My love affair with the Ruby dress

My love affair with the Ruby dress

The Ruby dress was one of the first dresses I made. It was a free pattern from Issue 4 of Love Sewing magazine a couple of years ago when I first got into dressmaking. It's a simple 1950s style full-circle dress, with a darted bodice and a v-back. I took inspiration from some of the readers' makes in the magazine and made a couple of versions from duvet covers. As well as the freedom to hack up the fabric without worrying too much about making mistakes, the big benefit of using duvet covers is the width. I was able to create a longer length full-circle skirt that way. The biggest downside has been the quality of the finished make (and feeling like I'm wearing a duvet cover in public!). However, I did learn loads along the way.

Recently, I decided to return to the pattern for an upcoming trip to the races at Ascot and a couple of early summer weddings. I'd realised that non-directional pattern was key for the skirt (after the upside-down birds on my first attempt), so opted to make it from some lovely extra-wide crisp cotton in navy with white spots from Berkshire Fabrics.

After my first couple of duvet makes I realised that I needed to adjust the pattern a little. To do this properly I made a toile of where I thought the adjustments were needed and made a few tweaks. I cut a size 14, but added an extra 1cm at the seams. When the bodice was made up I took the side seams in by 1cm under the arms, tapering down to the skirt/bodice seam. That may have been a long way round to do things, but it worked, and fitted my non-standard boob-shoulder ratio perfectly!

Even the extra-wide fabric didn't make the dress quite as long as I'd have liked, so I found a navy petticoat to finish the look (not handmade this time, I'm afraid). I went for a tuille underskirt from Amazon, with lovely finished edges, as I knew it would be showing from underneath the skirt. I was surprised by the quality for  the price and it really gave the dress a lovely fullness.

All the zip practice recently has paid off and the zip went in perfectly first time. Get in.

So the finished dress got its first outing to Ascot, accessorised with some nude peep toe shoes, a vintage navy bag and a navy shrug. It felt fantastic to wear and I even got a few compliments from random strangers (I was a bit shy at telling them it was a homemade creation).

Since posting pictures of it I've been asked how to avoid the darts looking too 'nippley'. Aside from not making it from too thick fabric, by advice has been to sew the darts from the outside of the fabric inwards (towards the point) and don't finish with a backstich (tie the loose ends together). That avoids some of the bulk. Also, press the darts using a tailor's ham if you have one. I decided to line the bodice of the dress rather use the facings, so that may also have helped. There are some easy-to-follow instructions in the last project of Love at First Stitch for that.

Now it's time to hang up the pattern (for a while at least, we need a break). Not before I enjoy wearing it a few more times though. I'm on the lookout for a new go-to dress pattern. Something with the fit and flare shape that suits me, but not quite as full a skirt. Ideally a pattern that will work in a lightweight fabric for summer holidays. Anyone tried the Sew Over It Betty dress?