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What i Made: A Japanese Sewing Dress


Several months away from my sewing machine (due to other projects) and my sewing mojo was through the roof. When life allowed me to get back to sewing, it was a guarantee that the first thing I stitched was made with lace, ruffles, or both. Okay, I lied, the first thing I sewed was velvet but the project I made using that fabric will debut very shortly (it’s something that is worn underneath clothing!).

Ever since I was exposed to the world of patternmaking in school and in technical design, I’ve drafted most of my patterns. There’s definitely a sense of accomplishment when you draft a pattern but recently, the allure of buying one has been too hard to resist. A simile I used to explain my case to Marci – if someone brings you a loaf of bread or a batch of cookies, are you going to make your own? No! You’re going to eat carbs and sugar. Together! Laurence King Publishing contacted me just at the right moment. I had a craving for something sweet and they had something sweet for me – copies of three Japanese sewing books which were complete with patterns.


The first dress I chose to make was from Stylish Dress Books – style B, which is a simple shift dress. Patterns for all the styles are printed on one page (front and back), which made it a challenge to copy and cut the pattern. The instructions and pattern called for short sleeves and a petticoat, but I eliminated the petticoat and replace the short sleeves with a cap sleeve (I don’t even know if they can be called sleeves they’re so small). The front and back are 2 ply (2 layers of fabric) and the top ply (exterior) is lace that I bought in NYC and the bottom ply (interior) is a printed cotton. The body fabrics are wrong sides together so that the print on the cotton would be visible on the interior of the garment. All seams as well as the armhole are bound with ¼” polka dotted bias binding (so cute!). The bottom edge of the neck facing, which is 2 ply just like the body fabric (I chose not to interface because it had enough structure), is finished also finished with ¼” binding but unlike the one at the armhole and seams, it was a different print and had a picot edge (also so cute!). The bottom ruffle was a trim that I bought in NYC (I did not make the ruffle). Other details of the dress include a bust dart and a shoulder dart.

Even though I love this dress, I’m a little hesitant to show it off. Here’s something funny about me – as much as I post tutorials and lessons about how to achieve the perfect fit, most of my closet is filled with anti-fit clothing. Boxy, oversized, maxi, relaxed, and boyfriend are terms that could definitely be used to describe the way I dress on a day to day basis. But as Natasha, one of my commenters pointed out, it’s sometimes more difficult to make a well-fitted boxy garment than it is a form-fitted one. For this dress, that definitely applies. It’s a sheath that hangs from the shoulders but the challenge was that the balance of the armhole – it had to be spot on because if not, the side seams would swing forwards/backwards and the dress would hike up in the front/back. I paid attention to this when I was fitting/sewing the dress and although I had to make a few minor alterations (I didn’t make a muslin), none threw off the balance.

*from the photos, it looks like the armhole is too high and the front neck needs to be darted out but I blame it on my posture/stance. When I’m not twisted or holding flowers, the armhole is in the right position and the neck lays flat.*


Another one of my readers made a comment that made me realize why I really like these Japanese sewing books so much and will be the reason I make more garments from them (I’ve already cut the fabric for another dress – it’s a jumper!). As Florence wrote, “ Finding Japanese pattern books was a happy moment for me – their patterns tend to be cut for petite proportions and tend to sew up perfectly for me (I’m 5ft1). I’d love to get some Japanese slopers but have never seen any.” Florence, you’re so right!


This dress came together quickly and easily. On the next one, because I will be making another, I will reduce the neck width. It’s a little wide for this dress. If it is a sack from the shoulder down, I at least want the fit to be perfect-o at the neck and armhole. The only thing I am unhappy with is the bias binding at the armhole and the cap sleeves. I attached the binding and then turned it back and topstitched ¼” from the edge. Even though I clipped the seam allowances of the armhole before I turned back the binding a second time, the armhole looks just a little strained. There are no signs of stress but the fabric looks “tight” in that area, like it needs to relax ever so slightly. Also, the cap sleeves are 2 ply (2 layers of fabric) with the top ply interfaced with a lightweight fusible. When I attached the sleeves to the armhole, everything laid flat, but when I pressed it, using steam, it puckered up. Any tips?


  1. Reply

    Natasha Estrada

    I think it looks fine. Maybe your thread shrunk or maybe the stitching line just nestled in. The other alternative would have been to understitch not topstitch and then maybe used a smidge of fusible webbing to keep it in place

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I agree that either the tread shrunk or the interfacing came off, but it’s hardly noticeable when worn. It’s my OCD coming out – my need for perfection!

      • Reply


        i just ran into the same problem with binding– and i understitched, but it still came out a bit tight! not noticeable to the eye tight, just enough to be ANNOYING…

        i’m in love with that hem.

  2. Reply

    Sassy T

    Love seeing Japanese creationss they have a simple elegance I just adore. https://www.facebook.com/SassySewingBees

    • Reply

      Sassy T

      Excuse the typo lol

  3. Reply


    Lovely dress! I’d love to try a Japanese sewing pattern in the future, they look so cute & cozy 🙂
    It’s possible the steam caused the fusible interfacing to unglue & that’s why it puckered.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I think the steam was the culprit of the puckers too. Too much pressing is not a good thing!

  4. Reply


    I actually just made the box dress from this book! You can actually find Japanese slopers in the pattern magic books, by the way.

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      I have a sloper that I drafted a couple years ago (and still fits) but I’d be interested to compare the two methods

  5. Reply

    Sky Turtle

    So very pretty! And feminine. And delicate 🙂

  6. Reply

    Carrie Elias

    This is wonderful! Love

  7. Reply

    Kirsty Bunfield

    I just think that this is adorable and looks so amazing. I love your use of binding and different fabrics. The trim is to die for!

    • Reply

      Maddie Flanigan

      that’s what gives garments character and a soul

      • Reply

        Kirsty Bunfield

        What a lovely way to put it. Couldn’t agree more.

  8. Reply


    It looks a-ma-zing! You made it as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside!

  9. Reply


    It’s a beauty! Love the ruffles and the tiny cap sleeve!

  10. Reply

    Bekuh Browning

    You look so adorable in these photos, and even though I was luck enough to see this on you in person I loved reading more about the story behind the garment. I’m excited to see what other projects you’re working on!

  11. Reply


    What a lovely dress! So delicate and sweet, and that lace is so pretty. Are those tiny hearts I see in the lining? I think I’m in love.

  12. Reply


    So beautiful! I really do love the boxy shape of it, and how you mixed different prints in different parts of the dress. Interesting detailing.

  13. Reply


    What a wonderful dress! I love how it turned out and all the little details you added!

  14. Reply

    Lauren Taylor

    This is so girly and frilly and sweet and perfect! The contrasting bias at the inside is my favorite part 😀

  15. Reply


    Perfect! I love your sweet, ethereal style.

  16. Reply

    Craft Sanctuary

    This looks so cute on you! I’m loving the trim on the bottom! Any clue where you got it? I’m looking for something similar for a 20s dress I’m planning 🙂 Also, good to know that the Japanese patterns are for those a bit shorter than the average American. I’ve never tried them before, but I may have to do some shopping now!

  17. Reply

    Laura Doty

    What a pretty dress! I love the ruffles at the bottom and the way the fabric’s pattern shows on the inside instead of the outside. I think I would like Japanese patterns too because I’m petite as well. xoxo

  18. Reply

    Carlee McTavish

    Very pretty! You’re so classy, Maddie.

  19. Reply

    Cirque Du Bebe

    Just beautiful, the dress and the styling and the shoes. The pics are dreamy too.

  20. Reply


    Very romantic/dreamy interpretation of the dress! I like how you take care of each and every detail!

  21. Reply


    Beautiful!! I love the lace!!

  22. Reply


    oooh, I have that book! I made dress G and love it.

    you are beautiful and stunning, and that dress is so pretty!

  23. Reply


    I don’t have any technical tips, but I do think that this is just adorable! I really love your contrast binding. I hope you will wear this one despite the minor fit issues!

  24. Reply

    Amanda Adams

    The little touches have taken this from lovely to spectacular! Such an eye for detail, Maddie!

  25. Reply


    I’ve been eyeing these pattern books. There is such a sweet quality to the designs. I love your interpretation. Especially the ruffle along the bottom.

  26. Reply


    The dress is so pretty! I love the Japanese sewing books too but being 5’11” they are definitely not sized for me. 🙂

  27. Reply


    So pretty and delicate. I love the idea for the ruffle trim, then the contrast with the buckley clogs! These are really fun books, I keep looking at them but have not taken the plunge.

  28. Reply


    beautiful fabric…just beautiful

  29. Reply

    Nobu Murakawa

    Hi Maddie, I love Japanese patterns and your Japanese sewing dress is too beautiful.

  30. Reply


    Nice! I love the ruffles

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