A Denim Dress

Denim seems to be having a moment as apart from jeans and jackets, it appears to be the current choice of fabric for a range of garments including skirts, jumpsuits, blouses and especially dresses. To be fair denim is never really out of fashion but occasionally it raises its game and is used for clothes other than the humble pair of jeans.

Ready to wear denim dresses have been popping up all over social media feeds and so I thought maybe I should join in the craze and sew one myself. When I made this decision the sun was also shining brightly and images of lazy hot days floating around in feminine clothing came to mind but of course since that dream the weather has taken a turn for the worse and is decidedly unseasonable. In fact downright cold! Still not to mind as I now have a dress all ready for the return of the sun.

My first thought was to make the usual shirt/Wrangler jacket style dress. However I was noticing that elements like puffed sleeves were also being featured on the ready to wear models and I was reminded of a lovely frilled denim skirt I had way back when. So I decided to opt for a softer look for my denim dress.

I knew straight away which pattern I wanted to use. Style 109 in Burda World of Fashion Magazine from March 2007 has been one of my most favourite Burda designs ever. Over the years I have had so many plans to make the dress and have envisaged it in a variety of fabrics. So it was with great excitement that I was tracing off the pattern at long last. The pattern can also be used for two blouse designs in the magazine, one of which has a stand collar and I chose to use this on my dress rather than the turn down shirt style.

I also added a couple of inches to the depth of the frill to create a midi length. Although the cap sleeves are sweet I wanted a more current look and so substituted them with a deeper elbow length puffed sleeve which I drafted from a model in the July 1975 issue of Burda Moden. I loved that this added a genuine retro touch to the garment and feeds into that seventies feel so popular at the moment.

The denim I had chosen was a medium weight bought from Boyes a local chain of shops which have fantastic fabric and haberdashery departments at great value. I was torn between a light denim and a darker shade. Eventually I went for the darker shade as I thought the light colour might wash me out and I liked the darker denim ready to wear dresses I had been looking at.

The making up of the dress was not too complicated as the actual body of the dress does not have any shaping apart from bust darts. When I was tracing off the pattern I thought these looked a bit high and so it proved as I had to lower them by about an inch. I thought the frill would be a straight forward gather but the instructions are for actually creating 58 pleats in the fabric. Well I couldn’t be bothered to do all the pleating and thought this was a job for the Janome ruffler attachment machine foot. My first attempt ended up looking like a tutu. The fabric Burda use for the design in the magazine is very lightweight and so I decided that the medium weight denim needed some of the width of the frill removing. My second attempt proved ideal. For those of you who own a ruffler attachment the measurements I first used were 4mm every stitch (see below) but my final frill has a pleat depth of 4 mm spaced every six stitches apart.

When it came to the sleeve I had to remove about half an inch around the armscye as the bottom half of the armhole on the original cap sleeve is bound and fits close to the armpit. I needed to make more room for fitting the elbow length puff sleeve I was replacing it with. I was very pleased that the sleeve fitted well as you never know when you are swapping things around. My final dilemma was regarding the drawstring at the waist. I do like a drawstring but I felt the denim might stick out and not drape like the lightweight fabric used by Burda. Instead I have opted for a wide tie belt to cinch the waist.

Last summer I was a bit disappointed with the Vogue dress I made. I had high expectations and although I like it I know the fit is not what I was hoping for so I entered this project with trepidation but I need not have worried because I am more than pleased with the outcome. I chose a Burda size 38 (UK 12) cutting a size 36 (UK 10)around the neckline and collar where I prefer a close fit. I am very happy that I have finally made this style as I love the result and am now desperate for the warm weather to return so that I can debut it. It might look nice and sunny in the photograph below but I can confirm it was freezing standing in the garden in summer clothes!