the instructions! I find Tilly and the Buttons instructions really clear and easy to follow, with simple text and accompanying photos.
I always struggle to make the outside edge of my neck facings neat. In the past I’ve been mostly happy with my garments, but felt the unprofessional neck facing lets them down. I really took my time over this one, clipping into the curves and stitching the edges down, but it still looks super shabby. All advice welcome, please!
Skipping the cuff tabs, buttons and cuffs saved me some time, though I probably used all that time and more on my facings.
When it came to inserting the elastic, I couldn’t be bothered to thread it through a channel. I’ve done that so many times, and it always drives me mad! So instead I sewed the two ends of the elastic together to create a circle, pinned it to the waist, then sewed up the channel (being sure not to catch the elastic). Much easier!
Sleeve and skirt facings
As I was using satin, I wanted a really sleek finish, without any top stitching on show. So I decided to come up with my own sleeve and hem facings, which I would then fix in place using iron-on adhesive (HeatnBond).
When it came to these facings I spent hours getting it right. I started by cutting out fabric 3 inches wide to the same length as the sleeves and skirt. Then I pressed each piece in half, lengthwise. I then sewed on these facings as you would normally.
I was a bit wary when it came to the iron-on adhesive, as I’ve had bad experiences with it before. Shrinking, hardening, bending, bubbling; there are many ways for it to go wrong. So this time I ran an experiment, testing out both regular weight and ‘lite’ HeatnBond on both my fabrics. I tested attaching rougher side to shiny side, as this is how the facing would sit.
According to the instructions, the ‘lite’ option is only supposed to be temporary, before you sew your final hem, while the regular one can be used in place of stitching. The trouble was that in my testing the regular one clearly showed through the fabric – especially the pale pink. So I decided to go with the ‘lite’ version, knowing I was only planning on wearing this maternity dress for one event and it likely wouldn’t need to survive the washing machine.
On my first go, I had overlocked the edges of the skirt (as mentioned above, to prevent fraying). But when it came to the attaching the iron-on adhesive, all the overlocking stitches showed through and made the satin lumpy.
It was a little frustrating, after all the time I had taken measuring, cutting, overlocking, ironing, understitching, attaching the adhesive, peeling off the top paper, and ironing it down again. But I couldn’t leave it as it was, so I I sheared the whole thing off, skirt hem, facing and all, and started again, this time omitting the overlocking.
In the end I was pretty satisfied with the facings. They’re definitely not perfect – you can see it through the fabric if you’re looking for it – but it’s good enough, and I still prefer the seam-free look over top-stitching on this dress.
I’m really happy with this dress, and can’t wait to wear it to the event. It’s still over two months away, so I have no idea what my body will look like by that point, and how well this will fit. At the moment it’s definitely quite roomy, but at least having the option to take it in is a better problem to have than it being too small!
Unfortunately the dusty pink doesn’t show up too well in the photo – the colour is much prettier and less metallic than this in real life, I promise!