From the moment that I got the Sew Over It PDF members email with the Penny Dress I knew that I had to make one. I’m a big shirt dress fan and wear my Sew Over It Vintage Shirt Dress all the time in the winter. I love the vintage style of the Penny Dress and also the relaxed comfort of the cap sleeves and elastic waist.
I cut out a size 8 on the top, grading out for a size 10 on the waist and hips and made no other adjustments. I always tend to fit the Sew Over It block well and have had very few fitting issues in the past.
I chose a viscose geometric print fabric from Minerva Crafts which was a dream to work with. It sews smoothly, doesn’t fray and presses beautifully. It’s also light enough to be cool when the sun does make a rare appearance. I fancied a striking print for this dress because there’s so much fabric in the skirt that it really shows it off. I also wanted to use a colour that wasn’t my usual blue – I found looking back at my Me Made May photos that a lot of my clothes are navy blue and it’s nice to mix things up a bit.
The dress has a midi length circle skirt and being a PDF only pattern that means that there’s a lot of pieces of paper to stick together. I would definitely recommend printing this one at the copyshop because it can become quite unruly. I normally don’t mind sticking A4 PDF patterns together, I do it in front of the TV of an evening, but once the pattern pieces get too big I have to move from the sofa to the sitting room floor!
I am a fairly experienced sewer and have made a lot of Sew Over It patterns, but I found this pattern slightly confusingly drafted. The skirt piece said “cut 1 pair on fold” which is a bit of a contradiction. Normally cutting one pair is cutting two pieces on a double thickness of fabric to get a mirror image and cutting on the fold gives one piece. The pattern said further along to match the side seams of the skirt to the side seams of the bodice, which then confused me even further! After scratching my head a bit and measuring the bottom of the bodice piece I worked out that it meant cut 1 on fold, which was a relief fabric wise! I also discovered that when I was sewing the instructions said to match notch on the front skirt to the front bodice, but there was no notch on the skirt pattern piece and there of course was only one side seam on the skirt to match too. The construction of the button band was also a little unclear, especially for any beginner sewers, as there was no guidance as to how much to turn the facing in by or where the collar should match up to.
Also, maybe this is my preference, but I would have preferred to have cut into the notch to create the sleeve hem before I overlocked the seam. Or even to have hemmed the bodice side seams first and then hemmed the sleeves, which would mean no snipping at all? Following the instructions means you end up cutting your overlocked edge and it’s not as neat or as sturdy as I would have liked. I’m not sure how it will fare after a few washes, but I might make that amendment on any future versions.
Other than those notes I found it all straight forward to sew up. I particularly liked the flat collar, narrow button band and elastic casing for the waist. I would definitely recommend pinning your button band together so that it’s lined up before doing the elastic casing. Although you have tacked it the elastic band is sewn higher and mine slipped slightly. It’s not the end of the world, but if you are a perfectionist like me I was cross with myself! Another tip would be to sew the elastic at the side seam after it’s enclosed so that it doesn’t flip around inside the casing. I found that mine kept getting twisted as I pulled it on and off.
I would recommend following the instructions when it says to leave your dress to hang for a few days before hemming. I left mine to hang on my dress form over the weekend and the back hem was dramatically longer than the front and sides! I don’t always find my dress form very useful, but for levelling out hems like this it is a total lifesaver. I spent a while on my knees measuring with a tape measure and sheering off excess fabric.
The buttons you use have to be tiny to fit on the narrow button band, which is great because it meant that I could use up some little vintage buttons from my Grandma’s button box. I am always looking for patterns with only a few buttons involved so that I can use them, because it always reminds me of her when I then wear the garment. I’ll have to make sure I wear the dress for her when I see her later in the summer!
I finished the dress a few weeks ago now, but the weather has been so grim in England that I’ve not had a chance to wear it until this week. It’s such a wonderful dress to wear – you can wear it dressed up with heels for a party or night out and wear it with sandals for a more casual everyday outfit. I am definitely going to make another version, perhaps a shirt or a thicker crepe version for autumn to wear with tights?
When I wore it for the first time I was obsessed with swishing the skirt – how have I survived with only one circle skirt in my wardrobe because frankly there’s nothing better than a dress that makes you feel like a million dollars!