Hot! The “Chapter 2: First Impressions” Dress

The Facts 
Fabric: Japanese double gauze (Nani Iro by Naomi Ito); voile underlining
Pattern: Parfait Dress by Colette Patterns
Year: Contemporary
Notions: 2 red buttons for the shoulder straps; invisible zipper; yellow bias tape at the hem
Time to complete:  Let’s put it this way, it took me 3 episodes of 30 Rock to slipstitch the facing to the underlining, but I sure was a happy little bee!
First worn: August 2012
Wear again? Yes!
Total Cost: 
Hmm, good question.

I have to thank The Sew Weekly for my latest read, and here’s why. For this week’s “Books” challenge, some of my favorite children’s books came to mind: Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden…but then, for whatever reason, I thought of the movie The Wizard of Oz and how I’ve long wanted to read the book it was based on.

So onward to the public library I did go! Being in the children’s section, I sat on a tiny chair at a tiny desk and had only just begun my quest when the librarian said to me, “Excuse me, are you with your child? Only children can sit there!” Worried that I was being taken for some kind of weirdo who hangs out in the children’s section of the library (hey, you never know in this city), I said to her with a deer-in-headlights look smile, “I’m sorry, I’m just trying to find The Wonderful Wizard of Oz!” Already I was channeling my inner Dorothy.

And so I read the book from Kansas to Kansas.

For this week’s creation, I used this beautiful Japanese double gauze that I picked up a couple of years ago in Los Angeles. The floral print seems like watercolors splashed on fabric – my version of the book had watercolor illustrations! I also love the fabric’s spongy feel. But why this fabric for a Wizard of Oz-inspired dress, you may ask?

Originally I had a different fabric in mind for this dress, one that reminded me of the dreaded poppy fields “our friends” encounter on their way to Oz. Yet, as I turned the page to chapter 2, “The Council with the Munchkins”, I really loved author L. Frank Baum’s description of Dorothy’s first impressions of this magical land:

“The cyclone had set the house down, very gently—for a cyclone—in the midst of a country of marvelous beauty. There were lovely patches of green sward all about, with stately trees bearing rich and luscious fruits. Banks of gorgeous flowers were on every hand, and birds with rare and brilliant plumage sang and fluttered in the trees and bushes. A little way off was a small brook, rushing and sparkling along between green banks, and murmuring in a voice very grateful to a little girl who had lived so long on the dry, gray prairies.”

This paragraph instantly made me think of my dress fabric, which I had taken out of my cabinet earlier this summer as one I had finally wanted to turn into something wearable. The flowers, the vivid colors, even the part about the birds (can you see the blue birds on my dress?) – it all came together in this fabric! I also thought the pinafore design of the Parfait dress perfectly captured the spirit of Dorothy.

I decided to make a dress that Dorothy might have made to remember her adventures in Oz. And what could be more memorable to a girl from “the dry, gray prairies” than a dress full of color? (She even helps the wizard sew the fabric for the hot air balloon later in the story!) The dress is paired with silver (okay, grey) shoes, since those are what she wears in the book.

Because the fabric is sheer I underlined the bodice and skirt pieces with white voile. I probably didn’t need to do that for the bodice, but since I used the voile for the midriff facing, I thought fully underlining the dress would make for a clean finish on the inside. I decided to omit the pockets from the final dress – even though I have the pieces cut out – since I wasn’t sure if they would make the dress a little too cutesy. For the buttons, I felt a pop of color was needed to match the large red flowers on the skirt so I went with these deep red ones. I agree with past reviews that un-buttoning the straps isn’t necessary to get in and out of the dress, which meant I stitched them shut and left the buttons to only be decorative.

I don’t know how clear this is, but I’m clicking my heels three times in this photo because there really is no place like home!

The dress came together so very easily once I worked out the fit. As usual, Colette Patterns has great instructions and drawings, and I can’t believe it took me this long to sew up this pattern! Such a fun summer sundress. I used three different sizes for the bust, waist and hips; the only further change I made was to take the upper portion of the bodice in ½” more at each side seam. In the future I’d adjust the center portion of the front midriff piece so the seam line runs along the underbust rather than above it. This is a problem I come across in store-bought clothing, but no more!

And, finally, what Oz-inspired dress of Dorothy’s would be complete without a reference to “the road of yellow brick”, as they say in the book? One of my favorite details is adding seam binding to hems and I happened to have this yellow one tucked away in my drawer full of notions. It’s much easier to whipstitch when skirt pieces are underlined.

Well, that’s the end of my story. I recommend this book to anyone who is curious to know more about the famous journey through Oz. Lots of interesting characters that don’t show up in the movie and a whole different take on the characters that do. I still think Dorothy could have used the Golden Cap to summon the Winged Monkeys a little earlier so “our friends” could have avoided the dreaded Hammer-Heads and seemingly random creatures made of china in their attempt to get to the land of the Quadlings, but hey, it’s cool. And, yes, I just wanted to say all that in a sentence!

And now it’s time for “Toto” and me to head on back to Kansas! Special thanks go to the debonair Jepetto for lending his acting talent to this photo shoot and to my cousin for “finding” the yellow brick road. Photoshop is amazing!


Sewin' in the Rain

Amanda started sewing in the fall of 2009 and is a New York City gal who loves mid-century styles and historic architecture. Though a lover of dresses first and foremost, she tries hard to pay more attention to sewing separates.


Comments are closed.

  1. Amanda, that’s beautiful…n

  2. I love this! I have this same fabric sitting in my drawer and now I really want to use it! I need to get this pattern. I was convinced it wasn’t for me but I’ve seen so many versions of it that I love that I give in. Lovely work, good job!

  3. Thank you! Shannon, I definitely recommend using this fabric. I just love the spongey feel and it gives nice color to my closet. :)

  4. Love the pigtails, too. very thoughtful project, well executed and lovely.

  5. I love your story and the fabulous photos as well as all the attention to details!

  6. I love the second photo of you where the dog is looking up. Spot on! I know what you mean about this dress having the potential to go cutesy, but yours is definitely classy, not cutesy. I would love to try some Japanese fabrics like this, but I just can’t find them around here, and I’m too cheap to order them. Guess I’ll have to wait until my next trip to Asia or LA.

  7. That is lovely fabric and just right for a summer dress. I love Collette patterns. I have the book that includes this one I believe. I’m going to have to dig it out and see if it’s in there. It’s a great dress and you did a wonderful job sewing it. It looks so cute on you. Great photo shoot complete with Toto and the yellow brick road. ;)

  8. So pretty I could cry. Cute. Cute. Cute. You, the dog, the setting. Good work!

  9. A great big thanks to each and every one of you! I’ve been battling a bad cold and these comments brightened my day!