I was captivated when I saw the Elysia Bow dress by Robert Woods from Katiemakesadress on Instagram and knew I had to made one up in Liberty. I choose two different shades of blue in Wiltshire and only used two fabrics instead of the recommended three as I had a vision of what I wanted. As it turns out the effect is subtle but I kind of like that. My next version would have more contrast.
Now this dress is not for the faint of heart. The short version has 108 pieces and a 8.5 mt hem whilst the extension has 148 pieces and an amazing 14.45 mt hem all by which I did by hand. I find it very meditative. Pop on a good pod cast (several years of Bang On) and I’m good to go for 10 hours or so.
I chose to sew the 14/16 based on my bust measurements. The pattern gives you the finished measurements for the garment and I went for the size that gave me about 10 cm of positive ease. I did have a bit of a freak out moment when sewing the front bodice and it looked tiny and I thought there was no way it was going to fit me and that all the sewing was going to be a waste of time but I trusted the measurements and I’m glad I did because it came up perfectly. Next I want to try the harness to pull it in a little and give it a bit more shaping.
The dress itself isn’t complex but requires precision cutting and sewing. I won’t say that all my seam lines match up perfectly, there are a few that are a couple of mm out, but it’s hard to obtain perfection when there are so many pattern pieces to line up over four seams. I tried basting the seam but found that just using a pin and sewing over it was just as effective.
For the dress I broke the cutting out of the pattern and the fabric and sewing down over a number of days as there is much work involved and overall it took me 7 days from start to finish.
I was in no rush to make this project so I took my time. Just for interests sake I thought I would keep a track of my time spent on the varying aspects.
Day one: 1 hour cutting out the pattern, 3 hours cutting out the fabric
Day two: 3 hours sewing front bodice and yoke
Day three 5.5 hours sewing back bodice, bias for neck, left sleeve sewn and attached to bodice
Day four: 5.5 hours right sleeve sewn and attached to bodice, sleeve bindings, first skirt tier (about an hour unpicking after sewing one of the pieces upside down!)
Day five: 6 hours tiers 2 and three attached to tier 1, tier 4 stitched together. Lots of unpicking on the 4th tier.
Day six: 2 hours 15 min sewing stitched on bottom tier of hem, attached skirt to bodice, button holes and buttons. 1 hour 15 min to pin hem 3 hours and 15 min to hand stitch hem.
Day 7: 3 hours 45 minutes to finish hand stitching hem.
So overall the sewing time was 22 hours 15 minutes to sew the dress and 8 hours to hem it. Not an insignificant amount of time. It was such an enjoyable sew though! The pattern was beautifully drafted and went together perfectly. It was like putting together a simple jigsaw puzzle that required attention but not so much that you couldn’t listen to a pod cast to keep yourself company. The instructions were really clear and when I had a question about the bias binding Roberts Wood got back to me really quickly.
My only comment is that this dress comes up quite short on this 6 foot tall lass so I need to wear a layer underneath to maintain modesty. I’m really glad they put out the extension pack that lengthens the dress by a decent amount and takes the dress to knee length for me. The volume of the skirt is not insignificant and makes for wonderful twirling of which I am a big fan.
I would say that although you could likely sew it faster than I did, having ME/CFS I pushed myself too hard when sewing this and had to spend several days on the couch resting to gain back my strength before cutting into my next one. I just found myself lost in the moment sewing the rows of patchwork. It was almost addictive seeing the rows come together. Such an enjoyable sew.
So much so that I immediately cut out my second Bow dress again in Liberty using the extension pack and love this one even more. See the next blog post for more details. I’d highly recommend this dress if you are looking for something a little different and that will hold your attention whilst you sew.
Pattern: Elysia Bow Dress by Roberts Wood
Fabric: Wiltshire tana lawn from the Strawberry Thief
Makeup: By Mecca
Shoes: From Scarlett Jones
Tights: By Wolford
Button Necklace: By Kirsty Sharp