This year I decided to make myself a ‘birthday dress’, as the start of what will hopefully be a new tradition. I’m not big on fancy party dresses though, so I wanted something I could wear year round, but that was still a little bit special…
I bought Breaking the Pattern as an early birthday present, so it seemed fitting to use a pattern from it. I’ve been leaning towards more minimalist, easy to wear clothes lately, and it’s full of styles like that. You could easily make a whole capsule wardrobe from it!
I’d seen the Sade tunic online, so I knew I wanted to make it even before purchasing the book. I found this lightweight cotton on the Merchant and Mills website; it’s quite similar to the fabric in the book but with a bit less drape. It’s hand-printed so it has a slightly irregular look, which I love.
The only thing I disliked about the pattern was the impractical vent at the front of the skirt- you have to wear leggings with it or else flash people each time there’s a slight breeze!
To make it more practical and allow me to wear it with bare legs, I widened the front skirt piece. In the original pattern you cut two front skirt pieces of different widths, but I cut two identical ones using my widened pattern piece. I can’t remember the exact amount I widened it by, but I measured it so (once hemmed) the edge of each piece would sit a couple of centimetres away from the side seams. I’m really pleased with how it turned out- the skirt still has a ‘wrap’ look, but at the same time is more modest.
I cut a straight size 6, and had to make a couple of fit adjustments: firstly, the bust darts sat in the wrong place, so I raised and shortened them. Secondly, there was some gaping at the front neckline and excess fabric all down the front, so I took a tuck out of the centre front bodice and out of the front skirt piece. Here’s what the toile looked like before I adjusted it:
Named patterns are drafted for tall women, so I was able to remove a ton of length from both the skirt and the sleeves. I was very happy about this, as it’s left me with an extra metre of fabric which I’m planning on making a Sade blouse out of! Although I did shorten it, I could definitely see the longer length working for a 1920s-style evening gown (perhaps in an emerald green?).
I know the waist sits lower on me than it does on the pattern models, but dropped waists are one of my favourite things, so I’m fine with that! I love how it creates that straight, tubular silhouette that’s so reminiscent of the ’20s.
A few reviews of Breaking the Pattern mention that the instructions are brief, and I also found this to be the case. You shouldn’t have any difficulty following them if you’re a confident beginner or above, but they might be too sparse for an absolute beginner. They’re similar to Big Four instructions, but with fewer illustrations. I also found a small error in the tunic instructions, where it tells you to hem the centre back skirt edges, whereas you really need to hem the centre front ones. It’s a very minor error though, and easy to spot, so it doesn’t really matter.
To make it more of a special dress, I used French seams. However, because the patterns in the book have 1cm seam allowances (something to be aware of, as it’s not made very clear) they’re tiny 5mm seams! So cute!
I also disliked the way the bias bound neckline looked, so I opted for a more discreet finish. I’m not actually sure what this is called… I think it’s either concealed bias binding or a bias facing? You decide.
I wore this dress on my birthday and I felt fantastic! I’m going to say it: this is my favourite thing I’ve ever made.
It combines everything I love about sewing: A beautiful finish on the inside, gorgeous fabric, perfect fit, and a slight ’20s vibe whilst still looking modern. Plus, when the wind blows, the sleeve vents feel amazing!
Pattern: Sade tunic from Breaking the Pattern
Size/Fit: I cut the size 6 and had to raise the bust darts and remove fabric from the centre front.
Fabric: Summer weight hand printed cotton from Merchant and Mills.
Sewing Time: I think I sewed mine in a day, I can’t really remember though. Mine took longer because of the french seams.
Quality of instructions: Fine, but not great for absolute beginners.
Difficulty: Pretty easy, as you’re mostly sewing straight lines.
Adjustments: Widening the front skirt piece to eliminate the vent, shortening the skirt and sleeves, plus the fit adjustments mentioned above.
Make again? Probably, as I have a feeling this dress will get a lot of wear! I think it could look really smart depending on your fabric choice, so I’m keeping it in mind if I need a special occasion dress.