Completed: The Bella-Jean Dress

6 Sep

A couple of months ago (gah, has it been that long??), Abby from Bluegingerdoll Patterns hollered at me and asked if I wanted to try and review her maiden pattern, the Billie Jean dress.

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!


41 Responses to “Completed: The Bella-Jean Dress”

  1. Maggie September 6, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    I love this dress on you!! And I think I actually like your skirt better than the ones that are with the pattern, it seems much more real-life-friendly 🙂 Can’t wait to see more of that fabric!

  2. Marie September 6, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    This is delightful missus! The bright floral print and your pattern matching abilities are both incredible!

  3. Clare Szabo (@Clarebel79) September 6, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    This is super cute on you my friend. I kind of want to come over with some Pabst and we can find some swings and just talk about how cool those princess seams are and how the straps widen. I love that! I totally noticed it as it was kind of the early 60s look I was going for in my ‘Graceland’ dress. The fabric is stunning, the yellow flowers are my favourites. Love this but not as much as I love how you need to make a dress that allows you to jump in your truck. FIERCE!

  4. Frances McInnis September 6, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    I love the dresses and other outfits that you make, and your comments are wonderful as well as funny. I immediately go to your emails when I see them in my inbox since I enjoy them so much. My problem is that I am old enough to be your mother and they are not appropriate for me. I have a fairly good figure but I no longer wear sleeveless outfit. Can you help me? *Do you know of anyone making great patterns for older women*? I will continue to read your blog even though I cannot wear most of the styles because I do get sewing help and I love your comments. Hope you can help me. Thanks Frances

    • LLADYBIRD September 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

      Hey Frances, if you can give me a little more description of what you consider to age-appropriate styles for older woman (I honestly have no idea what that entails… I’m 28 so it’s not something I’ve ever had to think about! Plus, my mom wears sleeveless all the time and she’s 51 🙂 haha), I would be happy to offer you pattern company suggestions! Off the top of my head, I do see some older ladies using Jalie patterns, as well as lots of Vogue. You could also start with a good base – like a sleeveless dress with a beautiful neckline – and add sleeves, lower the hemline, etc, to get it to better suit your style.

      But if you could give me a litttttle more guidance to what you’re looking for, that will give me something to work with 🙂 And thank you for your nice comment, by the way!

  5. The Nerdy Seamstress September 6, 2013 at 12:20 pm #

    I love the dress and the fabric. I want it! You did a great job on matching the darts. I have a problem with that all the time. Love the dress on you!

  6. Erica September 6, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    I’m a sucker for florals, so this print is amazing! I really want to work on finishing my garments more professionally. Yours look fantastic, inside and out! Have a fantastic weekend! 🙂

  7. Maggie Cawthorn September 6, 2013 at 1:33 pm #

    Fab dress, lovely fit and great material. It’s far too cold in the uk now for a dress like that so I’m envious!

  8. Lori September 6, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    This is so pretty, it looks gorgeous on you and the fabric is perfect.

  9. tillybuttons September 6, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    Noooooo pockettttttts??? Okay I’ll forgive you, but only because this is TOTES GORGE. (Is that only a British expression? I’m sure you’ll figure out my meaning in any case.) I ordered some interfacing from Sewbox the other day and Susan slipped this pattern in with my order, because she’s so lovely – it’s so cute! Too cold in London to make it for a while though, so in the meantime I will live vicariously through your sewing, why thank you x

  10. misscrayolacreepy September 6, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Love that pretty, happy fabric!

    Do you need a hide-a-key pouch? I can mail you one!

    • LLADYBIRD September 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

      I actually need a spare key first, HAHA! Never got around to making it (and my truck didn’t come with one), but maybe I should stop being a baby and get that shit done! Thank you, though, you are a total sweetheart!

      • LLADYBIRD September 6, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

        Psssss Landon and I love our key covers you sent us last year! They’re on our house keys, so every time I unlock the door, I think of you 🙂 Wow, that sounded creepy haha, didn’t mean it that way 😛

  11. CGCouture September 6, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

    Haha, yup, I used to have to climb in the back window of my truck when I locked myself out too. 😉 Anyway, the dress is super cute, love the little shoulder detail, they always help my teeny weeny shoulders feel a bit more balanced.

  12. Jo September 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

    So pretty. I can’t get enough florals. Well done switching out the skirt, you gotta go with what suits you. I personally love a full skirt heh! You always have such beautiful stuff…oh and doesn’t it seem like indie pattern companies are multiplying so fast these days??

    • LLADYBIRD September 6, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

      They sure are! No complaints from me, I think it’s awesome! I just wish I had time/fabric to sew aaaaaall of the patterns haha 🙂

  13. angela September 6, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    So cute!!! (Just what I need another pattern to buy, but everytime I see a pattern that looks so cute on you I have to buy the pattern because they end up being perfect for me.) I’m thinking we must be pretty close in size. I love being able to watch someone review the patterns that is pretty close to my size and shape though 😉 Super helpful! You look super adorable in this dress. Love the fabric choice and the change in the skirt. Perfect choices for that gorgeous fabric, I might have to get the other pattern too and then find a nice bright floral fabric of my own 🙂

    • LLADYBIRD September 6, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

      Omg do it and we can photoshop a picture of us together in our twin dresses! Haha tell me that wouldn’t be awesome 😛

      • angela September 6, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

        I will have to do that 🙂 I should probably confess that I am a tad bit older though and probably have a little larger waistline (a few inches) since I have had three children 🙂 But your pattern choices and sizes do work perfect for me. I once in a while size up one size or grade the waist up one size 😉

        • angela September 19, 2013 at 12:15 pm #

          Finally received my Belladone pattern, now waiting for the Billie Jean 🙂 Then I need to find some pretty transitional summer fall fabric so I can make the dress and send you the photo 🙂

  14. A Make Parade September 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

    so lovely, love the shape of the neckline. Really flattering.

  15. weefrills September 6, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    Lovely! Love the colors.

  16. sewdooley September 6, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    Such a cute dress, love the neck line. Does the hem facing give it more body? The print is so pretty, I’ll have to check out Muna Couture on the next visit to Nashville. It looks like it is down the street from my son’s apartment.

    • LLADYBIRD September 9, 2013 at 10:49 am #

      I think the facing helps with body, although this fabric has a pretty soft hand to begin with. It also helps with retaining length while still having the look of a deep hem 🙂

      And definitely check out Muna Couture! She has some of the most amazing fabrics I’ve ever put my hands on; I could spend all day in there haha 🙂

  17. ksgentry September 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    What a wonderful pattern, i love the way the neckline has that slight overhang over the shoulders. And the fabric you chose was perfect for the dress. I will definitely have to check out that pattern!

  18. Susie Homemaker, MD September 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    Your dress looks great. It’s funny how taking the extra time to get things right can be a pain when you are doing it (at least for me — I negotiate with myself about it longer than it takes to do it), but in the end it is so worth it and you enjoy the garment so much more! Your skirt choice looks really nice with the bodice and it is nice to know there isn’t much ease in this pattern. I will have to check this one out.

  19. merlatma September 6, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

    I just following your blog, and I like it!:) Your pics look lovely, and I’m seriously thinking about getting a tripod, coz its a pain to find someone to click your the gingham background on your blog too..cheers to sewing..and oh! I’m completely jealous of your sewing room(drooling)…

    • merlatma September 6, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

      oops..I missed out a whole word there..”started” 😀

  20. nishi September 6, 2013 at 11:59 pm #

    Cute neckline! It’s very elegant indeed! And, yes, that print looks gorgeous! I think this may be another one to add to my pattern collection…!

  21. giusy September 7, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    Oh yes! Look gorgeous! I love it with the belt.

  22. Sophie September 7, 2013 at 6:13 am #

    So pretty!!!

  23. Kim September 7, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Beautiful dress! I really like the fabric. Hadn’t heard of Bluegingerdoll patterns before, but I’m definitely keeping it in mind for future pattern buying rounds 🙂

  24. sewcraftlive September 7, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    That is such a gorgeous dress! I love you how you take fabrics I would probably skip right over at the store and turn them into something I’d want to make. That dress looks great and it looks like it’s fun to wear.

  25. Gjeometry September 7, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Very pretty dress! I like the almost off the shoulder sleeve look.

  26. Bec September 8, 2013 at 6:48 am #

    Love this pattern! Gorgeous bodice! Love the fabric also 🙂

  27. Carolyn September 8, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    Beautiful, as usual! Having recently made a Belladone myself (not totally successfully) I did get the mash-up and love it! I do really like the Belladone skirt, just not totally sure it likes me. This is SUCH a pretty bodice though, and I would totally go for the full skirt myself. I’m glad I saw your version as the one on the pattern site didn’t totally wow me (though I do love the look of that Mae blouse on there). This bodice makes up much prettier than I thought. I have just one question: how are the off-the-shoulder straps comfort-wise? Is the construction such that they stay put? I would bug me no end to feel like they were slipping off all the time.

    • LLADYBIRD September 9, 2013 at 10:54 am #

      I find them pretty comfortable! They definitely don’t move around much. Keep in mind that they aren’t really there to provide support for the bodice – so it should be super fitted, especially at the waist, to keep things in place. I know what you mean about not wanting them to slip around – I HATE that when my straps fall, drives me crazy! Since these aren’t supposed to stay up, I don’t find them to be much of a comfort issue. Hope that helps!

  28. gingermakes September 9, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    I really like this bodice– the neckline is sooooo flattering and pretty! It’s so Sophia Loren! And the Belladone skirt is a great match for it and perfect for your lifestyle!

  29. Kristin September 9, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    I love this dress! It looks so great on you, and so comfy and perfect for moving around in real life. I’m going to start the Billie Jean dress soon and now I’m wondering if I should swap out the skirt too. Hm…

  30. missjoiedevivre September 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    I do love me a good bright floral. This is so pretty. You’ve done an amazing job of making the patterns talk to each other too! Gorgeous!

  31. Becca September 12, 2013 at 10:56 am #

    This is lovely! The fit is fantastic, and that bright floral print is so you. That was a good call substituting the skirt for the Belladone skirt. It gives the dress such a nice shape.

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