Hot! The “Look on the Bright Side” Dress

The "Look on the Bright Side" Dress

The Facts
Fabric: Stretch cotton sateen (bodice) cotton batiste (bodice lining), quilting cotton (skirt)
Pattern: Simplicity 2648 (bodice) with custom drafted dirndl skirt
Year: Contemporary

Notions: Zipper
Time to complete: 8 hours
First worn: At photoshoot
Wear again? Maybe with the right cardigan and belt.
Total Price: $15

Solar Power (13-0759) and Tangerine Tango (14-1463). Together in a dress that could stop (or even direct) traffic. Literally. If there was a power outage in my neighborhood, I would simply wear this dress, stand in the road, and make like a stoplight.

The "Look on the Bright Side" Dress The "Look on the Bright Side" Dress

My new, princess seam base pattern (debuted with last week’s Mad Men dress) came in handy again. This time sewn with rounded neckline and lined bodice (my first). I was so fascinated with the process – sew bodice to lining at neckline and armholes, pull through shoulder — that I skipped over all the careful side seam and zipper attaching involved with a lined bodice and simply treated the center back and side seams of the bodice and lining as one. Next time, I’ll do it by the book. For now, I’ll spend a minute being satisfied with what I’ve tried and learned so far.

The dress is a bit too loud and bright (it’s much more orange than my Mad Men dress, which is a rust color in real life) for me to wear it much (perhaps with the right styling). So I lazily pinked the seam allowances with the assumption the dress will be worn a few times and likely hand washed.

The "Look on the Bright Side" Dress

I suppose this was a wearable muslin to learn about lined bodices. I like that my base pattern (already fitted and headache-free) has given me a chance to slow down and focus on some construction basics. I really am a relatively novice sewer who happens to have figured how to fit patterns, so it’s about time I stop faking it and bone up on some sewing 101 ;-).

Thanks for looking.



Najah Carroll is a project manager by day and seamstress by night. Once it became clear that ready-to-wear was never gonna support her five feet of curves, she taught herself to sew and make pattern alterations. In January, she lost her mind by signing up for this 52-week garment sewing challenge.


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  1. This is the dress you wear on a dreary day when you want to bring sunshine into someone’s life! Very nice on you and I feel you can carry the color off well. Nan

    • The day I photographed it, I wore it the rest of the day and kinda felt like I could conquer the world…it was totally the colors. If this Rainbow Bright dress can do that to others, I may wear it more often…just to pay it forward.

  2. I think you did a great job! And you can totally pull off bright colors. Maybe you’ll feel better about it in the summer when it’s warmer and cheerier in general.

    • You’re right…spring has sprung a bit on the East Coast, but summer is a whole-nother story…between the heat, humidity, and BBQs… I’ll certainly be reconsidering the value of this dress.

  3. The colours are glorious on you. Three Cheers for learning a new technique.

    • Thanks, Jen! I’m working on the technique some more…am really motivated to figure out those final steps so I don’t always have to shortcut things.

  4. It’s a GREAT wearable muslin, and I’d do black jacket/cardi or black belt and black shoes (or in my case as it gets colder in Melbourne) black tights. I love those princess seams!

    • It’s an honor, Veronica..thanks for kind words and styling advice. I was trying neutrals (unsuccessfully) and avoiding black thinking it was cliche, but you’re SO RIGHT, a black topper and shoes is just what the brightness needs. I tried out a few options on my dress form and I’m convinced. This dress has a date with the public now!

  5. I think we’ve got twin figures – I understand those curves : ) BRAVO to you for such stunning colors! And there is nothing wrong with treating the fashion fabric and lining as one at the back seam. Keep this in mind – Done is Beautiful and this dress is beautiful on you.

    • Of course we’re figure twins…why else do you think I stalk you so hard?! Thanks for the love, Loran…and for the get-out-of-jail-free card on lining construction. I sometimes set my expectations for myself to high trying to teach myself the “right way” to do things. The notion that DONE IS BEAUTIFUL is a perfect one for me. I’m gonna tack that to the wall in my studio right next to my “Fear is the mind killer” quote.

  6. Hi Najah, love your color combo! What a great looking dress and it fits beautifully. Novice my…, girl have you scene your last 12 post. You’ve done everything from bathing suits to Kimonos. I’ve been ready a ton of books from the library, I finally bought my own copy of “The Dressmaker’s Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques but I also started reading the “Encyclopedia of Sewing Machine Techniques” for the MadMen challenge and discovered there so much more to learn about sewing. I guess that what makes it such a great hobby. Have a great weekend and can’t wait to see your city challenge.

    • Thanks for the reality check, Krista. I am proud of my 12 garments, but they are my first outside of a few, early wearable muslins. This year-long challenge is meant to give me more sewing experience now that I’m more comfortable with fitting (something that’s been a huge learning curve for me). 99% of everything I’ve sewn this year (construction techniques, fabric, etc) has been for the first time IN MY LIFE. And, my list of not-sewn-yets is still quite long (including collars, machine button holes, jackets, fly fronts, sleeves without pleats or gatthers). So by technical definition, like sewing school definition…I am still an advanced beginner still working her “intermediate” badge.

      I have almost every modern (and some out of print) sewing book including the first one you mentioned. It fascinates me how each one is has its own value even though a lot of the information is similar. Some techniques are better explained in one book vs. another….I’m such a nerd that I often consult FOUR or FIVE different books (or magazines…I have several back issues of Threads, too) to learn ONE technique. For this sleeveless bodice lining technique, I am consulting Susan Khaljie’s “Linen and Cotton : Classic Sewing Techniques for Great Results” book and the community favorite, “The Colette Sewing Handbook”. Those two had the best illustration + how-to steps out of the six books I referenced.

  7. Wow that’s bright! You could never be miserable in a dress like that. Love it!

  8. I love it! I would wear it even if it is reallly bright as it is so sumery and fits you really well.

    • Thanks for the encouragement.

      I guess I’m a little shy about drawing so much attention to my top half. Kinda wish I’d have sewn the bodice in orange and the skirt in yellow. With the yellow on top, it gives a whole new meaning to the term “headlights” ;-).

  9. Perfect fit Najah, yes she’s bright, happy sunshiny bright, you can wear a black fitted jacket over the top with a belt to tone it down or not. I love it, tangerine all the way.

    • Thanks, Kazz. You and Veronica’s advice to go black (no pun intented) was spot on! That’s just how I’ll rock this dress.

  10. That dress is so *happy* and you really handled the fitting well. Great colors on you, wow.

  11. Great colors! You look like a ray of sunshine, and that’s just what we need right now, since it’s been raining non-stop, here in Northern CA. You wear those bright colors so well. I think Kazz has a great suggestion though. Lining bodices can be challenging, but it makes for such a professional look. Great job!

    • Thanks, Barbara! I kind of felt as bright as a ray of sunshine…which can be intimidating if you don’t want the attention. But, the colors kind of match my personality in real life — loud (especially when I laugh), a bit dominating, and cheerful…so what’s wrong with wearing who I am? Nothing.

  12. Thanks, all for the extra doses of support for me in these terribly-wonderfully bright colors. Your encouragement has convinced me to EMBACE THE BRIGHT this year!

  13. I’ve been looking at some bright yellow fabric for months now but haven’t bought any yet. You look so great in these colors and the dress fits you perfectly! I like the suggestions of wearing it with black. I’d like to suggest making a belt using wide ribbon or fabric with those colors and some white in it and blue would be good too. Add a great necklace and some bangles and maybe a white bag. Black works well but may look too heavy and severe unless you use it in small doses-really small doses. Blue (just a tiny bit of it) and white will keep the colors light and a print will break up the solids. A great statement necklace will keep the focus on your lovely face. That’s how I see it anyway! Did I already say I love it?

    • Thanks, Gina. Your styling suggestions are great. I was poised to make a belt using a fabric print with complimentary colors like you described, but ran out of time and courage (trying to be OK seeing myself in such LOOK AT ME colors was a slow process). I thought black would be too heavy, but was surprised to see how well it worked (after Veronica and Kazz mentioned it). Your ideas about blue and white are right up my alley though. I think I may MAKE a statement necklace like you suggested, too…give me a chance to dust off my jewelrymaking supplies since I’ve neglected them for sewing. This is so awesome…styling advice from the GURUS!

  14. LOVE this dress – the combination of the colors is energetic and vivacious and I just love the eye catching effect! Bravo, my friend!

  15. Um this is ridiculously adorable. These colors are perfection on you. Well done!


  16. I adore this dress. Colour does give one magic powers doesn’t it? I totally know what you mean about starting to refine and learn more sewing skills. I’m trying to do much better finishing on future projects.