Self Assembly Required

DIY dressmaking + crafts with Emily

The Tilly and the Buttons Martha dress

I’ve been on the lookout for patterns that’ll make for good winter dresses i.e. mini dresses with long sleeves and high necks. That’s what tights are for, right?

The Moneta dress from Colette is always an easy go-to but I was a little tired of that skater dress silhouette. Not that that’s a bad style but since my other favourite winter dress is the velvet Moneta I made earlier this year, I wanted to broaden my horizons!

And then I remembered the Martha dress from Tilly and the Buttons! This was one of the patterns that we were working on whilst I was interning as Tilly HQ a few years ago. I’d made a few samples of this dress whilst I was there but never got round to making one for myself!

The dress comes with 2 skirt lengths and 2 sleeve lengths. It features a princess seamed bodice and a panelled skirt finished with a wide set mandarin collar. I almost want to call it a faux princess seam on the front as it only eliminates the waist dart and there’s still a bust dart.

I decided to make my version out of a mustard floral print ponte Roma jersey I picked up from The Cloth Shop by Remnant Kings whilst in Edinburgh a few weeks ago. It had a lovely weight to it that I thought would be perfect for a wintery dress. I knew Tilly herself had made a version of this dress in a ponte knit fabric so I knew it could work!

So I cut a size 4 for this dress. I altered the sleeves to make them more fitted and I ended up shortening the bodice a little too. I added slightly more width to the skirt panels, keeping them the same at the same seam but flaring them out a little more towards the hem to make the skirt more swishy.

I interfaced the collar and facings with a knit interfacing. There’s good and bad things about doing this. The good? You retain the qualities of the knit – the stretch and drape remain somewhat similar. The bad? Ponte jersey is already on the thick side. The knit interfacing adds to that and you end up with some very thick seams (particularly on the shoulders where it meets the collar).

FYI if you’re looking for knit interfacing, I get mine from William Gee.

The extra seams, however, create lots of opportunity for embellishment – think ruffles, lace trims etc. Colour blocked panels could also work I think. For me though, I really wanted to use a black laser cut velvet trim from my stash which I combined with plenty of grosgrain ribbon.

I added the velvet trim to the front bodice princess seams. I topstitched a grosgrain ribbon to the waist seam as well as the middle of the mandarin collar. I liked how the ribbon emphasised the panelling of the dress. The ribbon at the waist also acts as a waist stay so the jersey won’t stretch out of shape.

I kept the ribbon on the collar long enough to be tied at the back which meant not having to worry about adding a button here!

Unfortunately after all this work I got a bit scissor happy and I shortened it a little too much! *slaps palm to forehead*

I can get away with wearing it with tights but definitely not without!

I’ll be honest, I’m not keen on this neckline on me. I’d rather it be a more fitted mandarin collar (or just a full collar for that matter) or have no collar at all. I feel like my neck just disappears into it!

I’m also not sure about the print of the fabric. I genuinely loved it when I picked it up. At £14.99/m it’s definitely at the higher end of the scale compared to what I normally buy but I couldn’t leave the store without it! But looking at it on me, I think it’s too busy. There’s so much going on and especially next to the pink hair!

I do want to try this pattern again with some modifications – no collar, maybe a statement sleeve, a longer skirt and definitely a lighter weight fabric.

I don’t think this particular version is going to be the wardrobe staple I hoped it would be though.

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  1. I love this! The ribbons details are beautiful and I’m definitely going to be using this idea somewhere 😜 I personally love the print on you and think it goes lovely with your hair, being a fellow pink-haired sewist I know the problems of getting stuff to coordinate with your hair colour! I really love the dress 😍

    1. Haha! Your makes always look so good with your hair colour! I think you’re better at picking them out than I am!! X

  2. I think it looks really stylish on you! The trim does really emphasize the lines of the dress and fancy it up at the same time – I like the shorter length with the added flounce at the bottom and that fabric! WOW gorgeous! I don’t think the collar is wrong on you – I think maybe the vision you had in your head when you made this dress didn’t manifest as you’d seen it in your mind’s eye but I think given a bit of time you’ll see this dress came out all on its own a truly lovely make 🙂

    1. I think you’re right. In my head it was a more fitted collar so I think that’s why I wasn’t so convinced once I tried this one on. Hopefully I’ll love it more in time!

  3. Oh I think this is lovely, and very flattering on you! The short length balances all the coverage up top really well. I sometimes feel the same way about the high necks but then I just wear my hair in a topknot and all good haha.

  4. I am reading this blog 3 years later so I am not sure if you will read this but I love love love the dress on you! The fabric is WOW and the lace trimmings you’ve added really give it a high end look. I actually think the collar suits you! I am soon in the process is sewing the Martha dress myself and want to incorporate the lace additions and alter the sleeves in the way you did. Did you topstitch the trimmings? If so, how did you ensure the ends were neatly sewn? X

    1. Hi! Thanks for reading! ☺️
      I believe I sewed the trim into the seam as I went so the “frilly edge” is actually free and not stitched down!

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