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What i Made: One More Japanese Sewing Dress

mabel (3 of 8)

This is my favorite dress that I’ve made to date. I like it more than the dress I made for my friend’s wedding, more than the dress I made for my dad’s wedding, and more than the dress I made for… I like this dress, okay? So much that I’ve been wearing it over and over again. I gave a final press two Thursday’s ago and the following day, Friday, I showed it off at work. I wore it out to dinner that night, sushi, where I received a couple of comments on it (such a great feeling). I wore the dress Saturday as well and even though I didn’t go out that night, if I did, I would have worn it. That counts, right? On Sunday, I didn’t wear it to church, but I wore it to the grocery store, which is almost as ceremonious and ritual. Gotta look fab when picking out your meat, right? In between wearings, I fluffed up the dress by popping it in the dryer for about 5 minutes. Always does the job.

My me-mades are becoming simpler and simpler, and at the same time, they’re becoming more wearable. I was talking with a friend about fall and winter dressing and for the first time, I didn’t think about what I was going to buy but what I was going to make. Before, because my project were so grand, having a wardrobe where the bulk of it was me-made seemed impossible, but now it doesn’t. I’ve completed 6 garments since the beginning of August and come May, I hope that I can join everyone in the month long celebration of self stitched garments – Me-Made-May.

mabel (2 of 8)mabel (4 of 8)

I bought the fabric at Jomar, a local discount fabric warehouse where I never know what I’m getting. I had another printed fabric in hand when I spotted this on the designer clearance table, where precut fabric is sold as is. If 5 yards is there, then 5 yards is what you have to buy. I have reservations about buying from Jomar, it seems like a copout sort of thing for me to do and I feel like I should be buying fabric from local vendors on Philly’s Fabric Row, but you know what, I have found the best fabrics at Jomar. This fabric, a cotton (I did a burn test to confirm) with a quilting texture to it, cost $5 for 5 yards. Can you beat that? Oh, and it’s a vintage! Or at least that’s what they said.

The pattern was from Stylish Dress Book, the same book I used for my first and second Japanese dress. The dress is paneled and the original pattern called for a ruffle that was inserted at about chest level on the front princess seam and extended to the center back. Because I’m trying to sew garments that are more wearable, I nixed the ruffle and drafted a Peter Pan collar, which is the simplest thing to do (because Peter Pan collars don’t have a roll, you can trace the front and back neckline to draft the collar pattern). I shortened the length by 5 inches (so that it wouldn’t be dowdy) and reduced the across shoulders for a better fit (on sleeveless garments, I like the armhole to come in at the shoulder).

Don’t tell anyone, not a soul, but the trim on the collar is picot elastic! I intended to use for one of my undies, but it somehow got tossed onto this fabric and the two looked heavenly next to each other. Because of the stretch in the elastic, it shaped nicely around the collar’s curves.

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The neckline is finished by sandwiching the collar between the body and the self front facing, which was interfaced with lightweight fusible. I added a slit opened at the center front neck so that I could get in and out of the dress (there is no zipper). To finish the armhole, I used a new technique that I totally love and will definitely use in the future. I made 1 3/8” self bias binding, applied it to the wrong side first, then flipped it to the right side, and topstitched, leaving 3/8” raw. Technically, this is a Hong Kong finished but the application is reversed. Because the bias doesn’t fray, I’m not worried about it raveling. It’s a super cute detail that doesn’t look unfinished.

The best part about this dress? Towards the end of the project, I noticed that the dress wasn’t hanging right and it was tenting out more than I liked. It was a Friday night and I was feeling innovative (and frisky), so with Shakespeare in Love playing in the background, I made a strip of bias cut muslin that was the width of the bottom hem facing. Then, I sewed little pockets and inserted a penny in each to weigh down the hem (the pockets were placed so that they aligned with each panel seam). Six pennies later and this dress was worth a pretty penny!

You know those types of projects where everything comes together perfectly? This was one of those projects. Even though I’m unsure if I could top this one, I’m going to try. I will be making more of this dress!

mabel (1 of 8)


  1. Reply


    I love this! It looks so pretty. You can pull off this simple (but difficult to wear) shapes so well!

  2. Reply


    Very pretty, the trim on the collar was a genius idea!

  3. Reply

    erin goh

    Such a pretty dress, love the simple sillhouette and the collar with the dainty trim. Gotta go and see which ruffle dress from the book you modified.

  4. Reply

    Kirsty Bunfield

    I just adore this! I love the length and your styling with your boots. It is the best feeling to be so totally in love with a make.

  5. Reply


    Such a pretty dress. No wonder you have a major crush! I’m really interested in your bias binding technique for your armholes. I can’t quite picture it, where is the raw edge? And I just received my first Japanese sewing book, inspired by your makes. My turn next!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Sorry that I don’t have a clearer picture of the binding in the post. Here is a better image showing how I finished the armholes – the binding is “finished” on the interior and left raw on the exterior (I also overlapped the binding 1/2″ in front of the side seam to close it off).

      • Reply


        Oh that’s totally clear now, thanks Maddie. I like it a lot!

  6. Reply

    Amanda Adams

    This has such a lovely silhouette and the picot makes the sweetest touch. Easy to see why this frock is a fave!

  7. Reply

    Blogless Anna

    Oh my… that is one awesome dress Maddie. No wonder it’s your all time favourite. I’m surprised you didn’t wear it to bed! Beautifully styled, modeled and photographed.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      if the dress didn’t wrinkle easily, I would wear it to bed!

  8. Reply

    Claire (iwanttobeaturtle)

    What a great make! I can see why you have fallen completely for it. The trim on the collar is adorable.

  9. Reply

    Deanna Pryce

    Sweet! love the colour with your hair and skin tone!

  10. Reply


    What a sweet dress!! I love the tented shape – and what a clever fix with the pennies! I’m also loving all the pictures. Great work, Maddie!

  11. Reply


    What a beautiful dress! I can definitely see why you love it so much. And the deal that you got on that fabric is amazing. I think I might carry a fabric curse in which there are no good and affordable -or at least just good- fabric stores around me wherever I go.

    The trim around the collar was a great call! It adds interest and makes the collar stand out more. And if the lovely dress wasn’t enough already, the photos you took are stunning! The way the yellow pops from the green in the background, the creamy and beautiful natural lighting (I’m guessing this photo shoot took place during a golden hour?) and the little bokeh in the background reminds me of Christmas ♥

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      You’re spot on (as always) – these photos were taken at the golden hour.

      Don’t even get me started on Christmas. I’m getting excited!

  12. Reply

    Craft Sanctuary

    Love this on you! The pennies are such a good idea; I can really see the swing in the hem 🙂

  13. Reply


    Very cute! I love the collar and the neckline details, great job!

  14. Reply

    Alexandria Lightsey

    that street looks like the one Kathleen Kelly lives on!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Kathleen Kelly – one of my favorite characters

  15. Reply


    So sweet on you!! I love Stylish Dress Book, but I wouldn’t look half as good in this as you do!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Yes you would! Especially with that new cape you just made, which I love!

  16. Reply

    Carlee McTavish

    It looks so pretty on you Maddie. Really lovely.

  17. Reply


    It is definitely my favorite too! Yellow is your color, and I love that collar! You are inspiring me to use my Japanese patterns!

  18. Reply

    Sew Chic

    So Elegant. Simpy perfect 🙂

  19. Reply

    Jennifer @ Workroom Social

    So pretty! I have the Stylish Dress book too, but I haven’t pictured myself wearing any of the looks. Your makes are really inspiring me though. They look so cute on you!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I’m sure they would look just as good on you, even better probably!

  20. Reply

    Laura Doty

    The dress looks great on you, and I love your scrappy thinking with the pennies. You really are an inspiration. xoxo

  21. Reply

    Amanda Russell

    You totally suit these styles – I can live vicariously through you because they’d be a DISASTER on my frame LOL. You, however, look amazing, and I have serious boot envy also 😉

  22. Reply

    Leslie @ Dalena Vintage

    I really love that! You did a wonderful job on the dress and it looks fantastic on.

  23. Reply


    Oh my goodness me. You are rocking this dress lsy. Love the look on you!

  24. Reply


    Adorable! I love how it’s so loose and swingy. I have yet to make something from my Japanese sewing book : Feminine Wardrobe. Plans to make something for the autumn.

  25. Reply

    Bec Stitches

    So pretty:)

  26. Reply


    This is so cute! I love it on you!

  27. Reply


    Look at you, pretty girl! Great ensemble. I love the idea for pennies in the hem. I read about doing that on pants hems before and it’s genius! Five bucks for five yards–hard to pass up.

  28. Reply

    Latrice Smith

    You know when I visited Philly last month, my mother and I headed over to Fabric Row and I was super disappointed. All my favorite stores that closed down and the ones that had stuff left did not have anything interesting.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      There was a fire recently where one of the fabric stores burned down and I think that turned people away. It’s sad because it used to be a great spot!

  29. Reply


    I recently read that Chanel would sew chains into the hems of jackets to give them weight so they wouldn’t flop all over the place. After reading this, I couldn’t help but think of your dress and your innovative solution! I guess you could say, that great minds think alike! Great Job!

  30. Reply

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  31. Reply


    Heavenly! My handmades are becoming simpler, too. I’ve just bought The Stylish Dress book and Feminine Wardrobe and I’m looking forward to diving in! Did you sew the size they recommended? I’m afraid of sewing a huge dress!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      Yes, I made the recommended size! Good luck!

  32. Reply


    What a gorgeous dress, I love the peter pan collar. I have that book and have made quite a few dresses from the first Stylish Dress Book – but i was wondering which exact dress this is – is it Dress K in book 2? If so, i love the amendments you’ve made. I’m very bad at imagining how to switch things up to make them work better, but you’ve done a fabulous job.

  33. Reply

    Colla Flynn

    OMG I would wear a dress like this everyday if I could!

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