What do you get when you cross a Tilly and the Buttons pattern with some Tilda fabric? A pretty awesome dress, actually.

Over to Louise....

My third White Tree Fabrics Make – The Tilly and the Buttons Francoise Dress

Hi there!  I am extremely happy and relieved to be able to show you my final version of the Tilly & the Buttons Francoise dress, made for the White Tree Fabrics blog team.  I have already shown you two previous versions, both essentially acting as toiles for this project. The first one was too small for my liking (even though it perhaps didn’t look small to anyone else) and the second one had something fishy going on at the back…something I thought might be improved by making a sway-back adjustment to the pattern.

For my third toile, I made a sway-back alteration of 1″, re-positioned the lower part of the back darts to line up better, reduced the centre back seam allowance at the very top by 1″, adjusted the facings to match and lengthened the dress by 2″.  It was not good.  The problem at the back seemed to have worsened, so I concluded that the sway back alteration needed increasing.  I made a fourth toile, this time increasing the sway back to 1.5″, and reducing the centre back seam only by 1/2″, and increasing the length of the dress by a further 2″.  It was AWFUL.  I threw away both the third and fourth toiles without taking photos.

I was feeling pretty depressed by this point.  I’ve been trying hard to find the motivation to sew as I mentioned in a previous blog post, and I felt like I had wasted effort and time (not to mention fabric!) trying to get this dress to work.  It enraged me.  This is a simple dress!  How simple could it get?  Why is it I can make a coat or a shirt but I can’t get a shift dress right?!

I decided to give it one last go, but this time I planned on keeping it simple.  I’ve been sewing for five years and I’ve never needed a sway-back alteration before, and it didn’t seem to be working now, so to hell with it.  I retraced the pattern, lengthened the dress by 4″ and took out 1/2″ at the centre back tapering to nothing.  And that’s all.  If there was going to be a bit of wrinkling over my bum then so be it, I was past caring!!!

Back when I first started planning this dress I wanted it to be a special Francoise.  I wanted it to be just that bit different.  I wanted it fully lined and I wanted the collar to also feature some lace.  I chose the Tilda fabric ‘Olivia Red for the main fabric, which I think is more pink in real life.  I chose to make the collar with contrasting plain cream cotton and an ivory lace overlay.  I chose a lovely premium’ viscose lining which feels far superior to the polyester linings I have used in the past – much softer and smoother.

I made the dress with the 3/4 length sleeves, but for the lining I followed the directions for the sleeveless version.  The lining is attached at the neckline (like the facing would have been) and it is sewn into the zip but otherwise it hangs free.  The armholes of the lining are finished with bias strips.

The lining - sewn into the CB zip
The lining – sewn into the CB zip

For the lace collar, I cut two layers of collar pieces, a layer of interfacing and a layer of lace and basted the lace onto the upper (outer?) collar before sewing.  I think it works quite well although maybe a heavier lace would have stood out more – I don’t know whether understated is better or worse in this case!

Lace collar
Lace collar

Making this dress has made me realise I’m not a fan of raglan sleeves.  They make my shoulders seem too rounded, I prefer the definition of the seam on a regular armscye.  I want to see where my shoulder stops and my arms begin because otherwise it feels as though my shoulders are slopping halfway down my arm.  I also think regular sleeves are easier to fit, even though they are (slightly) harder to sew.  The raglan seams wrinkle a bit on this dress and it’s probably down to my apparent lack of ability to sew well but whatever, I JUST DON’T LIKE THEM OKAY?!

The Francoise Dress - front view
The Francoise Dress – front view

Fit-wise, this dress is thankfully better than its four precedents: loose enough fit to be comfortable, and a better length.  The full lining is lovely, and means I’ll be able to wear it all year round over tights etc.  The back still needs work, but I’m not a complete glutton for punishment – Francoise and I are done!  One thing I noticed when I looked at a lot of other Francoise dresses with collars was that the collar pieces at the centre back seemed to be very far apart.  I bore this in mind when altering the dress so although I took out 1/2″ per side of the centre back neckline, I kept the original length of the collar pieces, hoping they would meet closer together at the back.  In hindsight, obviously I should have actually measured it, because there is still a pretty large gap between collar ends.  What is that about?!

Back view
The Francoise Dress – back view – with creases from when I had been sitting down!

Luckily the main fit issues and the gap in the collar are both at the back, and I can’t see the back when I’m wearing the dress so I’m not too fussed.  I like the dress from the front and I know I’m being about 1000% more critical than most other people would be anyway..…so this dress is going to get worn.  All that effort has to be worth something, right?!  Besides, I love the fabric!

The Francoise Dress
The Francoise Dress

Thank you to White Tree Fabrics who sent me the pattern, the Tilda fabric, the lining, the lace and the cotton – all beautifully packaged :-)

Last one!