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Monday, 24 August 2015

Reversible Lilou Dress

Today is the start of the last fortnight of the summer holidays. It is chucking it down outside, and the sunny beachy days we spent in Devon seem like ages ago now. Luckily, we headed out into town before the rain, returning home with a massive bag full of (more) library books, and so the oldest three girls can get on with something on their own for a bit now that Charlotte is down for a sleep. There are some days when I make a point of filling the toddler free slot with something special - we've had our own attempts at Great British Bake Off, and, getting the paints out is another thing they love doing. But then, there are times when I fancy clawing back a bit of quiet time for myself during the day, and why not. 

I made this second Lilou dress a couple of weeks ago, and have been wearing it quite a lot. In fact, I have been wearing this or my Birthday Lilou Dress  rather a lot all summer. It turns out I love a dress with a bit of twirl!

After all the tweaking I did on the first version, I opted for a smaller size this time, and that has worked out nicely in terms of fit. I still shortened the straps slightly, and adjusted the position of the bust darts a little, but in general, a straight size 2 seems about right.

A Lilou made from navy blue linen has been in the  pipe line for me for a year now. I had cut it out last August, and then lost motivation to make a summer dress when the weather turned cooler. This bundle of cut pieces stayed in a cupboard as my guilty sewing secret. Enter the beautiful Anna Maria Horner voile that caught my eye when it was half price in town. I loved it, and bought a couple of metres for a dress. Once I'd made my first Lilou, I knew I wanted to make another one with the Anna Maria Horner fabric. Feeling a bit guilty about the navy linen, I had the idea to use it as lining. Hmm, but it seems a bit extravagant to use quite expensive linen for a lining. More guilt. And then. Bingo. A reversible dress. 

Here's how I tweaked things to make this dress reversible:

I cut skirt pieces for both fabrics (obvious, I know). I didn't trim the neckline of the lining (2mm trim to prevent it rolling). I did still do understitching, and opted to do this on the plain side, where I thought the stitches would be least obvious. This seems to have worked fine. When making the skirts, I was careful to treat them as two separate skirts for the pleating, as had I pleated the two fabrics as one, I would have been left with the pleats going the wrong way on one side. Once I was happy wth the pleats, I joined the skirts together, and sewed them to the navy bodice on my machine. I did it this way, because the linen was so much heavier, and I wanted the strongest set of stitching used to take the weight of the heavy fabrics. When it came to the edges, I left a seam allowance sized amount unstitched, and hand sewed the last bit, so that I could keep the two layers separate for the purpose of attaching the zip. I attached an invisible zip to the printed layer first, the reason being I wanted to match the patterns. 

The pattern matching didn't work out perfectly on the bodice, but I was pleased about the skirt! The it was time to hand sew the patterned bodice layer that was still loose to the skirts, and to hand sew the remaining linen back seam to complete the zip. After thinking about how best to make the reversible navy side zip look neat, I opted to accept I couldn't make it invisible as well, and just press and hand sew it as neatly as possible. Maybe if this had been planned to be reversible from the start, I would cut a little extra fabric on each side of the centre seam, to allow some sort of zip flap..? 

How is it possible that this still looks so crumpled after ironing?!
The other thing I'd watch out for more carefully next time round is accuracy over the hem. Both the skirts need to be exactly the same length, unless you want to make a point of say having the plain side showing slightly beneath the patterned one, which might look nice? I kicked myself for rushing this final part of the make - since the photos in the garden were taken, I have unpicked, ironed and carefully remeasured and hand sewn both hems. You can still see a little bit of the patterned fabric in the photo above, so I think a bit more adjustment is needed. You might also notice the length is shorted - that's entirely down to me carelessly ripping through some fabric during the process of correcting the hem - argh!!! As I prefer the patterned side, I might be lazy and leave the final tweaking job until the autumn, when the option of the navy with a tshirt underneath becomes an option I lean towards more often. 

I wore the dress patterned side out to the seaside last week, and I was happy to discover that the flimsy voile didn't result in any flashing whatsoever, thanks to being anchored by the heavy linen. I was able to walk along a breezy cliff top and not worry about flashing my knickers to the world. 

If you've got any tips on making things reversible, I'd love to hear them. 

All that's left for me to say is a thank you to my young photographers. Bye!


  1. Having seen this dress IRL, I can vouch for it's loveliness! When I have made reversible dresses for the girls, I have hemmed the bottom of the skirt together. I turned both hems in towards the middle (wrong sides of each) and then hemmed them together, sewing quite close to the bottom, so they stay together. I have only done this on A-line styles though - I don't now how or if it would alter the 'swoosh' :-) Alternatively, you could hem the plain side slightly longer than the patterned, so you get a deliberate 'border' of plain at the bottom of the patterned dress, and don't see pattern at the bottom of the blue dress (or vice versa, if you prefer). Either way, or as it is, it's a gorgeous dress and really suits you x

  2. This is inspired. I love the patience and thought process behind this genius idea! Nicely played there Janet. It looks beautiful on both sides although my favourite is the floral dress x

  3. Yes, what a great idea. You will get so much more wear from it having the plain side with tights and a top as it gets colder. Great work. The patterned side is beautiful what lovely fabric.

  4. What a great idea to weigh down the lighter fabric. Looks fabulous. I did notice that it was shorter and thought for a moment that it was an optical illusion, until I read about the hem. Love the matched seams. Just perfect.

  5. Such a good idea... and now you have a summery and autumn dress! I quite like the peek of pattern at the hem...