Hot! The “Modern Mary” Dress

The Facts

Fabric:  2.5 yards navy/white cotton – $11, Hancock
Pattern:  McCalls 5923 modified for bodice front – $1,Simplicity 2550 modified for bodice back, McCalls 6503 for sleeves – $1, self-drafted skirt and cuffs (Talk about a Franken-pattern!)
Year:  Contemporary
Notions:  invisible zipper – $0.50; grosgrain ribbon – $2
Time to complete:  Way too long
First worn:  11 June 2012
Wear again?  Absolutely!! Though, I’ll likely style it differently.
Total cost:  ~$16

I was so pleased to see this challenge pop up.  I’ve been wanting to make a variation of Lady Mary’s flower show dress since about 20 minutes after seeing it in the episode.

Funny thing really.  We watched the episode on Netflix and when I first saw the dress, I said, “So, that’s the dress all the girls are fussing over. I don’t get it.”  I didn’t give it another thought until shortly after the show ended.  Suddenly, it occurred to me how cute the stripe variation was and how flattering a dress with vertical stripes on the hips could potentially be.  Then, I had to have one.  (Like, seriously, had to.  As in, I was obsessed with the idea. :-P )

I discovered that I just happened to have the perfect pattern to use for playing with the bodice stripes and the skirt could quite easily be drafted from my block.  The bodice back I pulled from my Pantone dress, (but, tweaked the shape and removed the darts, so as not to break up the stripes), and I drafted cuffs and used borrowed sleeves to fit the Franken-bodice.

As usual, finding the right fabric proved difficult.  I opted to go with a bolder, more modern, navy stripe and Hancock pulled through after a few weeks with their patriotic offerings.  Mind you, this screenprinted cotton turned out not to be quite what I wanted (it suckered in the wash!) but, I made it work.  I was determined to have this dress.

I was so excited when I got everything home that I declared I would be skipping at least part of June’s Sew Weekly challenges so I could work on my “Lady Mary dress” instead.  Then, the new challenges went up and it actually fit right in.  What luck!

Now, why I assumed combining so many different patterns would actually work well is beyond me.  Oh the drafting and redrafting that went into this…  But, several hours, scraps of tracing paper, and ripped seams later, I’m quite pleased with the final dress.

Still, I can’t quite leave well-enough alone. Do I ever!?  I’ve decided it needs a sweet but subtle lace to finish the neckline.  I remembered a crochet lace pattern book I was given a few months ago and decided to make the trim myself.  Of course, that’s going to take a little more time.



Jennifer took up sewing in 2008 as a new hobby after a move. Now, with endless ideas running through her head, she's making an effort to fill hers and her fiance's closets with custom clothing.


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  1. This is lovely! I’m not familiar with the character, but your dress looks so elegant!

  2. Love it! I also franken-patterned a version of this dress so I hear you on the major amount of drafting! Your version is just darling.

    • Thank you, Stephanie! I just clicked to yours – it’s amazing! Beautifully done. Sometimes the franken-patterns are just worth the extra effort, aren’t they?

  3. Absolutely stunning from all sides. I love how you worked the stripes and really is a master piece. The crochet trim will be an extra bonus, you need to post some pictures after you add it on, would love to see.

    • Thank you, Krista! That’s quite a compliment! It’s always nice when hard work pays off. I’ll definitely post some photos on my blog when I get a chance to finish the lace.

  4. So cute! I love Mary’s dress when I saw it but I wasn’t convinced it could be made into a “modern” look. Of course I’ve now seen at least 10 different variations – each at least as awesome as the last. Well done working with all those different patterns to make one beautiful dress!

  5. So gorgeous! What a beautiful modern re-interpretation of Mary’s dress!

  6. amazing!! matching stripes scares me and you are a master

  7. This is sooooo beautiful, honestly! I had to save your photos in folder for sewing inspirations…I actually had to no idea what tv-series/character you were talking about but Google helped…I think you did a perfect job with reinterpreting this dress – in fact, I like your version so much better.

    • Wow! Thank you, Djamila! I’m so flattered.

      I do apologize for forgetting to mention the show (For everyone else, I’m referring to Lady Mary Crawley of Downton Abbey – a picture of the inspiration can be found on my blog). It was late when I finished this post and I forgot that not everyone had heard my every thought regarding this project for the last two months ;-)

  8. I don’t know Mary’s dress but yours is absolutely smashing! Well done with all the franken-patterning and stripe-matching.

    • Thank you, Lee! That’s very kind of you! If you get a chance, I do recommend checking the show out. Many of the costumes are quite lovely.

  9. This is very pretty Jennifer and I love you in these pictures. All of your work really paid off and I know it’s going to be even better with the lace. Maybe you can include a picture when the embellishment challenge comes up.

    • Thanks so much, Gina!! I’m no photo wiz like the rest of you but, I did try to give these a little something extra. Good idea – I may just slip a photo of the lace into the bottom of that post.

  10. Jennifer you look so elegant. Everything is so perfectly matched up. Well done on every level. Love, love, love your photos this week.

  11. Just gorgeous, you attention to detail in creating this look is perfect. All your hard work really paid off. I like the idea go a crocheted lace trim around the collar. Can’t wait to see it.

  12. Oh wow Jennifer, this so beautiful! I’m lost for words….especially the back, those darts and centre back of the bodice..and sleeve cuffs….divine, perhaps even prettier than the original. Great job modernizing the look! LOVE IT!!

  13. Absolutely gorgeous!! I love how the darts go in different directions and the fit, especially in the back, is unbelievable!

  14. That is one great dress – those stripes are really striking. Brilliant.

  15. Jennifer, this is so well done! You look fabulous. I hope you wear this often.

  16. Beautiful! You look like those ladies from Pride and Prejudice too. I love how you played with the stripes.

  17. Holy. Cannoli. This dress is AMAZING. I love all the stripe placement and the chevron on the back seam – the whole dress is so lovely! Bravo for not giving up on it and making the Franken patterning work!

  18. This really is lovely! I love how you have modernised Mary’s dress but I recognised it instantly too!