Dressmaking, Handmade Wardrobe, Journal, Sewing

Sewing A ‘Knock Out’ Dress

When I came across Tilly and The Buttons patterns the Etta Dress jumped out at me, the lemon print on the sample and the elegant cut of the pattern truly make this dress, as the title of the online class suggests,  ‘a knock out’.    Like most beginner sewists, I was pretty set on making myself an occasion dress for my wardrobe, even though I wouldn’t get that much wear out of it day to day, I think wearing a dress that you’ve made yourself, that you know is fitted to your body, brings a whole new level of confidence for a special occasion.


As reward for teaching myself  to sew and for graduating from the Love at First Stitch Book, i bought this pattern and some coral stretch cotton fabric from Sew Over It to make a knock out dress to wear for a family wedding. It was going to be putting my newly acquired skills to good use as the pattern said ‘for a confident beginner’…eep!

Coral is not a colour I wear often, but last summer I picked up a linen coral dress on holiday and often get complimented on it. I had also tried to buy a Coral Bardot Dress in the Sale from Wallis last year, for another wedding, but it was out of stock in my size when it came to processing my order ( heartbreaking ) So I was pretty pleased that the end result was going to be a dress i’d been dreaming up for over a year (without the cold shoulders..win..win!)


Wallis Dress


I opted to make the capped sleeve version, with a a collar and without the pockets. It was the first time I made an official toille, I made it from some Calico I picked up in the sale at Abakhan and on the surface the  process sometimes seems labour intensive, I was really glad I did, because I needed to add some length to the body and the skirt, so it would fit perfectly on the bottom of the knee. The Calico didn’t have any stretch and when I pinned the back to wear I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to eat…or dance to much in the dress. But determined in my plans I set to cutting into the fabric…!


Constructing the bodice and the skirt was plain sailing, but I hit a road block trying to add the collar. I got cocky and skimmed through the instructions, because I felt I remembered what I was doing.,because I’d made a toille.,such a rookie error. So I attached the collar without the faced piece so had to go back and unpick it. I also had to unpick the zip because I didn’t have the interfacing for the back seams when I was making it, yes on a Friday night…so i just skipped that stage, but when I went to wear the dress..the invisible zip was visible, I think it was because of the stretch in the cotton. So I spent quite a bit of time unpicking, then interfaced and put the zip in again. I used an invisible zip foot, it was better, but still not great…so I sewed over the zip tape again with a normal zip foot. I made bias binding tape for the sleeves a first for me, with some help by watching Lauren from Gurthie & Ghani’s YouTube Tutorials.

Bias Binding

Honestly, I love it. I feel great in it and better still I am confident knowing no one else will be rocking up in the same frock as me, as I made it myself. When I tried it on I never wanted to take it off. I reckon it will be posh frocks and wellies when i’m out walking the dog.

I had bought some champagne coloured lining fabric to line the whole dress, but because of the heatwave I didn’t want to add a synthetic lining to a cotton dress on what could potentially be a very hot day in July.  The stretch in the cotton made this dress really comfortable to wear, even though it is fitted. The zip is still not perfect and because I didn’t have a coral zip, or couldn’t source one locally you can’t really hide any mistakes, but I had to let go of my perfectionism and remember firstly it was my first proper wearable dress and secondly no one else would give two hoots about my zip.


I plan on making this dress again, I want to try the long sleeved version, without the collar in a puppy tooth for winter, I think without the collar and dress it down for everyday. I also like the idea of an emerald green one, which would feel very Joan from Mad Men. If I was working in an office i’d probably make several versions of this dress and wear them on rotation because it’s smart, sophisticated and feminine.

Joan Mad Men

Thanks to Tilly and The Buttons for this knock out dress, I’m sure I will always hold a special place in my heart for Etta. Especially as I got a shout on Tilly and the Buttons instagram stories of a photo of me wearing this dress at a wedding.



All for now.

Claire & Co.





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