I made my first version of this dress with some amazing deadstock gingham from New Craft House. I bought the last metre and hoped to squeeze a shirred dress out of it, but was overjoyed when New Craft House said they had a little extra which they included as a gift, so I ended up with 1.5m. I had a little left over to make a mask, and I also sent some to Amanda from I Can Make Shoes so her gingham shoe dreams could come true – and spoiler alert, the shoes are incredible.
All of that being said, I think I needed around 1.2m for the pink gingham dress which has a straight skirt – and 1.5m for my linen floral version which has the addition of a gather at the hem.
The great thing about this dress is that there is little to no wastage – everything is straight lines. I cut a piece for the main body of the dress which was my desired length, and the width was 1.5x my bust measurement. That gave me some leftovers from the side which I used for the straps.
The gingham version was very straightforward to sew – gingham is so good for garments with straight lines because it’s much easier to follow the lines and make sure everything is parallel. I won’t talk too much about the shirring because I’ve done that in previous posts, but my favourite resources for shirring are the By Hand London shirred dress tutorial on their Instagram highlights, and the YouTube by The Stitch Sisters which is great for troubleshooting issues.
For the straps, I wanted them to be quite thick and I left them long – I wasn’t sure about this at first but actually I really love it, just need to remember to move around if I’m in the sun to avoid tan lines!
The fabric was so lovely to work with, and it had this lovely frayed edge which I really wanted to keep – I made sure the dress was the right length before I hemmed the top and started shirring, so I could leave the hem raw. To stop it fraying any more, I sewed a straight line close to the fray.
For my second version, I used a beautiful cotton linen blend from Sew Me Sunshine. I used the same methods for this dress, but I decided to add a gather to the hem instead. The body of the dress was therefore a bit shorter and I actually measured the pink one as a guide. The body ended up being about 80cm and the gather is about 20cm.
I shared some of my process on Instagram, one of my favourite tips is overlocking the edge before hemming – I find this makes the fabric more stable and gets a nice clean edge. It’s especially effective on viscose, or anything more prone to fraying. Another tip I’ve seen is when overlocking small pieces, just carry on sewing and then cut them apart. This is another time saver that I really love.
In general this is a really straightforward sew once you have mastered shirring on your machine – I think the trickiest bit is just making sure the tension and stitch length works with your fabric.
Shirred dresses have been my go-to dresses for the summer. They are so easy to throw on and perfect for sitting down in. They also don’t really need ironing which is a huge win! Now looking forward to some Autumnal makes, and can’t wait for Summer to come back round so I can rediscover all the dresses I made this year in lockdown.