First of the DIY Spring frocks

It’s been so long since I’ve made a dress like this, with a fitted bodice and a pleated skirt. The design is very similar to one of the first few dresses I ever designed and made from scratch. If I was still living in Australia, I’d probably still own those dresses, but the nature of moving overseas calls for ruthless culling and I’ll freely admit that I have a few small regrets.


To craft this pattern, I draped both a muslin and the fashion fabric directly onto my mannequin. I find draping gets the best fit for me through the bodice. I did a rough calico for the bodice, but draped the skirt fabric directly on the mannequin. The skirt is a very simple design, just two pleats and some whopping big side pockets.


Because this was the first fitted (woven) bodice I’ve designed or made for a long time, I chose to use an invisible zipper down the front of the dress. I actually quite like this style of fastening, but I had another sneaky reason for placing the zipper in the front. I didn’t sew a full muslin of the dress so I wasn’t fully confident that the bodice fit wouldn’t need a bit more tweaking. I knew it would fit well enough but I wanted the opportunity to aim for perfection, as well as be able to accurately adjust my pattern pieces for the future. I’m reasonably flexible, but there’s no way I can pin out a CB seam accurately on my own!

As it turned out, the fit was pretty good. I only needed to let the waist out by 0.5cm on each seam and this was easy to do by reducing the seam allowance at that point when inserting the zipper.




The fabric is a medium-heavy weight embroidered cotton. It has the most amazing texture and structure due to the black embroidery and it suits the design of the pleated skirt perfectly. You can see how the skirt holds it’s shape. I tried to be clever and freestyle a back cutout into the pattern once I’d already commenced sewing the bodice. However, I didn’t like the way the edges sat so I inserted some silk organza between the fabric and the lining. I probably could have used elastic along the cutout edges to bring them in towards the body instead of the organza. I’ll remember that next time.


Overall, I’m very happy with the fit and feel of this dress. It’s a simple, elegant design that I’ll get a lot of wear out of. I’m also happy to have a TNT fitted, princess-seamed bodice pattern in my arsenal. It’s been something I’ve been meaning to make for over a year now.



17 thoughts on “First of the DIY Spring frocks

  1. Niki

    I love the CF invisible zipper, I never would have thought of that and it looks so chic. Do you mind me asking where your bag is from?


    1. Debbie Iles Post author

      Thanks so much. The CF zipper is a hangover from my breastfeeding days when I had to make my dresses like this. Otherwise, I may not have considered it either. I picked the little bag up from an estate sale. It’s probably a good 50yrs old but in stunning condition.


  2. Sallie

    this is lovely! I love the fabric, and I actually really like the way the pattern works down the CF zip. The organza insert is also a really nice touch – adds a little something extra!


  3. Jillian - SewUnravelled

    Debbie, it’s so perfect. And I can’t believe how well you matched the pattern at the centre front combined with a zipper. I just don’t understand how to draft anything. But a fitted bodice, that’s even crazier xx


    1. Debbie Iles Post author

      Oh thank you Jillian! Pattern drafting is just a formula that you copy and draw up lines to – it’s the modifying after that point that hurts my head. But you know what, I draped this bodice on my mannequin – a lot easier on the brain – if you can pad out a mannequin to a similar size to you (my issue was finding one with an A-cup…) then it’s really easy (and visual for pattern shapes) – I can recommend a book if you want – if you can breeze through Japanese patterns, you can do anything ;-).


      1. Debbie Iles Post author

        Hahah! Don’t get too excited. Actually, the best one I had was a project runway one in Australia. It isn’t flash but yes, the bust was smallish as far as forms go – maybe not an A exactly, but I chose the smallest size form I could (narrow hips here but with a longer back length of course ;-)- so not the petite) and padded it out to fit my measurements. Once I padded out the tummy and chest a bit, the bust is smaller, and any extra size was ok for ease in my draping. I have a lot of trouble finding a full length version with small enough hips and bust – but once you find one a size down, they are super easy to pad out with hose and stuff.


  4. Pingback: White lace dress

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