I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the Park Lane dress as Nina wore one of her early samples to give a talk at the Sewing Weekender in August 2019. I loved the vintage nod and pretty details and was delighted when she confirmed it would be a future pattern release!
Image from @ninaleeloves instagram, photo by @janelookerphotography
I intended to wear mine to Cambs Frocktails, which has sadly now been postponed. I originally planned to make it in a Liberty tana lawn, but after looking through the #ParkLaneDress tag on Instagram, I decided it needed something with more drape. Plus, I didn’t want to be a crumpled mess by the time I got there!
I usually avoid polyester in favour of more eco-friendly fabric choices but I fell hard for this floral crepe from Escape and Create. Arguably, loving a fabric/garment and knowing that you will wear it over and over can make it a sustainable choice and I know I that will be the case for this dress! You can help to prevent microplastics and fibres from synthetic clothes getting into waterways by washing them in a Guppy Friend bag. Not an ad, I just think it’s a great product.
Anyway, back to the dress…
My measurements put me between a size 8 and 10 and went for a size 10. I find Nina’s sizing a little more generous than other indie patterns which turned out to be a massive blessing in disguise. Find out why later! I went for the mid-length sleeves and no optional collar or shoulder frill.
I toiled the bodice to check the fit on the shoulders as I almost always have to make a narrow shoulder adjustment. I started making this in February and actually can’t remember how big an adjustment I made! I believe it was 2cm, which is pretty standard for me. The only other changes I made at the cutting out stage were to shorten the skirt hem by 15cm (midi doesn’t work on me!) and I cut the back skirt on the fold. The dress has a side zip so I think the seam is only there to continue the bodice back seam, but I’m all for making my life easier. Don’t forget to remove the seam allowance from the centre back if you do the same!
Why, yes I DID (almost) pattern match by bodice centre back seam!
The crepe was a bit of a nightmare to cut as it slid around all over the place but I really took my time over it and thankfully there aren’t too many pieces. My trusty sewing assistant was also on hand to help out:
SO helpful, Luna
I don’t think I ever sew a pattern as per the instructions! I know it’s not the “done” thing, but I always sew my sleeves in flat, rather than in the round. It’s so much easier and there’s less chance of catching the wrong bit. I also stitched the cuffs seams in the ditch, rather than 2-3mm from the seam line, as suggested. Make sure you press the cuff seam allowance up by only 1cm, rather than 1.5cm if you do this too.
Aren't these sleeves an absolute dream?
As always, I used Made By Rae’s facing trick to get a lovely neat finish. I also sewed the back facing RST with the dress, rather than folding the facing under as Nina suggests. Of course I had to add one of my “this took ages” labels to the facing.
Mmm, look at that scrumptious neat facing!
This was the last garment I sewed on my trust Brother FS40 sewing machine and the overcasting stitch wasn’t really up to the task and I don’t have an overlocker. In my infinite wisdom, I decided to French seam the whole thing. The fabric is quite thick and the seams have ended up a little bulky in places, but I still think it was the right call. I wasn’t looking forward to working out how to add an invisible zip into a French seam but miraculously, I didn’t need it! I realised that I’d removed my toile without undoing the side seam pins, so I was cautiously optimistic that I wouldn’t need to include the zip. I did as much of the construction as I could and basted the side seam and thankfully, I was able to get it on and off. I assume that the dress is supposed to be a little more fitted at the waist, but I quite like the looser fit. More room for cake.
It's weirdly satisfying french seaming a sleeve!
I’ve never used a self-covered button before but I knew it would be the perfect finishing touch. It took me a couple of attempts to get it right and I had to interface my fabric and cut it slightly larger to stop it from fraying, but I absolutely love how it looks. I used these and they were so easy!
I trimmed an additional 9.5cm off when it was finished and I think it looks so cute as a mini! It’ll look great with black tights and boots in the Autumn/Winter and it’s just about long enough to wear without tights in the Spring/Summer. I knew the hem would end up too bulky if I double folded so I used a black satin bias tape from my stash to finish it off.
My favourite way to finish a hem
As I made quite a few tweaks, I thought it would be handy to list them all here:
- Used French Seams throughout
- Made By Rae’s facing trick
- Sewed facing RST and flipped
- 2cm narrow shoulder adjustment
- Omitted side zip
- Cut back skirt on the fold
- Inserted sleeves flat
- Stitched cuff seams in the ditch
- Shortened by 24.5cm in total
- Finished hem with bias tape
I cannot overstate how much I LOVE this dress, although you might’ve had an inkling if you follow me on Instagram as I’ve shared a lot of photos! I haven’t had a chance to wear it out of the house yet but I’ve been enjoying twirling around my living and garden in it. I’ve already got a second version planned in this Stoff & Stil double gauze. I haven’t tried the top version yet but I’ve seen some lovely ones on Instagram and can’t wait to try it.
I wore it for #VirtualFrockatils on 4th April
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