Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Anthropologie Knock-Off: the Backswept Dress

UPDATE: I posted more detailed instructions on how to make this over at BurdaStyle.

Renamed the "Nothing But Blue Skies Dress"
Sad confession time: one of the highlights of the end of each month is getting the new Anthropologie catalog. I seriously look forward to it, then get nervous when it doesn't arrive, and then finally go to Shayna's place and read through hers since I can't wait. Unfortunately, most of the dresses I covet are in the $200+ range, which makes it pretty much impossible to even think about buying them. Partly because a science teacher's salary isn't so large, and partly because my mom's voice in the back of my head won't let me spend that much on a single article of clothing. Good thing I've got a sewing machine!

Two months ago, I fell in love with the Backswept Dress, and ever since then my brain hasn't been able to let go of it. I told myself that I wasn't a huge fan of the seafoam green/orange combination on the fabric, and dry-clean only silk is way too impractical (see above statement about a science teacher's salary, along with the fact that there's no way I would ever wear something like this for students to see my back). My brain came back with the brilliant retort that I don't even like working with silk, so why not keep the design elements and reinterpret it as a fun, casual, wear-to-the-beach sort of frock? Also, as I've mentioned before, I don't have any vineyards to stroll through.

To get the whole bright beachy look, I decided to use a thrifted bedsheet from the Disney Pixar Toy Story movie. How do I know it's from Disney? It's got little Disney logos under some of the clouds :\ I really tried my darndest to not let any of them in, but due to the fact that it's only a twin fitted sheet, and it was a very full skirt, I had to keep one. In the middle of the front. Sigh.

Since the sheet is a poly-cotton blend, I figure it will hold up to the ravages of sun and sand much better than silk. It also made the dress a lot easier to work with, especially considering that I was making up the pattern as I went. I took a bodice pattern from my stash that was fairly similar to the original (fitted, shoulders that hang over the side, crew neck) and redid the back to get the tie-look. I tried to put the ties where my bra strap should be, but I was a little bit off. Oh well. Since I am allergic to facings, I used white bias binding to do the neckline and armholes. This is possibly my best topstitching job yet!
I kept the armscye and eliminated the dart, redrew diagonal lines to get the triangular pieces of the back, and then extended the center back into a tie.
I made a facing for the tie, sewed it right sides together, then flipped it inside out.
For the skirt, I wanted the pockets on the sides, but I didn't want to go overboard on ties, so I kept them as simple gathered pockets. To make the actual skirt, I ended up sketching a vaguely curved rectangle, then cutting off the two ends, sewing the pockets on, and then reattaching them. This more or less (probably less) imitated the look of the original dress without the pleat business. I inserted elastic into the back of the dress, just like the original, then attached it to my bodice. Can I just say that making a dress without a zipper is AMAZING? I love it! I'm going to need to work this idea into more items.
The pocket was a roughly trapezoidal shape that I gathered across the top.

I sewed the gathered top to a bias strip made from the same fabric.

Pocket attached to the side panel of the skirt.
Love the lovely pockets!

Also, I have not hemmed the skirt yet. So all of these pictures are showing the not-quite finished product, because I was too impatient to hem it before trying it on and parading around the apartment.

Cost: $1.50(!) for the sheet, then another couple bucks for the bias binding and elastic.
Pattern: Bodice front from McCall's 5845, back modified and skirt self-drafted.
Time required: Several hours, but it went fast! I only spent two days on this dress, and normally it takes me a week.
Final verdict: I am so glad I found the perfect "pattern" to go with this sheet -- I think clouds be a little overwhelming on a more formal dress. As it is, my husband said it looks a little like I'm wearing a dress with popcorn all over it :\ Whatever. I love my new dress and I think it's so much more suitable (at least for my life) than the original.
Can you tell I am so excited about this dress? Also, note that Walnut is less than enthused, grumping it up in the hallway.
The problem with using fitted twin sheets as a source of fabric is you really don't have much left. This is all that remains.


  1. Eeeeee! I just saw this on Burdastyle and had to read your blog. I love this so much!

  2. oh my gosh, and I'm here again! hahah!... this is not really suitable for geekcrafts, but it's enough to get me subscribing to your blog :-)I love it!

  3. Found you via BurdaStyle - what an incredible dress, and so resourceful using thrifted bed linen!

  4. actually that sheet is from winnie the pooh- i have the same ones! great dress!

  5. i love this blog! you rock. so mad that i can't sew...yet; your blog has inspired me to learn!

  6. I would never have thought such a crazy designed fabric would have worked - but it totally does! I think it looks really awesome :D xXx

  7. Just revisiting some of your older posts and I adore this dress! Super cute and the print works so well on you and with the style of dress :)!

  8. Just found your dress as I was searching for anthropology inspired DIY. I love it! I bought the same Disney fabric at a thrift store, but haven't made anything yet. Mine was not originally a sheet though, just a cut of unused fabric. Your blog post is my only proof the fabric ever existed anywhere else! I love to hear about other geeky sewists. I'm an engineer and I firmly believe science and creative arts are inextricably linked. Rock on!


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