As much as I love my LA BREA tees, it’s possible that I love the LA BREA as a dress even more. I know, I know, we’re not supposed to have favorites…but I do! I love this dress so much and I’ve been able to wear it in ALL the places and on ALL the occasions, and I’m not tiring of it one bit. This dress makes me feel whatever it is I want to feel at the moment: casual and lazy or stylish and focused, hip and trendy or timelessly chic. It turned out exactly as I’d hoped…and then some.
Before finally realizing this dress, I’d had it in mind for AGES, with several similar styles on my Pinterest boards. Here’s a little bit of the inspiration I used to create the LA BREA dress. (Irritatingly, I’ve noticed this style doesn’t pop up in my Pinterest on women of color or with much variation in body type. Sorry about that.)
I made my original LA BREA dress in a light-ish-mid-weight charcoal-ish linen and used little wooden buttons from Arrow Mountain on one shoulder. The weight of the fabric is light enough to keep me cool on hot days, but heavy enough to drape and hang nicely without getting caught in the wind. I’d done the shoulder-button thing on a Lou Box #2 dress as well and loved it so much that it’s become one of my favorite design elements to add to a garment.
As I hadn’t taken enough process photos when making my linen LA BREA dress, I made another in black and white gingham and made sure to document every little step in the process. You can go step by step through the tutorial or pick and choose any of these techniques to customize your LA BREA tee or dress to suit your style:
- Pattern Adjustments to view B of the LA BREA tee pattern
- Adding pockets
- Flat Felled center seams
- French seams with flat-fell finish
- A button closure at the shoulder
- High/low seam with bias placket
To make the dress, you'll need the same supplies as recommended for the LA BREA tee view B, plus the following supplies
- approx. 1/2 meter (just over 1/2 yd) more fabric than recommended for your size for the LA BREA tee
- approx. 1 meter/yard more bias tape than required for your size in view B
- fabric for the loops (scrap of main fabric), measuring approx. 40 cm (15¾”) x 4.5 cm (1¾”)
- additional tracing/pattern paper
- measuring tape
- tailor's chalk or disappearing marking pen
- (optional) rotary cutter and cutting mat
(black) Trace VIEW B Front Bodice in your size, according to the size chart, grading in or out at the hips and making any other standard adjustments that you may make if you were sewing a LA BREA tee. Make sure you have approximately 40cm (15¾”) of additional pattern paper past the base of the tee, and approximately 10cm to 15cm (4" to 6") at the side in order to draft the extension for your dress.
(red) Extend center front/grainline until it measures the desired length of your dress, plus 3.5cm (1⅜”) hem allowance (about 90cm total length for me). Square out toward the side seam.
(blue) At the side seam, continue angling out for +/- 10 cm (4"), or to the level of the fullest point of your hip, then gently curve the line and lower it straight down to the base of the dress. (The total width should easily go around your widest point, plus seam allowance.)
(green) Identify the level at which you’d like the pockets to open. For me, this was approx. 8cm (3") north of the original base of view B. Draw seam allowance lines above and below the line created for the opening of the pockets. (I like to keep my dress pattern piece as one, then fold it when cutting the top and bottom pieces, which is why I have these seam allowances.)
(orange) Make markings on the pocket line, 14cm (5½“) apart (or the width of your pocket pieces). Make a marking at the side seam, approx. 8.5cm (3⅜“) from the base.
(purple) Add 1cm (⅜") seam allowance to the center front, from the pocket line to the base. This is because the bottom portion of the dress will be made from two panels, with a flat-felled seam down the center.
(turquoise) Aligning the back bodice with the front, trace a back dress pattern piece, adding 2.5cm (1") at the base of the back dress for the high-low hem.
Cut your fabric using the new pattern pieces. You’ll have:
1x Front Bodice (cut on the fold)
2x Front lower panels
1x Back Bodice (cut on the fold)
2x Back lower panels
Also cut 4x pocket pieces: rectangles 14cm wide x 20cm long (approx. 5½” x 7¾”).
Align top pocket edge with bodice or lower dress edge wrong sides together, so that the pocket pieces are directly between the pocket markings.
Pin and sew the width of the pocket at one-third of the seam allowance, making sure NOT to go past the pocket width.
Press seams open or to one side, then fold so that right sides are together and press again.
Sew, using the remaining seam allowance, again only the width of the pocket.
Press the pocket and seam away from the bodice or lower dress. Snip seam allowance of the bodice or lower dress only enough so that it lays flat.
Do this on all 4 pockets.
FLAT-FELLED CENTER PANEL SEAMS
Now it's time to sew the Front Lower Panels together at the center seam. Do the same for the Back Lower Panels. Once you've sewn the Back Lower Panels together, you can use this technique to sew the Back Bodice to the Back Lower Dress.
Align the right and left panels along the center, right sides together. Pin and sew at 1cm (⅜) seam allowance.
Trim one seam allowance only to half the width (approx. 5mm or 3/16").
Press both seams toward the panel with the trimmed seam allowance. Then fold the untrimmed seam around the trimmed seam and press again, encasing the raw edge.
Top stitch at approx. 5mm from the original seam, catching the pressed fold on the wrong side.
FLAT-FELLED FRENCH SEAMS - BODICE TO LOWER DRESS
Now we'll use French seams to attach the Front Bodice to the Lower Front Panels, finishing these off with a top-stitch, essentially flat-felling our French seams. The reason I don't use only flat-felled seams here is because I want to neatly encase the raw edges around the pockets as well. Flat-felling our French seams, however, creates consistency with the rest of the design as we'll be using Flat-Felled seams to attach the Back Bodice to the Lower Back Panels. (This may sound a little scary, but I promise it isn't! We'll also be moving back to the lighter colored fabric for just a moment.)
With wrong sides together, align pockets and center notch of front bodice to pockets and center seam of front lower dress and pin.
Sew at one-third seam allowance, pivoting at corners and ensuring you’re sewing just at the base of the French seam of the pocket.
Snip or clip the corners and turn so that right sides are touching. Be sure corners are carefully and crisply turned. Press.
Sew at the remaining 2/3 seam allowance, carefully pivoting at corners and ensuring you meet the line of stitching where pockets are attached (the stitch line of the pocket is just barely captured in the seam allowance).
Press toward the bottom of the dress and (optional) use a faux flat-fell to attach the French seam to the lower dress. Reinforce seams at pocket openings.
If you haven't done so already, use flat-felled seams to attach the back bodice to back lower dress.
SEW THE DRESS
Follow the regular LA BREA tee View B instructions for both side seams and one shoulder and cuff. Only sew the side seams until the marking made for the high-low seam toward the base of the dress.
On the side with the shoulder buttons, sew the armband onto the arm opening, matching the center notch on the cuff to the side seam of the dress, right sides together. Sew at 1cm (⅜") seam allowance. Trim seam allowances and press toward the armband. Do not yet finish the cuff though!
Also, do not yet finish off the neck with the bias tape. You’ll do this along with the shoulder + buttons.
NECK + SHOULDER WITH BUTTONS
Create button loops with either scrap fabric or bias tape, measuring approx. 40 cm (15¾”) x 4.5 cm (1¾”). Sew the strip of fabric right sides together, then turn it right side out and snip it into 6 strips. Note that the actual length and amount of loops you need will depend upon the number and size of buttons you use. (Please note that I had *mistakenly* not yet sewn the armband on this side yet when taking photos. Your LA BREA dress will already have the armband sewn on, but not finished.)
Mark and/or cut off +/- 5mm along the raw edge of the open shoulder. (I do this so that there will be a 1cm (⅜") gap between the front and back shoulder when the buttons are on.)
Starting 1cm (⅜") past the arm/cuff seam toward the outer edge of the front shoulder, align and pin the bias facing to the right side of the dress. (Bias tape should be folded in half along the length, wrong sides touching, raw edges aligned.) Continue aligning and pinning the bias facing around the neck, pausing when you get to the back shoulder.
At the back shoulder, pin the button loops so that raw edges meet with raw edges of the back shoulder. Be sure to space them equally!
Then continue pinning the bias facing along the back shoulder, over the button loops. (Note: my bias facing is a bit too narrow, which is why I’ve not aligned it exactly with the raw edge of the dress.)
Sew all the way around the front shoulder, neck and back shoulder at 1cm (⅜") seam allowance. Trim the seams and press everything up and away from the dress. (optional) Under-stitch the seam allowances to the bias facing. (My armband is magically attached now! :)
Before moving on, pinning bias out of the way, fold the armband along the center crease so right sides touch. Sew the short end of the armband, just to the dress side of the bias.
Clip the corners, then fold cuff right sides out, gently pushing corners out. Press cuff and bias facing to the wrong side of the dress, enclosing all raw edges and seams.
Top-stitch all along the arm, shoulders and neck, catching and securing the fold of the cuff and the bias facing.
Sew your buttons at equal spacing to the front shoulder.
HIGH-LOW SEAM WITH BIAS FACING
I love how this feature echos the contrasting bias facing at the neck and button-shoulder! You’ll need approx. 15.5cm or 6¼” bias tape for each side of the bias faced high-low seam.
Starting 3cm (1¼") above the base of the front of the dress (+/- 5mm below what will be the final length of the finished dress), pin the bias facing to the right side of the dress, raw edges aligning.
When you reach the (French) seam, pinch out +/- 2cm (¾") of bias, then continue aligning and pinning bias to the back of the dress, ending 3cm (1¼") above the base of the back of the dress.
Sew front and back at 1cm (⅜") seam allowance until the pinched-out bias. Trim the seams.
Fold and press bottom edge of the dress to the wrong side by 1cm (⅜"), then again by 2.5cm. Pin and sew (hem).
Now fold the bias facing to the wrong side of the dress and press, creating a point where the bias meets the side seam of the dress. Pin and top-stitch, reinforcing the side seam with a triangle.