Couturier Sewing Class dress

Couturier Sewing Class dress

I was browsing through some Japanese pattern books looking for a dress to make the other day, and as I crossed off option after option in my head, it dawned on me that I’ve developed some very rigid ideas about what suits me (and what doesn’t). We all have our rules, our personal likes and dislikes and ideas about what looks best on us. But I realised as I crossed off options that day that my NO list is getting longer – so pattern hunting and fabric shopping is getting more difficult. Maybe it’s an age thing – is it inevitable that we just get more conservative and set in our ways as we get older?

I suspect it’s more than age. I’ve ranted here before about the clothing dos and don’ts that are imposed by society on women as we get older – but I feel like I also impose rules some pretty tough rules on myself. Some I’ve developed from learning over time what suits me. Some are for practical reasons. Others I suspect are confidence-related. And a couple are silly hangovers from a thoughtless comment that came at the wrong time (me, sensitive??).


Japanese pattern book


So here are just a few examples from my long list of styles and fabrics that I’ve labelled NO, along with the not-always-completely-rational reasons why they’re on that list:

– Fit and flare dresses (I don’t have enough going on bust-wise to balance them out);
– Halter necks or cutaway sleeves (scrawny shoulders);
– Anything with a scooped or low back (I burn easily);
– Autumnal and neutral colours (I wash out);
– Bold, primary colours, especially in prints (I get swamped easily);
– Two-piece bathers (babies);
– Culottes or flared, cropped pants (I’m tall so I look like a tall person who bought their pants too short).

And sack dresses. I don’t do one-piece sack dresses, because I think they make me look too shapeless (could it just be the name…?). Which is a bit of a shame, because I LOVE sack dresses on other people, and often those patterns are the first I gravitate to when I open a Japanese pattern book (and let’s face it – they’re full of them).

So I’ve admired this dress pattern, from Couturier Sewing Class, since I bought the book last year. I love the bow at the back of the neck. And the gentle curved shape. But because this shape is on my don’t list, I never considered trying it. Luckily our friend Justine is not so rule-bound and is happier to experiment with shapes and try new things (she is a true adventuress when it comes to Japanese pattern books). And luckily she’s happy to share her lovely makes here on our blog. Because seeing her black spotty dress, I’m very close to re-thinking my sack-ban. I just think this dress is really, really great.


Japanese pattern book - dress

Japanese pattern book


So, Justine’s make details: A fellow sufferer of 70s childhood needlecord nostalgia, she grabbed this black spotted cord from Miss Matatabi a while ago (sadly it all seems to be gone…). It’s a very fine weight cord, and Justine reckons it may have worked better with something gathered, but I disagree. However, she reports it does cling a bit to tights, so she’s thinking of retrofitting a lining to the body of the dress (don’t you hate that when you realise you need a lining after the make is done and dusted?).

Justine originally traced a size LL for this dress, based on measurements from the book, but then lined it up to compare with her normal Aeolian size and went down to an L – to avoid total sack territory (while still keeping that simple shape).


Japanese pattern book - dress


In terms of putting it together, the hardest part was the sleeve dart at shoulder – it took a few attempts (is there a trick to this we don’t know about?). Justine says the neckline definitely benefited from stay stitching (and how darn great is that cord bias, those diagonal lines are very pleasing indeed). She worried that the bow at the back with long tails is a bit girly, but it adds such a nice touch to a very plain dress, so I for one am glad it stayed. The pocket is an add-on, it started as a square but morphed into this very sweet curved version, courtesy of Klarissa’s patented dinner plate technique for tracing half circles.


Japanese pattern book - dress


It’s a simple dress in a simple shape but the texture of the fabric and those dots really lift it from ‘another black dress’ into something really quirky and unique and lovely. So lovely in fact, I want one. I’m going to ask Justine if I can try hers on, in the hope that I may just overcome my whole sack thing and make one of my own. Because while it’s nice to have your own style happening, it’s also good to occasionally question what informs that style, and all the baggage that comes along for the ride.  Even if you have to wait ‘til your friends do it first. Thanks Justine!


Japanese pattern book - dress

Japanese pattern book - dress

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  • I love that dress. Am definitely getting the book. And seeing the dress. I agree we all have restrictions and some are silly to others on what we do and don’t like. But that’s what shops are for! A kind of free try the style and colour before I invest my time and effort and put my personal spin on it. Needle cord love. How clever is that use of the stripes in the fabric around the neck! And I sooo agree about the tie at the back. Definitely pulls it into designer territory. But like Justine I find those ties a bit tricky for my psyche. I’m short and they just feel little girl to me when they are on my body. But I really think it was the right decision to leave it on. Fabulous:)

    • Thanks for your lovely comment Rebecca – I’d definitely recommend the book, there are about a dozen patterns in it that are on my project list! And thank you for reminding me to hit the shops occasionally and try stuff on. Because I sew most of my clothes now I forget to see what’s going on in retail, but it’s a great way to test new shapes…..

  • That is so chic! I love Japanese sewing books, mostly because I love the gorgeous photographs.

    • Thanks Carmen – aren’t the photos and styling in Japanese sewing books amazing? Only problem is I feel like I never look nearly as perfectly styled and whimsical in my Japanese makes… 🙁

  • Gosh, our lists have some similarities! With major exception being my absolute obsessions with bold coloured prints, and sack dresses obviously. I never ever considered a sack dress as something I would want to wear or that I’d feel attractive in. Then for some reason I made my first, and whilst at first it looked totally “muu muu” I quickly realised it needs to be balanced by a higher hemline and now me and sack, we be like BFFs. This is a great make and I definitely think the necktie works, especially with the dark fabric. I think you need to give sack a go. What’s the worst that can happen?

    • Interesting that you mention small changes can make a difference with sack dresses Jillian – it’s the length that often freaks me. I’m definitely going to go there. Also funny that our lists have lots of crossover, I’ve been surprised by some of your comments in the past about what you don’t think suits you…and seriously disagree! I reckon there’s some sort of online challenge in this: make and post an outfit that’s entirely on your ‘no way’ list – I bet the results would be surprising. x

  • How chic! And has Justine tried a slip underneath? I’ve got a couple of slinky knit slips and they’re fabulous for both fitted and looser frocks. No issues with tights and no need to faff with linings – whohoo! As for the List, yes I think trying on friends things is a great idea. Both Anna and I are always trying on things the other has made and we are often pleasantly surprised with how a pattern or style we’d never considered looks good on!

    • Ah the slip – good to remember Sarah. I have a few but always forget what a great an easy alternative they are to messing around with lining. Agree it’s a blessing to have a sewing buddy to cross-reference patterns with – Klarissa and I always end up thinking our makes look better on each other….

  • oh yes, the ‘no list’. Thankfully sack dresses aren’t on my list. This dress has just jump back into my queue.

  • Ohh, this is glorious! I also avoid sack dresses, yet this one is in my queue – LOVE the circles and needlecord!! Am about to tackle the top on the cover, and then the pants, the long cardigan, this…. I think I could sew from this book until summer 😉 – oh, and definitely sew bossy SewJillian, hmm… maybe I need a push 😉

  • Thinking of making this dress, and this post popped up in my searching 🙂 Not sure how this got labelled as a sack dress, though… not very sacky? The one in the book was made with a knit fabric, so interesting to see it in a woven. Looks fab 🙂

  • HI there, I have just bought one of these books. The garment construction will not be a problem, but I seem to be missing how to correspond the pattern pieces to the garment.
    could you help with this by any chance?