Camo Maxi Dress


You might recall the Hump(ing) Back Whales nightie – a toile for this camo dress. My goal while I’m here in Geelong is to ‘get good’ at patternmaking. That can’t be done without toiles unfortunately – lots of toiles! The thing I hate most about toiles is the wasted fabric, so the nightie was a good compromise.

Industry patternmakers discussion on toiles

I was talking with my co-learners at college yesterday; most of whom are industry patternmakers (that’s not intimidating at all!!). One of them worked as a patternmaker for one of our top Aussie labels – high end clothing. I asked how many toiles she would likely make for a design. She said it depended on the garment. These are notes from various discussions – ‘Inch High Private Eye’ style cos I haven’t obtained permission to reprint these discussions. I don’t want them to know about my blog – blogs get a lot of flack at college!

  • You have to start with an excellent block. Crappy blocks mean more work to fix the design.
  • Its rare for a design to work first time on the dress form. It will need tweaking no matter what, unless you’re really good!! Miss N who has 30 years experience, is really good! She fits the paper pattern to the form and says she can pick up most problems at that point.
  • Most large design houses have sample makers on site which allows a pattern to be tweaked as its being sewn, hence the first toile might be the final – be still my beating heart!
  • A lot of designs are scrapped, binned, burned! They just don’t translate, the construction is too complex to be profitable, there won’t be enough appeal to a large range of body sizes, suitable fabric can’t be found at the right price.
  • Pants are a specialist area. In fact most patternmakers specialise in a particular area – sportswear/stretch, pants, dresses, after 5.
  • Patternmakers would never assume they could make a garment up and have it fit first time. Most of them expect to have to do many iterations, often up to 5. After all, if there are going to be 2000+ manufactured – it had better be right; or don’t come Monday!


I find these discussions really fascinating. We ‘home sewists’ seem to expect we can go from the envelope to a great garment in 1 step and I think that really stops us ‘getting good’. I can not/will not, wear something I don’t think is as good as high-end store bought – unless I’m really desperate. I donate most of what I make, though that seems to be slowing. If all I’m producing is low-end chain store garments – then I might as well save myself the effort and shop at Supré. I suppose that doesn’t scratch the ‘wanna be making something’ itch though, does it? I guess it depends on your own expectations for your making and I in no way judge anyone for that. Honestly, for what I’ve spent on sewing education, fabric and machines I could have a stupendous store bought wardrobe by now! But that wouldn’t scratch the creative itch for me!


Back to the Camo Dress…

Here is the camo dress with saddle shoulder. I’m smitten with this shoulder treatment. Not sure why, but I have always had a ‘thang’ for camo and khaki. In the 80s/early 90s.  I trawled army surplus and wore 1 pair of camo trousers loosely slung about my hips and folded up to jodhpur length almost exclusively! Yay for cheap sturdy student clothing!

Oops, I haven't trimmed the overstitched hem yet!
Oops, I haven’t trimmed back the coverstitched hem yet!

When I spotted this camo print in The Fabric Store (rayon spandex?) it had to be mine! The shoulder derived from thoughts of epaulettes, I was toying with militaresque, but my schedule wouldn’t allow too much fiddling to be honest. The split sleeve was an attempt to move away from something that reminds me of a nightie! Stretch garments are my instant gratification; this stretch block has been used soooo many times. Others in my household don’t see camo in the same light. One inhabitant of our abode uttered “camo eurgggh” on seeing me tweaking fit in the mirror. My Princess would never say that; she knows better than to push my sensitive ego, toward the end of a self drafted project! Designing your own clothes really puts your ‘art’ out there and I’m not confident enough in my abilities to invite criticism. Not after days of slaving over a design I liked.

Inspired by new orange elastic sided boots I made an orange silk slip (stash buster!) and Princess suggested I use some gorgeous eyelash lace she’d bought online from China. The postage cost more than the lace apparently! I’m not altogether sure I like the orange slip and orange sided boots together – perhaps they’re too literal? Yesterday, I wore this dress to college with white Converse sneakers and a little bronzer on my legs (to cover the veins mostly!), topped off with a khaki long line cardi. This maxi style is good for airflow about the legs, and bonus – the swishing skirt makes blue veins harder to see!


A contrast fabric would show off the saddle shoulder even better. Its tempting to make another of these in something less contentious than camo, but my sewing ‘to do list’ is growing longer with Princess’ high school formal in 2 weeks. She’ll be sporting the ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ if I don’t get a wiggle on!


Patternmaking Notes

Stretch block, Back as Front (no dart)

CB seam for back shaping

hip curve smoothed out

Closet Case Files Nettie inspired neckline

Saddle shoulder

Bound Sleeve Split

Next time, interface shaped hem facing to stop torquing at corners and notch (for the luvva God) – not happy with the top of the split finish, a difficult curve to negotiate with a coverstitch machine! Split length is good. WINNER!




Add yours →

  1. Not usually a fan of camo (can’t shake the war images) but this is a fun dress. And I like the slip and boots combo!

  2. Teaming camo with fluorescent orange and lace has definitely lifted the dress out of “what was she thinking” territory! Very interesting discussion with your fellow pattern makers and gives me hope that one day my quest might end in some well-fitting blocks However. The process will also produce nighties. Get over it now……

  3. Great post but poor Princess – how I laughed the Emperor’s New Clothes bit. This is an interesting discussion. I love how you’re a secret blogger (and would love to hear about all the goss regarding us sewing amateurs who blog). The dress is nice, though I’d just like it in just camo: I used to covet camo and dreamt of finding clothes made of the stuff. In mid nineties, I finally found camo jersey t-shirts (one orange, one blue) but by ten years later there was an overkill and even baby clothes came in (pink) camo.

    • Phew, so pleased to find I’m not the only one that likes camo! Oh the goss, you wouldn’t believe it! Don’t worry about Princess, private lesson w bridal couturier tomorrow to bone up on the bodice draft!!

  4. Interesting discussion about pattern making. Thanks for sharing that. I have never done camo but I did have a pair of green army surplus pants I wore to death in the 1980s and 90s. I found what you said about high end and making interesting. I think I feel the same way as I have been pretty turned off most of my made things. On the other hand I am questioning how much I want to invest in improving. There are so many things to do in life! I will prob continue obsessing though.

    I really like the side split and the arm skits on this. You look great.

    • Thanks S, maybe army surplus was the in thing in the 80s and 90s! I feel the hand made debate is a great discussion to have, I’ll have to get into it more thoroughly sometime. I’m reading your Reccommended book ‘Big Magic’ and a lot of what she says I totally agree with, it’s quite thought provoking.

      • Oh lovely. Glad to hear it. I really enjoyed that book and need to read it again and again until it sinks in. Thanks for the reminder.

        Incidentally I just saw the saddle shoulder photo ( always miss things on my phone) and I lover it and love the finish.

  5. I think the orange looks great with the camouflage fabric – unexpected and oddly pretty. Those boots are wonderful – what size are you? They look about my size……

    • I’m a 40!! Too big for most!!! Thanks for that, isn’t it tiring 2nd guessing our decisions constantly! Is this tasteful, is it too old? Too young? Too out there? My college teacher wears only black trousers and a white tee, safe and indisputable! Xx

      • 39. Nearly.
        As I get older I’m getting slightly more fearless and trying new to me styles. I’m probably horrifying my mother but I don’t feel ready to do ‘safe’ dressing yet.

  6. And yes, in the 80’s I was a camp lover too! Sounds like we were wearing same trousers little ankle boots and a charity shop fake leather jacket for me. We must have been gorgeous! !
    When I started my blog I was really really surprised at the world wide sewing community being sooo vast. I wonder what the pattern cutters are thinking, because if they’re on a course they must still be learning new things themselves? And want to be? Maybe that’s the enjoyable never ending thing about all the aspects of sewing…the more you know, the more don’t know and the search for the knowledge never really ends?
    Love the camo dress, I think in your case you want a wardrobe showing your strong independent sense of style and the only way to achieve it is to design and make it yourself. And really that is fun, even with all the hard work it creates!!

    • Aaaah Linda, my other side of the world 80s twin. They’re doing a 49 year anniversary of punk in the ABC and it takes me back to the drongos I hung out with – drug addled while I, the nurse stood sentinel!
      Honestly I think my fellow students for the most part just take the college’s info as gospel. I’ve been surprised by the lack of collaboration and info dissemination. It’s the opposite of our blog community! I feel we’re very underestimated 🤓🤓🤓

      • Your spot on – underestimated. I thought I knew a fair bit on making, sewing and cutting patterns, but I have learned and enjoyed more in the online community than I ever expected and I am so pleased to have joined it! There are so many elements to enjoy that I can only think those oblivious are missing out, let them, I say and we can keep the secret world for ourselves!

      • Underestimated for sure, let them stay oblivious to the secret online world of sewing, making and cutting – they have no idea how diverse, interesting and innovative this world is. Our online sewing world knows so much!! And is willing to share.
        The huge difference I have found is that most of your cutter colleagues will be cutting for standard sizes. This in itself eliminates the need for taking a pattern and cutting it bespoke, that is the most time consuming and difficult thing to do!!

  7. Sorry Lesley. The gadget told me these 2 replies hadn’t gone through, lucky I noticed, you were about to get number 3 version! Haha! 🙂

  8. God I love this sew much #greatbritishsewingbee #awesome seamstress! #womenkickass
    LOVE THIS!!!!! Get your bobbins loaded and start to absorb the fab fabric – Huh yeah like we don’t all hoard fabrics? XXX : )

  9. Luv it. I saw a cammo wedding dress and it had orange accents as well. #sewersinternational I packed up my bobbins awhile ago. Hoping my daughter will take up the interest. Got her old wedding dress here that should be recycled.

  10. Almost didn’t see you in the pics – the camouflage doing its work – LOL!
    A very flattering dress and I love the flash of orange – true inspiration – thank you.

  11. I saw a certain irony is using camo to make such a striking dress!

  12. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:

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