Fashion, sewing

Self-drafted spotty-dotty-stripy-pocket dress.

27 March, 2013

The rough sketch for the dress featuring wide gathered straps and wrap around pockets; and the front and back bodice as well as sleeve slopers on my patterned rug.

The rough sketch for the dress featuring wide gathered straps and wrap around pockets; and the front and back bodice as well as sleeve slopers on my patterned rug.

I’ve wanted to draft my own properly fitting sloper for a long time, and over the last five years I had a couple of good attempts but was always foiled by formulas that completely collapsed when you used larger measurements. Lots of people seem to use this bodice block method by gedwoods on BurdaStyle but I’ve tried it and a number of others like it and it always ended with a mighty weird looking block. My fat body seemed to explode every damn sloper method it came across.

Upon tracking down this front and back sloper method on I knew within ten minutes that I was on a winner! It took me a couple of hours to plot out all my measurements, then a further few days sewing up about five different muslins in order to tweak the fit (using Fit For Real People); but when I tried on that last muslin I broke out into fits of Elaine Benes-grade joyful dancing!

Inspired by this Modcloth dress, I came up with a design to suit me. The neckline and the wide straps could stay, but the gathered waist was banished in favour of an a-line skirt. I wanted to include pockets but felt like I could do better than simple patch pockets for this dress. One morning a copy of Metric Pattern Cutting for Women’s Wear mysteriously turned up at my place (thank YOU Poliana!) and after ecstatically thumbing the pages I came across some rad side pockets that wrapped around to the back skirt. Yep! Let’s do that!

Modelling my new handmade dress in navy polka dots with striped pocket lining at the hips.

Modelling my new handmade dress in navy polka dots with striped pocket lining at the hips.

The back of my polka dot dress.

The back of my polka dot dress.

For those who’ve experienced the joys and frustrations of the design process, we know that design outcomes very rarely turn out just exactly as they are conceived. It’s not actually a terrible thing, and often you can trip across beautiful solutions to the little problems that are posed across the process. It turned out that I didn’t have enough polka dot fabric to execute the pockets as planned, but I did find a navy striped material that would provide a smashing contrast at the hips.

I will be tweaking this pattern slightly – I will narrow the width of the neckline because the straps are set just a little too wide. I also need to remove a little fabric from the back bodice height because of my sway back. I could stand to bring in the waist a little but I’d rather be comfortable – this is a day dress just for wearing at home and doing little errands. It’s fully cotton and the bodice is lined (with the striped fabric!) so after a few washes I expect it to be soft and very easy to wear.

Hands on hips, looking very pleased with myself!

Hands on hips, looking very pleased with myself!

Pattern drafting is a skill I’ve long been mystified and entranced by. Taking the human body, a very complex set of bumps and curves, and mapping it in two dimensions is very cool to me. I love drawing, bringing lines and shapes together to make meaning, and pattern drafting is an extension of that. That I can take lines and shapes, transfer them to flat bits of fabric, then transform that flat fabric to garments that envelop my body and accompany me through periods of my life… it’s just a very profound thing to me.

And that’s the story of my spotty-dotty-stripy-pocket dress.
The End.

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  • badhedgehog

    Super dress, great pattern cutting, and I love the stripe pocket lining. Also, scarlet/vermilion lipstick FTW.

  • Great job, it’s so beautiful.
    It makes me feel sort of grinchy, and covetous, make me ALL the dresses!
    I’ve wanted to learn how to sew for the longest time.

  • Marina

    Wow, that turned out really well! Awesome work.

  • AllisonXX

    Amazing! You and the dress look gorgeous!

  • Smatsy

    That is FANTASTIC. I love your sewing posts! I am always inspired and impressed.

  • Jackie Brown

    Love the dress, looks awesome :)

  • Maggie Priest

    Fabulous dress! and thanks so much for talking about the slopers because I have been hunting for info about them and it was difficult finding specifics for my curvy self.

  • I admire you a lot right now Natalie. A lot. <3

  • Best best best! Love it and thank you for the pattern making links! I’ve been working from the shittiest old 70s book for my personal stuff (shop stuff is pretty straight forward thank gawd) and it is TORTUROUS.
    This dress looks lovely, fun and comfy. Awesome work.

  • Sarah

    You’ve really showed great tenacity figuring out how to do this and I, for one, am pretty amazed.

    Great job and you look fabulous in your creation:)

  • Craaap you are so talented.

  • Mandi

    beautiful dress!! love it!!

  • Great Job!!!!

  • remmerjay rabbit

    Looks great on you and thanks for including the url to madalynne :)

  • Hanne

    This is a beautiful dress and I’m super envious of your pattern making abilities. Also, I’ve missed you!

  • The madalynne posts were the first time I really felt like I was on to something! Definitely give her method a shot.

  • If you have access to a sewing machine, you should definitely have a go! It’s very rewarding to finish something and use it and feel good about making it!

  • Go forth and get yourself all sloped up!


    I was trying see if someone could teach me how to sew. I am trying to do my own outfits but have no idea how. If you could explain this would help a whole great deal. Nice dress you look beautiful in it.

  • you look beautiful with that dress.

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  • Diane

    You look very nice in that dress. I wish I knew how to make my own patterns. It is beautiful

  • you look so beautiful in this dress

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