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Easter Dresses {oliver & s fairy tale dress pattern review}

2014 April 29

Easter is a fun time for me, since I remember it was a treat to always be able to have a new dress to wear on Easter Sunday. Some of them were handmade by my mom and some were store bought. One year we even had matching hats! I love the memory and have continued to make memories with Easter dresses for my daughters quite a few years now (last year’s dresses are here). As happy as my memories are, I also find this one of the hardest posts to write each year. Of all of the photos I have taken – I can only choose a few to show here. And of all of the things I make each year, I spend the most hours planning these dresses before I make the first cuts. My fond memories make creating these dresses for my daughters extra special. I want to record everything about them, but I hope not to drive you crazy with too much information!

This year I decided to purchase my first oliver & s pattern – the fairy tale dress. I’ve been looking at it for a few years now, always going back to it because of the giant sash and the puffed sleeves. My oldest loves this style, and it looks so sweet on little girls. Though it is a very classic style (read – not modern/trendy), I have to say I think it is my favorite as well. A big bow, lots of skirt to twirl in and some gorgeous fabric – what more could you want? It was also the first year that both of my daughters fit into the size 5-12 version, so I could buy one digital copy and make both dresses. I’m hoping it is a bit of an investment pattern – since the fit is so good – and that I can use the bodice as a base pattern piece to draft other tops and dresses for my daughters.

It is almost not fair of me to do a review on this pattern, because I altered it quite a bit to fit the fabric I had in my stash. The original pattern calls for at least a third more fabric than I had available – so I had to get creative! I also decided to make the dresses with an empire waist – which changes the look quite a bit from the original. Going in I knew from previous research that I was in for a treat. Liesl Gibson made a name for herself easily with these and other patterns. They are very indepth so you get a proper very professional finish if you follow each step carefully. The fit is amazing – though I still took the time to make a bodice muslin as the pattern suggests. And the invisible zipper instructions in particular are worth buying the pattern for. I now know how to install them properly and I think it will be my “go to” zipper from now on!

Since I did make sleeveless dresses this time – also a preference of my oldest – I am dying to try the dress again. This time using the original waist line with the waistband and bow and the original tulip sleeves. Thankfully I am starting to stock larger cuts of fabric now, so I won’t have to think so much while I’m cutting and it should sew up a bit faster. I am not certain, but I may use the Peter Pan collar on the next one as well. So far, even though it is wildly popular, I am not a big fan of a proper Peter Pan collar. I prefer no collar or the angled one that is included with View B of this pattern.

Fabric! I have been hoarding my Koi fabric since I bought it from Warp & Weft last summer. The bottom of my oldest’s dress is made from a 1/2 metre cut of “The Way of Flowers”. This left just enough to cut the collar from the excess length – and that’s it – though there may be a few tiny scraps in my scrap bucket. The original pattern calls for quite a bit more fabric, so the skirt is not as full as it should be – but it worked, just the same. I’ve been saving this one for her since she is on a “flowery fabric” kick. Of course, what better to use my 1/2 metre cut of the matching “Don’t be Koi” for than the sash. I love, love the deep purple of this fabric. And the tied sash reminds me of an obi (sash for traditional Japanese dress) – though the rest of the dress clearly does not! I think it has something to do with the koi fish in the design.

When I altered the dresses to include an empire waist, the skirt had to be lengthened and needed more fabric than I had available. I decided to add a contrast band to the bottom (in fat quarter skirt fashion) to lengthen the skirt. The length of the sash was also an issue – so I sorted out how to stitch a y-seam and added a contrast fabric to the ends of it as well. Since I was being creative with my small cuts of fabric I tried every quilting cotton I had stashed next to the 2 koi pieces and could not find a great match. I was going to use the green I used in my youngest’s Pintucked Sally dress. Even to the point that I already cut the bodice and sash ends. But I was not happy with the choice and decided to have one more look in my stash. Thankfully I did, because it occurred to me that I have quite a few garment fabrics on the row down from the quilting cottons and the creme eyelet matched perfectly!

My youngest’s dress is very special. My mother-in-law gave me the yellow dot fabric with the other vintage sewing items that were her mother’s a few months ago. I intended to use only the dots in a summery dress for my little one – since she looks amazing in yellow. But when I put it on my shelf with the quilting cottons it happened to end up next to my 1/2 metre of Tula Pink Birds and Bees in Sunset. It was LOVE at first sight, but I was torn over mixing the two from the beginning. I wanted to make sure it was not a creative faux-pas to mix the vintage dot with the new and modern Tula Pink. And, of course, I did not want to dishonour the original intention of the fabric owner (my husband’s grandmother) who I am quite certain would not have placed orange and pink squirrels on anything she sewed! In the end, after talking to a few of my friends and my husband, we all agreed that the fabrics matched so well I had to use them together, and I’m so happy I did!

It took some thinking (again!) to make sure the squirrels lined up at the bottom of the dress. And of course, the sash had to be fussy cut (and now tied properly each time) so that the squirrels are perfectly placed. If I had more fabric I could also have matched the side and back seams. This meant that I ran out of fabric making the sash again, and thankfully the pink I stashed at last year’s Creativ Festival and used in my oldest’s Empire Waist Scirocco Sundress matched well. I also used it for the collar, since the darkish mustard yellow I had originally chosen didn’t really do the dress justice. Everything went together really well and I was almost finished when I about had a heart attack finding a black grease (?) stain in two places around the armholes. I think I would have sat down and cried had I not been up so late I just decided to finish the hem and went to bed! The next day, with much fear and trepidation I gently attacked the spots with a yellow laundry soap bar, water and a baby toothbrush. Nothing horrible happened and the spots actually came out – thank goodness!

Interesting to note that I realized when I was finishing up that both dresses have animals as the base of the “feature” fabric – koi and squirrels. I am happy that this super-fun fabric can be made into such a formal-style dress and look so acceptable! Where else but in a world of gorgeous modern designer fabric could you do this an actually get away with it? But that is a completely different conversation and it won’t fit into this post – which has gone on far too long already!

Thanks for letting  me ramble on. My Easter memory bank is full now for another year. I hope my daughters look back and remember their special dresses as fondly as I remember mine. (Thanks mom!)

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16 Responses leave one →
  1. April 29, 2014

    These are so pretty Sherri! You did a fantastic job with the colors and the cutting and the placement of everything. My heart even skipped a beat at the thought of a grease stain on that pretty yellow!
    Amy recently posted… Perfect Party Dress Day 2, Weaved Bodice TutorialMy Profile

  2. Laura permalink
    April 29, 2014

    OMG! I think I just about died and gone to little girl dress heaven! I LOVE, LOVE them both! Amazing job on the fabric choices. WOW!

    • April 30, 2014

      Hooray Laura! So glad you like them! Now you will have to make some ;)

  3. April 29, 2014

    I like the contrast of the sash and the bottom band. It looks intentional and great.
    Eska recently posted… Almost There, Baby!My Profile

    • April 30, 2014

      Thanks so much Eska. I’m so glad it turned out in the end.

  4. Esmari Taylor permalink
    April 29, 2014

    Oh they’re so sweet, Sherri! The girls look really chuffed with their new dresses!

    • April 30, 2014

      Thanks Esmari! They love them – it turned out perfectly. I’m so glad I bought the Koi from you while it was still available!

  5. Jodi R permalink
    April 29, 2014

    Oh my gosh they are so beautiful. I make flannel PJs for my daughter as an Easter tradition (it is turning to Autumn here at Easter, so not the time for new spring dresses).
    I have to say that I think the beautiful way you mixed the vintage dots with Tula Pink squirrels would bring such joy to your husbands grandmother. Having inherited some sewing supplies over the years from various sources they have always been given with the hope that I can use them to make something beautiful or useful and that dress is definitely that. Women of your husbands Grandmothers generation didn’t hoard fabric the way we do today. For them it needed to have purpose, to be used and to be useful and really to use it for such a special tradition would bring great honour to her gift.
    I love the way you have incorporated modern quilting cotton designs into beautiful elegant traditional dresses. I could have looked at pictures of them all day & I am feeling so inspired about the possibilities of spring. Thank you.

    • April 30, 2014

      Oh my gosh Jodi. You have made my week with this comment. Thank you so much! I showed it to my husband and we were both getting a little teary-eyed. Thank you Thank you. :)

  6. Linda permalink
    April 30, 2014

    I really enjoy all of your posts, but the ones about the clothes you make for your girls are my favorites, and the longer, the better! I have 2 girls, but they are 30 and 40 now, so no cute little dresses. It’s funny that I had 3 boys before the older girl, and I made all of their clothes except for underwear. I made a lot of cute things for the first girl, but not all, and by the time the second girl came along (after twin boys) I had very little time on my hands, and have only made her a very few things in her 30 years. I do have a new baby granddaughter to make a few things for, so am looking forward to some cute sewing.

    xo Linda

    • April 30, 2014

      Hi Linda, I’m so glad you don’t mind the length of the posts! I was not sure about this one. I am so impressed that you made all of the boys clothes. I’m not nearly fast enough to make all of my girls’ wardrobe! Ooohhh… and there are so many cute baby girls patterns out there! You are going to have so much fun. Enjoy. :)

  7. April 30, 2014

    These dresses amaze me. This is extreme talent: you mixed designer and vintage fabric into a classic dress- and made it work. Absolutely gorgeous details. The squirrel fabric is AWESOME!!!
    Amy Mayen recently posted… April Showers Scirocco DressMy Profile

    • April 30, 2014

      Thanks so much Amy! I’m so happy with how they turned out. Especially since it was frightening using amazingly soft awesome vintage fabric. The Tula Pink squirrels are one of my favorite prints too!

  8. May 2, 2014

    Sherri – I’ve been out of town and I’m just getting caught up. They are beautiful. I love the Tula Pink border!
    Well done,
    Daryl

    • May 2, 2014

      Thanks so much Daryl! So nice meeting you at Creativ – and I’m so excited you are coming to the Fall show! :)

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