Well, y’all know how I feel about reviewing patterns – especially when they are pretty, vintage-inspired silhouettes!
So obviously, I said yes.
The style lines on this dress are a little difficult to see since I used such a busy print (but isn’t that print amazing?) to make it up, but it’s a very fitted, princess-seamed bodice that falls off the shoulders. The pattern actually has two skirt variations – one, a sexy wiggle skirt with a kick pleat; and two, a full, gathered skirt with in-seam pockets.
I ended up swapping the skirt out for an entirely different option, as you can see. While I love both of the skirts included in the pattern, I know that wiggle skirts are not in any way appropriate for my daily life (I need something that I can really move around in – from cycling, to sitting on the floor, to jumping in the bed of my truck to retrieve the coat hanger I keep back there since I seem to lock myself out of the fucking cab EVERY WEEK THESE DAYS, sorry, pls don’t break in my truck. There’s nothing worth stealing in there; seriously, I don’t even have a tape deck. Where was I going with this? Oh.), and gathered skirts just are not very flattering on me. When I don’t find a dress comfortable, I basically just never wear it – and I wanted to wear this dress!
Can you guess where that pattern came from? Hint: It’s in the name.
If you guessed Belladone, you’d be correct! If you think “Bella-Jean” is the most hilarious, redneck sounding name, let me just assure you that I feel very clever right now.
Attaching the skirt to the bodice took a little bit of extra thought, but not much. First, I knew I wanted to leave the pockets off (as I type this, I can hear the collective gasp of sewers around the world sucking in their breath and clutching their pearls as I dared to remove the blessed pocket but forreal, there would have been way way way too much going on with an already busy dress, yeah?), so I just taped the pocket pieces to the front skirt pattern piece to fill the pocket-shaped hole, then cut the pieces out of my fabric. I moved the pleats slightly to get them to match up with the front princess seams, which was as easy as pushing the fold down a few fractions of an inch. Getting the back darts to match the back princess seams was also necessary, although I didn’t realize it until I’d already sewn the skirt to the bodice. Doh! I almost said fuck it and let it be, but it looked reeeally bad, so I unpicked and redistributed. Miraculously, the skirt fits the bodice almost exactly – and by sewing the side seams of the skirt with 1/2″ seam allowance (which is the same seam allowance for the bodice), it was a perfect fit. All the seams match up. Yay!
As much as I like to try and make my garments as true as to what the pattern was designed as, sometimes I think ya just gotta make some ~design changes~ so the finished piece fits your lifestyle. And, you know, you actually wear it
Now that I’ve gone off on a few tangents, let’s get back to Billie Jean The Bodice!
Putting this shit together was DELIGHTFUL. I mean it! I made a little quickie muslin-top (always good to check the fit when you’re trying a new-to-you pattern company – you don’t want to discover far too late that the body type they base their pattern block off is the exact opposite of your body!), but I ended up not needing any changes as it was a perfect fit straight out of the envelope. This is a size 4, and I gotta warn ya – make sure you check those finished measurements before you cut! There is basically NO ease in this pattern, which means a very close fit. Obviously, this is exactly how I like to wear my dresses, so I was pretty chuffed to be able to actually cut the pattern that matched my measurements, without sizing down. But if you need more ease, consider sizing up
Construction-wise, I did not make any changes to the bodice. The instructions are a bit brief, but there are clear diagrams (as well as a full sewalong on Abby’s blog, should you need it!) and the pattern itself is very simple to put together. My only advice is to make sure you stay-stitch that neckline so it doesn’t stretch all crazy out of shape, and don’t be afraid to be aggressive with your clipping and notching on the princess seams to get them to lie flat.
The pattern has you insert a lapped zipper, instead of the usual invisible. Y’all know I like me some lapped zips
One thing I should point out is that the straps are NOT bra-friendly without a little bit of tweaking. Personally, I just go strapless – I found one that fits my ribcage, so I think it is quite comfortable. However, I know most people don’t feel the same way I do about strapless bras – and that’s ok! But you will need to make some changes to get the straps to work with a bra if that’s the case. Abby has written a tutorial on redrafting the straps so they are cover your bra; alternately, Anna added bra strap carriers to her Billie Jean.
It’s hard to tell in the pictures, but the shoulder straps have the cutest little detail where they widen a bit at the top of your shoulder. I think that’s my favorite thing about this dress!
I’m a little bummed that I couldn’t get the waist seam to match up perfectly at the zipper – must’ve fudged something up, somewhere. But hey, look at how good those darts match up with the princess seams, yeah? ~Like MAGIC.
Isn’t this fabric just gorgeous? I bought it earlier this year from Muna Couture (who also sells lots of amazing fabrics, drool). It is the softest Italian cotton, and the colors are so saturated. I actually bought a SHIT load of this stuff… so this won’t be the last time you see it My bodice is lined with black cotton batiste and I used a lilac zipper, because.
Since the Belladone skirt hits perfect LT-length as is, I added the facing at the bottom. I never really sewed skirt facings before I started dabbling into Deer & Doe, but I really love the way they look!
If you love Billie Jean as much as I do, you are gonna shit yourselves when you see Abby’s newest pattern, Mae. Just warning you.
Also, if you were wondering where the remote went for these pictures, the battery died right at the beginning of my shoot. Notice how confused I look in that last picture (which was actually the first picture I took), ha!