Socialite Dress Amy from amy a la mode can sew a cute Cabo, whip up a fantastic tutorial and today she shares a great review of the Socialite Dress pattern from Anna Maria Horner. Visit Amy’s introduction and blog, and enjoy the review!

Socialite Dress from Anna Maria Horner

A loose-fitting retro-style sleeveless summer dress with a modest V neck in the front and scoop in the back. The unbelted version allows a lot of freedom of movement (park with the kids?), while the belted version is a bit more sophisticated (drinks on the patio at the wine bar?).
2 3/4 yards of 44″ wide fabric, or 2 yards of 54″ wide fabric
Light to mid-weight cotton or cotton blend fabrics are suggested. Extra yardage is recommended for matching or centering fabric prints and if adding length to the dress.

Suggested Notions & Tools:
1 Spool of coordinating thread
Craft scissors and sewing scissors
Straight pins
Measuring device
Fabric marker or fabric chalk pencil
Iron and ironing board
Pressing cloth
Turning tool — fyi, I had no need for this
Hand sewing needle
Cutting mat and rotary cutter (optional — good for cutting belt piece)
50mm (2″) Bias tape maker (recommended by reviewer, see Modification #2 below)

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Front + back views.

Fabric Recommendations
I purchased 3 1/2 yards of Amy Butler Lacework in Brown from the Lotus collection (this included an extra 3/4 of a yard so that I had one more pattern repeat). I also purchased MoMo’s Metamorphosis in Jam from the Wonderland collection to use for the front and back yokes and facings. If you want to do contrasting yokes/facings like I did, get 1/2 yard (the package does not have yardage suggestions for this). You can cut the dress from 2 1/2 yards of 44″ wide fabric if you don’t make the belt, but you’ll need the full 2 3/4 yards if you want to make the belt (the length of the belt is your waist measure + 30″ and is 3″ wide). Or try a contrasting fabric for the belt!

This dress is perfect for light and breezy fabrics, but remember that this dress is unlined. Don’t pick anything too light or sheer; it would be a shame to have to wear a slip! The quilting weight cotton I used worked out really well. The package has information for 54″ fabrics, but since these tend toward heavier-weight home decorator types of fabrics, think carefully before buying these. The gathers and draping might turn out pretty stiff in a heavier fabric. Consider Hawaiian fabrics for this dress– I think they’d look smashing!

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Unbelted, front + back views.

Overall Design 5 stars
This dress is cute and modern, with a retro vibe. Though the only variation given in the pattern is to add the belt, this actually produces so different a look that it’s like getting two dresses in one. The first two things that caught my eye with this pattern were the pockets and the lack of fasteners. Definitely a win-win combination! Great coverage for bra straps and a nice fit under the arms make this summery without exposing more than you meant to.


Written Instructions 4 stars
Detailed instructions are included, as well as a glossary of basic sewing terms and a metric conversion chart. The pattern gives finished garment dimensions but does not provide any recommendations on how much ease to allow for the intended fit. The size I opted to make should have provided me with 3 1/4″ of ease in the bust, 8 3/4″ of ease in the waist, and 3 3/4″ of ease in the hips. In the end, this was not enough in the bust (see Modification #1 below). You can judge the final fit in the photos and add more or less ease as needed.

The pattern also recommends purchasing more fabric if you want to make the dress longer, but does not provide a finished length as a guide. I made the XS, and on the hanger from the top of the shoulder down to the bottom of the hem is 37″.

I was a bit confused by the cutting instructions for the front yoke and pocket that indicated, “Cut 4 of Front Yoke/Pocket (2 from right side and 2 from wrong side).” I have never seen it worded like this, but it simply meant to fold the fabric in half as you normally would, matching the selvages, lay the pattern pieces on top of the folded fabric, and cut through both layers at the same time (and then doing this twice to get a total of 4 pieces).

Diagrams / Images 3 stars
There were some tricky bits to the sewing, and I felt that a few more diagrams would have been nice. Look ahead in the pattern if you are confused, because a later diagram may show you what you need to know. More labeling on the diagrams would also be nice, as many have no labels at all.

Pattern Pieces 5 stars
There are a total of 6 pattern pieces– back, front, back yoke, front yoke, armhole facing, and pocket– printed on white tissue paper. Measurements are given for cutting the belt piece. There are 6 sizes included in this pattern, which means that occasionally the markings are so close together that it can get difficult to see the ones for your size.

Overall Level of Difficulty Intermediate or Patient Advanced Beginner
While there are no fasteners of any kind to deal with (which is great!), the curves make this dress more complicated than it looks. There is a fair amount of easing in and fussing in order to attach the back and front yokes, as well as the armhole facings. Also, the front and back facings have to be stitched down to the inside of the dress by hand, and it’s a bit fussy as well. Keep this in mind if you hate hand sewing!

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Hand Finishing: View of inside of front yoke after hand sewing the
turned-under edge of the yoke to the front/back piece seam allowance.

Tips + Modifications
Tip 1: Marking
Mark the centers of the front, back, front yoke, back yoke, front facing, and back facing pieces. The centers are not marked on the pattern pieces, but are very helpful later on when the instructions indicate for you to match the centers. Once the front and back are gathered, the centers are much more difficult to find without markings.

Tip 2: Gathering
When pinning the gathered front and back to the yoke pieces, start pinning from where you knotted the gathering thread and pin to the other end of the gathers. *Use lots of pins!* You’ll be happy you did. Also, don’t tie the threads off until you have finished pinning the front (or back) to the yoke. It is too difficult to tell if you have gathered it the right amount without pinning first. (The pattern has you gather to the right length, tie off, then pin.)

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Pinning Yoke

These three images show how the front and front yoke pieces look when pinned together for step 11 in the “Prepare Pockets, Front and Back Pieces” section. View A shows the yoke on top and view B shows the front piece on top. Notice that the yoke is pointing down with the center of the V at the top, while the front piece is bunched up inside the curve. The tails of fabric sticking out on the right and left are the tops of the shoulders. View C shows what this looks like from the wrong side if you flip the pieces up to where their final position will be (if you turn your pieces like this, be sure to flip them back to the way they are in view A/B to sew).

Tip 3: Sewing Curves
Be very careful as you sew on the back and front yokes. Go slowly around these curves and stop frequently to adjust the fabrics. I tried sewing one with the dress piece on top and the yoke piece on the bottom, and one with the yoke piece on top and the dress piece on the bottom. In both cases I ended up having to do a little bit of seam ripping and re-sewing. This is where that patience really pays off!

Tip 4: Trimming
When sewing the gathered front and back to the yokes, turn the pieces and check how they look from the front *before* you trim the seams. It’s much easier to make corrections *before* you’ve trimmed that seam allowance to 1/4″.

Tip 5: Try it on before doing the armhole facings
If you need to alter the bust a bit (like I did), it’s much easier to do it before you’ve turned the armhole facings under and finished them. This would be after step 8 of “Assembling the Dress.” This is also a good time to finish the side seams (overlock, zig-zag, or whatever).

Modification 1: Bust
I tried the dress on after step 8, as I suggested above, and realized it could use a bit more room through the bust. I let the seam out 1/8″ on each side (so, 1/2″ more of total ease was added) and it made for a much more comfortable fit.

Modification 2: Belt
I’m wicked lazy about folding and pressing long narrow pieces of fabric, so instead I used my trusty 50 mm (2″) bias tape maker to make the belt. It came out slightly wider than the 3/4″ belt in the pattern, but was much faster! I also skipped the belt loops.

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Small belt, front + back views.

I admit that this is not a pattern I would ever pick out to make; it’s just not my usual style. But in the end I think the final product is cute, comfortable, and stylish, which is a pretty amazing feat! I think the biggest surprise for me was the level of difficulty, despite not needing to do buttonholes or a zipper. A little patience is called for, but I managed to put this together on a Saturday with plenty of time to spare, and I think you could too. I love the versatility of the belted versus unbelted versions — from beach to a nice dinner by the beach in the time it takes to put on a belt!

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Wide belt, front + back views.

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