Pattern Review ~ Bubble Dress

on April 1 | in Sewing Inspiration | by | with 22 Comments

Wendy fills us in on some good tricks and potential modifications to make this Oliver + S dress as bubbly and fun as can be! Enjoy her review below, her introduction and her Wee Toes and Noggins blog too. Wendy has more process and finished product views of the Bubble Dress in her pattern review set so be sure to take a quick peek as you consider the pattern.
Oliver + S Bubble Dress
The Oliver + S Bubble Dress is a cute little summer dress with cap sleeves and bubble skirt. It is fully lined. The skirt can be made with or without unique scalloped sides.


Bubble Dress by Wendy, Wee Toes and Noggins

Fabric Recommendations
Definitely use a high quality, heavy weight fabric for the outer fabric. I think anything stiffer than a light weight cotton would help the skirt to hold its bubble shape more.
I used 100% cotton, Bees on Blue from Glenna Hailey’s Bee’s Knees collection. You also need a lightweight cotton for the lining, elastic for the skirt hem, and buttons.

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Overall Design 3 stars
I thought this was really cute in the picture, but it just doesn’t look the same on. It does not “bubble” on its own. If I made it again I would somehow add a layer of maybe tulle inside the skirt to give it more body. Shortening the elastic around the skirt hem would probably also help with that. I decided to make the skirt with the scalloped sides. It was a bit of extra work, but because of having to fold them towards the back (per instructions) they lay flat against the skirt. If I made it again, I would skip the scallops.


Written Instructions 4 stars
Instructions were pretty clear. I thought there could be a little more explanation about clipping or notching curves since there are many on this pattern and getting curves to lay flat once turned may be a little difficult for beginners.

Diagrams / Images 5 stars
Diagrams were very clear and helpful. There were a couple of places where the instructions indicated to sew to a certain mark which was not actually on the pattern piece. But the diagrams were clear enough that one could make a good estimate of where the dot or star was suppose to be.

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Back detail with lining and buttons.

Pattern Pieces 5 stars
Pattern pieces were on white paper, which is nice for durability. I ended up tracing all the patterns to tissue. I don’t use my patterns more than a couple times usually, and I prefer working with tissue for its manageability.

Overall Level of Difficulty Beginner to intermediate
I found this to be fairly simple, but have a bit of experience with sewing. I think getting smooth curves around the cap sleeves and the scallops could be a challenge for beginners. The elastic around the skirt hem is sewn directly to the seam allowance, which requires you to stretch the elastic while you sew.

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Scallop detail.

Modifications + Tips
I stuck to the pattern, so no modifications.
– When sewing curves go slow. Take your time so that you get a smooth curve. Stop occasionally with your needle down and rotate the fabric if needed.
– If you cut small notches on outer curves, and just clip inner curves, it will help reduce bulk in the seam once the piece is turned right side out. Clip right to the stitching, but be careful not to cut your stitching.
– A couple markings were missing from the pattern pieces, but mentioned in the directions. On Step 7 under “Prepare the Bodice” there is not a dot indicated on the pattern piece. Instead, referring to the picture, I sewed just a 1/2″ line of stitching where indicated. On Step 1 under “Attach the Bodice to the Skirt” there are no stars indicated on the pattern piece. This is just to mark the starting and ending points of your gathering stitch. Starting and stopping approx. 1/4″ from the fabric edge works fine.

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Back view with scalloped edges.

I think this is a nice, well done pattern. I was a bit disappointed with the end product, that it did not look as good on as it did in the picture or on the hanger. I would be more likely to use this pattern again only if I made several modifications. On the plus side, the arm holes are big enough to fit over my daughter’s cast, which can not be said for most her other clothes!

[tags]sewing pattern review, Bubble Dress pattern review, dress pattern review, child’s clothing pattern review, clothing pattern review, Oliver + S pattern, Oliver + S Bubble Dress pattern, Oliver + S clothing pattern review, Oliver + S dress pattern review[/tags]

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22 Responses to Pattern Review ~ Bubble Dress

  1. melissa says:

    I just finished this dress…and what a pain it was for me. Mine- with modifications did turn out to have the bubble look. I shortened the lining so the elastic and the bottom was way up underneith and the bottom was forced to bubble. I also made the back have two long pieces to tie- rather than buttons. I added 3 rows of ruffles to the front of the top portion. (didnt do the wavey edges on the sides- just straight) I found this patteren to be difficult and confusing. I bought enough fabric to make two- but going to look for a better pattern for my second. I think it should have 3 scissors for more difficult~

  2. Linda Gayle says:

    That is a lovely dress. I loved the pattern. It is smart to keep the left sleeve a bit more open for your girl. Hope there was no serious injury

  3. jennifer bowen says:

    its so cute

  4. Arnikka says:

    Hi Wendy,
    In working on bubble dresses for adult women as well as studying the construction of a Lacroix bubble gown from the eighties(in order to work on the bubble gowns I was making) Its been my experience that in addition to adding under layers of tulle, if you want more oomph you will also need to shorten the length of the lining skirt more than might have been instructed in the pattern before attaching it to the outer fabric’s skirt. that will get rid of some of the length of the dress and automatically provide more volume and more bubble effect as the outer fabric is gathered under in order to meet with the lining skirt. I’ve also found that dresses like the illustration on the package actually work better with outer fabrics that are lighter rather than heavier. It’s the lining that might need a little more meat to it. You have to end up viewing the lining as the foundation upon which the volume of the outer skirt is built upon. I would also agree with everyone else, the scallops are kind of odd.

  5. Liesl says:

    Wendy, thanks for your thoughtful review of this pattern! Here are a few follow-up comments and clarifications:

    You were sewing from a draft of the final pattern, and the stars that were missing on your copy were corrected for the actual printing of the pattern. However, the dots on the bodice were, indeed, missing and will be added to our errata on the Oliver + S website: So thank you for pointing out that mistake! There are many, many detailed components to sewing patterns, and although we do our best to catch everything, we appreciate it when our customers (and reviewers!) point out any errors so we can correct them for future printings and for updates on the errata pages of our website.

    Please note, also, that the actual patterns are printed on a heavy 20 lb. tissue paper, which I prefer over the usual lightweight 7-lb. tissue that you see in most patterns. It’s very easy to work with, doesn’t tear like the lightweight tissue, and makes for an easier time of sewing. Your draft of the pattern was printed on heavy white paper, which I think is more difficult to handle but is the only paper available at my local printer for early copies of patterns.

    This patterns is rated a “two scissors” difficulty, meaning that it’s a bit more advanced as a result of the curves in the pattern. I wouldn’t
    recommend it as a first pattern for beginning sewers, but we’ve written the instructions to help guide you through each step as carefully as
    possible. I have taken note of your concern regarding more detailed instructions about clipping the curves and will add some additional information about this to the glossary we include with each pattern. (I teach my sewing students to trim the seam allowances to a scant 1/4″, which works equally well and is how factories handle curves in production. Although the instructions mention this, I think I should clarify or explain a bit more, like you suggest.)

    Regarding the fabric itself, I’ve found that this pattern works especially well in very light-weight fabrics like Liberty cottons and voile as well as in standard quilting cottons. Although I hadn’t intended it to bubble out in a very grand manner, you certainly could add tulle in between the fabric and the lining if you wanted more body. My only concern would be for the comfort of the wearer; I’m not sure my own daughter would care for any extra bulk in her dress, as is might restrict movement. The other thing you could try is to shorten the elastic a bit, which would bubble the skirt a bit more, provided it didn’t restrict walking and running.

    The dress can also be sewn, as mentioned by another commenter, without the scalloped edges. I intended the scallops to add a little dimension to the skirt without sticking out on the sides, and that’s why they’re sewn toward the back of the skirt.

    In any case, thank you again for the time and thought you put into this review.

    Best wishes,

  6. April says:

    I guess I don’t see how it looks different from the drawing on the package?

    I think it’s a cute little dress.. if it bubbled more I think it would be a bit too much.
    Though I prefer the dress without the scallops (which is an option with the pattern).

  7. Wendy says:

    When I said heavier weight fabric, I meant don’t waste your time with an inexpensive cotton calico! I’m horrible with knowing my fabrics, and just think something with some weight and stiffness to it will work better. The actual suggestions on the package are “light-to-med weight woven fabrics like cotton broadcloth, batiste, calico, lightweight linen, lightweight denim, chambray, or seersucker.” For the lining, pattern suggests “very light weight woven fabrics.”
    Thank you all for your wonderful comments. I felt a little sheepish about the design comments, but felt the need to be honest!

  8. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for the helpful review. My impression is that this pattern requires a lot of fuss for a mediocre result. And I agree with the other commenter that the scallops on the sides look very weird. The price is so high for limited sizes per pattern, to make a single dress.

  9. Christine says:

    That is too cute! What a great dress for a little one.

  10. Rachelle says:

    I agree that the dress should just stick to having the bubble with out the side scallops- and it is a little long. But your dress looks so cute on and I love the fabric you picked. When you say heavy weight fabric- does that mean a home dec weight? or would quilting fabric be sturdy enough?

  11. Margaret in SC says:

    I think the dress turned out cute, but was a little long and didn’t bubble much, did it? My daughter (now 21) actually had a bubble dress when she was little and it DID have tulle between the exterior and lining. Thanks for the review. The Oliver + S patterns are adorable but IMO shouldn’t require that many modifications for the price.

  12. Libby says:

    Thanks for the review. The dress does look lovely. Your choice of fabric was right on.

  13. Amy says:

    Oh poor baby in a cast! My three yr old broke her femur when she was 18 months old…it was terrible, but the little onse bounce back the best and quickest!
    Great pattern review!
    Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  14. jennyy says:

    I hope your daughter’s arm heals well and quickly.

    Um, the dress is beautifully made, but, yeah, not the cutest. Not much “bubble,” and the scallops look like strange fish fins or something.

    Thanks for sharing.

  15. Oiyi says:

    She looks adorable in that dress.

  16. Amy says:

    Your little girl looks so precious in her new dress! I love the fabric you chose – blue is my favorite color 🙂 Nice write up for your review!

  17. Kristin says:

    Aww, your poor sweet girl! I think the dress looks adorable on her and your workmanship is great. I think the layer of tulle is a terrific idea! Thank you for the thoughtful review.

  18. Annika says:

    Marvelous review! Nice to know that not all Oliver + S patterns are perfect. I actually prefer the dress on, but I do understand your disappointment that it is not as it was on the hanger.

  19. Michele says:

    I’ve been wondering about this pattern…Thanks for the review and insight!

  20. Stephanie says:

    That dress is completely adorable!!

  21. Mellissa says:

    I’m sorry that you were disappointed with the finished dress. I think it looks really cute on your daughter. You did an amazing job sewing it and your review was very helpful. Thank you for taking your time to review this pattern for us.

  22. Water Works says:

    Thanks for the awesome review. I had looked at the possibility of making that same dress for my toddler, but will continue looking. If I have to make that many modifications and corrections (missing marks on pattern pieces), I don’t want to purchase the pattern. Hopefully, the pattern creator will see your review and correct the pattern before the next printing.

    On a positive note, the fabric choices are adorable. I love the blue/ yellow play for a little girl.

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