Updated: Jun 14
Paradise Patterns has developed a winning sundress pattern with the Hallon Dress. This is a free flowing loose fitting long maxi dress that offers a way to be stylish but cool during our hot summer months. Its the perfect dress to slip on to feel elegant, cool and chic.
I was hesitant at first to sew this dress because I wasn't sure about the really low back. I absolutely love the look but I grappled with whether it was too low for my comfort level, or was it that I felt it was too low for my "age". With everything that has happened lately on Instagram about florals and certain styles "aging" us, I thought deeply about what was holding me "back". I reached out to Sanna, the designer of this wonderful dress and owner of Paradise Patterns and asked her about adjusting the depth of the back scoop. She got back to me right away and gave me some suggestions, After studying some other Hallon Dress posts to #hallondress I convinced myself to give it a try. I was determined to find the happy medium between wanting a low back dress and feeling comfortable with wearing it... I would push my limits a little bit and risk putting my femininity, love of summer dresses over the fear of wearing fashion I sometimes feel less confident about because of my age and what I "should" do.
The first adjustment I needed to make to the pattern was to shorten the depth of the scoop in the back of the dress. As suggested in the pattern's instructions, I shortened the shoulder pieces at the front by 2". To further raise the line of the back I adjusted the scoop of the back by adding an additional 2" to the top of the curve to the pattern. This would increase the height of the back by 4' which should provide me with a little bit more coverage but not change the silhouette of the dress significantly. The pattern also explained that by having a tighter gather the back would also come up a bit more. With all of this in mind, I started sewing my dress.
The pattern instructions provided excellent directions for creating your dress with French seams. If you have never made something with this kind of seam, the directions are excellent and this is a great way to learn. I chose to finish my dress seams with regular seams and an overlocker. I wanted to preserve the drape without adding more layers to the seam allowance. Sewing the bodice together is very straightforward.
Once you get to binding the neckline and the armholes take your time and use plenty of pins. I believe that if you want something to have a polished finish, pinning and pressing are the two defining factors that will elevate the finish of any garment you sew.
If you have never made your own bias binding before this is a good time to try. All of the pattern pieces and instructions will guide you each step of the way. As I have used binding a lot, I choose to press the binding in half, then into the center and attach it. It is a sewing technique that I am very comfortable with and prefer. If you are making your own bias binding and want to save time ironing, simply use this Bias Binding kit and you can make reams of binding in literally a few minutes.
I attached both the front and back binding, making sure to press the binding flat, especially if you have a tight gather in the back. The next step is to add binding to the arm syce which extends to create the shoulder strap. This is outlined really well in the instructions and illustrations. I often need to take in the arm syce and shorten shoulder straps. If these are adjustments that you need to make I suggest basting one side of the binding to the arm holes first. Then try on the dress to see how the armholes lie and if they are positioned properly. The armhole gapped too much for me, so I took it in 1" under the arm by taking in the side seam and blending it into the bodice sideseam past the bustline. This allowed for a tighter arm loop and a better fit across my bust.
Since I took in the side seam to decrease the size of the armhole and I wanted to have shorter shoulder straps by 1", I needed to decrease the size of the arm binding by 2". I easily unpicked the basting stitches so I could reduced the size of the arm loop then sewed the binding loop back together and finished the binding. It is straight forward to do and the result is a perfectly fitted dress that stays on your shoulders and covers up what you want to cover. I am braving my back, but side boob was not something I wanted to share, especially as you can not wear a bra with this dress. I didn't lengthen the bodice of the dress, but I did add 3" to the ruffle. It was easier to add length there as you simply just add it on.
For a dress that I approached with some trepidation because I wasn't sure if I could wear the finished project outside of my home or be limited by wearing it by the pool, I am so pleased with the end result. Make sure your fabric is not sheer if you want to wear it as a dress, it needs to be heavy enough to give it weight across the bustline because you aren't wearing a bra. A small detailed, busier pattern also helps with this. The plainer your fabric, the less it disguises.
Once the dress was completed I didn't wait for a hot summer day to wear it. It can be styled with layers which makes it very versatile, you simply are not limited by sunny days.
I am thrilled with my dress - so much so that I will definitely make another one, I am already looking for a wonderful black on black fabric. I think it would be a smashing evening out dress with a statement necklace because after all...... there is Sew Much To Design.