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Liberty of London Zoe Dress

Pattern: Zoe Dress by Schnittchen Patterns

Fabric: Liberty of London Tana Lawn

My thought process throughout making this dress certainly had its ups and downs, as the pattern I used had its…mysteries. This was the first time I sewed anything by Schnittchen Patterns, a German pattern company with some really lovely modern designs. I bought the German-language pattern as a PDF (I actually thought I was purchasing an English-translated one. Turns out only the pattern pieces were labelled in English), figuring that regardless of the language barrier, I could interpret the instructions, IKEA furniture-style. Well, this was the first time ever that I got a pattern with text-only instructions. Nevertheless, I figured I’d just follow the sew-along linked to somewhere on the website. Well, the link was broken, but using the magical powers of Google, I found it. By using Google Translate (which offered some laughable translations), the sew-along helped me enough to sew up the dress.

Something else mysterious about the pattern was that nowhere on the internet – not in Google searches in English or German, not on Instagram – did I find more than three photos of a finished dress. Two of them were posted by Schnittchen (one on the product page and one in the sew-along), and one of them was posted by Tassadit on her blog, Rue Des Renards.

Do people not make this dress? I scoured Instagram – first I tried the English hashtag, #zoedress – which was much too vague and gave me hundreds of children’s dresses. Then I tried in German – #kleidzoe – turns out there’s another German pattern company that has a “Zoe Dress”, because that’s all I saw. I didn’t find anything else. It surprised me, because it’s a nice enough dress, and it’s beautifully photographed on Schnittchen’s website.

But I didn’t let the lack of photos stop me, and I figured it would be a bit of an experiment. Of course, since I used the precious Liberty Tana Lawn that I bought at Liberty’s this past October (I was drawn to the little orange frogs and peaches!), I made a muslin first. I was a bit worried, because the shaping of the pattern looks pretty unusual (the centre back dips upwards and the back neckline is quite high, and the sleeve cap looked especially curvy) – but after making the muslin, the only change I made was adding a bit of ease at the side seams and centre back. The dress doesn’t have a lining, and I opted to pink the seams and bind the armholes with matching bias binding.

There were a few things in the actual pattern that bugged me, but they aren’t really problematic if you’re familiar with garment construction. One was that there weren’t notches in a lot of places that I felt needed them (in the waistband side seams, and the notches in the armscye are the same in front and back), so I had to add them myself. Another was the French cuffs on the sleeve – there was too much excess fabric in the sleeves to sew the cuffs down without puckers, so I just cut them off and hemmed them as I usually would. Not adding the collar was a personal choice, as I didn’t really feel it suited me.

Also, you can’t really see the pintucks because of how busy the print is, but the pintucks in the skirt don’t line up at the skirt side seams. I considered sewing the skirt pieces and then sewing the pintucks, but I decided to follow the sew-along’s instructions. Since my pintucks were folded just a few millimetres off, they don’t line up with each other (if you’re a perfectionist this would really bug you). Luckily, the print hides it and I can barely see the tucks in the first place. These are just little things you’d want to be careful with if you were sewing the dress in a solid colour, or if you’re a bit more nitpicky.

That said, I wouldn’t say the fabric I chose was the right choice for this sort of pattern. There are so many lovely little details that just get hidden in the print. I do love the print, so I’m still quite pleased with the dress, but I don’t think it was a match made in heaven.

The dress overall is quite well drafted, but I also don’t think that the shape of it suits me. It has quite a high waist, and together with the gathers, it’s a bit too “baby doll” for me. I like a dress that comes in at the waist. I considered lengthening the bodice so that it would fall at the waist, but the pattern was intended to be high-waisted, and I really wanted to give a different style a try. I probably wouldn’t make it again, but I would certainly recommend the pattern to someone who’s a fan of the high-waisted/empire look. Also, the neckline is really very high. I actually sewed the neckline facing 1/4″ deeper to make the neckline a bit more open – it didn’t require any adjustments, just a matter of sewing a 5/8″ seam allowance instead of the 3/8″ the pattern calls for.

In the end, it’s the beautiful Liberty fabric that makes this dress feel truly special, and despite the parts that aren’t just right, I’ll probably wear it quite a bit if (when?) the weather ever warms up.

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