When I went back to work after babies, a well-meaning female colleague gave me some working mother life advice. It’s all a bit of a blur (sleep etc), but was generally very Lean In: focus hard, don’t nod off in meetings, say smart things etc. Oh, and no more denim in the workplace if I wanted respect, she said. Time to dress up. Gulp.
My denim-love runs deep – it’s my neutral – so it’s not an easy habit to break. I tried my very best t rotating black trousers and pencil skirts for a couple of weeks until I ran out of outfits and the will to go on (sleep, remember). It was a big, fat fail. These days, while I try to minimise the jeans and smarten up my denims for work, my favourite fabric still makes it to the office most of the days that I do.
And so the denim dress. This one is the Celestial by new-ish Melbourne pattern player Pattern Fantastique. The pattern comes in four different lengths – maxi, midi, mini and micro mini/tunic – and although I think it’s safe to say the maxi is the hero, I chose the mini for winter. A warning if you’re tall: add a couple of inches to the length when you cut the mini – it’s almost indecently short (and a warning to my lazy, impatient self: TOILE! Try a TOILE! There’s a good rundown of the when, why and how of toiles at Tilly and the Buttons). Length aside, this dress is fun: it has cool winged sleeves that are a bit David Bowie, a bit Little House on the Prairie, and clever top stitching that you can contrast for extra interest. It’s loose without looking like a sack, and the pockets are deep and perfectly positioned. A couple of small details like bar tacks on pocket openings may stump beginner sewers, but overall it’s an easy make and the instructions are clear and well written. My one piece of advice would be pay extra attention to the instructions when it comes to getting the fit right on the yoke line – mine started out a bit tight across that bust seam and it really affects the hang of the dress (as you can see in the photos, it’s shorter at the front when I wear it). Time and a bit of stretching seem to have solved this problem but I may size up next time.
The fabric I used is Fukawara Denim, a Japanese cotton-linen-wool (wool!) blend from Merchant and Mills that’s beyond lovely. After it arrived in the post all sweetly wrapped and branded I spent a day patting it, then froze for weeks for fear of choosing the wrong pattern or somehow messing it up. I finally sliced into it and think the cloth works pretty well with the Celestial – it’s a decent weight so the dress hangs quite heavy, and it holds its shape as long as it’s ironed before wearing (it crushes a bit, that’s the linen doing what linen does). For denim obsessives Merchant and Mills is a good place to browse. The fabrics are dependably amazing, the denim and chambray range is semi-regularly updated and there’s a certain poetic touch in their product descriptions that I appreciate: ‘Battleship grey with a drop of blue’, ‘Indigo cotton warp with a Balwen British wool weft’ and ‘the cloth with the thousand colours’. I’ll take them all!
When I put this dress on for work a few Monday mornings back, one of the small sleep-stealers told me I looked like I was going to pick apples in a field. As I don’t work on a farm, I suspect my Celestial may not be the serious, promotion-inspiring dress I had hoped for, plus it’s probably too short for my workplace. But for downtime, nights out, fruit picking and impromptu Ziggy Stardust-themed karaoke performances? This is my dress.